The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204
CREATED FOR CONNECTION
Hebrews 4:12-16 (NRSV)
October 14, 2018
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
What I am about to do could prove to be a total waste of time. I’m about to fling some words into the air trusting they ride on soundwaves reaching your ears and praying a few will meander all the way inside your spiritual-core to encourage the faithful and stimulate the complacent.
This was also the purpose of the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews. Writing to second-generation Jewish Christians, he addressed followers of Jesus living in a time comparable to today. Challenging times caused them to question whether Jesus’ way of relating with God had any influence. Some second-generation disciples were quietly slipping back into comfortable patterns of religious living like a boat gliding gently into a familiar safe harbor at day’s end.
The writer of Hebrews was not trying to keep up attendance or feed the budget. He was seeking to encourage the faithful and stimulate the complacent. He was reminding them they were created to experience the peace of God. Yet, the peace given by God does not come as the absence of spiritual friction. He suggests you will only know the peace God gives if you have some spiritual anxiety. Because you are created for connection with God, connections with one another and connections with the needs of the world, you are like a candle in the wind. At times, your wick needs trimming and your lamp needs refueling.
The Good News of God’s Love revealed in Jesus can seem to fade into the fog of uncertain times – appearing to be irrelevant or distant. The headlines and breaking news stories of the first century seemed to be disconnected from the message of Jesus. Even today, Church Talk can focus more on ballgames, politics, weather and stock market stories than on the meaning of Jesus for everyday living. For many persons, even reading Bible passages can be like reading words written by distant relatives about trivial concerns.
Like the early Church, you can look upon all the needs, injustices and evils in the world and find yourself confused and weary.
Recently, our deacons gathered with some deacons from other churches to hear a report from the Opportunity Task Force about significant needs in Charlotte. After hearing about all the needs, one sensitive and kind-spirited deacon spoke to me on his exit from Broach Hall saying, “After listening to all that information, I feel burdened.”
I pray that you and this deacon can recall Jesus invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.”
The writer of Hebrews offers three messages to help confused, weary pilgrims find peace:
4:12 – First, he identifies the Word of God to be “…living and active.”
4:13 – Second, he offers The Living God as your accountability partner.
4:14-16 – Third, he offers Jesus as your High Priest.
Consider how these three messages help you connect with God, with others and with the needs of the world by experiencing the peaceful rest God provides.
HEBREWS 4:12 – The ‘Word of God is living and active.’
Several years ago, a friend confided in me that he could not remember the last time he read his Bible. He said, “The Bible seems to be an ancient book written to people who didn’t deal with modern problems.” I asked if his goal was to read and interpret the Bible or to allow the Bible to help him read and interpret himself.” His face told me he was perplexed. I said, “You may be reading the Bible like you were taught to read a novel or a business book or historical fiction. You do not need to know the Bible for the sake of Bible knowledge. You need to read the Bible to listen through the written words about how God related with people long ago, so you can allow the Living Word of God to do surgery on you. Most people who avoid reading scripture are either reading it wrong or finding it uncomfortable and painful to have The Living God dissecting the places where thoughts, desires and actions are out of line with God’s will.”
Here is one way to listen through scripture for The Living God. After you read a passage of the Bible, ask, ‘(1) What human issues, characteristics or behaviors are being addressed in this passage? (2) God, where does this passage touch my life? (3) Lord, how can I apply this message in my daily life for the common good?’ (Use John 3:16-17 as an example). BELOVED, YOU WILL FIND THE PEACE OF GOD BY LISTENING FOR THE LIVING WORD OF GOD THROUGH SCRIPTURE.
HEBREWS 4:13 – During a pastor’s continuing education conference, the leader asked if any of us had an accountability partner. A few of us said ‘yes’ and one named her spouse. The leader then took us to this verse of scripture suggesting that we allow God to be like an accountability partner. She proposed that we begin at least four days each week merely being still in the Presence of God allowing God to call to our memory places where we are still needing to mature in the character of Jesus. When I approach God asking God to help me see myself as God sees me; I am completely exposed – and perfectly loved.
BELOVED, AS YOU ALLOW GOD TO SHOW YOU THE DEPTHS OF YOUR SPIRITUAL VOID AND CHAOS, YOU WILL ENCOUNTER THE CREATIVE LIGHT OF GOD’S PEACE. Some of your deepest experiences of God’s active life working in you is still ahead of you as you allow God to be your accountability partner.
HEBREWS 4:14-16 – When the writer of Hebrews offered Jesus as “High Priest,” he wasn’t merely using a good illustration. He was offering you God’s peace that withstands the wind. Jesus is your High Priest. Jesus bridges the natural and spiritual worlds providing connections. JESUS CHRIST OFFERS YOU THE PEACE OF GOD BY CONNECTING YOU WITH GOD AND OFFERING YOU THE BOLDNESS TO RELATE WITH OTHERS AND THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD THROUGH THE VICTORIOUS LOVE OF GOD.
Ancestors of Jesus always kept a candle burning in the temple. Jesus called himself the light of the world and then he called you, his disciples – his obedient followers – the light of the world. In Christ, the light of God’s peace has touched your life. And, through you, the light of God’s peace continues to spread.
Beloved, you are created for connection. As one candle lights another, your connection with God is passed to other persons and connects you with the needs of the world.
You are a ‘Community of Christ’ piercing the darkness with the light of God’s peace.
We have been lighting candles during worship today; one life touching another with God’s peace.
The unlit candles represent persons and needs you will touch with God’s peace this week and beyond.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
did not – has not –
will not – cannot –
overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Amen and AMEN!