Lectionary Passage: Hebrews 5: 5-10
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
The order of who? Melchizedek is mentionted twice in the Old Testament Scriptures–once in Genesis and then again in Psalm 110. He was a priest of the Most High in the time of Abraham. The name means “righteous king” or “King of Righteousness.” Some have claimed that these passages refer to a literal human; others claim that it is a priestly order superior to even the Levitical priests. But it’s not an apostolic designation that is handed down through the church. It is an eternal one.
Essentially, here, it probably refers not to a “priestly” order of the world but rather an ongoing continuation of God’s relationship in humanity. In Genesis, Melchizedek came to the side of Abraham when Abraham needed help the most. And Abraham is blessed and offered bread and wine. This is God’s plan. God desires to be in relationship with humanity. And as part of that relationship, we, too, are brought into this ongoing priesthood. We, too, are blessed and offered bread and wine. And as priests of this highest order, we serve each other. We enter relationship with humanity just as God has entered humanity in the form of Christ. This is the order into which we are born, into which God brings us to be. And this is the order that we fully enter, relinquish our perceived self, and emerge new and recreated. This is the highest order of the priesthood. And this is the one to which we are all invited.
Iraneus (2nd century bishop in Gaul) is supposed to have claimed that “the glory of God is humanity fully alive.” What does that mean? What does that mean to be “fully alive”? I think it means that we embrace everything that God has given us to make our lives be what they are called to be. That means that we all have gifts, that God calls us all, that we all have a part in building and being the Kingdom of God. Our only hope of becoming “fully alive” is a humanity, a whole humanity, “fully alive.”
But this is dreadfully hard for us. Face it–we are a hierarchical people. We want whatever is due us. We operate based on tenure rather than gifts, youth rather than wisdom, and power rather than calling. But, despite what we try to project onto the Creative force that is God, God is not hierarchical. There are not levels of God’s love or classes in God’s Kingdom. And, Dante notwithstanding, I don’t even think that there’s an “either / or”. (What if we someday find that Judas and Brutus are right there with the rest of us?)
The thing is, this “order of Melchizedek” is not hierarchical. It is an order of those who are called. It is an order of all of us. We are all moving to perfection in Christ. And perhaps the goal is not to reach the height of it all, but to reach the point at which we are fully alive, the point at which we realize that we are part of a whole and the whole is the Kingdom of God. It is a new order, something we’ve never seen before. So open your minds and open your hearts and quit trying to get ahead!
So on this twenty-fifth day of Lenten observance, think about what it means to be “fully alive”. What is is that “gives you life”? And what is it that gives your neighbor life? Do something to bring life!
Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,