“Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” From the letter to the Hebrews.
We have been reading a section of the Letter to the Hebrews, and for the last two weeks we have heard about fire as a purifying, refining force. “Our God is a consuming fire.”
Chapter 13 of this letter begins with some guidelines, or rules, for Christian living. “Let mutual love continue,” he writes, which reminds us of the second of the Great Commandments, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, love each other. Care about each other. Do not attend only to your own needs. In other words, it’s not all about me. I don’t much like hearing that. Do you?
What is the greatest enemy of mutual love? Pride.
Our first lesson today came from the book of Ecclesiasticus, an obscure document thought to be from the third century BC. It is a collection of sayings regarding wisdom. The section we heard today has this to say about pride:
The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker. For the beginning of pride is sin, and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.
I don’t know about you, but pride is something I struggle with constantly. As everyone knows, I am the best driver on the road, and anyone driving slower than me is a slow poke, and anyone driving faster than me is a speed demon. Right?
The beginning of pride is sin. What is sin? What is the middle letter of that word, sin? I. When you visualize the word on a page, capitalize the letter I.
So it is s-I-n. Sin is sometimes described as “missing the mark.” Sin is being concerned more with myself, than with others, or with the Lord God.
If someone comes to me and says, “I have a problem,” what should I say? I could say, “Problem? You think you have a problem? I have real problems!”
Or I could say, “I understand. Do you want to talk about it? How can I help?”
Which one would you rather hear from me? That’s OK. I can guess.
In the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus tell a parable, using the very familiar situation of a wedding banquet. He teaches us that we are not to think too much of ourselves. We are to humble ourselves, and take the lowest seat at the table.
This is probably why people tend to sit on the back row. They are leaving the close up places for more important people to occupy!
You have probably heard the saying, “Pride goes before a fall.” The actual saying, from Proverbs 16:18 is “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (ESV) In some other translation, the word “arrogance” is used instead of a “haughty spirit.”
Either way, a person who is proud, arrogant, or has a haughty spirit, is missing the mark.
St. Paul writes some other advice to his readers. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.
“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.” That’s a tough one few of us have ever seen the inside of a prison, much less been incarcerated themselves.
Having visited a few prisons, and the Gainesville State School for juvenile offenders, I have seen first hand how the prisoners live. I would have a hard time adjusting to such circumstances, so it’s hard to imagine myself as a prisoner. I just know that I don’t want to be one!
I appreciate the support this congregation gives to the Student Support Council that helps the young men with things to help prepare them to be released into society. That is good missionary work.
“Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”
Holy Matrimony, being the union of one man and one woman, is described by Jesus when he said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a restatement from the account of creation in Genesis chapter 2, where at verse 24, it is written, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
Holy Matrimony is a sacrament of the Church, whereby God’s grace is conveyed to the married couple, when they become one flesh. This union is only possible with a man and a woman.
“God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” This is a warning to those who disregard his plan for marriage that they will be judged for their conduct. I am not the judge, that is the Lord’s job. I am here to remind you of what he teaches.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” Many people have placed the love of money over the needs of others, and this can affect anybody. You might remember that last year (2018) there was a story about a preacher with a large ministry organization who said that God told him he needed a new jet, specifically a Dassault Falcon 7X. This 16 passenger jet costs only 54 Million dollars, and this ministry already owned three jets!
When asked about it, he said, “If Jesus was physically on the Earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey… He’d be in an airplane preaching the Gospel all over the world.” Haughty looking? I think so. Besides, Jesus would fly coach.
St. Paul wrote, “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you, consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” I personally strive to imitate the faith of our former bishop, Jack Iker, who is an inspiration to me and many others. He led this diocese faithfully for 30 years. He has endured many hardship and attacks, yet has stayed true to the faith once delivered from the Saints. And I strive to imitate the faith of our Bishop Ryan Reed, who is leading us onward in mission to the world around us.
The last statement of this reading today is quite important: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” People may change, the world may change, but Jesus Christ does not change.
The message is the same today as it was yesterday, and will be forever. Strive for holiness of life. Repent of our sins give to others who cannot repay us, and we “will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.