Bluemont and Mayberry Presbyterian Churches
March 21, 2021
Recorded at Bluemont Church on Friday, March 19, 2021
Information at the beginning of worship
We’ve spent the last three months making our way through the first three quarters of Hebrews. Last week, I mentioned we were at an end of a section of the book that involved some serious theology and Christology. Now the author turns to practical applications, first of which is a renewed call for his listeners and readers to remain steadfast in their faith and worship.
As I’ve spoken of many times in this series, there are many hints in the book that the intended audience may be pondering the idea of leaving their faith in Jesus behind. After developing a strong theology around what Christ has done for us, the author again pleas for the people to remain faithful.
A summary of today’s text
The late F. F. Bruce, a British Biblical Scholar, sums up the passage this way:
In view of all that has been accomplished for us by Christ, [the author of Hebrews] says, let us confidently approach God in worship, let us maintain our Christian confession and hope, let us help one another by meeting together regularly for mutual encouragement, because the day which we await will soon be here.
Read Hebrews 10:19-31
After the reading of Scripture
There was a time when a good part of the population looked down on bikers. But over time, once you started having lawyers and bank executives trading their pinstripe suits for leather on the weekends, that changed.
Think of other weekend activities for adults. You have guys playing Mountain Men, or Civil War soldiers, or the men and women who get all excited about life in Renaissance. The latter hold fairs and dress as if they lived in the 15th Century, only with the benefits of the 21st Century, such as modern medicine.
However, until I read William Vollmann’s book, Riding Toward Everywhere, I hadn’t realized there was another group of professionals who enjoy taking on a different weekend identity. These guys become hoboes.
Of course, jumping on a train is illegal. Vollmann defines hoboing this way: “the unauthorized borrowing property of others.” I’m not sure what to make of his adventures. There is something not quite right about using cell phones to communicate between friends as you try to dodge railroad police while looking for an open car and a good place to jump onboard.
Furthermore, unlike true hobos, it doesn’t seem fair that Vollmann and his companions have additional advantages. When things get unpleasant, such as riding in an open gondola car in the rain or snow, they jump off near an Amtrak station and take the train back home. Or, if they have more time on their hands, they check into a hotel, clean up and go out to dinner. Why cook a can of beans over an open fire when you have a credit card. It also helps having medical insurance.
For these dudes, riding the rails is a game. In one adventure, Vollmann flew on a commercial airline halfway across the country just to hop a train back to California.
Importance of friendship
But it’s more than a game. Friendship also plays a role. You have friends with shared interests that you trust. That makes all the difference. Friendship binds us in our mutual interest. This sentence from his book struck me. “It is a fine luxury to trust oneself to a friend’s strength and help him in his weaknesses, all without negotiations or resentments.”
It’s nice to have friends! And with Jesus, we have a friend in high places. But we also need friends here on earth. As we see in our text today, that’s part of the purpose of gathering for worship.
Our passage begins with an exhortation. Remember how I told you earlier in this series, Hebrews sifts back and forth from exposition to exhortation. We just gone through an extensive exposition, an advance class in Christology. Some of you may be asking, “so what?” Well, the Preacher of Hebrews now tells us why.
This section begins with a “therefore.” What has been previously said directs what comes next.
In the opening three verses of this passage, we’re reminded of what has been just been covered. We now have confidence to approach God and to enter into the most holy of places because of Jesus. He’s both our High Priest and our sacrifice. Jesus’ blood has been shed for our sin. He creates a path that we might follow into a new life that takes us behind the curtain that has shielded previous generations from God.
Jesus makes authentic worship possible
When we approach God, we’re called to worship. As people of faith, worship is necessary. When we worship, we acknowledge that God is so much bigger and stronger and better than us. We admit our limitations while proclaiming God’s glory. For Jesus has made authentic worship possible.
I like how The Message translates verse 19, “we can now-without hesitation-walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” In worship, we boldly come into God’s presence.
But worship involves more. Not only are we drawn near to God, and hold onto the promise, worship involves others. And worship isn’t just singing of hymns and listening to scripture or sermons. Verse 24 reminds us to “provoke one another to love and good deeds.” In other words, from our worship we work for the well-being of others.
Worship as gathering
But first, we must gather. Worship isn’t something we do as individuals. Yes, as an individual, we can pray and connect to God, but worship requires others. Jesus said he’ll be where there are two or three gathered, not one. And when that happens, we are transformed as we move into the presence of God.
So, because of what Jesus has done for us, we can worship in joy and be full of hope. Our worship can transcend where we gather as we’re ushered into God’s presence. That’s the good news. We need to hold tight to this hope.
A warning against sin
In the second half of our passage, we’re given a warning. If we continue to sin when we know better, we’re told in verse 26, God’s not going to like it. We should ask ourselves what kinds of sin does the author of Hebrews speak? After all, we’re all sinners. Even Paul refers to himself as the greatest of sinners?
There are a couple of things we should understand here. We’re not talking about just any old sin. First of all, it has to be a sin willingly committed and we must have known that it was a sin. And even if we’ve committed sin, we shouldn’t lose hope. Earlier in this chapter, as we saw last week, Jesus’ sacrifice covers our sin.
Sin is a part of the fallen human condition, which is why we have to depend on Jesus. So, here, the author refers to more than just an act, doing something against the law. It appears the sin here is apostacy or the abandonment of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. When we experience God’s good news, and then abandon the faith, we have good reason to fear. Such sin “profanes the blood of Jesus,” we’re told.
Drawing again on the Old Testament, the author of Hebrews reminds us that “vengeance belongs to God.” God will repay those who profane the good work of Jesus. We should be reminded that it’s not up for us to judge someone else, but at the same time we should examine ourselves and make sure we hold fast to the faith we have in Jesus.
Faith, Hope, and Love
One commentary summarizes this passage with Paul’s three-fold ideal of “faith, hope, and love.” All three appear here. We have faith in what Christ has done for us, hope in our confession, and finally love that’s shown in how we relate to others. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to remain faithful as they inspire one another to love and do good.
Let think for a minute what the author might say to us not attending church. Granted, we’ve been in a difficult time for the past year with COVID and trying to avoid catching the illness. But as we come out of such a time, we need to quickly get back into the habit of gathering for worship. Interestingly, it appears from this letter, there were those who skipped church back in the first century. That still doesn’t make it right.
However, I think Hebrews reminds us something important here. Coming to church isn’t about us. Too often we think it’s about what we get out of worship, but that’s to miss the point. First of all, we direct our worship toward God, not toward those in the pews.
Secondly, as we’re told here, we come together to encourage each other. I am not to be the only one offering encouragement on a Sunday morning. All of us are to be encouragers. And sometimes, to encourage, we just have to show up and smile. Or maybe we catch someone doing good and acknowledge their efforts.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, may our lives be filled with worship, and may you encourage one another and have many good friends. Amen.
 F. F. Bruce The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1964), 224.
 William T. Vollmann, Riding Toward Everywhere (New York: HarpersCollins, 2008), 50.
 Vollmann, 13.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2006), 254-255.
 Thomas G. Long, Hebrews (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997), 103-104.
 Matthew 18:20.
 1 Timothy 1:15. See also Romans 7:24-25.
 See Hebrews 9:28, 10:10.
 See Long, 109.
 1 Corinthians 13:13
 Hugh Montefiore, The Epistle to the Hebrews (NY: Harper & Row, 1964), 174-175.