Hebrews 8

If you didn’t quit after yesterday’s chapter, the writer will try again, and so will this reader. What if Christ is like that, like a high priest? What if we tried, as Georg Gadamer invited us last century in our ‘disenchanted modernity’, to begin to ‘re-enchant our universe’? Of course, ‘organism needs environment’, whether of some life beyond death, or this Christ on a throne in a tent/temple.

If you could start to imagine such romantic ideals, you might be encouraged to hear that the prophets living after Solomon’s Temple was lost said about a new deal with God. Isaiah and Jeremiah, dealing with the trauma of exile, have a vision. Now that we live after the destruction of the Second Temple, we might share that hope, which is older than the world, and younger than the life in us.

(That’s a Sydney Carter lyric, ‘One More Step Along the Way’, we sang as we left 74 Frederick. We also sang ‘From the Slave Pens of the Delta’ about leaving our aging shrine and structure in 2017, eh?)

When the writer and this reader say Jesus is ‘better’ or ‘more perfect’, that’s not some religious Darwinism saying the Christianity replaced Judaism as the new improved covenant. It’s saying that the mortal priests at the altars we build from time to time are less than the more elemental, fundamental, or ideal one we imagine and construe as the person and work of Christ.

We are always trying to mediate between our finite, mortal, partial constructions and others’ best efforts. It’s a great and growing industry to ‘mediate’ in ‘dispute resolution’ that is an alternate to the domestic rule of a nation-state. This argument is simply claiming that Jesus is beyond the scope and scale of even ‘international tribunals’, the darlings of human rights theorists, or multilateral trade agreements, the best efforts of neo-liberals.

All that stuff is always obsolescent, mortal, and limited. Not Christ.

Hebrews 8

Download audio of Hart translation

Text: NRSV

1 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,

2a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up.

3For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.

4Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.

5They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’

6But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.

7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

8 God finds fault with them when he says: ‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;

9 not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord.

10 This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

11 And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord”, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’

13In speaking of ‘a new covenant’, he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.