Summary: Second in series on the Purpose Driven Life
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
March 14, 2004
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel , Jr.
“Formed for God’s Family”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence. May your Word be our rule, Your Spirit our teacher, and your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As one who played hockey growing up, and who enjoys watching a game now and then, I was appalled by what happened in Vancouver on Monday night. Todd Bertuzzi, the all-star forward of the Vancouver Canucks punched Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche in the side of the head, and as Moore was falling, Bertuzzi grabbed him and shoved his face into the ice. Moore suffered a broken neck, 2 broken vertebra, a concussion, and deep cuts on his face from the attack. It was the ugliest thing that I have seen in a hockey game.
I’m not sure whether it’s ever been determined what is most popular about hockey, the game or the fights, yet we know that there is at least a minority of fans who enjoy the mayhem when the gloves come off and the fists start flying. We also know that there are some folks whose favorite parts of a NASCAR race are the wrecks. Some people will slow down to gawk at a highway accident; hence the term heard in many a traffic report: “rubbernecking.” Third millennium people aren’t so genteel that they can’t handle, or even enjoy, a little gore.
Then there’s the negative reaction to Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, but I mentioned that last week. Still, millions of Americans have stepped up and paid their money to see a bloody movie about a crucifixion. It isn’t a pretty sight, but it is central to our faith. The New Testament letter to the Hebrews is constructed around a theology of the cross. It is important to the writer of Hebrews to convey why the death of Christ is important and how Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for all sin.
The author stresses that the cross is intended to be a visible event, something to be seen and witnessed – a public and provocative display that confronts us with an all-important divine invitation. When we stand at the cross, as we will in three weeks, we are required to make a decision: Are we going to enter the presence of God by the blood of Jesus (10:19) or not?
From our second lesson this morning, we read
vv. 19-21 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,
The "therefore" at the beginning of verse 19 clues us in to the fact that the writer of Hebrews is beginning a summary statement. This summary continues through verse 21. First, all who have accepted Christ’s death on the cross for their sins have confidence before God. Through the cross, Jesus provided a "new and living way" for us. The New Covenant through Jesus Christ is the new way of God. It is a living way because its’ basis is our Living Lord who is the great high priest of God. Jesus Christ, the great high priest over the house of God offered Himself as the final sacrifice for the sins of the world. No more sacrifices need be offered; the ultimate sacrifice has been made.
Considering what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross, the writer of Hebrews gives us three exhortations in the next three verses. First, in verse 22:
v. 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The cross is as provocative today as it ever was, exciting people to anger, vitriol, grief and confusion. The cross is provocative, no doubt about it, but we cannot avoid it. This agonizing instrument of death is central to the new and living way that God has provided for us. Because of the priestly work of Christ in offering Himself for us, we are exhorted to come into the presence of God "with a true heart." Full assurance is the by-product of complete trust in Christ, and if in all sincerity we know that we belong to Jesus, our hearts have been sprinkled clean with Christ’s own blood. The washing with pure water refers to baptism, the outward sign of the inward cleansing work of God. Because of God’s work in us, we are freed from a guilty conscience.
Exhortation #2 is in verse 23.