Hebrews 5:1-7 Common English Bible (CEB)
Every high priest is taken from the people and put in charge of things that relate to God for their sake, in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The high priest is able to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are misled since he himself is prone to weakness. Because of his weakness, he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the people. No one takes this honor for themselves but takes it only when they are called by God, just like Aaron.
In the same way Christ also didn’t promote himself to become high priest. Instead, it was the one who said to him,
You are my Son.
Today I have become your Father,
as he also says in another place,
You are a priest forever,
according to the order
Have you ever read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle?The last time that I read that book was a good quarter century ago, but the story is fresh in my mind since my family just went to see the movie in the theater last weekend. The main character, Meg Murry, is feeling low because of the ordinary struggles of being a teenager and because her father is missing and has been for 4 years. There’s not much Meg can do about her situation until she is called on a journey by her mysterious neighbor Mrs. Whatsit. Mrs. Whatsit reveals that the mysterious method of travel that Meg’s father had been working on is real. Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin head out on a journey across the universe in search of Meg and Charles Wallace’s father. Meg accepts the call with reluctance but Charles Wallace jumps in with both feet. Calvin seems ready to help regardless of where they are headed.
This forward to journey into the uncertain future reminds me of the journey of Abraham, one of the founders of our faith. Abraham was called Abram at the beginning of his journey. The Bible tells us that God called to Abram, “Go, go forth!” This call seems a little repetitive, but maybe Abram need some extra encouragement. Abram is called to go forth from his home. Abram is to go from his people. Abram is to go from his family. He is called to go forth from the place he grew up.
God is often calling us, but we are not always listening. If we are to become great, then we must be open to the voice of God. When the Spirit calls for us to set out, to go forth if we are listening then we shall see the wonders God lays out for us. As Abram went out he built 3 altars to God to commemorate where God had spoken to him. Abram rescued his nephew Lot and when he returned, Abram did not go to God alone. This time, Abram met Malchi-Tzedek, a stranger from another country. Instead of merely seeking God alone this time, Abram saw “that of God” in the stranger. Malchi-Tzedek, who is known as both priest and king offers up a simple meal of wine and bread. Malchi-Tzedek blesses Abram and blesses God for Abram’s victory.
What Abram did was extraordinary. It can be difficult to share your faith with someone in your own meeting let alone with a stranger from another religion. How can you find the will to share what gives you strength and comfort without being overcome by the fear of looking foolish? Yet Abram enlists not his brother nor his wife nor even his nephew, but a priest from another religion in a strange land to perform a blessing in his moment of deep meaning. Abram reaches out to Malchi-Tzedek.
Back to A Wrinkle in Time. Meg does not get along with kids at school nor in her neighborhood. She sees how they are mean to her and her brother Charles Wallace. What Meg can’t see, at least at first, is what is going on in the lives of the people around her. That is until Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace journey with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. On her journey, Meg learns of the darkness that streams forth from a place called Camazotz. This darkness covers half of Earth and is spreading across the universe. The darkness touches the kids at her school making them afraid. The kids are afraid that other people won’t like them. They are afraid that they aren’t good enough. Worst of all is the Man with Red Eyes on Camazotz. He drives everyone to conform with an irresistible beat. Thrum. Thrum. Thrum. The darkness goes out from Camazotz spreading fear and doubt, sapping joy. Only Meg’s love for her brother Charles Wallace can free him from the hold of the darkness.
In the Scripture today, we are told that “The high priest is able to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are misled since he himself is prone to weakness”. The high priest described in this passage is not just another in a long line of high priests, but Jesus himself. Jesus understands us because he too was human and not just some disconnected god. In the orthodox understanding, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Like Meg, we can see how darkness touches the people around us. We can learn to take it easy on ignorant people and people who buy into the wrong philosophies and the wrong leaders. We know fear in ourselves, so we can understand others who are afraid. We want to be respected. We want to be valued. We need to be honored, loved, and understood. While others’ drive to satisfy these needs can lead to different places, knowing that we have these needs in common can help us to see their motivation. The person we so easily dislike because he is arrogant or she is cruel is trying to protect their own ego. We can’t all have an Abram and Malchi-Tzedek moment with the other, but at least we can forgive them and understand them.
As people of faith we resist the drive to become powerful when the drive comes for the wrong reasons. We do not take on more power merely to stoke our egos. The scripture tells us that Jesus “didn’t promote himself to become high priest,” but was called by God.” In the same way, Jesus was told, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” Jesus was affirmed without seeking it. Rather, Jesus did what was right and God recognized Jesus for it.
Jesus called on us to “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” and Jesus revealed, “Then you will become children of your Father in heaven.” So, listen for the call of God. Don’t be afraid to go forth when God calls you. Look “for that of God” in those around you. Know that darkness touches them too. Deal with them gently. And if you do not feel ready to be a son or a daughter of God, then hear these words that Mrs. Who told Meg, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”