By Ken Asel
A Reading from Hebrews 13:17-25
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing — for that would be harmful to you.
18 Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.
20 Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
22 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.
On December 26, 2021, Desmond Tutu died. He was 90 years old. He is best known for his opposition to Apartheid and his leadership to reconcile Blacks and whites to birth a new South Africa. He was often criticized for “shallow” theology, yet his commitment to justice and Christian values characterized his episcopal ministry both in South Africa and throughout the Anglican Communion. Some of his best off-the-cuff comments address both his commitment to Christ and the Church and a demonstration that it is our humanity that brings us closest to being a reflection of God.
Today’s reading exhorts us to submit to our leaders. This also speaks to the fact that leadership in the early Church valued the importance of acting honorably, applying this requirement especially to themselves, so the work of salvation may be visible, not only to followers of the Way, but to others who might be drawn to the Jesus story by the good actions and clear consciences of those who witness to it. In the final chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, there is an understanding of both the Christian desire to be faithful to the ministry of Jesus, and a recognition that following Church leadership can provide reliable stability in that faithfulness. It gives feet to the vision of people like Archbishop Tutu, who reminded the once and future church that what God has always sought from the church is yet to be fully revealed and spread before us.
But that process is far from perfect. Blind obedience to leaders doesn’t automatically mean full obedience to Christ. Repentance is required. In his Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton wrote of both our future and the forgiveness we will need along the way, for us and our leaders.
We pray for the coming of this completion. We pray for its coming soon.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for over 30 years and reside on the Front Range.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Thomas’s Church, Toronto, Ont.
The Diocese of Karamoja – The Church of the Province of Uganda