Saturday 14th November Hebrews – The New Priesthood
Hebrews 8: 1 – 5
Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’
The third voice from our Reformed tradition that I invite you to listen to is Karl Barth (1886-1968). Born in Basel and educated in Switzerland and Germany, Barth emphasised that God is wholly other than humans often imagine God to be. His monumental Church Dogmatics expounds at great length the God who loves us in freedom in Jesus Christ.
I take it that we have all experienced discord or bad feeling toward someone close due to a sharp disagreement. When this happens, it affects everything, and we long to make things right again. But who makes the first move to patch things up when both you and they feel equally aggrieved; when both you and they judge and feel judged?
Under the sub-heading of Jesus Christ as the Judge judged in our place, Barth considers Christ also as the great High Priest sacrificed in our place. Like Calvin and Schleiermacher before him, Barth employs the threefold office of priest, king, and prophet to interpret Christ’s mission and significance. Suppose we understand sin as discord between us and God; sacrifice is the attempt to restore harmony to our relationship. Jesus is both our great High Priest who offers that sacrifice and is the once-for-all Sacrifice; he is both Priest and Lamb of God. Like the ancient High Priest, Jesus represents all people unable to live harmoniously due to discordance in their relationship with God. But unlike the ancient High Priest, Jesus as the great High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary is able to plead the perfect offering of his own life. Jesus freely offers his own wholly attuned human life to restore us and the whole Creation to harmony with God (Church Dogmatics, IV/1, 274-8).
If we are to be priestly people attuned to Jesus’s atoning sacrifice, we are called to sacrifice our pride and make the first move to patch things up. This applies not only to our relationships with other people but also to our relationship with Creation.
O God who loves in freedom, I have confessed ‘Jesus is Lord’, yet when it comes to disputes with others I too often confess my own point-of-view as final. Attune me to Jesus’s sacrifice of self, help me to be the bigger person who says “sorry” first, help me to create harmony with other people and with Creation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Rev’d Julian Templeton, Minister, St John’s URC, New Barnet