Hebrews 6: Motivation

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
February 7, 2021
Hebrews 5:11-6:12
c2021

With the possibility of more bad weather tomorrow, I am posting this earlier and including an outline of the bulletin along with announcements for both churches. -Jeff

Sermon taped on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 at Bluemont Presbyterian Church

At the beginning of worship

In our worship today, I want you to ponder a question. What does it take to be motivated? And I want us to grapple with this question in light of a Christian truth. As Christians, we’re called to move.[1] We’re not to be couch potatoes. 

In the Book of Acts, one of the early names of our faith, even before being called Christian, is “The Way.”[2] In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of himself as the way, along with the truth and life.[3] The Christian life is a journey. John Bunyan named his classic allegory of the faith, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” As Christians, it’s not enough to just be “born again,” and to leave it at that. We are called to grow in faith. 

In our Reformed Tradition, the theology of the Presbyterian Church, we speak of “reformed yet always reforming” as we’re guided by scripture and the Holy Spirit.[4] As Christians, living in this world, we’re not to rest on our laurels. We’re to strive to better ourselves and to strengthen our connection to God. As long as we’re in this life where sin is prevalent, we can improve. So how do we get motivated to grow in our faith? 

How do we motivate?

We motivate dogs with treats. We speak of dangling carrots to encourage someone to reach a goal. Some people use fear to motivate others, which may get results and may also cause resentment. Employers use bonuses to motivate employees. Groups call for teamwork to get everyone doing their part. There’s lots of ways to motivate people, but what’s the best way to get us focused on “the Way of life?” 

We’ll see in the Book of Hebrew this morning that motivation isn’t a new problem. The preacher in this book uses what we might call “reverse psychology” to encourage his listens to get their butts in gear.  This week, I’m reading the scripture in The Message translation. Read Hebrews 5:11-6:12

After the reading of scripture: 

One of the proudest moments of my life occurred at Camp Tom Upchurch, which I attended when in Boy Scouts. The Wednesday night campfire was a big deal. As the light drained from the sky, a staff member would light an arrow that had been wrapped in cloth in the campfire. He’d then draw back a bow, sending it flying up in the sky only to fall like a meteor into the waters of the lake. Then, in the distance, we’d hear drums. Out on the lake, as if coming out of a mist, appeared a canoe. An Indian chief stood in tall in the center, illuminated by a lantern in the bottom of the canoe. Two braves paddled. Everyone wore native ceremonial dress. We watched, spellbound. 

When the canoe pulled ashore, the chief danced into the crowd of scouts. Turning quickly, he tapped on a shoulder of a boy and lifted him up. One of the braves took him out front to stand. This happened a number of times. When the chief got to me, I was startled when he turned and tapped on my shoulders. He lifted me up off the bench and one of the braves whisked me to the front with the others. We had been selected to become a part of the Order of the Arrow.

I wasn’t really sure what was happening. I didn’t know I had been chosen from all the scouts in my troop until the moment the chief turned in front of me. But this was only the beginning of a journey. Yes, we had been chosen. But to be inducted in this fraternal organization, we had to endure an ordeal.  

The Ordeal 

A few weeks later, I was back at camp. The ordeal started Friday night with a campfire. Those of us who were to undergo the ordeal could only bring a blanket, poncho, and knife with us. We were put under an order of silence, for 24 hours, then taken out into the woods where we spent the night by ourselves, accompanied only by mosquitoes. We were ordered to stay at our assign spot till morning. And before we were picked up, we had to carve an arrow. 

It was a miserable night with mosquitoes swarming and the distant flashes of lightning threatening rain that never came. 

The next morning, they gathered us. We were given a string for our arrow to be tied around our necks. If we talked, a notch was carved into the shaft of our arrow. Three notches and you were out. They served us a runny egg on a piece of white bread for breakfast, along with some juice. Then it was time to work. 

Somehow, I ended up on the crew to repair some gullies along the lakeshore. We hauled old mattress springs and staked them into the gullies to deter erosion. Then half of us went to a sand pit where we shoveled dirt into the back end of trucks. The other half of the group unloaded the dirt into the gullies. 

Occasionally, we had a water break. It was hot. Lunch was a slice of bologna between two pieces of bread. There were no condiments. 

The Reward 

That evening, after the work was over, we were allowed to shower and put on our dress uniform. Starved, I enjoyed the best meal I ever had in a scout dining hall. We still couldn’t talk, which was fine because our mouths were busy being stuffed with food. Then there was another campfire. We were given our sashes and welcomed into the fellowship. I was proud. 

Our Order of the Arrow Lodge Flap

When I got back home, I told my mom about the ordeal. She couldn’t believe it. “You mean, all I have to do to get you to work around here is to promise you a reward if you keep your mouth shut and work hard? My pride was tempered. 

Ongoing progress

But you know, there was motivation involved because I wanted to be a member of the Order of the Arrow. I still look back fondly on that experience, but like the Christian journey, it didn’t stop there. There were further levels to go as I moved up in the organization and was able to shepherd others into the fellowship. 

Exploring the text: Reverse psychology 

The preacher in Hebrews has a problem. How can he encourage his audience, some of whom are tempted to leave the faith? How can he rally the troops? You know, we should all desire to please God, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes we need motivation. 

The writer of Hebrews knew this.  He first tries a form of reverse psychology, shaming his listeners. He knows they can be better but suggests that they’re just like infants. They need milk, not solid food. To borrow a term from boxing, that’s a low blow. But as he berates them, he also notes they should, by now, be teachers. They should have the foundation of their faith in Jesus Christ laid and be building up it. So, he encourages them to get busy because he has high hopes for them. 

A warning

But then, after encouraging, he lays out a warning in verses 4 to 8. If they have experienced God’s goodness, if they have a taste of heaven, and then turn their backs on the faith, they will be lost. As a shepherd of the faithful, the preacher of Hebrews undoubtedly knows the tragic feeling of having those who are under his care and guidance, lose their faith and slip away. It hurts. He realizes this just doesn’t burden him, as they metaphorically “re-crucify” Jesus. 

The preacher then moves to a new topic, at least for him. Agriculture metaphors are common in scripture. Jesus speaks of how we’ll be known by the fruit we bear.[5] If our harvest is of weeds, God’s not going to be impressed! We get the sense here of a warning that is similar to the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit.[6] If we ignore God’s call to turn around, sooner or later it’s too late. We won’t have a harvest to show for our discipleship. 

The Preacher’s hope

The good news in this passage is that our author/preacher doesn’t think this will be a problem for his listeners. He senses that the God who knows all will see their love as shown in how they care for the needy. For this reason, they should have hope and continue on the course they’re on. 

The need for truth about our condition 

This passage may seem harsh, in places, but we need to understand the truth about ourselves and about God if we want to enjoy life to its fulness. The Russian writer Anton Chekov, in his notebooks wrote, a person “will only become better when you make him see what he is like.”[7]

There are times when we need to hear the truth. The wake-up call that the preacher gives his audience in Hebrews hopefully is enough to make them sit up in bed and ask, “What should I do.” Not only is the wake-up call harsh, but there is also a high expectation. However, this is tempered with a confirmation that the preacher believes they rise to the occasion. The judgment is tempered with encouragement and hope. 

Hopefully when we hear the truth from someone, it will be done as gracefully as we have in these verses. Furthermore, if there is someone whom we need to give a truthful message to, we should make sure our message is as gracious as the preacher from Hebrews. Amen. 


[1] Thomas G. Long, Hebrews (Louisville: WJKP. 1997), 72. 

[2] In Acts 9:2, those following Jesus were said to belong to “the Way.”  The use of the word “Christian” is first mentioned in Antioch in Acts 11:26. 

[3] John 14:6.

[4] See https://www.presbyterianmission.org/what-we-believe/ecclesia-reformata/

[5] Matthew 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45. 

[6] See “The Second Helvetic Confession,” Chapter XIV, “Errors” (5.102)in Presbyterian Church USA, The Book of Confession. 

[7] Ideas and quote from “William H. Willimon, Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins (Nashville: Abingdon, 2013), x-xi. 

Bulletin outline

Announcements Bluemont Church

  • Sunday School is each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in Fellowship Hall.
  • Calendars for February are in the narthex.
  • Continuing on Monday, February 8, at 1:00 p.m., the pastor will hold the “Zoom” Bible study of the previous week’s sermon along with the upcoming week’s scripture readings. It will only be available virtually.  On Monday mornings, you will receive an email with an invite for the Bible Study.  To attend, please send an email to the pastor at parkwayrockchurches@gmail.com
  • The Session will meet following the worship service on Sunday, February 14.
  • Communion will be observed on Sunday, February 14. Everyone is invited to participate.
  • Note: The date for the Souper Bowl collection for Carroll County Social Services, which provides medicine and fuel for the elderly, will be rescheduled.



For bulletin announcements, please contact Lil Puckett by Thursday of the week at 276-398-2238 or email her at lillianpuckett@outlook.com.

If you have a need to contact Rev. Dr. Jeff Garrison, you may reach him on his cell number 269-804-9793 or email him at parkwayrockchurches@gmail.com.  His mailing address is:   P. O. Box 140, Laurel Fork VA  24352.   Visit Pastor Jeff’s blog at https://fromarockyhillside.com . 

Announcements Mayberry Church

Today’s bulletin insert describes God’s Souper Bowl “Multiplication Miracle” … Please take a moment to read about its … Presbyterian beginnings, astonishing growth, remarkable impact upon hunger across America, and history here at Mayberry … Then join with members and friends of Mayberry who have generously supported this effort for 20 consecutive years.  Please use the envelopes found in today’s bulletin … and make it 21 yearsa!

Monday (2/8) – Zoom Bible Study – 1:00-2:00 pm

Tomorrow, Pastor Jeff … will be leading our second “Zoom” Bible Study.  Each Monday participants receive an invitation from Jeff that enables them to make the “Zoom” connection.  The invitation also includes questions that will guide discussion of … 

(1) yesterday’s sermon and (2) next Sunday’s scripture passage.

What’s unique about this approach? Well, we receive a deeper understanding of Sunday’s sermon, and we get ready to receive next Sunday’s sermon messages.             

The “Zoom” discussion begins at 1:00 pm and lasts up to an hour. To sign up … please send an email to Pastor Jeff at parkwayrockchurches@gmail.com indicating you’d like to be involved and you’ll be “good to go”! Those who signed up for last week’s study … need not send an email.                                

Monday (2/8) – Addiction Recovery Support Group – 7:00 pm

Persons fighting addictions gather on Monday evenings for prayer and mutual support to strengthen their use of the AA’s 12-step discipline.  Somebody you care about may be fighting an addiction that is limiting the blessings their life with the Lord will bring them.  Call Deborah Reynolds, at 276-251-1389, for more information. 

Tuesday (2/9) – Session Meeting – 1:00 pm

Lots to do for the Lord   See the next announcement for the kinds of things that your session will be grappling with as it continues to deal with balancing our health and our spiritual needs.  Please share thoughts you may have with Pastor Jeff, 

or any of our elders – Richard, Mary, Shep, Martha, or Rick.

February’s Calendar – Lenten/Easter Season

February’s Calendar is included in this morning’s bulletin.  The Lenten Season begins next Sunday (2/14) … Ash Wednesday follows on (2/17) … Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week on (3/28) … and Easter Sunday on April 4th.  

The Session has not yet mapped out our full set of plans for 2021’s Lenten/Easter Season, and is considering how Covid will impact our Easter celebrations.  For example, do Covid restrictions prevent our normal Imposition of Ashes service on Ash Wednesday?  Can we add an Easter Sunrise Service to our Easter Sunday celebrations?  Stay tuned … decisions are on the way!   

 Meadows of Dan’s January 27th Blood Drive Results 

A nice turnout at our January 27th Blood Drive produced 34 units of Blood.  We’re told by the Red Cross that those donations will have a lifesaving impact on 102 persons needing medical care.

The Red Cross also tells us that they have received nearly 300,000 fewer donations since Covid infections surfaced last March.  Our next blood drive will be March 24th.  We hope you will join us that day.  More important we hope you will call 

1-800-RED-CROS and schedule your time for donation.  You can do that beginning as early as March 1st.

                                                                                  

Fishes & Loaves
God’s Multiplication Miracle

This morning … for the 21st consecutive year Mayberry is again participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring’s hunger offering. Over that span of time, $6,234 has been received from folks who worshipped at Mayberry on those Super Bowl Sundays.  And, again this year, gifts received today will shared with hunger ministries right here on the mountain.   

This nationwide “one–Sunday-only” hunger relief effort has Presbyterian roots. 26 years ago a prayer by Brad Smith, the youth group leader at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, gave birth to the idea to use the Super Bowl weekend to collect gifts of food and money for hungry neighbors.  Spring Valley’s youth group invited 22 other church youth groups in Columbia to join their effort. And … “Fishes & Loaves! … God’s Multiplication Miracle !“ 

Those kids raised $5,700 to fight hunger.    

Since then, the idea of fighting hunger on Super Bowl Sunday has become a nationwide movement.  Today church youth groups are joined by entire congregations, unions, businesses, and more; and, in its 29 years of existence, the Souper Bowl of Caring has raised over $100,000,000 for local hunger charities such as back pack programs, food banks, soup kitchens, food box distributions and more.

As we have done in the past, won’t you share your blessings today with nearby neighbors in our mountaintop communities?  Envelopes are in today’s bulletin; and your gifts may be placed in the offering plate as you leave worship.     

8 thoughts on “Hebrews 6: Motivation”

  1. Wow…!! That was a wonderful message. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to hear it and read it! It means a lot. Hit home for me, too. You and I must have the same kind of a bathroom scale! Thanks a bunch, Jeff! ~ Lil

    Reply
  2. Good for you for becoming an member of the Order of the Arrow! If keeping your mouth shut is a requisite for joining – I’d be in trouble.

    Reply
  3. …a person “will only become better when you make him see what he is like.”

    Okay, this quote hit home for me. Not only on a personal level since for months I have been using the pandemic as an excuse to not get enough exercise. A few weeks ago I stepped on a bathroom scale and became disgusted with myself.

    But this quote also made me wonder what it would take to get a large segment of this country to stop and realize they have lost their bloody minds. You can guess which angle I’m coming from but it goes across the entire political spectrum.

    Reply

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