April 28, 2019 | Hebrews 1:1-4 • “Something Better: God has Spoken by the Son”

Hebrews 1.1-4 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

 

Last Friday Sarah had some stuff to do for work, and I decided to take Liam and Violette to Colorado Springs to eat lunch with my mom and run some errands … I did my usual thing and totally overestimated how much we can pack into a trip to the city. 

One of the stores I really wanted to go to one of my favorite stores – a worn out and kind of rough used music and video store in a strip mall. We stopped at one of the cross-walks and an elderly guy in a suit walked across the street and gave us one of those thanks-for-stopping-and-not-running-me-over-in-the-crosswalk waves. We parked the car and I gave my usual spiel about parking lots and how we need to pay extra attention and stay close together.

Violette grabbed my hand. 

Liam walked right beside me.

As we walked through the cross walk … I noticed that the guy in the suit was in his car and stopped at the cross walk for us. (I gave him the same thanks-for-obeying-traffic-laws-and-not-blasting-through-a-crosswalk waves). Once we were inside the store, we started to look for How to Train your Dragon DVD’s. We turned around and there was that guy in the suit. He seemed really out of place in that used DVD and CD store … He said he only came into the store because he was hoped to find us He said he noticed us in the parking lot … we did something that caught his attention. (I tried to remember what we could have done in the parking lot that could have caught someone’s attention and was drawing a blank) 

He said when we crossed the street he saw that my daughter and I were holding hands and that we were sticking close together … he said that in the parking lot of the apartments where he lived a kid had been hit by a car … he said it had been so sad for everyone – for the kid’s parents … for neighbors … for the guy who had been driving … he said he appreciated seeing us hold hands and stay close together in the parking lot. He handed me two two dollar bills and said they were for Liam and Violette … that he wanted them to remember they did something good and important in the parking lot and he hoped they would tell other people. 

As he spoke there was a lot running through my head – I was grateful that my kid’s good behavior was noticed and encouraged; I was struck by the extra effort the guy made to approach us and talk to us; I was thinking about how rare and kind of weird two dollar bills are; I was on guard … I want to assume the best of people, but it was such a random interaction; I thought, this sounds like a story you would hear in a sermon, and I wondered does this guy somehow know I’m a pastor? 

I also was also thinking about how much I needed to hear something encouraging. 

Maybe it was because I was kind of worn out from Easter, or maybe its one of those season change funks, but it was one of those weeks when I felt kind of off … like I just couldn’t get things right … like I was stuck in this pattern of struggling to keep up … dropping the ball … or disappointing someone. That encouraging word was just what I needed … it was so good to hear I had done something with my kids that caught attention in a good way. That man’s kind words gave me a little extra umph.

(As we left the store and stopped at the cross walk I asked – “so what should we do here?” Violette grabbed my hand and said, “We need to hold hands so someone will give us money.” Maybe not exactly the lesson the guy in the suit wanted us to walk away with.)

 

 

Hopefully you have had an experience like that … hopefully you have experienced a word of encouragement that came just when you needed it.  

 

For the next few weeks I want to look at the book of Hebrews with you all … Hebrews is a really interesting part of the Bible. I think Hebrews is intended to be a timely word of encouragement to the Christian community.

We find it in the back of the Bible with the letters, but Hebrews is different from most of the letters in the New Testament … it doesn’t start out in the typical ancient letter format. The typical letter format starts out identifying the author and the audience and usually some sort of thanksgiving, something like, “I Kenny, write to you, the faithful people of South Park … I am grateful for you all” Hebrews jumps right in with no greetings or mention of the author or the audience. 

Hebrews is probably something a lot like that man in the suit’s words to my family … Hebrews is a powerful and intentional word of encouragement. The person who wrote Hebrews hoped it would be a sermon that offered the right word at just the right time to encourage a church to keep going even though life had gotten difficult and many of the Christians who would hear this word may have been seriously considering giving up on their faith and turning back to whatever their lives were like before they encountered the good news of Jesus.

 Often Hebrews is attributed to Paul, the King James Version calls it the “Letter of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews”– but Hebrews’ vocabulary and themes are very different from the vocabulary and themes typically found in Paul’s other letters. Bible scholars speculate Apollos, Barnabas, or maybe even Priscilla could have written Hebrews, but there really isn’t enough evidence to say for sure who wrote Hebrews. Origen, a 3rd century theologian and church leader wrote, “As to who wrote [Hebrews], only God knows.”

The people who first received Hebrews are also a mystery. From the way the author uses the Old Testament it looks like the recipients were Jewish Christians who knew Scripture really well. It also looks like this congregation was going through a very difficult time, in chapter twelve the congregation is encouraged to “lift [their] drooping hands and strengthen [their] weak knees.” The congregation Hebrews was written to was probably struggling. They may have been worn out – ready to give up and throw in the towel. 

The preacher wants to encourage them … to give them a word that motivates them to hold on to their faith … to keep pursing life in relationship with Christ. 

So what is the first thing the preacher does to encourage this congregation?

The preacher right away seeks to encourage these discouraged Christians by focusing on Jesus.

  • The preacher reminds the congregation of the bigger picture …
  • The preacher reminds them just how they got to where they were in the first place …
  • The preacher reminds them of their first love … JESUS!

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

The preacher begins the sermon with powerful and beautiful words about Jesus … words many Bible scholars are convinced were a part of an ancient affirmation of faith … maybe even something these Christians used in their worship together. The preacher reminds them that Jesus is the one who drew them into this whole thing to begin with … the preacher reminds the church that God speaks to us. God wants to be known … we don’t have to fumble through the dark … we don’t have to walk on egg shells … trying to figure out what God wants from us. 

Jesus tells us and shows us God loves us and God will go to the greatest lengths to show us that love – and the author of Hebrews, God knows who it was, reminds us that … God chooses to speak … God wants to be known. Hopefully as they look back to Jesus … the one who best shows us what God is like … the one who set them on this path to begin with … they will be encouraged to continue to pursue the life of faith.

I hope that for us … as we read through Hebrews together … these words can be just the right words at just the right time to encourage you and keep you going.

04.28.2019SPCCBulletin

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