Trailblazer – The Pursuit of Holiness
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
Hebrews 2:10-11 New International Version (NIV)
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
An interesting text this morning, in that we are to be led in the direction of a Holy Presence. The text moves a type a worship document that provides both a verbal Eucharist and an element of praise and thanksgiving. As we read the preamble verses to verses 10, 11, we see that the “congregation” is then “taken up” with God and to God as part of Gods’ act of salvation.
It is intensely proclaimed here that the importance of God’s Word is truly a tool of salvation. The emphasis placed on “The Word of God” here in this text magnifies the importance of what those before us have said and done! It in a sense becomes a communal effort for the Holy to be recognized. The rhetoric of passing down the spoken word from the Prophets on down is engaging because it is the true monitor of the faithful world. We hear of God’s majesty, of God’s sustaining power, of what God has done in Christ, how Christ is the reflection of God’s glory, and Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. One must realize that this is not a text of moral instruction but rather a text that illuminates the proclaimed Word by the power and presence of God.
As I worked through this text over the past couple of weeks, it has become increasingly clear to me that this text lies strongly in the realm of what God has done through history, ultimately in the presence of Christ in our lives! It has become even more clear, how the presence of the One who made us Holy is also the One who leads us to assist in helping others approach holiness.
Historically, this is a very doxological text in that it evokes and prods us, as readers, to be enveloped by God’s mercy and salvation. One of the key elements of this scripture is what I call “Holy Absorption.” The Christian is seen to be “offered up” to God in the presence of Christ in their life and in the hearing of God’s Word throughout their life—thus making it a somewhat “mysterious or Holy venture” to be a believer. There is present the awe and the mystery of God’s presence and grace even in the midst of pain, anguish, argument, and disbelief. But the mystery of God is forever present in the life of Jesus and is transferred to us through the life of believers and our own Christ encounters!
I’m reminded of a story I heard one time that took place at a theological institution. At this institution they had invited a renowned professor to be their guest lecturer. He spoke for 2.5 hours “establishing” proofs that the resurrection of Jesus never happened. He quoted scholar after scholar. He concluded that since there was no such thing as “the historical resurrection,” the religious tradition of the Church was groundless. It was emotional mumbo-jumbo because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, …never rose from the dead in any literal sense. After this verbal dissertation, he backed up from the lectern and asked if there were any questions? After about 30 seconds, an elderly pastor stood up in the back of the auditorium. “Doctor professor,” he said, “I have one question.” Everyone turned to look at him. He reached into his crumpled lunch sack, pulled an apple and began eating it, “My question is a simple question, (crunch), “Now, I have never read those books you’ve read, and I can’t recite the scripture in the original Greek, (crunch, another bite of apple), I know nothing about those theologians of which you speak, (as he went crunch, and finished his apple). All I want to know is…the apple I just ate, was it bitter or sweet?” The guest professor paused for a minute and answered in a scholarly fashion, “I cannot possibly answer that question…for I haven’t tasted your apple.” The elderly pastor dropped the core of his apple into his bag…looked up at the professor and said calmly… “Neither have you tasted my Jesus!”
This text is most certainly about the holiness of Jesus understood in a way and fashion that is not tangible to human touch, human rationale, or simply “mindful understanding.” It’s about the essence and the presence of Jesus in our life; it’s about Jesus bringing us into the fold and offering to us a pattern of salvation that allows us to fully live in the presence of Jesus and those around us. It is this Holy presence in the life of the Church that allows us to move, to work, to initiate, and to love in a way that is so radically different than any other institution in the world.
In this text in Hebrews, the work of paradox in love and grace and truth, life and death, darkness and light, duty and delight is illustrated by the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. It is through these paradox that Jesus embodies glory and humiliation, power and suffering, authority and servanthood, radical grace and radical obedience. Each side makes the other possible.
In our story at the theological school, we hear from the old pastor, in very simple terms, the fact that knowing and loving Jesus and being in a relationship with Jesus is not simply done by the mode of factual proof texting. It is done by simple, intense engagement in the love of God through Christ.
Sure, we have our faith that the resurrection from the dead was real. We make that proclamation. Yet when we come to this Holy Table and taste the bread and the wine that reminds us of that sacrifice, we are moved beyond that simple understanding and moved to a place that reminds us that our existence is Holy, that our presence upon this earth is Holy, and that the God who created us is a God who can do all things in all times and allows us to participate in this Holy Mystery we call life!
Let us come to the Table of Our Lord and taste the Holy Mystery that brings us to life!
AMEN and AMEN.