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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Hebrews 9:24–28

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (NRSV)

Rene Girard, a Stanford professor of history, became renowned for his development of what is known as mimetic theory. In this social theory, Girard posited that people learn to desire by wanting what our neighbor wants or has. When we cannot obtain what we desire, rivalry and violence toward our neighbor ensues. Societies have often resolved such conflict through finding a scapegoat who receives the blame and violence for unfulfilled desires. Girard found this phenomenon at work in many cultures and also in the biblical witness. It influenced how he interpreted Jesus’ death on the cross as an attempt to end the cycle of scapegoating.

Girard’s theory is just one of several ways to understand Christ’s death, but it is not unlike what the author of Hebrews is trying to achieve in summarizing the redemptive work of Christ. Somehow, it is Jesus who restores our relationship with God and one another by entering into the cycle of human offense and judgment. Steeped in the language and culture of Jewish faith in the first century, Hebrews presents a story of sacrificial love that comes from God, brings humanity closer to God, and envelops the process of redemption in the merciful heart of God.

In our efforts at achieving justice and seeking reconciliation in our public and personal lives, we too need God’s tangible presence, stepping into the breach of our suffering and discord. With conflict pervading our everyday lives, remembering the self-giving love of God in Christ encourages us to be people of peace.

God of self-giving love, enter into our brokenness and repair our hearts, renew our minds, reknit our relationships. May we in our reconciliation with our neighbors experience a foretaste of your new creation. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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