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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Hebrews 1:1–10

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (NRSV)

With a wide variety of scriptural allusions and rhetorical flourish, the letter to the Hebrews is an impressive work—even more so given that many scholars believe that it was written as a sermon to be shared among churches. Little is known about this author or the communities to which he or she intended this letter to circulate, but hints within the wider text seem to suggest that it comes from the “second generation” of Christianity, meaning after the ministries of Paul and the twelve disciples. It was a difficult time period for Christians, one that saw the beginning of persecutions under Nero and a painful fracturing of the relationship between Jews and Christians as the first century came to a close.

With this context in mind, the letter’s beautiful opening takes on additional layers of meaning. Using language that is reminiscent of John’s Gospel, the author quotes numerous psalms to emphasize that Jesus is more than just a messenger (an angel) of God; he is heir to the kingdom, creator, sustainer, and the exact imprint of God’s being. As the world around these early Christian communities became increasingly hostile and dangerous, the author emphasizes Christ’s lordship as a means of comfort and promise.

Through Christ, we have direct access to—and a new relationship with—God. However, this changed relationship with God was not only meaningful for that community; it remains one of the hallmarks of this Epiphany season we are currently in. So as we continue to celebrate Christ’s manifestation of God’s great promises, may we too be comforted and challenged by our close relationship with God through Christ.

Holy God, through Christ you have brought us closer to you than we could ever imagine. Help us, confident of that relationship, to live lives that truly follow Christ’s example. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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