Exegetical Exercise Hebrews 13 1-8, 15-16

Image - water on offer, Buddhist temple
Offering a cup of cold water to whoever shows up
By Steve Evans from Citizen of the World (Free Drinking Water – Buddhist Temple, Thailand) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Of the choices offered in the Revised Common Lectionary, Hebrews 13:1-8 & 15-16 seems like the one that could speak to the people at the small rural church where I agreed to preach on Sunday better than others on the list.

The context is the question of “acceptable worship” of a God who is a “consuming fire,” in light of the promise of an unshakeable kingdom, but with the persistent sense – this is Hebrews – that our standing in that kingdom is connected to our behavior. The advice that follows, then, seems to be practical instruction on what it means to offer appropriate worship.

It has to do with service. Don’t “neglect” to show hospitality to strangers, and don’t “neglect” to do good. So these are things that could be neglected, they require care and intention, and they bookend the passage. Maybe – include the strangers in the “brotherly love” that needs to continue, and keep on keeping on.

Empathize with the suffering – prisoners and those who are being tortured! – and respect boundaries. Don’t love money. Love something/someone else.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Which makes the way of life of the people who first taught “you” (the Hebrews to whom the text is addressed; by extension, us; making this something of a recursive text, it now being one of those “leaders” that is speaking the word …) relevant – oriented to the same Jesus Christ of yesterday/today/forever. Some things change, but some things don’t.

The non-neglecting of hospitality and doing good, and all that goes with it, is positioned as worship – explicitly the equivalent of sacrifice (reminiscent of Romans 12) – but note, also the equivalent of torah observance. Doing what someone asks you to do is an expression of love.

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