Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross - FIFTH Sunday

Hebrews 5:5-10, The Message

No one elects himself to this honored position. He's called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, "You're my Son; today I celebrate you!" In another place God declares, "You're a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek." 

While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God's Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. 


When you read the word 'obedience' in this passage, what picture comes to your mind? What kind of freight does obedience - the idea, the word, the process - what weight does it carry in your spirit? 

I'm guessing that you're a lot like me, that the word 'obedience' connotes a list of do's and don't's with some pretty hefty legalistic overtones. 
     Do this - or else. 
          Shape up or ship out. 
               Do the 'right' thing. 
                    Don't disappoint anyone's expectations.
                         Be good, now! 

And then couple those ideas with the idea of learning-through-suffering - and the whole concept becomes positively frightening.

But take a deep breath and think about this with me for a minute. Jesus came to be one of us, right? And we believe that he was exactly that - one of us...with one major difference: Jesus did not sin.

Yet these six verses describe something quite different than a moralistic list of things to do or things to avoid doing. These verses describe both a developmental process and a relationship of mutuality. 

First - Jesus learned obedience - over time and through suffering - 'just as we do.' And Jesus 'arrived at the full stature of his maturity,' in perfect time to become the source of 'eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.' 

And second, Jesus lived his life in a relationship of mutual care and concern shared with God the Father -
     Christ 'did not presume,'
          God 'set him apart,'
               God celebrated Jesus,
                    Jesus cried out to God, openly and honestly,
               Jesus honored God and was answered. 

All of that in six short verses.

What it reminds me of, just the teensiest bit, is Adam and Eve before the apple and the snake. Complete openness between Creator and creature and a natural inclination toward both being and doing what we were designed to be and do.

In fact, I would argue that Jesus did successfully what Adam and Eve did not do, what we cannot do on our own. He remained in completely open communion with God. So much so that obedience was a natural and comfortable outpouring of that communion.

Jesus did not succumb to the lie, Jesus did not desire to usurp God's role in his life, Jesus did what came naturally to him and no longer comes naturally to us: he lived in obedience, with no sense of coercion, legalism, overbearing moral coaching, or anything else that might carry negative valence. Like the birds of the air, Jesus did what he was designed to do.

And because he did, we can, too. Not perfectly. Not always. But often. And increasingly often as we learn to walk with God - minute by minute, day by day.

It's a developmental process - and it happens in a relationship of mutuality. Thanks be to God!


Sometimes, Lord, we really distort things, you know? If we can learn, over time and with lots of grace, to live in you, with you, open to you - then obedience is no longer burdensome. It just happens. We learn to want what you want, we learn to see with your eyes, we learn to live with joy - in the middle of good times and tough times. Teach us to listen, teach us to still ourselves regularly so that we can truly hear your voice of love, singing over us. Such a sweet song! Thank you.