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28th August 2016 – Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Psalm 112; Hebrews 13. 1-8 & 15-16; Luke 14. 1 & 7-14

Sermon 28.08.2016

Focus Scripture: Hebrews

Holy Spirit, may the words written here feed our spirit and be pleasing to You Our Father God, and Jesus our Saviour. Amen

This is the fourth week in succession, that we’ve had readings from the Letter to the Hebrews. Our Lectionary readings, this cycle, focused on the 3 final chapters and today’s extract is from the concluding chapter 13. A climatic chapter which culminates with that great doctrinal statement in Verse 8; that the Rock of our faith, Jesus Christ is a sound and secure foundation for our faith.

For He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

There is no shadow of change/turning in Him. His word is good.

Therefore He will keep His promise/commitment and complete the good work He has started in you and me, eventually presenting us faultless before the Father with exceeding great joy.

But I go ahead of myself. Festina lente/Make haste slowly.

The Letter to the Hebrews stands as one of the great pillars of the epistles in New Testament. The pillar of the Roman Letter at one end of Paul’s writings and the pillar of the Hebrew’s Letter at the other end.

Date

Written around 67AD and certainly before 70AD, the year the Romans destroyed the great Temple in Jerusalem…for in this letter, which contrasts the superiority of the new covenant in Christ, over the old Mosaic covenant, the destruction of the Temple would have certainly been mentioned as it would dramatically symbolise the passing of the Mosaic order and the birthing of the new order in Christ Jesus.

Authorship

Despite all the scholarly energy expended, we cannot be sure who actually wrote this letter..

Of particular interest for us is that the first reference to this letter appears in the early writings of our patron saint; Clement of Rome, who accepted the letter as Paul’s work. Clement believed that it had been written in Hebrew and translated by Luke into Greek. In 95AD a quotation from Hebrews appears in Clement’s letter to the Corinthians.

The authorship has also been attributed to Paul’s co-worker and relative of Mark; Barnabas. However, because this letter contains the most stylish literary and sophisticated Greek in the New Testament some scholars argue for Apollos being the most plausible author.

So between the jigs and the reels…..we do not know who the Holy Spirit’s mystery author was.

Audience

Many commentators both ancient and modern believe the letter is addressed to mainly Jewish Christians who were tempted to backslide into non messianic Judaism. Whether this group of believers were in Rome, Jerusalem or Alexandria is debated.

However, when all is said and done, the most pertinent question is what does this letter to the Hebrews say to this congregation this Lord’s Day morning, in this church building, dedicated to St Clement?

 

Music

Of all the books of the New Testament, when I read this letter, I hear in my mind its silent music.

The notes are not tentative tinkly notes. …but grand bold notes….powerful music…. Verses ringing out fanfares.

In this epistle you can hear……the full bodied sounds of a Bach-like Toccata, a Bruckner Mass, a Vivaldi Gloria or strident Mahler Symphony.

The quality is grand, glorious, and courageous…where the verb ‘to bless’ comes only in the form of the present continuous…never-ending blessing…as we, glimpse in Jesus, the transforming changes that are yet in store for us.

Hebrews is a Cantata Each section centring on a tangible facet of Christ’s accomplishments .

+ A movement singing out His salvation’s offer!

+A trio celebrating the wonders of His gifts of faith, hope and love!

+A choral movement recounting our journeying, in Him, through times of endurance and barrenness!

+These movements are also interspersed with glorious arias rejoicing in His growth, through patience and perseverance in us…. as we… step by step are changed ,in Christ Jesus, from glory into glory.

+All this wonderful surge of music, culminating with soloists, choir and orchestra tumultuously celebrating the glorious return of Jesus…..no longer the Suffering Servant but as Christus Victor\Christ the Victor.\Christ the King.

 

 

This is what awaits us, when we humbly engage with the Holy Spirit and enter His living Word.

For God’s Word is no mere empty verbiage. Hebrews tells us

For the word of God is living and active.

Sharper than any double-edged sword,

it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow,

discerning the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.(Heb4:12)

 

We are not the first, neither are we the last, called, to journey ‘The Way of Jesus’. Earth and heaven are full of countless generations like ours, who like Abraham find no permanent abode here.

We are not alone…in last week’s Hebrew reading we heard of the City of the Living God…the New Jerusalem…of innumerable angels in festal gathering…of the assembly of the first born….of the spirits of righteous men made perfect…and of Jesus our Great High priest and Mediator. ( See also Rev 4-7) So let us not look in and down but out and up confident that what our Saviour asks of us His grace will supply: SO…..

12.1 … since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders(us) and the sin that so easily entangles (us). And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of (our)faith……

The letter to Hebrews spells it out that we believers…. share in the heavenly calling( and that we are to ), fix y/our thoughts on Jesus…(Heb3:1)

Jesus is the only Mediator and reconciler between humanity and the Holy God. He is the only one who could boldly go where no man has gone before. In fact, one of the main points in the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is the guarantor of God’s promise of redemption. For it is through the blood and death of Jesus, once offered that we are purified, here and now, to serve the living God.

King Jesus is also our unique intercessory priest:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin…

Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.(Heb7:25)

Therefore Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with

confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in

our time of need.

All that is recounted in Hebrews, still stands. Because in God ‘there is no shadow of turning’. His word is His bond. His promises are rock solid. What He promised, He confirmed with an oath, and it is impossible for God to lie.

So we, who have fled to Him can have, trust, confidence and be encouraged. For Jesus our Mediator, has become our great high priest forever. He is the Anchor that keeps us safe to the end.

Because of that, we can rejoice and celebrate around the Lord’s Table in a few minutes… for the Holy Spirit, through Faith, has burned into our hearts that despite all the uncertainties and upheavals in life:

13.8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

We must never forget that….never.

13.8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

This foundational truth is written for our peace and assurance.

Jesus our Saviour is Truth.

As he was before His incarnation, during His human existence on earth, and as He is in His resurrected supernatural existence,….

Jesus maintains and remains His Word.’’

For…..‘’God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?’(Num23:19)

God makes His intentions very clear to us.

Jesus will not recant His words.

He will not change His mind about us.

He will not revoke His offer of unconditional love and grace.

Jesus always proves Himself faithful. The saints here and there (heaven) are His witnesses. History is His witness.

 

I conclude with the lines of the most reassuring hymn I know. Written by an 18century young Anglican priest, Augustus Toplady :

A debtor to Mercy alone

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy/
Christ’s righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which His/Christ’s goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His/Christ’s hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I/we to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n.

 

Think seriously brothers and sisters on what Hebrew’s says to us:

 

How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? (Heb2:3)

 

Let us pray….