Thursday, December 31, 2015

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

STEADFAST IN FAITH  
Hebrews 13:7-21

Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius Episcopa
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
 
The book Hebrews is popularly known to the common reader by its strong message on faith. Early Christians of the first century, who were persecuted, had spiritual struggles on leadership, ancestral practices and kingdom value. Hence the early community, constituting the Christian Church, had to evaluate their religious concepts, habits and vision. This is true of the present Church as well that faces contemporary challenges. The scripture portion presents before us mainly three things.
 
  1. The writer of the Hebrew, in his concluding exhortations, is asking the readers to remember their spiritual leaders, who spoke the Word of God to them (13:7). He further asks them to submit to the spiritual authority of the leaders as they are carrying out their ministry with a sense of accountability. The people are cautioned against strange teachings (13:9) that do not stick to the faith in Christ Jesus.  Early Christian Church believed in the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet.2:9) and therefore the exhortation here is for every Christian to be steadfast in faith and be a model spiritual leader. The specific characteristic of such leaders is their faith (Heb. 11) that overcomes the fear of death. Such noble faith shines in its own light.

  1. Secondly, the writer of Hebrews is drawing our attention to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (12:2). Jesus is presented as the High Priest (4:14) who Himself became the great  sacrifice on the Cross outside the city/camp. This is to be contrasted with the Levitical priesthood. Jesus, by His cruciform-priesthood challenges the Old Testament notion of priesthood and all the exclusive prerogatives. For the diaspora community of that time, there was no temple, no priests and sanctification. Hence there was always a tension about all that was outside the Jerusalem Temple and about the priestly ministry outside the Holy City. It is here that Jesus appears as the High Priest who disregarded the shame on the Cross (12:2). The faith community is exhorted to bear the disgrace Jesus endured (13:3) and to become royal priests to the whole world. Church, as an inclusive community, is a shared space to share the grace and mercy of God to strangers and aliens. The epistle exhorts us to do good and to share what we have (v.16). This is an act of faith.
     
  2. For here, we have no lasting city (v.14). It implies a life-journey from the known to the unknown. This is the meaning of faith. ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the convictions of things not seen’ (11:1). The eschatological city calls us for a meaningful faith pilgrimage to seek the ultimate truth. The boundary crossing symbolism of going outside the camp to meet Jesus and to share His shame is telling us the characteristic of the new community of priesthood in modern times. This is to be a grace-filled journey of faith, always doing good.
     
  3. The year 2015 reminds us of the wonderful ways in which our good God has restored, guided and blessed us. It is a time for us to offer sacrifices of praise to God continuously (13:15). We live today in a wounded and bleeding world where so many people are mercilessly killed. We live in a wretched world where a large number of people are moving from their home country for various reasons and feel neglected and rejected. We are stewards of the good gifts of God and not the owners (1 John 3:17). We will be asked to give account of our time, talents and gifts (Mt. 25). So be good stewards and do good joyfully(13:17). This then is a call to renew ourselves as we enter into a new year. Every member of our church has a spiritual leadership in North America and Europe. Let us enter into 2016 with commitment and renewed vision.
Happy and blessed New Year to all !!

PRAYER

Almighty God, equip and renew all of us to do good as noble spiritual leaders in the world, living and leading every day in steadfast faith. To You, with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
 
Faith, though personal in experience, finds its authentic expression in the community.