Today's Lectionary Text
Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this, if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the “Dones” – people who had a relationship with a church, but have since left out a sense of frustration of disillusionment. You may know some Dones from your own church experience: persons who were highly active in the congregation, but got burned out, dropped out, and never found a new church home.
At first blush, today’s reading from Hebrews can put a cold shiver down your spine. The author sternly warns that those who have known Christ, but actively reject him and hold his teachings in contempt, cannot be given a second conversion. Does this mean the Dones are…well…done?
No. Research indicates that the Dones don’t reject Christ, but they did get worn down by the inevitable imperfections we experience in a community of faithful yet flawed believers. Indeed, most Dones still long for a spiritual home and are pained at the loss of their church community.
The Hebrews passage teaches we all can inherit the promises that come with an authentic faith in Christ and we have a responsibility to build each other up in accountability and love, “so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.” Rather than wiping our hands clean of those who drift away, we are called to embrace them with all the love and hope we can muster, listen carefully to their weariness, and find a way to walk together in the faith and patience we are given through God’s grace.
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Prayer for Reflection
Lord, like a good shepherd, you never give up on us, even when we struggle or stray. Give us the patience to listen, the courage to invite, and the love to embrace into the fold all who long to be close to you.
This Week's Lectionary
Job 38:1-7 (34-41)
Psalm 104: 1-9, 24, 35c
This Week's Liturgical Color