The nature of this topic requires that I choose scripture from other portions of Hebrews than the ones assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary. This is unusual for me as a preacher and worship leader, but I think it will make a good transition for our congregation as we get closer to my 12 week leave from the pulpit which will feature our next sermon series: Upward and Outward. Leaving the lectionry is more challenging and time consuming than one might think at first. For this coming Sunday I created all the liturgy (rather than relying on help from other sources). Various portions of Hebrews, and commentaires inspired the Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession and my choice of Psalm for August 11.
In his commentary, Fred B. Craddock notes that congregations do not take to Hebrews as well as to other Epistles of the New Testament. For one thin the imperatives we find in Hebrews seem stern. The letter chastises those who receive all the blessings of salvation but then fall away, suggesting that they are beyond restoration. Those Christians who willfully continue in sin face the fearful prospect of certain judgment. Hebrews warns us that "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Craddock writes further, “Certainly those churches that not only do not believe they are anywhere near such dangerous spiritual brinks but also do not believe that such brinks even exist will look to other writings for words more gentle and gracious. Especially for those who have luxuriated in a world of grace without ethical demand, who regard all moral urgings as quaint echoes of a puritan past, Hebrews is not welcome reading.”
Finally, Hebrews needs to be read and presented as a whole to really understand it. This is hard to do in worship when we only have four Sundays to read through 13 chapters. I encourage you to read it at home, ponder the verses, jot down your questions...stick with it for a time. As Craddock says, “Trust that…a lesson…will come in due season. Recall the reminder of Clement of Alexandria that the bible does not yield its hard-won truths to every casual passerby.”