BEING HEARD AND BEING KIND - A SERMON AND REFLECTIONS ON HEBREWS 1:1-4; 2:5-12 - FR. LANCE SCHMITZ, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
One of the worst feelings in the world is that of being unheard or misunderstood. Is that fair to say? Who likes being misinterpreted? The feeling of being unheard or misunderstood leaves you feeling powerless, alone, or like you just don’t matter. One of the most damaging things that can happen in a family, a job, a relationship, or an organization is the inability/refusal to hear, really hear and understand/empathize with what someone else is going through.
Being ignored fosters all manner of resentments, struggles, pain, and agony for people and ends up hurting both people’s dignity and how they see other people. When you feel unheard or misunderstood the temptation to lash out and act in ways contrary to how you want to be be. It is tempting and attractive to throw in the cards and walk away from someone or something when we feel as though no one listens or cares.
The Letter/Epistle/Missive to the Hebrews is written to a group of Jewish folks who were tempted, tried and hurting.
They were feeling misunderstood by so many and considering throwing up their hands and going back to the old way of being; and many of them already had.
Someone once said that “The Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews.”
In actuality this isn’t far from the mark, many of the early Jewish believers were slipping back into the rites and rituals of Judaism in order to escape the mounting persecution. This letter, then, is an exhortation for those persecuted believers to continue in the grace of Jesus Christ. Let’s be honest though, can you blame them? If folks were saying your crazy or bad or evil for thinking the things you think and following the way of Jesus. It would be mighty tempting to just throw up your hands and walk away, especially if they were threatening death or ostracism. It would be oh so tempting to go back to familiar well worn paths and the social safety and comfort they afforded.
At varying points in our lives we’ve probably all dealt with folks either ignoring us or telling us we were not good or bad because we thought differently or acted differently than the group. The resultant effect is we end up mired in sadness, frustration, and maybe a bit of resentment. Maybe even feeling a bit dumb for swimming upstream… Whenever we go off the accepted script of the way things are supposed to be, we will run up against the keepers of the status quo who will either ignore, isolate, or exclude; then we are left out in the cold feeling like no one gets us. The Epistle reading we have today is encouragement/reminder to them then and us now that we have someone who gets us, who cares for us, who loves us despite all the consternation/frustration/exclusion we experience. We are reminded over and over in our reading that Jesus is the single best example of what God is like and that he is one who has experienced the oddness and pain/the joy and wonder of human existence.
God is not some far off deity that is unfeeling or willfully ignorant to the pains of what it means to be a person. God has come in the person Jesus to show us through the life, torture, death, and resurrection of Jesus what it means to not just survive but how to truly live. God is not a silent removed unfeeling being, no! God is engaged and involved with God’s creation in ways that we don’t always see because we are running around as fast as we can just to stay in place. Our reading today from Hebrews serves as a resounding call/invitation/reminder that we ought always endeavor to live life shaped by the way of demonstrated the way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We hear that a lot as Christians but what does that mean? My hunch is that we become different type of people, who live life in a different way, and seek to embody the way of Christ wherever we are and whomever we are with. We become a type of people that in all likelihood, people will not fully understand but we will endeavor to to understand those who misunderstand us.When they ignore our voice, we work to hear theirs. When they exclude us, we seek to include them.
God has come in Jesus as God’s most perfect revelation to the world of what God is like and how we are to be, love, and care for one another. If your practice of Christianity doesn’t have the resultant effect of you become kinder, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong. The Epistle to the Hebrews, especially our reading today, reminds us that there is one(Jesus) who understands, there is one(Jesus) who cares, there is one(Jesus) who walks with us; so we can walk alongside others in their pain. Jesus hears us, Jesus understands us, Jesus knows what it means to struggle. We ought always seek to understand and walk with others, so that they too can know the healing power of God as revealed in community. Living the way of Jesus isn’t a novel hobby we pick up when we have some free time but it is an all encompassing reality. Jesus knows our pains and wants to heal them, following Jesus isn’t an insurance policy from suffering but rather a walking with the one who heals and seeking to how we can help to heal this broken world with Him. The way of Jesus is about being rescued from sin and ourselves and collaborating/conspiring with God to rescuing a world neck deep in pain, violence, and misery. Is it hard? Oh yeah it is. Is it worth it? Yes assuredly without reservation, because we walk with one who understands us. With Jesus on our side what might we do?
~Fr. Lance Schmitz, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.