Lectionary Commentaries for November 8, 2015
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Mark 12:38-44 

Emerson Powery

Sometimes the headings in English Bibles hinder us from seeing necessary connections.

The break between Mark 12:40 and Mark 12:41 with captions such as “The Widow’s Offering” or “A Poor Widow’s Contribution” or “An Act of Faithfulness” prompt readers to read 12:41-44 as a separate, distinct story from what precedes.

But this was more than a story about faithful giving. Yes, this widow “put in everything she had.” Yes, this woman, in this act of giving, acts unselfishly (even if unwisely). Yes, this unnamed character did what she thought she needed to do.

Furthermore, Jesus made the act of giving the point of his teaching. While he may not have concluded the observation by saying, “So, should you give all of your possessions,” he did seem to imply such an idea with his comparison to those who gave only some of their abundance. Yet, the story seems to be about more than that. Rather, this was a story — especially in Mark’s narrative order — that exposed the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. And, it may just expose us all!


After a positive encounter with one scribe (cf. Mark 12:28-34), Jesus challenged the scribal teaching about the relationship of King David to the figure of the Messiah (cf. 12:35-38). Expectations about a coming Messiah were commonplace, even if the particulars circulating among the scribes differed from Jesus’ expectation. But Jesus had no inquisitors this time, so he proceeded to discuss also the behavioral practices of some of the scribes he had encountered.

His tirade against the scribal class offered a harsh critique of their pride: desiring the best seats at synagogue or greetings of honor in the agora. In an honor/shame society, desire for “honor” was not unusual. Even Jesus expected it himself at certain times (cf. Mark 6:4). In fact, Jesus granted public honor to the scribe who agreed with him in 12:34.

But the critique (or, slander?) of their practices became more serious, as Jesus questioned their economic policies, cheating widows out of their homes. The NRSV translation — “they devour widows’ houses” (Mark 12:40) — is unclear. Did the scribes find ways (legitimate or otherwise) to take houses away? Or, did travelling scribes use up the resources from widows’ homes? Apparently, Mark wanted readers to see a connection between this activity and the following story, in which Jesus observed a poor widow (vv. 41-44). Mark used the term “widow” (chera) only in these two stories (cf. 12:40, 42, 43).

The scribes and Jesus were in tension throughout Mark’s Gospel. This tension was established right in the beginning of Mark’s story. A group of people classified Jesus’ teaching as possessing an “authority” the scribes they knew didn’t have (1:21). Oftentimes the scribes mistrusted Jesus’ various activities (cf. 2:7, 16; 3:22; 7:1, 5; 11:18, 27-28). In return, Jesus and his disciples questioned the influence of scribal teaching (cf. 9:11; 12:35). At one point, the disciples, without Jesus’ around, argued with scribes over an ailing child (cf. 9:14). As his mission continued, Jesus recognized their antagonism, predicting that they would “reject” him (8:31) and, eventually, “condemn him to death” (10:33). So, Jesus’ public critique, in 12:38-40, fit into the larger pattern of conflict that Mark portrayed. Within this portrayal, the only exception to the theme was the one individual scribe who agreed with Jesus over the greatest commandment to love God and neighbor (cf. 12:28-34).

Juxtaposed with the scribal class was this widow. She, too, became an example in Jesus’ teaching, a positive object lesson, someone to observe. She was unnamed and Jesus didn’t address her directly.

Jesus’ public ministry, in Mark, did not emphasize a mission to the economically impoverished. [This is not Luke’s Gospel!] In fact, the specific language of “the poor” was uncommon in this Gospel. The first time Jesus expressed a direct interest was in a conversation with a wealthy individual who desired to know how to gain a more meaningful life (cf. 10:17-22). Jesus responded clearly: “sell what you own and give the money to the poor.” The man couldn’t do it.

This poor widow, however, did just that. She gave it all. Jesus’ observation about the “poor widow” who sacrificed the only economic resources she had left was a natural progression from Jesus’ critique of scribal abuse of the widows’ homes. In the Greek text, this passage flows syntactically from the other one without any evident linguistic break. In light of the context of conflict between Jesus and the temple leaders, this story was more likely a condemnation, rather than a commendation; that is, it highlighted the ways the “treasury” (of the scribes) consumed the means of the poor.

Of course, despite centuries of interpretation, Jesus did not criticize the Temple directly here. Rather, he challenged the leadership to practice more just ways. Furthermore, his observation about this widow fit the pattern of several prophets who preceded him, in which widows were associated with other vulnerable people, orphans and immigrants (cf. Jeremiah 7:6; Malachi 3:5).

So, what now?

The widow still gave! Is it possible to understand this story from her perspective? Even while Jesus may be critiquing the financial strains religious leaders and their institutions place upon the impoverished, this widow gave … out of a sense of obligation, perhaps. Perhaps, out of a sense of hope. In ancient Israel, the “poor” were not required to give; they simply did so because they believed in the goodness of the institution, the goodness of its leaders, and the need for the religious institution to remain. Perhaps she knew that once she gave it all, she would need to rely on the resources from the religious institution to provide for her. To care for the orphan and the widow, that kind of “pure religion,” as James would call it (cf. Mark 1:27) would hopefully touch the minds and hearts of her neighbors in her village when she was in her time of greatest need. And, perhaps Jesus knew that some of the scribes in charge would not carry out their end of the bargain. Yet, he also knew that there were some scribes, like the one in 12:28-34, who agreed with Jesus about the ultimate commands to love. And, perhaps, Jesus knew that this poor widow would be okay.

First Reading

Commentary on 1 Kings 17:8-16

Steed Davidson

The literary shifts that bring us to chapter 17 in the book of Kings make Elijah the central character of this narrative.

The chapter interrupts the flow of the royal narratives allowing Elijah to literarily and literally crash Ahab’s time in the sun. Despite this focus on Elijah, this lectionary passage offers more when considered from the perspective of the widow. Changing this perspective enables readers to view the widow not simply as a victim requiring charity and the miraculous intervention of the prophet, but rather as an actor in the story of her life and one surviving in the midst of difficult times.

Chapter 17 features three stories, each aimed at proving Elijah’s worth as a prophet and the one who will challenge the theopolitical system advocated by the northern Israelite monarchy. This theopolitical system embraced openness to Canaanite theologies that assigned control over nature to Baal and other gods as well as engaged in the political alliance created by the marriage of king Ahab to the Sidonian princess, Jezebel. The geographical markers and indications of fertility withheld and given in the chapter serve as polemics in the theopolitical fight. The contest appears variously as between Yahweh and Baal, as well as theological and cultural exclusivists and inclusivists. Elijah appears on the scene as the worthy antagonist to the presumptions followed by the monarchy. In this episode with the widow, he proves Yahweh as the only guarantor of fertility. This passage follows the first episode in vv. 1-7 where Elijah experiences the power of Yahweh to give and withhold rain, to direct him to sources of water, and to provide and withhold his food.

The widow appears in the midst of these overarching battles and antagonisms. Already a victim of economic circumstances, in this passage, she serves as a site upon which theological polemics can play out. The focus on the theological victories of Yahwism over the alternatives of Baalism overlooks the plight of the widow and her agency. Already placed at a social and economic disadvantage, the widow experiences further distress in the midst of a drought. That she has a young son who is dependent upon her tells us something about her proximate age. She is not old and feeble. Without a husband she has little means of support and no doubt the drought would have exacerbated her predicament. Readers need to remember that the widow lives in Sidon so that the usual social support prescribed by Deuteronmy 26:12 may not have been in force in Sidon. And whatever system of help that may exist in Sidon, the drought would have degraded the effectiveness of that system. Elijah meets the widow at perhaps her lowest level of resources. She is in the midst of preparing what would be the last meal that she could eat from the resources she has available.

The drought exaggerates the widow’s plight. The narrative invites readers to see the drought not simply as a natural event but an intentionally divine occurrence. One of the stakes in this narrative revolves around which deity controls nature. In this regard the drought appears as weapon in this divine cold war. Consequently, the widow can be seen as part of the collateral damage that occurs with wars. Indeed, readers should see in the widow the faces of those whose already compromised economic resources are made worse by events such as wars and misdistribution of resources. Natural events such as drought ought not to be singularly blamed for the fate of the widow. Rather, how societies organize themselves, as well as how they respond to the demands of their natural environments, make a difference in the lives of vulnerable populations. In this story Elijah appears insensitive to the widow’s situation. He seems selfish and callous (1 Kings 17:10-11). And his pious speech ignores the part theological antagonisms play in making things difficult for the widow and her son (vv. 13-14).

Although Elijah meets the widow at the near end of her resources, she has been actively engaging in her survival. The widow forages for fuel to cook something to eat. Having gathered enough sticks, she sets out to prepare that last meagre dish. Elijah interrupts her. Despite being the one in need, she responds to the demands of hospitality and brings water to Elijah (1 Kings 17:11). Readers receive no indication from where the meal and oil in her house come. That the woman has not remained passive or simply dependent upon others is clear from the text. Her seemingly fatalistic admission in v. 12 appears more as the statement of someone who has been fighting the battle for survival and recognizes the power of the enemy rather than someone who has had no fight in her. Readers may never know whether the agency of the widow would have led her to share her food with Elijah, because he never allows her the opportunity to extend her hospitality that far. Instead, readers only get to see the widow placing Elijah’s need above hers and those of her son as a test of her faith in the god that Elijah serves. The delicacies of theology mean little when caught between survival and death. The widow of course follows Elijah’s lead and the continuous flow of food confirms his claim in the superiority of his god. The question of belief never arises in this passage as it pertains to the widow because the widow as a foreigner is merely a pawn in the theopolitical war. For this passage, the belief of the readers in the supremacy of Yahweh over Baal serves as the critical concern and therefore their belief forms the central concern of the passage. Readers, particularly ancient ones who would have understood the theopolitical stakes, could view Elijah as the representative of the deity that guarantees fertility. This chapter, in that regard, forms an ideal staging ground for the combative events of the following chapters.

Easily viewed as a miracle story, this passage does not set out to be simply a miracle story. The passage draws readers into a conflict and presses them to take sides. In so doing, the widow functions as a pawn in that fight. To view the passage as only a miracle story also overlooks the widow. Her foreignness in every way sets the stage for the unlikely display of divine power. In this framing, Elijah emerges as the brilliant miracle worker deserving of awe and the widow correspondingly recesses into the background. These frames for the story not only erase the widow, they distract attention from the social and economic disparities that lie at the heart of the text. The claim of special attention to widows, orphans, and sojourners does not always result in they becoming central or strong characters in the Bible. Reading this passage from the perspective of the widow can help in recentering these characters — the socially and economically vulnerable — and making them more than simply the objects of charity. This widow fights valiantly to offer life to herself and her son for as long as she is able to do so.

The conclusion of this episode could be written and translated in different ways. The Hebrew indicates that the meal jar was not exhausted and neither was the vat of oil. The verbs used in the Hebrew appear to describe an ordinary event until it is clear that they are pointing to an inexhaustible flow of resources. The NRSV translation evokes a sense of wonder by using the verb “fail” to talk about the oil. The details of what took place remain unclear leaving open the possibility of talking about this as miraculous. Attempting to prove or disprove how this unending supply of goods take place goes beyond any reasonable concern for the value of this passage. Instead, seeing how a widow responds, not anticipating something miraculous that would save her life, with hospitality, openness, and readiness to share with Elijah should raise her higher in readers’ attention. The last verse calls the reader back to the opening verse of the passage. In 1 Kings 17:9 Elijah undertakes the journey to Sidon in anticipation of meeting the woman divinely predisposed to feeding him. At this point in the narrative, Elijah has also exhausted his resources for food. In fact, the widow appears to have more than he does. Her obedient response to be liberal with her little resources contrasts markedly with the divine withholding of rain and the suppression of fertility. Her openness to giving away her little food grants her greater agency than Elijah whose only task lies in going in search of food that he is guaranteed will be there. In the grand scheme of things, the widow casts a searing light upon the other characters in the passage. Reading her will press communities to examine what they ask the vulnerable in their midst to do in service of particular ideologies or in the maintenance of the status quo of charity. Reading her will call into question presumptions of the inabilities of the vulnerable and challenge communities to more meaningful engagement with various members of the human community.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Alphonetta Wines

By the time the reader gets to these passages, she knows that the characters in this story are beyond reproach.

Naomi shares her wisdom with Ruth. Ruth follows Naomi’s sage advice. Naomi blesses Boaz. Boaz blesses Naomi and Ruth. What began with tragedy ends with blessing for the closing verses hint that Ruth, the Moabite, is in the lineage of the beloved King David.

The genius of the book of Ruth begins with its literary simplicity. In chapter one, Naomi’s troubles are relentless as one by one, famine, displacement, and bereavement steal her joy, turning her into a bitter woman. In chapter two Ruth ekes out a living for Naomi and herself. Both are abundantly blessed in the process. In chapter three, Ruth, at Naomi’s bidding, encounters Boaz on the threshing floor. In chapter four, the birth of Ruth’s child Obed brings Naomi joy that she thought would never be hers again. What began in misfortune has turned out to be a blessing for generations to come.

The genius of the book of Ruth is that it is much more than a simple story since there is much complexity in the layers, hints, and innuendo that lies within its pages. First, since its characters are exemplary, the book can be thought of as a morality narrative that demonstrates the blessing of godly living.

Second, knowing that in the world of the bible women’s voices are largely unheard, this story is extraordinary since the voices of Naomi and Ruth are not only heard, their voices move the story forward. They live in a world where women without husbands or other male relatives to care for them are vulnerable. Their story is an example of the resourcefulness of women despite a patriarchal system that intentionally works against them.

Third, it is impossible to overlook the sexual overtones in the book. Just as with the Song of Songs (another biblical book in which a woman speaks and God does not), the church has long been embarrassed by the sexual innuendo concerning Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor. While the details are left to one’s imagination, it is clear that Ruth intends to entice Boaz with her charms, especially since she goes at night hoping to avoid being seen.

Fourth, although “God is silent … [and] acts indirectly through the people,”1 God’s care is attested. As a poor woman from another country, Ruth’s situation is dire. Though her situation is dire, she is not forgotten. While God is silent, the message is indisputable, “God is on the side of the marginalized.”2 Not that God is unconcerned about people who live on the center, but God’s care for Naomi and Ruth are indications that God cares even when the world is indifferent. The implication is that “Yahweh … [is] God of the whole world.”3

Fifth, the book of Ruth is a story about “the birth of the monarchy”4 and a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that would eventually be a blessing to all humanity. In a nation where bloodline was important, the book may have served to validate the Davidic line which included “foreign ancestry”5 and/or “function as an apology for non-Israelites as a whole.”6 The subtle message is not so subtle, for “even Israel’s greatest king is descended from a poor, vulnerable woman from a despised foreign nation.”7 Ruth’s inclusion in Jesus’ lineage enlarges the message even further. If God is the God of all humanity, why would not all humanity have a role in the lineage of the Incarnate Jesus?

Last, the book of Ruth is a reminder that it is important to honor the humanity of every person. There is no need for anyone to think too highly or too lowly of others or themselves. In a world where connections to one’s own family group could determine matters of life or death, Ruth and Naomi’s willingness to cross boundaries to create friendship is remarkable. These two women are about as different as two people can be. There are differences in “age, nationality, and religion.”8 Theirs is a story about what happens when two people from different social locations decide that relationship is more important than cultural definitions of what relationships should be or any experiences that might have kept them apart.

Through her friendship with Naomi, Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David. Through her friendship with Ruth, Naomi again experiences a joy untold. In a world, ancient or contemporary, where people are unwilling to extend themselves on behalf of others and be changed for the better by the encounter, this story stands as an indictment of closed hearts, minds, and spirits of any age.


 1 Kristen Nielsen, “Other Writings (Ruth, Song of Songs, Esther, Daniel)” in The Hebrew Bible Today: An Introduction to Critical Issues,” eds. Steven L. McKenzie and M. Patrick Graham (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 178.

2 Ibid., 179.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 174.

5 Eric M. Meyers and John Rogerson, “Part One. The World of the Hebrew Bible,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, 2nd ed., ed. Bruce Chilton et al (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 301.

6 Ibid.

7 Wilda C. Gafney, “Ruth,” in The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible, ed. Curtiss Paul DeYoung et al (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 128.

8 Renita Weems, Just a Sister Away: A Womanist Vision of Women’s Relationship in the Bible (Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, Inc., 1988), 25.


Commentary on Psalm 146

Beth L. Tanner

Psalm 146 is structurally simple, yet theologically profound.

Its genre is one of praise and it is part of the crescendo ending of the psalter. The psalm begins and ends with the same “Praise the LORD” or “Hallelujah,” providing an envelope called an “inclusio.” Inside this envelope are two doxologies surrounding two stanzas, giving a symmetrical shape to this prayer.

The first doxology is personal and enduring and better translated as “I will praise God with my whole self” instead of the standard “soul.” “Soul” provides a meaning of an inner devotion or that the “soul” is something other than the self. The prayer calls for us to involve our whole selves in the life-long act of praise to the LORD. It is a call to action.

In our world, praise has been difficult recently. News from our country and across the world is filled with religious wars, murder, slaughter of innocents, and massive refugee migrations. It is hard to “praise God with my whole self.” Yet, in most of the history of ancient Israel, their situation was similar. Here is the first lesson of this psalm. Praise of God is sometimes an act of discipline. Under the circumstances of war and destruction, praise is not the result of external happiness, but stubborn belief in the face of evidence to the contrary. Indeed praise is defiance of worldly powers. It shouts that despite the situation around me, God is still worthy of praise. The ancients knew that life-long praise can change the world by transforming and empowering individuals. Crying to God is an important cathartic, but praise can change our outlook. Praise provides power when we feel powerless.

The first stanza (Psalm 146:3-4) changes direction abruptly. The move from praise to “do not trust” is a harsh one. But the stanza is a reminder. We are not to place our trust in humans, even human leaders. Notice, the psalm makes no distinction as to the nature of the leader. The leader may be good or bad, his or her merits are not the point, rather their human condition is. Leaders, like all humans, will come and then go to the ground and all of their plans will go with them. Like the old sage, Qohelet, we are reminded of the fleeting nature of the humanity. Human plans are small and transitory. Life-long praise and trust are reserved for the LORD alone.

The next stanza (verses 5-9) returns focus to the one praying. It opens with the Hebrew ‘asher, often translated as “happy.” In the context of a praise psalm, this definition works as long as we remember it is not a passing or superficial happiness, but a deep abiding “contentment” with the human condition and one’s God. It is life as it is supposed to be and it is achieved by having God as one’s “help” and “hope.” This is the contrast to the stanza above. If happiness is elusive, contentment may even be more difficult. We live in a world where contentment is countercultural. Much of our economy is based on consumerism and a capital economy fueled by the desire to acquire more and more things. Yet true contentment is centered in God, not human made items and plans.

And what a God we serve! God is Creator of the heavens, the earth, and the seas (v 6). God is the Sustainer who keeps faith (in Hebrew the word also means “truth” and “firmness”) forever (v 6), and God is the Redeemer who rescues those who are oppressed and hungry (v 7). These attributes serve two purposes. The first is to remind us why God is to be praised for our whole lives and the other is to provide additional contrast to those human rulers. God and God alone is the reason for our creation and continued existence. The psalm adds five ways of the LORD, all centered on God’s justice (vv 8-9a). One can imagine that as each line is read or sung, it is followed by a resounding response of praise. The psalm concludes a final doxology celebrating God’s enduring presence in the world and a final shout of “Hallelujah.”

For preaching, this psalm offers an oasis; a cool, comfortable place where we can put aside the world and praise God for who God is. The prayer is designed to combat narcissism and consumerism. It is to lift our eyes above our day-to-day troubles and into the infinite realm of God. In a world gone crazy, this moment of perspective has been a shelter for centuries. As African-American churches have experienced threats over the summer, the people gathered to sing praises to God and these praises provide strength and sustenance. This is a tradition reaching back to slavery. Sunday morning praise allowed these folks to become fully human for a moment. What the ancient Israelites knew about the power of praise has and is being lived out in communities overshadowed by racist threats. Troubles still exist, but the worshippers are now better equipped to go forward. Praise, it seems, is the very definition of Sabbath rest in God.

Another preaching possibility is to use the contrasts in the psalms and parallel them with the contrasts in the Gospel lesson. This is a wisdom psalm and contrast is part of its structure. The contrast is between human plans and their inherent frailty juxtaposed with God’s justice plans and God’s eternity. The Mark text is a great example of human plans to impress others and God juxtaposed with the widow and her small mite. The summary of that story could easily be “the LORD upholds the widow and the orphan, but the way of the wicked he bends (verse 9).”

Second Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 9:24-28

Israel Kamudzandu

In this commentary, we pursue the heavenly and divine office of Jesus.

In Hebrews 9:24-28, readers, exegetes, interpreters, teachers, and preachers are presented with the Christological atonement function of Jesus (verses 26b), and this once-and-for-all sacrifice has a Greek perfect tense attached to it. This means that the effects of the so called “Christ Event” were not for that particular historical moment, but the results of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are still in force today, tomorrow, and into the eternal future. While this is difficult to explain to lay people, preachers have the obligation to explain and teach on the framework of faith, its origin as well as its role, function, and place in the life of a believer (2 Corinthians 1: 19-22). It is only in Hebrews that Jesus Christ is directly given the authentic title of “High Priest” and in that manner he stands above and beyond the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 8:1-13).

Also of theological faith and spiritual potency is the underlining theme that the offering that Jesus made was not from a distance or in the vicinity of any human tabernacle. Rather, he appeared before God on behalf of all believing humanity (Hebrews 9:24), and he completed the sacrifice once and for all. All that is required of humanity, whether non-believing or believing, is to accept what Jesus did and by so doing begin to experience the benefits of the sacrifice. In Hebrews 9:24-28, readers are informed of two theological issues, namely the sphere of heaven, and functional place of Jesus. First, we are privileged to know that God’s throne is located in heaven and that is from where God addresses us, and it is also a place where Jesus is empowered to function. Heaven is a place where the presence of God is manifested and as such the names of those who have been claimed via death are documented (Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3: 12).

While Roman Catholics have a well-articulated theology of heaven, Protestants and probably Pentecostals seem to have little theological perceptions of heaven. In any case, Hebrews articulates heaven as a sphere of the efficacious atonement, one that could not be done in any earthly temple, or church. Preachers must attempt to address issues of death, heaven, and life after death in ways that are formational to all Christian believers because the reality of heaven is inescapable.

Thus, questions of reflection and faith formation must be raised and addressed in either Sunday school/Bible study classes or from the pulpit. I have always doubted whether many Christians grasp the meaning of partaking in the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. The reason underlying this hypothesis is that preachers tend to separate the Lord’s Supper from atonement. Yet, the meal as it is celebrated in many congregations is a reminder of the implications, meaning, and function of the “Christ Event,” which is in essence, the inauguration of the new covenant. In fact, Jesus makes it a point at the Last Supper, when he lifted the cup and says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24). It is only in Hebrews that readers would fully understand the magnitude of Jesus’ words, and consequently help Christians to appreciate the partaking of the meal as a celebration of the new covenant.

The message of Hebrews 9:28 points to the nature of the atonement that Jesus did while he was on earth. In that time, he came down to the level of humanity and went through every experience, and later died once and for all in sacrificial ways. The sacrifice was a one-time event and after that he went to be with God. In the eschatological moment, Hebrews informs readers that Christ will come for the second time and when he comes, there will be no repeat of the sacrifice but it will be a time to usher in salvation to those who have remained faithful, whether in the sleep of death or in their physical life (verse 28). The effects of Jesus’ death and resurrection runs through chapters 9 and 10, and what the Christ event meant and means for today, is that believers are allowed to have heart and mind transformation (Hebrews 10:15-16). What then are the implications of Hebrews 9:24-28? The answer to this question lends itself in a variety of ways depending on where one is in terms of her/his faith journey. Because the “Christ Event” provides for the transformation of the believer’s heart, mind, and soul, the Lord expects those who profess faith in Jesus Christ to live a life that exhibits grace, love, and humility. This should be lived out in external life, inner life, and spiritual disciplines. In other words, Hebrews summons Christian believers to enter into a “Christ-formed” path of faith, spiritual practice, and formation into a Christ-like image.

If Hebrews is a sermon, the passage before us seems to be the punch line of the homily, because we read the proclamation of who Jesus is and his expected return and what he will do when he returns (Hebrews 9:23-28). Themes such as theology, ethics, faith, belief, response to God’s Word, creed, Christian life, and grace are mutually energized and valued by the preacher of Hebrews. As such, 21st-century preachers and Christian believers should strive to observe these themes in the everyday Christian living, and failure to do so would render our profession of faith obsolete. The themes listed in this paragraph alerts readers and interpreters to the uniqueness of Hebrews. From the beginning of the sermon, the preacher does not put the spotlight on herself, but rather, she makes God, Jesus Christ, and Scripture the center of the homily (Hebrews 1:1-4:13). As such, Hebrews allows readers to view their faith life in the same way. I will be remiss if I fail to mention that Hebrews reminds 21st century preachers and Christian believers about the importance of a vital Christian community, whose role and function is to assist people in their pursuit of mature discipleship. In the same manner, Hebrews seems to challenge the modern day view of Christian education programs in our congregations because most Sunday school classes are made of people who are friends. Yet, in Hebrews, the preacher calls on congregations to remember one another.

Finally, the irony and humor of Hebrews is that preachers are invited to emulate the unidentified evangelist who does not emphasize herself, but rather allows God’s voice to take center stage through Jesus Christ who makes our faith perfect, and one who through the Holy Spirit empowers believers on their faith journey.