Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Savior and Priest" - Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT- October 2, 2011

In a few minutes we will come to the table for a Lord’s Supper experience. It carries us to the moment when Jesus lifts ordinary elements on the Passover dinner table and they became symbols of the extraordinary. When we come to the table and hold the element of the bread, we pronounce “the body of Christ given for you.” The bread serves to remind us of Jesus’ incarnation; that moment when God took on flesh and made His home among us. It reminds us of Jesus’ ministry when he walked and talked, preached and healed, feed and cared. It reminds us that Jesus was tried, beaten, and crucified on our behalf. When the bread touches my lips I remember the gift of the body of Christ, given for you and for me.

Likewise, when we hold the element of the wine, we pronounce “the blood of Christ shed for you.” This pronouncement is scandalous for me. It reminds me that the shed blood of Christ is the dear price required for my redemption. It reminds me that Christ, who was sinless, took on my sin – and your sin – that we might find forgiveness in this incredible act of God’s grace. When the sweet taste of the grape juice, representing the wine, touches my lips, it leaves a bittersweet taste. The bitterness is not because the grapes have spoiled, but instead is born in the reality of the bitter price paid for each time I made choices that damaged my relationship with God or others. But the sweetness reminds me of God’s sweet choice to act on my behalf, to extend grace to me and to you when we did not deserve it. Every time I taste the sweet taste of juice I remember the gift of the blood of Christ, given for you and for me.

We come to the table with great regularity in obedience to Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me.” But there is a temptation every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper that we focus on what Jesus did on the cross as if it was the end of the story. While the story of the cross plays a central role in our faith narrative, if the story ended there our faith would be built on a martyr’s story rather than the Savior’s story. We are an Easter people. While grace is finds its foundation at the feet of the cross, it is made complete in the moment of resurrection. But, our story does not end there. It is not just about what Jesus DID for us, but also of what Jesus DOES for us as a people of faith.

Earlier in our service you heard Betsy Stewart read our focal passage from the New International Version. I would like to share it again, but this time from the more contemporary New Living Translation. I think it puts in terms we can best understand. It reads, 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

You may remember that when I began this sermon series on Hebrews a few weeks ago, I told you that the audience for this book was believers who had come out of Judaism. The writer unapologetically uses images and language that would have been familiar to them. In this passage the writer seized the image of the High Priest, the one who was to be the people’s advocate God. This image would have grabbed their attention. It would have immediate meaning for them. But, in a quick twist they hear that Jesus is that ultimate High Priest. It is Jesus that leads us to the throne of God. The writer wanted them to understand that Jesus understood them. He had dealt with the same temptations and testings that they, and we, face. Jesus understood their and our weakness because he had walked beside them, and walks besides us still. This scripture tells us that Jesus, who is Son of God, the very face of God, is at the same moment our High Priest and Divine advocate. It tells us that the Jesus who acted on our behalf on the cross, still acts on our behalf so that we can come boldly God’s throne and find mercy when we need it most. God is a God of second chances. You can start your life with God again. You can find the grace and mercy you need to be renewed and restored. You have an advocate – a High Priest. Your heart cry matters to God! This Scripture reminds me that my testimony sings out both what God did for me and what God continues to do in my life.

Where can you specifically identify where God is active in your life? Claim it and celebrate it! What is going on in your life where you need to move boldly to God’s feet to find God’s mercy and grace? Jesus understands what you are going through. God stands ready to act.

Today, I invite you to celebrate what God has done that we might find forgiveness, grace, and a personal relationship with God. Today, I invite you to run with boldness to God throne knowing that mercy awaits you. Today, with equal passion, I invite you to sing out what God is doing in your life. In Jesus we have a Savior and a Priest, our Lord and our advocate.

(Homily followed by Lord's Supper by intinction at five stations located throughout the sanctuary.)

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