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People for others

Sermon, Pentecost 21B

Sunday October 21, 2012, St Petri.

People for others

Hebrews 5:1-10

5 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,“You are my Son;today I have become your Father.”[a]6 And he says in another place,“You are a priest forever,in the order of Melchizedek.”[b]7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Her hand was withered – missing a few fingers but still functional. It looked like what I imagine a leper’s hand to look like from the movies I have seen, but this time there was no screen in front of me a real woman reaching out for the blood of Jesus to sustain her in her pain, poverty and faith. I was at the back of the Lutheran Church in Alice Springs a few Sunday’s ago. On the grassed area many indigenous people gather for worship and to receive the blood of their high priest, Jesus.

As this woman whose name I never got to know reached up from her sitting position for the cup of Jesus’ blood I was holding in my hand I was Jesus to her – her priest giving the very best thing I could give – not my wisdom, my blood, my philosophy on life, my ideas on suffering, no, the best thing, the real thing, Jesus’ sacrificial blood for forgiveness and life.

It is a long story as to how the blood of Jesus the Messiah, the Great high priest for the human race got to be in my hands and placed in her hands. The writer to the Hebrews tells us how this came to be…

High priests have to be qualified:

A high priest had to be called to the role. There had to be prayer, conversation, family background checks. It was after all a national role – a role that the link between God and his people on a daily basis.

High Priests are called

The high priest was called to bring the suffering, fear, trouble and needs of the people before their God in prayer every day. The high priest was then called to make judgments/decisions and offer God’s word on the goings on of the nation – to represent God faithfully to a nation.

The High Priest became the mediator between God and people

The High priest was the pivot point for the national sorry day – the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. On this day, once a year, he, and he alone, would venture into the holy of holies in the temple to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the altar and the ark of the covenant to relieve the people of their sins of idolatry – their constant breaking of the first commandment and all the rest that follow…. The High priest was God’s chosen mediator between God and people….. Quite a role!!

But how did I get to be a mediator between this woman and the God of creation? The same way you have been made a mediator between the Lord and the people around you…

Jesus of Nazareth was called by his Heavenly Father to be the once-and-for-all Great High Priest for the world. After him there is no other great high priest, but there are priests – you and me and all his baptized priesthood in the gospel.

Jesus of Nazareth, God’s own Son, was given the mantle of Great High priest by the only One who can confer such a mantle – God himself. Jesus was given this matle because he was the best qualified for it.

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

“Reverent submission”?

That withered hand reaching up to her pastor for the gift of life was an act reverent submission.

• Every time you come to this church building, stand or kneel and receive the same body and blood of your Great high priest you are a living sign of reverent submission.

• Every time you check yourself before making a decision, saying a word, carrying out a task, you are submitting yourself in all humility to the One who has your life and death in his hands.

• Every time you serve another person, putting away your own needs and desires for self promotion and control of life and rely on the Lord to meet your needs and make your life great in his eyes, you are operating in the order of

Melchizedek,  the order of Jesus the great high priest, the order of the holy priesthood of all the baptized believers of Christ.

It is a learned thing

Even Jesus had to learn obedience to God’s ways.

 “……Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered”

And friend, so do you. And there is only one way to learn obedience – or reliance on God or reverent submission to his ways, and that is through the means of suffering.

That makes sense really. When is trust in Jesus and real learning about ourselves and his life in us more likely to happen – when we are sailing along beautifully or when we are reaching out for the blood of Jesus’ forgiveness and life with withered hearts and hands?

I know what is true for me. It is the latter…… When trouble comes we actually search, we seek, we might even pray, we are willing to trust another person because we need what they can offer – are you willing to trust your Great high Priest with you current suffering?

In this “school of Jesus” – the “school of hard knocks” AND abundant grace and love from him, we are fashioned into the calling we have received – the calling to be priests for our people –

1. people who bring the needs of others to our High Priest,

2. people who do our best to represent our God to others,

3. people who bear the wrongs, the idolatry, the sin and darkness and despair of others for them and hand them over to the only One who can save us from their crushing weight – God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So, are we qualified to be people in the priesthood of all the baptized people of Jesus? No, but yes…

We are not qualified – in ourselves.

I have a wayward heart, a double mind on things, an ever-present war going on inside of me – sometimes “I despise my own behavior”, as the band DC Talk sung a while ago now. I can so easily see that withered hand as weak and not worth my time – something below me……

I am slow to learn in my suffering, so much so that I complain about it and try and escape it and control my life so that I don’t have to suffer anything – all the while not really trusting Jesus and his work in me in my trouble and suffering.

He tries to mold me and shape me in my calling to be a priest to those around me and I kick and scream against his teaching and his calling all the way.

But he is qualified enough!

But, by his sheer undeserved love and kindness given to me on the cross and in his resurrection, he is still my great high priest. And so, I am still a priest in his order.

In his role as my high priest he is still crying out to God on my behalf, taking my needs to our heavenly Father, even weeping with me and for me when needed – all to shape me in the school of reverent submission to his holy way.

He is teaching me his way through suffering and joy, life and death, living and dying. Nothing is wasted. No experience is pointless. Every pain has its end in Jesus.

So, in him you are qualified to be Jesus’ priest, because he is fully qualified and confers that authority on you in your baptism and each time his Word comes to bear on you.

Consider yourself qualified and called!

Friend, consider yourself called and sent to bring people to Jesus, take Jesus to people and be a mediator between them and him!

He is shaping us as a community of the baptized – a community of priests in Jesus way. He has created us to be a community who has the authority under Jesus to bring people’s needs to the Lord, to represent the Lord’s Word on things to people and bear the sins and troubles of people and give them to the Lord.

Friend, as a participant in God’s priesthood of all believes in Christ, ….

……..22draw near to God often with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having your hearts sprinkled to cleanse you from a guilty conscience and having your body washed with pure water. 23 Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And consider how you may spur others on toward love and good work, 25 never giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging others —and all the more as you see the Day of Jesus approaching.

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