By David Baumann
A Reading from Hebrews 4:11-16
11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
About 45 years ago I was sitting in my car in the boarding area at Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal south of Vancouver, British Columbia, waiting for the enormous ferry that would take me and a few hundred others to Victoria on Vancouver Island. It was late evening, and only the artificial lights of the terminal broke the pressing darkness. As I waited, I brought out my prayer book and Bible to read Evening Prayer. The appointed lessons included this one. I’ve read the Office daily for more than fifty years, in many different places and interesting situations, but for some reason, the memory of this experience remains vivid.
I recall the image of the “word of God” being “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing the division of soul and spirit.” Scripture tells us in many places that everything about us is open to the gaze of God, but none is more unnerving than this passage with its image of total exposure. Yet the decided discomfort, even horror, of being “naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” is overcome by the next paragraph. It tells us of Jesus, who not only can “sympathize with our weaknesses,” but who has passed through the heavens as our “great high priest.” He knows us perfectly and completely, certainly far better than we know ourselves, and yet enables us “with confidence” to “draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” It is this truth which empowers Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Nothing on earth anywhere, ever, can give us such assurance that we are fully known, fully loved, and fully welcome. We need only believe, and respond.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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