17After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the Kings’s Valley). 18And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. 19He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; 20and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
9Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. 10For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, 12so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
13When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear he swore by himself, 14saying, “I will surely bless you and multiply you.” 15And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. 16Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and a oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute.
17In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, 18so that through two unchangeable things, in which is is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.
19We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, 20where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.
It's been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell. Tuesday morning, a group of us drove up to Morganton for a meeting with our Presbytery's Committee on Ministry. They confirmed and celebrated our decision to continue our pastoral relationship without a designated end date. There was a lot of laughter, and our Presbytery shared in our excitement that our ministry together in continuing. The only questions they had for me focused on making sure I was taking good care of myself, they don't want me to burn out.
It's been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell. Yesterday, two of our members got married, and now their lives, and the lives of their parents, are very different. The reason we make such a big deal out of weddings is that it marks such a change in the ways families are shaped.
It's been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell. Bible school begins tonight, And the volunteers have been preparing for the onslaught of programming and the flood of young ones. They've been making plans and changing the face of the activity center.
It's been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell. We've been putting a lot of work, and a lot of love, into serving the saints. Our work of love answers God’s call and claim on our lives.
And yet, for all our effort, this morning we woke up to a world that births so much violence. Someone opened fire at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida last night. Twenty people are dead, forty-two are injured, and thirty were held hostage until the police could free them. The shooter is also dead. Police are classifying this attack as a domestic terror incident.
It’s been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell, and yet what is foremost on our minds this morning is terrible grief. How do we maintain the energy to worship God, grow in faith and show God’s love to everyone when it seems like no matter hard we work, nothing ever changes? The violence of our baser instincts rolls us back like the tide and threatens to overwhelm us. At 2:02 AM, a crowded nightclub was overwhelmed by that violence.
And this is not the first time my pulpit has held sermon rewritten in the wake of tragedy. The shooting in Paris, the shooting at Mother Emmanuel in Charleston, it seems like nothing ever changes. How then, do we find the endurance to proclaim the Prince of Peace when our Twitter feeds, our televisions, and our newspapers scream violence?
How do we live changed lives when it seems like nothing ever changes?
“Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.” Today is not the only day in which God is active. Today, the LORD who created all things, who reigns over all creation, is heartbroken. He is with parents and spouses and children whose lives are changed by trauma and violence. The all-powerful God, who topples empires and saves nations, is in the hospital rooms and police stations of Orlando this morning, grieving the loss of life and cost of violence. Christ, who broke the power of sin and death, whose deeds of power testify to his authority, looks on those who have died in the shooting and remembers the pain of the crucifixion, and weeps for them.
We Christians, human beings like the victims, sinners like the shooter, look into the face of violence, but we do not despair. We hold on to hope, because the grace of God holds us. “And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.” We continue to respond in faith, even when our limited vision cannot see the hand of God at work in the darkness.
We have heard the promises of God, we have read them in scripture, and we have seen them fulfilled before our eyes, and before those of our ancestors. "God has made an enduring commitment, not a flimsy bargain but a trustworthy promise, to sustain and redeem creation. Those who rest in that firm promise can truly hope.” We may not see the promises fulfilled today, but we know God is with us, and more importantly, with those who are suffering.
So outlives are not controlled by violence, they are not defined by fear, or even our own sinfulness. The work we do to worship God, grow in faith, and show God’s love to everyone is not an exercise in futility. It is not our task to change the world. Our lives are lived in grateful response to the promises of a loving God, and in the hope that God has already changed the world, and will continue to make all things new.
We know that catastrophe and disaster still happen, we know that violence is still inherent in the system. We see all of that before us, reflecting the face of own crucified Messiah.
But Jesus did not stay on the cross forever.
The promise of God leads us into dangerous territory. God’s people travel through the wilderness. We still live in a violent world that seems to never change. The promise of God leads us to the cross.
But Jesus did not stay on the cross forever. And the tomb did not stay sealed for long. We maintain our whispered hope because we know “the unchangeable character of [God’s] purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath.” The violence may shout, and it may, from time to time, overwhelm us, but it never defines us.
So we keep the faith, knowing full well it’s the faith that keeps us. We join with the church who first heard Hebrews preached, knowing that the promises of God are sure, and taking refuge in that hope. "For the Preacher of Hebrews, the core of hope spans the distance between the creation of all things through the redemption of all things in Christ. It is attached to heaven on each end, swooping down through human history.” Whose church this is? I think I know, his house is in the heavens though, and as God’s redemptive history sweeps through human history, we are carried along by hope. We hold on to hope, because the grace of God holds us.
It’s been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell, and our community is surrounded by so much love, we have so many reasons to celebrate, we have the chance to joyful proclaim the kingdom of God. Those who worship violence are shouting themselves hoarse, but our whisper is backed by the promises of God. “So that…we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.”
And having seized that hope, we don’t have to be afraid to grieve tragedy, because it will not consume us. We don’t have to be afraid to face challenges, because they will not end us. God’s promises of grace is our source of hope. “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
It’s been a busy week here at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell, and though it seems like nothing ever changes, we are blessed with hope. We will follow our LORD as faithful and obedient servants, wherever he is leading us, knowing that the promises we have inherited, promises of the love of God in Christ Jesus, are sure, and go before us.