Thursday of Pentecost 25 – Hebrews 10:11-25

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

As a part of our devotional practice, my wife and I have been re-reading the books of Samuel in the evening. After dinner, we read a chapter aloud. In chapter 6 of II Samuel, David brings the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem. It was on an oxcart and the oxen stumbled. A young man by the name of Uzzah put out his hand to steady the Ark. The Ark is holy and not to be touched by human hands. In touching it, Uzzah was struck dead. The text records that David grew afraid that day and the Ark stayed there for some time.

We have largely lost the sense of the holy in our culture. We are not afraid of certain objects or spaces. I suppose the interior of a nuclear reactor might make us afraid. Standing in one of the massive pipes that shunts water to a hydroelectric generator might make us nervous. What if someone opened that valve? But holiness does not make us afraid anymore. We have lost that sense of the sacred in this “enlightened” age. I am not so certain that we are the better for it.

David learned a lesson that day that Uzzah died. He also seems to have done a little more research and discovered that the rings on the side of the Ark were intended for long poles which would allow people to pick up the Ark by lifting the poles without touching the Ark itself. That was the way God intended it to be carried. It was to be conveyed on the shoulders of men, without oxen and oxcarts involved. The writer to the Hebrews says that we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way which was formed by his body broken on a cross. His words mean that we are in the presence of that same one who held the Ark of the Covenant to be holy, even fatally holy. When I hold that wafer on my tongue or gaze into that chalice for a moment before I drink, I am brought into a holy place. Can that ever become commonplace? Should it?

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