Archive for the ‘Hebrews 5’ Tag

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

St. John the Baptist Preaching

Above:  St. John the Baptist Preaching, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

To Glorify and Enjoy God

DECEMBER 20, 2020


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Numbers 14:1-25

Psalm 144

John 3:22-38

Hebrews 5:11-6:20


Happy are the people to whom such blessings falls;

happy are the people whose God is the LORD.

–Psalm 144:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in creating his proposed Year D, has grouped stories of rebellion against God and cautions against opposing God together in Advent.  It is a useful tactic, for, as much as one might know something, reminders prove helpful.

In Hebrews we read of the reality of apostasy (falling away from God) and the imperative of not doing so.  It is a passage with which those whose theology precludes the possibility of apostasy must contend.  I, as one raised a United Methodist and, as of a few years ago, converted to affirming Single Predestination, know much about the theology of free will in relation to salvation.  On a lighter note, I also recall an old joke about Methodists:  Not only do they believe in falling from grace, but they practice it often.  (If one cannot be religious and have a well-developed sense of humor, one has a major problem.)  Although I like Methodism in general (more so than certain regional variations of it), I cannot be intellectually honest and return to it, given Methodist theology regarding the denial of Single Predestination.

As Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us, the faithfulness of God is the anchor of our souls, and Jesus is a forerunner on our behalf.  In John 3:22-38 we read of his forerunner, St. John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus, not to himself.  I have no doubt that

He must grow greater; I must become less.

–John 3:30, The Revised English Bible (1989),

words attributed to St. John the Baptist, are not historical.  Neither do I doubt their theological truth.  St. John the Baptist probably said something to the effect of that sentence, I argue.  I also insist that those words apply to all of us in the human race.  Jesus must grow greater; each of us must become less.  To act according to the ethos of glorifying oneself might lead to short-term gain, but it also leads to negative consequences for oneself in the long term and for others in the short, medium, and long terms.

The call of God entails the spiritual vocation of humility, or, in simple terms, of being down to earth.  The highest and chief end of man, the Westminster Catechisms teach us correctly, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  To arrive at that point one must trust in and follow God, whom we ought not to forget or neglect at any time, but especially in December, in the immediate temporal proximity of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.







Week of 2 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Spring Flowers

Image Source = Anita Martinz

Enjoying God and Life

JANUARY 18, 2021


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Hebrews 5:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as those of the people.  And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son,

today I have begotten you;

as he says also in other place,

You are a priest for ever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 110 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

4 The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over the nations.

6 He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

7 He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

Mark 2:18-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him,

Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

And Jesus said to them,

Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.  No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Question #1 from the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), as printed in The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965)

I am a ritualist.  I admit this fact freely and without compunction.  Rituals are crucial to the healthy maintenance of society, and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken.  Ritualism is like any other good thing in so far as that it can become a bad thing if one takes it too far, though.  An icon is something or someone through which we see God; an idol distracts us from God.  A ritual can be either an icon or an idol, depending on what we choose to make it.

Consider fasting, for example.  This can be a healthy spiritual exercise.  Yet, when one approaches it from the wrong angle, fasting becomes an occasion of pride, not humility.  First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism came with one compulsory fast day, the Day of Atonement.  Many especially observant Jews chose to fast from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. each Monday and Thursday, too.  There was no fault in this practice, assuming that one did not approach it as a way to display one’s holiness before others and hopefully to attract God’s favor.  Jesus rejected such displays, preferring instead to enjoy food, often in the company of disreputable people, as in the Gospel reading from Saturday.  Now that was a different kind of display, was it not?

How would you react or respond if your pastor or priest spent much time dining with disreputable people, not engaging in public activities associated commonly with holiness?  How long would he or she remain in your parish or mission congregation?  Think about it.  The more we are like Jesus, the less respectable we become.  The Jesus of many imaginations is a respectable, even bourgeoisie, figure.  This version of Jesus is a fiction.  The real Jesus was scandalous.  And we are called to follow him.

And Jesus enjoyed life, eating much food and drinking much wine.  He savored wonderful conversation, too.  Enjoying life is a call of every Christian, therefore.  From time to time  I have had the great displeasure of meeting and having to spend too much time in the company of a self-professing Christian with no apparent sense of humor.  You, O reader, might have had the same experience.  Life is a gift of God; let us enjoy it in God and glorify God through it.

May we delight in all that is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  Koholeth, the author of Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything. Taking proper times and seasons into account is part of determining if something is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  We follow the greatest high priest, who can and does identify with us.  The fact of his Incarnation, followed by his life and our Atonement, ought to comfort us.  So why should we walk around looking as if our parents weaned us on dill pickles?

Laugh. Chortle.  Have a good belly laugh.  Enjoy staring at cloud formations.  Dare I say it, even tell atrocious puns.  Savor a well-written novel or poem.  And enjoy God during all of it.