One of the ways in which I play with scripture is to summarize a chapter around a key theme; then I’m more likely to engage with it, and to remember it. Here’s an effort from some years ago preached in an Oxfordshire village, and now turned into a blog from my notes!
Hebrews 13 is summed up in my mind as ‘kingdom living’ and there are five simple but hugely demanding elements to that living. I won’t cross-reference them for you, but invite you to read the chapter, read the blog and examine your conscience.
We are to love one another as brothers and sisters, that is, as family. By this the writer is calling us to love out of knowledge, just as we have to do in our own families, where nothing is hidden. This is love, warts and all, love in all its messiness, unconditional, matched and trumped by Jesus’ unconditional love for us.
Secondly, we are to be hospitable. Again, there are no limits, because we don’t know when an angel is lurking! The bit that jumps out for me, of course, is that hospitality is not just to one another but to God. We welcome strangers as if they were the presence of God. Why? Because they are the presence of God. There is a ‘supernatural’ dimension to all hospitality – ‘the unseen guest’.
This is expanded in the third point, to our care for prisoners as if we were in prison with them. Hospitality is extended in this in a missionary direction: we go out to others; waiting for them to come in is not enough. We of all people go into the hard places, especially the places that non-Christians find difficult, the place of death, of disfigurement, of gross sin.
Fourthly, we are those who live free from consumerism. We do not need to purchase to find life. In that freedom, we live lives of appreciation, thankfulness, delight and pleasure in simplicity. Our language is still embedded with this ideal of ‘the simple things of life’. In recovering them, we return the world to God the creator, living in it with light and childlike footsteps.
And finally, this kingdom living is sacrificial: strengthened by grace, we respond to the cross by receiving gratefully (so hard for us to do these days!) and by responding with grace. We are called to speak gracefully of life and about one another, to serve gracefully, and to share all that we have. Sacrificial living is never spent. There is always more of life to give, under God’s grace.