Lectionary Readings for Dec. 29. Isaiah 63:7-9, Ps 148, Heb. 2:10-18, Matt. 2:13-23
I hadn't expected to find anyone else at the church. It was early on a Saturday morning and I, the youth pastor at a smallish church in Ontario, was going to do some preparation for Sunday. When I unlocked the front door, however, I found our senior pastor (and he was a senior) down on his knees scrubbing the foyer floor. When I asked why he was cleaning, he simply replied that it looked dirty.
One of the lessons I learned from working with this particular man was that the pastor has to be one of the people. Real, practical, and not exempt from any of the ministries we expect others to do in and for the church and its people. We have to be able to get our hands dirty alongside everyone else. While all have different gifts, no one person is worth more than another. None of us is above scrubbing the floor or the toilet if that is the job that needs to be done. That levelness or commonality among people is what helps us relate to each other, to feel we can share in each others pains and celebrations with genuine empathy.
When I read Hebrews 2:10-18, I couldn't help but think of how my pastor scrubbing the floor was doing the same kind of thing Jesus did-albeit on a smaller scale. Paul, in his usual convoluted style, tells us how Jesus humbled himself to become one of us. "Therefore he became like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God..." v. 17. God certainly did not have to become human, but in doing so, Jesus was able to relate to us in a very special way-as a brother. He shared what it means to be human, the joys, the unfairness, the dirt. That willingness to be right beside us, to participate fully in humanity, makes God approachable. It gives us a realistic model that we actually have a hope of imitating. Jesus, our brother, shows us how to be truly human in a way that connects us to each other and to God.
I love verse 16. "For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham." He came to help those of us least able to help ourselves. Because he knows what it is to suffer, he is able to help those who are mired in their own circumstances.The ones who least deserve God are still fully able to relate to Jesus and to find a helpful and compassionate friend.
The Isaiah and Psalm pieces praise the God of creation and are bursting with joy. I had a hard time reading the Matthew piece after those beauties. In Matthew, Joseph and Mary flee and spend years in Egypt to avoid the infanticide an enraged Herod inflicts on the people. It's a horrible story. It shows the contrast between the love of a God who is willing to live among the people and the hate of a jealous man bent on his own exaltation. This is one of those events that leaves me wondering about why God ever gave people free will.
I hope the example Jesus sets in becoming one of us, in helping the poor and broken, and in being willing to give up himself proves stronger than our needs for aggrandisement, status, and power. The world is definitely better off with more floor scrubbing leaders than people who are worried about keeping themselves on top!