Hebrews ends as did the previous writings, with ethical encouragement to the community of faith. ‘Mutual love’ amongst us, including hospitality to those who appear in the name of this movement, is not the indiscriminate universal we made of it in late liberal Christendom. The affirmations are many, and the condemnations fewer, than in the earlier epistles in this season, but there are still warnings about those with too many answers, and a closing benediction suitable for reading aloud in worship – as it has been ever since.
James closes out the season, and this week, in a pragmatic, reassuring tone. Imagine yourselves as the new ’12 tribes of diaspora’, even if you aren’t biologically children of Israel. Persist in what stabilizes you, in the mundane lives of suffering servants.
James tells us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only – first of all in how we treat the rich and the poor entering our communities.
James warns not too many should be teachers, lest they be judged, with the great risks of the power of the tongue.
James sees a lot of predictable and preventable conflicts between big talk and great expectations meeting reality – better to take one step at a time.
James’ counsel of humility is framed within a clear sense that this is a time of penultimate, yet to see the future age, which will measure us. Meanwhile, we might act more simply, and rather than convert the whole world, try to bring back those of our own small community who stray. There’s a modest proposal!
Next week, from Transfiguration through Shrove Tuesday, we start Lent, and I have invited you to give up reading a chapter a day from the bible. Instead, we’ll tour a century a week, with associated statements of faith, and ‘heretics’ from each of the first six centuries of the Common Era. Join us.