Lectionary reading for 12/13/2021: Isaiah 11:1-9; Numbers 16:1-19; Hebrews 13:7-17
Selected passage for reflection: Hebrews 13:7-17
Hebrews 13:7-17 CEB
Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
Don’t be misled by the many strange teachings out there. It’s a good thing for the heart to be strengthened by grace rather than by food. Food doesn’t help those who live in this context. We have an altar, and those who serve as priests in the meeting tent don’t have the right to eat from it. The blood of the animals is carried into the holy of holies by the high priest as an offering for sin, and their bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy with his own blood.
So now, let’s go to him outside the camp, bearing his shame. We don’t have a permanent city here, but rather we are looking for the city that is still to come.
So let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise through him, which is the fruit from our lips that confess his name. Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.
Rely on your leaders and defer to them, because they watch over your whole being as people who are going to be held responsible for you. They need to be able to do this with pleasure and not with complaints about you, because that wouldn’t help you.
As I reflect on this passage from Hebrews, it brings to mind the many leaders that have impacted my faith journey. The author of Hebrews knows that there are different types of teachers out there and so he is warning the readers to not be drawn in by “strange teachings,” such as religious leaders who are not preaching the message of the Kingdom of God. They are those whose sacrifices are impure because they are paying attention to the wrong things - to the temporary things of this world. The readers of this letter were surrounded by Christ-like leaders as well as false teachers.
We all need people in our lives to spur us on, encouraging our walks and leading by example. In our world today, there is no shortage of people to follow, both in person and online, which begs the question - how do you know who to listen to? That warning from Hebrews is still ringing true now.
Similarly, Jesus closes out his sermon on the mount with this practical application of what the Kingdom lived out can look like, saying that good trees cannot bear bad fruit and bad trees cannot bear good fruit. It’s a great way to check on our own spiritual lives but also a reminder to be checking the fruit of those that we follow.
During the pandemic, I found myself turning more and more to various church services, podcasts, books, social media influencers to strengthen my own leadership. I have been able to hear from leaders that can shift my thinking in new ways, and as I do so, I try to pay attention to how close their message sticks to the Kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in. Jesus’s message is the same today as it was when he walked the earth, how are those we follow preaching that message of the upside down Kingdom?
Take a moment, as the author of Hebrews writes, to remember those who have taught you to follow Christ. How have they shaped you in positive ways? How can you express your gratitude for them in this season of advent?
Holy Spirit, point out the places where we need fresh leadership. Reveal to us the people who can help us to shape our lives like Christ. If there are any voices we need to turn down in our ears, reveal that to us now. Thank you, Almighty God, that you place people in our lives to guide us, to love us and to point us towards your Kingdom.
About the Author
Alicia is a Colorado native who found her heart home in MN. She’s passionate about helping young people see God at work in their lives and in the world around them. She spends her days teaching Middle School Bible in the Twin Cities. You can find her at aliciavela.com or on social media as @aliciavelaanderson