Monday, November 8, 2010

Hebrews 1-4: Pay Attention. Now.

From Garden to City reading: Hebrews 1-4

I woke up at 6:00 this morning.  The first thing I did is go make coffee.  Then I grabbed my Bible and my computer and sat on the bed.  My plan? Check mail real quick and then read Hebrews and then blog and then finish lesson plans for the final project of the semester.  Two-and-a-half hours later I have had a long FB conversation with Denise, read the online version of the New York Times, checked FB updates, watched the news, and had three cups of coffee.

Very productive.  Sort of.  My Bible is sitting unopened next to my computer.

And as I write this account of my morning, I recognize the irony because I've spent a lot of time in this passage.  Hebrews 1-4 is all about paying attention.  About listening to God and following him.  Now.

The writer of Hebrews begins by reminding the reader that God has communicated with people in the past, through the prophets, in various ways.  But now, more recently, he has communicated to the people through his son.

And then he describes Jesus.  He is the "radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word" (1:3).  In essence, if you've seen the Son, you've seen the Father.  If you've listened to Jesus, you've heard God Almighty.

And then the author describes Jesus using the Old Testament.  We don't know the Old Testament that well, but for the original readers of this book, this was the most credible source available to support the idea that Jesus is the Messiah, the Promised One, the redeemer of mankind.

So in the past, God's used prophets to remind the people to turn to God the Father.  If you've been reading along through From Garden to City, or if you've spent any time at all in the major or minor prophets, you know that these guys are sort of odd.  And they aren't the easiest to understand.

But Jesus?  He's hard on the leaders.  He he shows compassion to the poor and oppressed, the outcasts of society.  He heals the sick.  He welcomes children.  He tells stories.  He calms the wind.  He feeds masses of people.  He raises dead people back from the life.

Incredible stuff.  We can question the accounts because we didn't see it, but the original readers of this book know it's true.  They saw it, or someone they knew saw it.

They know the rumors concerning his resurrection.  And they've seen the power of his followers, even after his death.

This is God.  Jesus is God.  And so "we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, so that we don't drift away" (2:1).

If we don't pay attention, and by pay attention, I mean responding to the message now, we will forget.  We'll get caught up in the day to day concerns of life and forget to put Jesus first in our lives.  And "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation" (2:3)?

First, I want to say that I love this metaphor.  I think of a boat, tied to a pier with a rope.  The knot is sort of loose, and the wind gently moves the boat, loosening the knot.  If the owner of the boat sees the problem, he or she can tighten the knot and the boat remains secure.  But if he or she doesn't see it, the knot will get looser and finally become untied altogether.  At that point, depending on the wind, the boat will drift away from the pier, into the open water, where it's hard to retrieve the boat, or crashing it into the rocks.

The are a lot of reasons why we drift.  Life gets busy, and people and circumstances require our attention.  And so we miss church, we don't read our Bible, we forget to pray as we go about our day, we don't take time for spiritual fellowship.  Or we get mad at God because something didn't work out the way so good.  Or another Christian hurts us.  Deeply.

Or we're tired and just want to take some time off and read Facebook and watch the news.

Jesus understands human life and suffering because he lived in our world, as one of us.  He shared out humanity (2:14).  He knows what it's like to be rejected, to be misunderstood, to have people and circumstances pressing in.  He knows what it's like to be tired and to want to get away from it all.  And so he's safe to go to when we feel like that.

And so, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . ." (3:7-8).  If you hear the Holy Spirit calling you, pay attention.  Respond.

And keep responding.  Trust God and trust his promises.  As has just been said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (3:15).

Any time a writer repeats something that has just been said, it's probably for emphasis.  And so the writer says it again.  And again in 4:7:  Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.  Pay attention Today.  Respond Today.  Right away.  Now.

For the Word of God--God's voice--is living and active.  We hear it Now, but the sound of it will grow dim and face away unless we do respond Now.  We will forget unless we do something Now.

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