Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our High Priest

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

                        Hebrews 4.15

Atonement 2.0

The magnificence of Hebrews emerges in how brilliantly it transposes the principles of Judaism into pillars upholding Christ’s New Order. For ancient Jews eager to follow Jesus, its step-by-step comparison incontrovertibly proved living by faith fulfilled the Law. Atonement for sin was the fulcrum on which Hebrews balanced. If readers weren’t convinced of Christ’s death as the final sacrifice for sin, the rest was pointless. How it presented this surpasses genius; it was divinely inspired.

The old script called for four actors—the sinner, the priest, God, and an animal offering. Sinners presented offerings to the priest, who presented them to God. Hebrews altered this paradigm by casting Jesus in all four roles. He was our surrogate. He assumed the priest’s duties. He represented God’s compassion and forgiveness. And He became our literal sacrifice for redemption. In its self-containment, His work was forever conclusive. No one could possibly do more.

A Priest Who Understands

Having been tempted exactly as we are, Jesus transcended the priest’s traditional duty as a third-party bridge between God and man by being intimately conversant with our weaknesses. It’s crucial that all Christians grasp this—none more than GLBT believers struggling to reconcile their God-given identities with widespread disregard for their emotional and physical needs.

Jesus sympathizes with us. As our High Priest, this informs how He presents us—and our sin—to God. In his first epistle, John writes, “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ.” (1 John 2.1) He not only relates to our temptations, He’s also deeply acquainted with the alienation many of us suffer from religious bigotry. Isaiah 53.3 says, “He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised.” Jesus knows the pain we feel.

A Confident Approach

Hebrews goes on: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (4.16) There’s no cause for anyone to feel too timid or ashamed to come to Jesus. There’s no reason for anyone to be excluded anywhere our High Priest serves. Waiting for churches to extend a proper invitation is just foolish. First, it’s not theirs to give. Second, it’s already offered. Religious approval isn’t necessary. God’s help is what truly matters. When we overcome our fear, resentment, and hesitation and confidently approach our High Priest, we'll find all of the help we need.

 

The old paradigm; the New Order.

(Tomorrow: Our Friend)

Postscript: New Homes

Straight-Friendly has been blessed to hear from three new homes, where our High Priest serves and where we’re welcome to come boldly to His throne of grace. If you live in or happen to visit the area where these churches are, please make sure you visit with them. You’re sure to find grace and mercy there for whatever you need.

First Congregational Church, Salem, OR

Metropolitan Community Church, Charleston, SC

Westminster Congregational Church, Spokane, WA

Finally, our prayers go up for the millions of people residing in Hurricane Ike's wake. May God protect you, sustain you, and provide for your every need. And may we all stand with you--not only in faith but in deed. 

2 comments:

jake - aka the comment novelist said...

Thanks for the beautiful reminder of the heart of it all, Tim. We all get so caught up in learning about how to live, it's nice to reflect on why we live and who made it possible.

Tim said...

The beauty and completeness of God's plan astounds me, Jake. He thought of everything in able to include everyone. Thinking of Advent in "real time," it moves me beyond all capacity to describe when realizing Mary carries the hope of ALL humanity inside her--a Savior, a Surrogate, a Sacrifice, and a Priest Who will redeem us without any doubt or exclusionary, legalistic fine print.

More than ever, this season has challenged me to remember how inconsequential much of what worries and reassures us truly is. You're exactly right--knowing why we live and who made it possible is what's most essential.

Joy and peace, my brother,
Tim