Picture the opening credits of Star Wars: long ago… Just as Colossians and Ephesians did, Hebrews puts Jesus in a cosmic picture. The language is of a ‘real’ or ‘ultimate’ creation, seen and experienced through ‘accidental’ fleeting screens and re-presentations of the ideal.
Where does Jesus fit in your re-enchanted universe? Is Jesus ‘just a guy’? Today the opening chapter affirms Jesus in relation to Creator and creation, and beside Ruler of All – and then restates how that out-ranks angels. Most North Americans believe in angels and pray – the rest of us are UCC ministers.
Lean on recent weeks of reading about ‘stuff that’s bigger than me and smaller than God’ to see where this argument matters. What is penultimate, passing, mortal and finite, and what is ultimate, eternal, immortal and infinite? The imagery of clothing may not move you – and certainly the authoritarian rulers draw a different reaction from us than from original readers.
What does it mean to say there are entities in creation that are ‘creatures’ and then to distinguish them from a child or an heir? Again, we recoil from assumed primogeniture of patriarchal order – but the distinction here is between one’s ‘begotten’ and what one has made. What’s that about for us, or for this writer?
Don’t rush past it - this is the beginning of the issue of how you construe the world around us, and the world before and beyond us, as complementary to Jesus without saying ‘they’re all the same’. Rank ordering as ‘better’ is vicious, but dissolving the distinction, or resolving it through ‘progressive succession’, may be far worse.
I’ve find hope in Hans Küng’s rework of Thomas Kuhn’s work, and in Charles Taylor’s ‘social imaginaries’, for reclaiming language like this.
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,
2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.
3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’?
6And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’
7Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’
8But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’
10And, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing;
12 like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.’
13But to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?
14Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?