“Glory and Honor” Colchester Federated Church, October 3, 2021, World Communion Sunday (Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12)

This Sunday and next we are going to be hearing scripture from The Letter to the Hebrews.  Now Hebrews is often known for what we don’t know about it.  As Kenneth Schenck explains in The CEB Study Bible, “We don’t know with any certainty its author, date, destination, or the place from which it was written . . . Hebrews calls itself a ‘message of encouragement’ (Heb 13:22, cf. Acts 13:15), a sermon of sorts.”[1]  It’s best to think of Hebrews as a sermon that was sent as a letter.  Hebrews is a longer text compared to some of Paul’s letters, and has four main sections.  The book explores the word of God spoken through the Son, interprets Jesus as the eternal high priest, “describes faith as insight into a heavenly world of reality,” and ends with practical advice to its audience and greetings.[2] 

We just don’t know who the author specifically had in mind as they wrote this sermon.  But we do know that the intended audience had people of both Gentile and Jewish backgrounds.  We know that these folks went through some harassment and persecution because of their faith in Jesus as the eternal high priest.  We know that they supported people who were imprisoned, and it’s even possible that some of the leaders of their Christian community were killed.  The author wrote this message of encouragement to strengthen their audience in the Christian faith and to help folks keep the faith in God’s promised salvation until the end.

With this in mind, we can turn to the beginning of Hebrews to hear some words of comfort.  The author tells us that God made God’s Son the heir of everything and created the world through him.  “The Son is the light of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s being.”[3]  We are to understand that Jesus stands at the beginning and end of creation.  In the Book of Revelation for instance (the current book we are reading in Bible Study), Jesus declares, “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”[4]  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the language in which the New Testament was originally written.  All of this to say that the author wants us to see the big picture.  To understand that no matter what we are facing in life, God is ultimately in charge.  God made God’s Son the heir of everything and created the world through Jesus.  How would these cosmic theologically rich words land if some of our members were harassed or imprisoned or killed because of our Christian faith?  It would give us some hope and comfort that God is indeed with us.

In Chapter 2 the author quotes from Psalm 8: “What is humanity that you think about them?  Or what are the human beings that you care about them?  For a while you made them lower than angels.  You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.”[5]  Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God.  We have the Divine DNA inside of us, the divine spark.  The author of Hebrews emphasizes that human beings are prone to sin, and Jesus came to show us God’s grace forever.  The One who makes people holy and those who are being made holy all come from one source.  Christ helps to set us apart as people who belong body and soul to God.

As today is World Communion Sunday it’s good to remember that human beings have been crowned with glory and honor.  Hebrews quotes the Psalmist for a reason.  Because no matter where we are from and no matter where we currently live, we are crowned with glory and honor.  This applies to our neighbors here in Colchester.  It also applies to those who are fleeing various devastating circumstances in Haiti or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.  Human beings have dignity and worth because we are all made just a little lower than angels.  

Now in the Christian Church on World Communion Sunday we particularly give thanks for Christians around the world and the beautiful diversity of races, ethnicities, and cultures who are siblings in Christ.  We may not agree on every belief and practice.  Our prayers may sound different and our worship services have varied styles.  We sing different songs and praise God in different places.  Though this Sunday we focus on an essential part of our faith that we do share—Communion—and the unity the Sacrament represents.  In this important act, Christians the world over gather at Christ’s table from north and south, east and west.  We break bread and pour the cup, and we remember.  We remember Jesus’ words and deeds.  We remember that the table is set for everyone who wishes to know the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst.  In our church, our Communion table is open and no one is excluded.  Here at Christ’s Table, we receive grace for the journey as we both pray and work for a just world for all.

This morning will mark the first time that our Deacons have served Communion in our traditional way since the pandemic began.  That’s right, it’s been well over a year, so please pardon all of us if we seem a little rusty!  But as I just shared with our Discipleship Class in class on Monday (as we learned about worship and the Sacraments), the way we do Communion here at Colchester Federated Church says something about our priorities as a faith community.  You will notice when you receive the tray of bread this morning that there are now four options—the bread cut up into squares prepared by one of our Deacons, the bread from the common loaf that I have blessed and broken as part of the Communion liturgy, rice cakes inside the plastic container for those who need a gluten-free option, and the individual servings of the wafer and juice we’ve been using during this pandemic.  We recognize that we are a diverse community of believers and we do our best to support one another on our journeys of faith, the bread options reflect our values. 

Additionally, we wait and hold the bread and the cup and don’t partake of the Sacrament until everyone has been served.  We do this because we recognize that we are individual parts of the Body of Christ and we are in this life together.  It’s good to wait for one another to participate in this holy moment.  We know that those watching from home are also sharing in this moment with us.  Even though we can’t see one another, Communion connects us in profound ways.  So let us be mindful of the gift of Communion and Christian community on this World Community Sunday.  Let us live out the message from Hebrews to encourage one another and strengthen one another in our Christian faith.  For God has crowned all human beings with glory and honor.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

[1] Kenneth Schenck, Introduction to Hebrews in The CEB Study Bible, 433 NT.
[2] Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Introduction to The Letter to the Hebrews in The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, Fully Revised Fourth Edition, 2103.
[3] Hebrews 1:3, CEB.
[4] Revelation 22:13.
[5] Hebrews 2:6-8.