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No Room – the pattern repeated

December 21, 2009

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
Heb 13:13

In the book of Hebrews in chp 13 we have this summary statement of the Gospel we proclaim:

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Here is one accustomed to the outside whose life and death were shaped by his outsider status. Rejected, despised, exiled from his home town, no place to lay his head. Ultimately crucified outside the civilised place, where the respectable people gathered.

And in turn he calls us to go to the outside. To leave the place of privilege, power and influence. To take the risk of stepping outside the bounds of respectability and there to risk something and to find that Jesus is already there.

Among the outcast and the refugee, with the homeless person and the prisoner.

I think this is why this chapter opens in an unusual way.

1. Love the Family: Community

Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers.

The opening words of this collection of closing instructions is directed towards the community. For the foundation of all that follows is a loving community of brothers and sisters.

2. Love the Stranger: Hospitality

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Christian love should never be confined to the brothers and sisters of the family it must extend to the stranger.

Love the Christian family, but don’t forget the stranger. Don’t forget the stranger…the outsider. For in so doing we double their exclusion.

And we welcome the stranger in the confident expectation that they will be a gift of God to us.

What does entertaining angels mean? Well I don’t fully know. But surely it means at least this, that as we reach out to the stranger outside, as we welcome them inside, we may find in so doing that we are in effect welcoming an angel inside. That in acting like Jesus, reaching out to those who have been exiled from their home and bringing them near, by stepping outside the walls we have built round ourselves and our families and our churches, going outside where the crucified are, we find that Jesus is already there before us. Crucified along with them and for them. And in acting as he did we meet him in them.

We meet angels and are blessed. Aren’t they always present in the Christmas story?

[photo from here]

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