Sunday, March 29, 2009

The High Priest

Grace and greetings.

Here is a picture of Mount Redoubt as it erupted earlier this week. The picture was published in the Anchorage Daily News, taken during an early morning eruption and the storm that goes along with it. Though the ash has not made the 1,000 mile journey north, it has blanketed parts of the South Central Alaska, including Anchorage, which has interrupted the air flights, including to Barrow and other villages. For the villages, when the planes do not fly, then we do not get food, supplies, mail as well as the people traveling in and out of our villages.

I am still not feeling 100% yet, and hopefully will get back to writing again. Below, is a copy of the meditation from tonight's service.

The True High Priest
Hebrews 5.5-10

As we come to consider what this passage is about, let us look at the role of the High Priest at the time. In the Jewish temple, there is a place called the Holy of Holies. It is the most sacred part of the temple. Only the priest that is serving for that time can approach. It is part of the family tradition of being from the Levite line, you will serve your time, usually a year as the community priest. This is a person who is totally human, with all the faults, tears and misunderstanding as the rest of us; but for this time, the priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer up the prayers as well as the sacrificial acts and prayers of the people to God. The priest is someone just like us, struggling along like the rest of us, who is also called upon to receive, to bear, and to lift before God the needs that are common to us all. It is with this understanding, that Jesus is being associated with the priesthood forever. To be able to see Jesus this way puts him squarely in our nature and our world, and sees his work as intimate, connectional, and costly.

Jesus is the priest that offers up our prayers to God, though he does not offer up sacrifices any more, but offers up the prayers with loud cries and tears. He continues to present himself to God on our behalf. Jesus, being the obedient son, asks that his hardship and suffering be taken away; but knows he has to follow the path that God has set before him; that he goes to the cross, that he may come out on the other side of death and the tomb through resurrection and new life.

As we read this passage, and remember Jesus in the Garden before his death, we remember his anguish, passion, tears and cries to God. He is not lifting up a lamb or dove, or even bread and wine; he is offering up his soul with the prayers for all to understand; the grief of the world is upon his shoulders. Into the presence of God, Jesus offers weeping and screaming in the lifting up of prayers and he is lifting them up to God on behalf of the people.

His passion embodies and suffers not only the guilt of the world, but also the grief of the world, the anguish, isolation, the longing, misery and rage, crying out to the heavens. He comes before God, not only for his own deliverance, but for the cries and tears of us all. The passage declares that Jesus is the “priest forever”, and he is lifting up our prayers, pain, agony, desperation with loud shouts in prayer.

If we are now the Body of Christ to one another, to our community and the world, where does that leave us? I believe that it means we step into the priestly role with Christ to lift up the prayers of the people. We lift up all who have reason for tears and loud cries, mourners, the war-ravaged, the poor, the terrified, the oppressed, those who are too much alone, the hungry and the forgotten. Their tears, cries, and clenched silences are gathered into a groaning divine cry, ceaselessly rising, painfully lifting the suffering world toward hope of transformation. We, as the Body of Christ are not only to hear these cries lifted up to God, but to join in and lift the prayers up as well.

Peace and blessings.

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