25 August 2019 Faith in the Pioneer Martin Baker
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you." 13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Here am I and the children whom God has given me." 14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Last week we heard the writer of Hebrews in chapter 1 saying words to the effect that before you give up on Jesus on following Christ; let’s remember who he was and what he said.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
So we hear this extraordinary claim. That we are part of God creative work, through God’s son Jesus who made the universe. This week we find this move from the awe and wonder we might experience looking up at this extraordinary universe, being the same awe and wonder, the same extraordinary claim of God’s creation, that can be found as we lower our gaze and look around at each other. As we see how God is working in our community.
The Gospel of John telling us something similar.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
Our reading today continues with these affirmations
that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings
Jesus the pioneer of salvation. The word for pioneer means something like archetype, model, or trailblazer. It’s an interesting word to use here.
Right through our scriptures we find this close association between going on a journey and our understanding and relationship with God. Abraham was a wondering nomadic tribesman. The people set out on this great journey from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. Jesus calling his disciples to follow him. The concept of mission - it simply means to be sent.
Those themes run so deeply through our scriptures. If we are not travelling, moving, on some kind of journey then we may actually be entrapped or enslaved or dead.
So we have this phrase here - Jesus as the pioneer of our salvation.
Perhaps on our Christian journey we could say that at some times we are tourists. We like the comfort of the bus or the plane, we like the assurance of the warm bed at night, we like being around similar people, we follow the guide and we know that if this is day 2 we must be in Genoa or Geraldine.
And at times we are travellers. We’ve got the maps and the lonely planet guide but we are prepared to take a few risks, not sure where we will be sleeping that night or if there is a seat on the train to Jaipur or Picton. But we have some security. Mobile phone, the credit card and we know that in all likelihood things will be fine.
Then occasionally we find that we are explorers. Pioneers. Trailblazers. No map, no certainty at all of what today will bring, no one who has told us what to expect. And we have to rely entirely on our faith, our strength, our fortitude and the curiosity and drive that have brought us to this point.
The idea is that a pioneer goes where others have not yet travelled, for the purpose of opening a way that others might follow. This is the way Hebrews portrays Jesus’ way through death to resurrection. Jesus enters fully into the reality of human life, with it’s doubts and suffering, in order to open a way to life.
Perhaps many of us have been tourists; some of us have been travellers, but to be an explorer, a pioneer. Where there is no map. And perhaps that is why in ways it can be difficult to read the letter to the Hebrews, because we are being told about this new territory that we enter as we follow this Jesus. And the words are difficult because they are about something we had not known about before. Discovering that we are part of this wonderful created universe brought into being by God’s word. Discovering too that we are part of this new travelling mission community brought into being by the pioneer of our faith.
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings
This place of glory found through Jesus that brings this salvation through suffering.
It seems such a difficult claim to make, that something good can come through suffering. And yet, even at a human level we know that some of humanities greatest’s achievements have come as a result of years of endurance, struggle, hard work and some form of suffering. Some of those who stand as examples to us in their commitment to justice have faced suffering and even death. And we also know in our own lives, those often unspoken and unrecognised people whose quiet sacrifice, in their care for children or the elderly or the vulnerable.
And so we read these words
For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you." 13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Here am I and the children whom God has given me."
When we look up, from last week’s reading, and see the wonder of the universe we have this sense of wonder and awe at creation. But this week we look around and we see in the events of love and sacrifice, we see in the actions of kindness, we see the actions of Jesus, brothers and sisters, the ones who we can trust, the children who God has given.
We are told that Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
Perhaps we do not talk much about shame.
I listened to a talk a couple of weeks ago that suggested a strong link between the ability to like on social media and the increase in suicide rates among our young people. Much social media allows you to post a message or an image and everyone looking at that image or message can indicate if they like it or don’t like it.
You can imagine how powerful this is especially for young people who are especially sensitive about being liked or being included. An instant response that indicates whether you are liked or not liked. We forget perhaps today that power of being shamed, and the terrible consequences it can have for our most vulnerable.
Jesus looks around at this diverse community, we are told that Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
And here we are told:
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.
This letter to the Hebrews has this challenge at its core. A unity we find in Christ . A unity in the midst of many of us experience as quite fractured lives.
And this challenge comes through in our outreach and ministry work.
We talk to parents and they want to be the best mother or father they can be. And sometimes they have to be mother and father. And yet they have to have a job. They have to pay a rent or a mortgage. We are so busy and yet we also agree about the damage of social isolation and loneliness. And we face all these tensions. And in the middle of all this we are confronted with so many messages of success and getting ahead. And we overlay all this with our own hopes and dreams and fears and aspirations. And perhaps all of us find we are pulled in many different directions.
But our text this morning tells us a different story. That this thing called salvation is about this unity we find in Christ. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.
Early last century a minister of the free Presbyterian Church and a theologian Marcus Dods used the image of Jesus as “the strong swimmer who carries the rope ashore and so not only secures His own position but makes rescue for all who will follow." He was saying that Jesus, by making salvation possible for human beings, every person now has the capacity to participate in the activity of God in the world or to experience the goodness of God as healing, wholeness, and community.
The commitment of our little community here to be always open and welcoming. It’s really important to say that that is not just a nice thing to do, but it is grounded in the affirmation that was so important to the writer of the letter to the Hebrews.
The grounding our faith is based around this commitment to come together in the context of community, when individuals gather together to work out their faith with love and responsibility and service toward others.
I want to tell you a little story.
Last Sunday night at our HATCH service we prayed for a beautiful little girl who faces a lifetime of very difficult surgeries. The power of that very mixed bunch of people praying for that little girl. And afterwards a family who I know probably have little in the way of cash said that they were moved to help the little girl’s family out, and they gave the family $200. As far as I know, they did not know each other. It was spontaneous and the gift anonymous. A small thing but what a powerful message to a family facing one of the most difficult moments in their lives. To know they were surrounded by prayers, by kindness by generosity.
Our reading today is all about this unity, this community we find in Christ. This unity that is expressed in service to one another. The one who creates the heavens and the earth the one whose glory is expressed in the washing of the feet of the disciples, and ultimately on the words of forgiveness on the cross.
And as we follow him, this pioneer of our faith, we are led into this new community, this unity, where we are named as Jesus’s brothers and sisters, a community, our church, where the awe and wonder of creation is made real in acts of forgiveness love and grace.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.