Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17 (22) (August 28, 2016)
Hebrews 13:1-8 | New Living Translation (NLT)
13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. 2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! 3 Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
4 Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.
5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
6 So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:15-16 | New Living Translation (NLT)
15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
The Sacrifice of Praise
The title of this week’s devotional reminds me of the old praise and worship chorus of the same. name. I remember that it seemed quite contemporary at the time, even though it seems dated now. In the late 90’s the writer added some verses, slowed it down to get rid of the um-pa beat. It was one of those songs that we sang so much that we got tired of it and yet the principles that are listed in this week’s scripture are as relevant today.
These are the final paragraphs of the letter to the Hebrews – a letter that was written to the Hebrew people that were scattered throughout the world. It was written to show the place of prominence that Jesus had over the Old Covenant – Jesus was the perfect replacement for the old.
In these few verses, we see some things that would have been familiar to God-fearing Hebrews. The writer admonishes them not to forget the down and out – the aliens and strangers – to keep on loving each other. It’s interesting even to see the parallels to Jesus’ teaching – to show hospitality to strangers – to visit those in prison – to give a cold cup of water in Jesus’ name. We are suppose to have empathy and compassion – the writer says remember those who are being mistreated – as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. In our culture today, it is way too easy to dismiss. After all we need to assert our rights – I say that sarcastically, because that is not what the writer is saying…the writer says have a compassion for those who are not well-off – it really doesn’t matter how they got there. It is interesting because while Israel did get in trouble for not remaining holy as God is holy, they also got in trouble with God because they forgot the alien and stranger – the widows and the orphans – those who were down and out. God gives the Israelites some very specific instructions – in fact, we see some of those in the book of Ruth, when Ruth is gathering the grain that has been intentionally left behind for those who couldn’t afford it – the widows and the orphans.
The writer then goes on to remind the Hebrews to keep marriage sacred – to remain faithful to your partner…God will judge those who are immoral…and those who commit adultery.
We are getting quite a list of things that honor God – a list of the sacrifices that please God. We are reminded – much like Paul writes in Philippians to be content with what we have…not to be lovers of money. For remember…money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.
We are reminded to be content with what we have — interesting – that could apply to money or things – or even what is mentioned in the paragraph above about relationships. So many are looking for the right relationship, that they forget the relationship they have right in front of them.
We are to remain content because God will take care of us. This was something that became very clear in the year that we were in transition. Even now God is taking care of us. I try not to worry – I think that is some of my personality – but God is taking care of us. The words of the writer remind me of the Christ Tomlin song Whom Shall I Fear God of Angel Armies. The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people to do me?
We are then reminded to think of leaders who have set the pace – who have been faithful to preach the Word of God – the examples that they set – the great cloud of witnesses – and we are encouraged to follow after them.
These things are what the author means when he says to offer up the continual sacrifice of praise. Even though we don’t need to constantly sacrifice animals because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, we are commanded to praise him continually – to do the things that please Him – because through this we proclaim our allegiance to God. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to pledge allegiance to anything but God and his Kingdom.
The writer finishes with where he started – don’t forget to do good and share with those in need, because these are the sacrifices that please God. I want to encourage you today – even as I preach about worship on Sunday to offer up to God the things that are pleasing to him.