Today’s reading admits that this is hard work. Perhaps at first glance, this religious stuff is deceptively easy, then becomes tougher, and it’s tempting to drift away. That would be dismissive of our own experience, and that of our elders. Worse, if ours is a divinity of justice as well as of grace, there will be consequences from what we ignore.
Niebuhr’s ‘Nature and Destiny of Man’ and ‘Moral Man in Immoral Society’ were popularizations in mid-century of this matter of meaning and purpose for us collectively. Where do we fit in the big picture, and why?
The quotations from Psalms seemed easy to my childhood. They have however been misused by instrumental reason, what Ellul called techné as more than technology, to reduce creation and ecology to an object to be used by humans. God forbid that we read these traditions only in relation to abuse of our power over natural things – and forget the reciprocal constraint of ‘angels’ above or beyond our individual and even collective intentional human agency.
Why does it matter than Jesus is flesh and suffers and dies? It is necessary to this vision or construction that Christ is not beyond and over all, unless also entirely mortal and corruptible, subject to death-dealing powers bigger than subjective politics and morals. This is heady stuff, eh? It’s also bloody stuff.
Who and what drives your fear? That’s the question – the death-dealing powers, diabolos need a response that is equal or greater in scale. This document is trying to express and inform a faithful response, reliant upon Jesus.
What’s the familiar and helpful model of mediation, transformation, or perhaps even re-presentation of what is ultimate, not just penultimate, both human and divine? The writer thinks the key is argument by analogy to ‘high priest’ that used to operate in the Second Temple – until the Romans leveled it in 70CE.
Do you get it? Neither do I!
1 Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
2For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty,
3how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,
4while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.
5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.
6But someone has testified somewhere, ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?
7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honour,
8 subjecting all things under their feet.’ Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,
9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
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.
11For 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,
12saying, ‘I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’
13And 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,
15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.
16For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.
17Therefore 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.
18Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.