This is a post I made to NewProclamation.com about this coming Sunday's scripture. It's a way of sharing first thoughts on the lessons with a community of preachers.
Here is a poem by Rainer Maria-Rilke, which someone posted on a Yahoo group:
My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-
and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
Translated by Robert Bly
In our local text study group, we noted the two (or perhaps three) categories of people who shall awake from the dust of the earth in Daniel 12:2. Some shall awake to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt, and some, perhaps, shall not awake at all. This is a text that raises the specter of uncertainty: to which group do I belong? Am I damned? What must I do to be saved, to find my name in the book of life?
Our text group would agree with Dumke: the Hebrews 10:11-25 passage is a word of comfort to us who have heard a word of judgment in Daniel 12. It’s not about what we do, but what Christ has done for us. We can “approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith” the sanctuary, the holy place. We can enter the Holy of Holies through the curtain of Jesus’ flesh, not through our own worthiness or sacrifice but by the divine self-giving of Christ. I love the first person plural ‘hortatory’ subjunctives in this passage:
Let us approach... in full assurance of faith
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering...
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together... but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
There seems to be a biblical logic of gift and gratitude. Salvation is a free gift given to us through Christ regardless of our worthiness or work. THEREFORE, let us live a life of gratitude and love toward God by serving our neighbors. The author of Hebrews challenges us first to “provoke one another to love and good deeds.” Second, we are challenged to continue to meet together regularly in the fellowship of believers and encourage one another, “all the more as you see the Day approaching.” As Christians, we live in an in between time, between the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. We need to encourage one another with the good news of God’s salvation, and we need to exhort one another to live faithfully in these end times. Whether the kingdom comes tomorrow, in a thousand or a million years, or at our physical deaths, it seems that the Christian life is both urgent and placid: urgent because we see the Day approaching; placid because we have “full assurance of faith,” we have “hope” in a “faithful” God.