10.04.15 Sermon (October 4, 2015) “Jesus Was No Angel”

posted Jul 5, 2016, 3:16 PM by David Hawkins
Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.  He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.  But someone has testified somewhere, "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet." Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you."

Sermon: "Jesus Was No Angel"             Rev. David Hawkins

I remember a story that our family tells about my father once receiving a phone call, asking for my younger brother, Michael, you know, the one who catches fish. My brother was in his early teens and at the time of this phone call he wandering around somewhere in the house. 

Apparently, Michael had entered his name and phone number into some sort of contest at the mall in Grand Junction, and had won a prize, so the people who ran the contest were calling to let him know. Of course, my dad didn’t know any of this. For you young people, this is in the old days, before cell phones. We may have even have had a rotary dial phone at that time. Ask your parents what I mean. Or your grand-parents. 
So, this man calls up my dad, and says, ‘Hi, this is so-and-so, can I please speak with Mr. Mike Hawkins?’ and my dad, confused maybe by the use of the word ‘mister’ in front of my brother’s name replies, ‘I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong number. There is no ‘Mike Hawkins’ here.’ The man on the phone says, ‘Well, he wrote his name and number on this entry to this contest we’re running, and we wanted to let him know that he won a prize.” My dad patiently explained to him that, while this was the Hawkins household, there was nobody by the name ‘Mike’ living there. After a few minutes of back and forth, my dad finally realized who the man was talking about, and said, ‘Oh, you mean ‘Michael Hawkins’? Yes of course he’s here! He’s my son!”
Now I’m not sure what the man on the phone thought, but we have never let my dad forget that time he forgot the name of his own son.
Just as my dad was confused by the title ‘mister’ in front of my brother’s name, I think that we are sometimes distracted by the titles we give to Jesus, and we forget who he really is. Titles can be limiting. Titles can be misleading.
Who is Jesus, really, without all the titles? Who is this revolutionary peasant who spoke peace to power, this carpenter who overturned tables and dismantled empires? Who was this beloved wandering miracle worker who died a shameful death, alone and betrayed? 
Most importantly, who is Jesus Christ, to us? In what way has he overturned the assumptions and anxieties of our lives? What does this man who died a scandalous death 2,000 years ago, mean to us, here and now? How do we talk about this complicated man in a time and culture that expects easy, sound bite theology and instant and painless answers? 

What can we really say about Jesus Christ?
The Book of Hebrews is a book-long sermon that looks to answer this very question. We don’t know exactly who wrote it, and we don’t know exactly to whom it was written, but we do know that it was meant to be read out loud, from pastor to congregation. Can you imagine? 

Now, we’re not going to do that today. But, for the next several weeks, we’re going to take a look at what this sermon might be able to tell us about the person and meaning of Jesus Christ. And as we begin, there’s one thing we know for sure. Jesus Christ was no angel. 

We read today that Jesus Christ is nothing less than the fulfillment of the way God has been talking to us since the beginning of time. The Prophets, the Law, creation, the universe, the earth, our bodies and our souls all have their origin and end in him, and in him we see the very essence of God.

And one might think the book of Hebrews could stop right there. That the preacher could have ended his sermon early, and the congregation could have gone out and beat the Methodists to lunch at the Golden Corral. 

But the Author doesn’t stop there. He keeps on preaching.

And so that makes me wonder, is this description, in all its glory and magnificence, its superlative and wondrous depiction of the Godliness of Jesus Christ sufficient? Is it good enough for us? 

I know that I have, at times in my life, been satisfied with this description of Jesus: King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Almighty God, Judge, Alpha and Omega, Author of our salvation. This is a safe and in many ways, an accurate description of Jesus Christ.
But, is it enough?
I don’t think it is enough. This might sound strange for me, as a pastor to say, but, it’s not enough for me to know that Jesus is God.
Let me say it again: It’s not enough for me to know that Jesus is God.
And, it’s not enough for the Book of Hebrews, either.
The author of Hebrews is not content to let Jesus simply be God, to remain distant from us, a holy cipher, an abstract philosophical construct metaphysically joined to the cosmos in some sort of theological dance with God and the Holy Spirit. 

Far from it, in fact. Hebrews brings Jesus from the farthest, highest heavens right down us, right here, on earth. Just as Jesus is above the angels, he is also below them. In fact, Jesus is as far below the angels as we are. Yes, of course Jesus is God. I believe that with all my heart! But, Jesus is also us. I believe that with all my heart also.
And I am so grateful to the author of Hebrews for remembering this. He could have left Jesus in heaven. He could have left Jesus far away, remote, ascendant, triumphant. But in returning over and over again to the humanity of Jesus Christ, the suffering of Jesus Christ, the author of Hebrews touches on the deepest and most sensitive questions of our souls: How do we really know God, and How does God really know us?
Hebrews reminds us that our God is more than a God of infinite power. Our God is also a God of infinite presence. And because God is with us in Jesus Christ, we encounter a God of infinite compassion and mercy.
Jesus comes to us because we need him to come. We somehow know deep down inside that a God who sits far away, deciding and judging from above is not a God we can ever know, because that is a God who will never know us. God came to us in the person of Jesus, to know what it was like to lose family members and friends, to feel anger, grief, pain, exhaustion, as well as to love and be loved, to delight in a child’s laughter and enjoy a good meal. 

God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ to be present with us, in our lives, in our pain, in our joy, in our heartbreak, in every part of what it means to be human. 

In Jesus Christ we are given the gift of a God who knows us, not in a vague and omnipotent sort of way, but in a tangible and vulnerable way, and we can accept him as God, not because of the doctrines of the church, or the irresistible logic of our best theology, but because of his presence with us. 

This God, who alone knows the secrets of supernovas and who alone knows the limits of the universe, limited himself so that he might share the secrets of our hearts’ desires. The infinite God of space and time made himself finite, for a time, that we might recognize him walking, living, loving, and dying among us.
And Jesus is still walking, living, loving, and dying among us. When we offer help to those who need it, we are serving him. If we are looking for him, we need look no further than to those who are invisible to world. This is where is he promised us he would be. 

These people are all around us, whether we see them or not, whether we’re willing to see them or not.
They’re in this church: Outwardly smiling, inwardly sobbing, desperately needing every smile and crumb of encouragement they might find here.
They’re in this community: Migrant workers, here for a season, uninsured, undocumented, unwanted, until the harvest needs to be brought in.
In this country: Mentally ill patients on the streets, unable to find or keep jobs, without sanctuary as they fall through the cracks of a porous health system.
And all over this world, whole populations are demonized and exiled by political expediency. 
The description of Jesus Christ we find in these opening verses of Hebrews portrays a God that might be uncomfortable for us to consider, because it calls us to live a life which is worthy of it. Because we tend to follow the kind of God we imagine. 

It’s easier to be aloof when we think that God is aloof. It’s easier to be judgmental when we think God is judgmental. It’s easier to remain oblivious to the world’s pain when we think that God doesn’t feel pain. 

When we forget that Jesus Christ cried out for water when he was bearing our desiccated humanity on the cross, we are willing to tolerate the injustice of the parched and hungry mouths crying out for relief in this country of obscene wealth. 

But Hebrews doesn’t let us get away with that. Hebrews doesn’t let us get away with a view of God that is somehow separate and above it all. In Jesus Christ, God is here with us. And that means things.
And so, right here in the beginning of the book of Hebrews, we have two pictures of Jesus: we have the God most High, from whom, in whom, and through whom came all creation; and then, right next to that picture of Jesus we have a God who became creation, and journeyed with us, sharing the mess of our humanity.
But even these descriptions of Jesus Christ are insufficient. It is not enough for me to know that Jesus is God, and it’s not enough for me to know that Jesus is human.
It’s not enough.
And, it’s not enough for the Book of Hebrews either.
The author of Hebrews is not content to let Jesus or us remain stuck in the muck of our sin, frustration and despair. Because when Jesus dives into the pool of our humanity, he flips every assumption we have about God and ourselves upside-down: Jesus becomes human, and we become holy. Jesus takes from us everything that weighs us down, that separates from God, he becomes our sin, and we become his brothers and sisters. 

When Jesus came down, and lived and died, he demonstrated his love for us. And when he rose again from the grave, he demonstrated his power over death.  But the resurrection of Jesus is more than a miraculous demonstration of God’s power. Because Jesus is us, it is the redemption of all humanity. It is the final act of God’s salvation story in Jesus Christ. God came to us, he lived among his own creation, he declares it good, and then, he brings us all with him to feast with at his table. 

It is his offering to us that makes us his own, not our offerings to him, and this eternally sufficient offering is extended to everyone who has ever sinned, or ever wept, or ever despaired of knowing God. Jesus knows us, loves us, and is not ashamed to call us his family before God. 

This table reminds that Jesus tasted death so that we might taste life, and along with all humanity know that our God is a God of presence, love, and compassion. And every time we come this table, we are brought into the presence of a God who is alive, who is with us, who cares for us, and who invites all of us to feast with him forever. 

Now to the Holy One
who is at work within us,
accomplishing far more than we could ever ask or imagine,
now and forever. Amen.