Today's Lectionary Text
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food,[a] which have not benefited those who observe them. We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent[b] have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.
Forgiveness once was a very difficult endeavor — at least I think it must have been. While I confess my eyes often glaze over while reading Leviticus, this Old Testament book contains a significant portion of the Mosaic Law that provided guidelines for how the people could be reunified with their Creator, or achieve atonement (at … one … ment). I have this thought of a loud area near the temple where animals were corralled or caged, awaiting their fate of death on behalf of the people.
My vision of this ritual conjures a thought of loud noise, a stench and lots of blood — not very appealing.
But it was necessary. The sinful nature of humankind means that something — or someone — has to pay the price. There is a penalty to be paid.
This passage from Hebrews provides some comfort in explaining that Jesus already paid that penalty on my behalf. He paid it for you as well.
He “suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood.” In other words, he served as the sacrifice. We can’t repay such a selfless act in full. Thankfully, as the scripture says, we are “strengthened by grace” instead of the ritualistic practices of old.
While we can’t repay Christ for His sacrifice, we can do our part to help others understand what He did for all. We can make a sacrifice of praise — worshipping regularly with a body of believers and proclaiming His name to the world! We can serve others by seeking out opportunities to share what we have, “for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
What better time is there than this joyful season to invite people to worship, to proclaim the name of Jesus, and to seek out ways to serve others!
-Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, we thank you for the atonement that comes through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Help us to feel your presence in the midst of this holy season and to proclaim your name through our words and actions not just during this time of Advent but throughout the year.
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