The Internet Changed Everything
Sermon by Fr Peter Wolton, United Benefice of Holland Park, Sunday 28 October 2018
Bill Gates famously said in 1995 “The internet changed everything.” An interesting task for each of us would be to write in one sentence how the internet has changed our lives. Of course there are some people who do not use it, but they are rare.
What has this to do with the writer of the letter to the Hebrews? The answer is this. What has changed everything for the author of Hebrews and for us, is not the internet but the person of Jesus Christ. The reality of this statement is so enormous that it can almost seem glib.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (and note I did not say St. Paul because it is generally thought he was not the writer) has set themself the task of explaining to the Jewish people just how Jesus is the Son of God and has changed everything –how Jesus, sent to the Cross via Pilate by the high priest Caiaphas, is the Great High Priest.
What is the relevance to us, 2000 years after it was written of the statement that Jesus is the “Great High Priest?
That is what I want us to consider this morning, and especially how it links to elements of our Eucharist service. For us to consider
The theologian Tom Wright puts it like this:
“The writer of Hebrews just can’t get enough of thinking through who Jesus was and is and what he achieved in his death and in the new life that emerged the other side.”
The this letter probably written around AD 60 and certainly before the Temple in Jerusalem was raised to the ground in AD 70 has the capacity to really deepen our understanding of our faith and the Holy Eucharist, if we are prepared to chew over it, rather than let it wash over us.
The Temple was central to Jewish life and elements of Temple life have become part of our liturgy and what we do here this morning. For the Jews, the centre of the Temple was the “holy of holies” where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. And only the High Priest could enter it, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Today for us, our Eucharist is our holy of holies, given to us by Christ the great High Priest.
The earthly High Priests, as the writer says cannot hold the position permanently, because they die. In fact Josephus calculated that from the date of Aaron (the first High Priest) until the destruction of the Temple in AD70, there were 83 High Priests.
Priesthood of Christ is permanent because:
1. As the Son of God, he is the Unique Mediator between God and humankind, someone who fully understands human frailty. Jesus’s own understanding of his role as Mediator is to be found in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is to be found in John 17 and is now known as the “High Priestly” prayer. “He summons us to live in endless light, the never-ceasing Sabbath of the Lord.” You will hear these words in a few minutes in our Eucharistic prayer.
2. His mission is to save all people in all times. Pope John Paul II at the Sacre Coeur in Paris “We are always, ourselves and the entire world, embraced by the love of this heart “which has loved (people) so much and has received such a poor response from them.”
3. Christ continues to be present, not in the sacrifices of Mosaic worship, but in the Eucharist and in the praying of the Daily Office.
One of the roles of the High Priest was to offer sacrifices for their own conduct (often a young bull) and conduct the ultimate annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, two goats, one of which was the scapegoat, representing the sins of the people.
Unlike the other priests who offer sacrifices, Jesus has no need to offer sacrifices for himself for he was, our writer says “was blameless and undefiled”, offers himself as a sacrifice. Thus the Son of Man gives himself to be a ransom for many, as he had foretold when He said “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The sacrifice of the Cross is renewed daily in Holy Communion – “This day the risen Lord makes himself known in the breaking of the bread.” Note that the role of earthly High Priest, the religious leader who played such a critical role in the death of Jesus is made redundant.
So it is that we take from the writer of Hebrews, our understanding of Jesus as the Great High Priest. This unknown writer who has been so influential in the liturgy of the Eucharist.
In the spirit of the author of Hebrews “who just can’t get enough of thinking through who Jesus was and is and what he achieved,” may I suggest you consider how Jesus has changed your life; maybe even try to write it down in one sentence.
And because I would never ask you to do something I would not do myself (members of the Glassdoor sleep out note!), this is my first stab at a one sentence “How Jesus has changed my life:
““Jesus Christ, the son of God is where heaven and earth meet, the gateway to the loving presence of God both in this life and the next, and gives me hope and life, equipping me to go in peace to love and serve my neighbours and those I love.”
So will you write down in one sentence how Jesus has changed your life and send it to me? By next Sunday.
List of vicars on the wall of ancient churches. Death makes it necessary for there to be a succession of priests. Also they do not intercede – they are representatives of Christ.
The High Priests of the past.But with Jesus, there is no need for the list to continue.
The Great High Priest – how often have we heard this phrase. But how often have we considered what it really means.
Pope John Paul II at the Sacre Coeur in Paris “We are always, ourselves and the entire world, embraced by the love of this heart “which has loved men so much and has received such a poor response from them.”
Jesus – who due to his indestructible life is the eternal High Priest.
Priesthood permanent because:
We are obliged to set souls free from the bonds of sin.
Reference to Melchizedek who also “had no end of life.”
To save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Such a high priest, holy and blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
No need to offer sacrifices day after day – first for his own sins
then for the peoples
Pondering on this turns to gratitude and gratitude to assurance and assurance to hope. People of Hope. That is what the Eucharist gives us.
This he did once and for all when he offers himself. Unlike the other priests who offer sacrifices, he offers himself as a sacrifice.
28 The word of the oath - ? What is this? The Oath that God made to Abraham, he would e blessed with a great family –realised by all those who have come to God through Jesus.
Margaret Barker’s central proposition is that “the world of the temple was the world of the first Christians, and they expressed their faith in terms drawn almost exclusively from the temple (her brackets). Jesus and his followers opposed what the temple had become; they identified themselves as the true temple, with Jesus as the great high priest.”
The references to Melchizedek in the Bible are few, with the first appearing in Genesis 14.18-20 where as King of Salem, he brings Abraham the royal meal of bread and wine and blesses Abraham following his freeing of Lot and defeat of four eastern kings. Melchizedek is also mentioned in Psalm 110:4, reflecting the ideal Davidic monarchy of ideal of a king receiving his authority from the Lord, both as a military ruler and also as a priest. “Just as the priesthood and kingship were united in the person of Melchizedek, (King of Salem=Jerusalem; cf. Genesis 14:17-24), so the present king of Jerusalem would be priest and King”
A good starting point for the Temple excursion is to spend time in the company of NT Wright who reminds us that the Temple occupied about 25% of the entire city. Its position in the life of Jerusalem was analogous to that of Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the City (financial and economic centre of the city) all rolled into one. “Allowing for the fact that the Romans were the de facto rulers of the country, the Temple was for the Jews the centre of every aspect of national existence” 
Barker asks “Which of the Biblical accounts is accurate? Was the ancient temple a place of atonement, a golden throne and a veil with musicians invoking the presence of the Lord or was it not? This is a matter of some importance for Christians, since these elements- atonement (one person offering himself for the sin of others), the heavenly throne and the veil of the temple- are important in the New Testament, and invocation, epiklesis, was central to early liturgies.”
“One thing has become clear: the original gospel message was about the temple, not the corrupted temple of Jesus own time, but the original temple which had been destroyed some six centuries earlier......Jesus was presented as the high priest from the first temple; Melchizedek returned to his people. Jesus as Melchizedek can now be seen as the key to the New Testament, and the implication of this is that Melchizedek’s temple was the world of the first Christians.”
The references to Melchizedek in the Bible are few, with the first appearing in Genesis 14.18-20 where as King of Salem, he brings Abraham the royal meal of bread and wine and blesses Abraham following his freeing of Lot and defeat of four eastern kings. Melchizedek is also mentioned in Psalm 110:4, reflecting the ideal Davidic monarchy of a king receiving his authority from the Lord, both as a military ruler and also as a priest. “Just as the priesthood and kingship were united in the person of Melchizedek, (King of Salem=Jerusalem; cf. Genesis 14:17-24), so the present king of Jerusalem would be priest and King”
The Temple, the meeting place of heaven and earth. This is the real holy of holies. Today the Eucharist is our holy of holies.
and the fear and rage of the High Priest Caiaphas in John 11 becomes more understandable, when he responds viscerally to the Sanhedrin’s concern that belief in Jesus as Messiah, could lead to the destruction of the Temple. “You know nothing whatever;... it is more to your interest that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should be destroyed.” There is a huge irony that at Jesus’ trial by Caiaphas, the old “second temple” High Priest should engineer the death of the “eternal priest” and thus bring about the unity of earth and heaven that had been missing since the Fall.
Jesus Christ, the son of God shows us where heaven and earth meet and being the gateway to the loving presence of God, gives us hope and equips us to go in peace to love and serve our neighbours and those we love.
This is my body given to you. The everlasting sacrifice. The Passover Lamb/The goat.
The Temple: The Israelites had been set apart by God , a chosen people to share his life and holiness. temple represented the cosmos. Wall separated Jews from Gentiles, inner courtyard, priests from laity. At its centre was the Holy of Holies which only the High priest could enter.
Sacrifices in the Temple, keeping chaos at bay.
Breaking in of God’s new holiness, transcends the binary mentality pure/impure- men/women, Judeans/Samaritans, lay/priestly – Ultimately the oath. Jews and Gentiles.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – referring to Jesus as the everlasting sacrifice – no more would the sacrifice of the lamb at the Passover, as had happened at the time of Moses. When Jesus died the curtain in the Temple which gave access to the Holies of Holies was torn in two. Is open to all.
 BARKER, Margaret, Temple Theology: An Introduction. London: SPCK, 2004 p13.
 “ The Lord has sworn and will not change his purpose: “You are a priest for ever, in the succession of Melchizedek” (NEB)
 Willem S. Prinsloo Psalms Errdmanns p418.
 WRIGHT, N.T. The New Testament and the People of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God: Part I. London: SPCK, 1992, p225
 BARKER, Margaret, Temple Theology: An Introduction. London: SPCK, 2004. P15-16
 BARKER, Margaret, Temple Theology: An Introduction p1-5
 “ The Lord has sworn and will not change his purpose: “You are a priest for ever, in the succession of Melchizedek” (NEB)
 PRINSLOO, Willem Commentary on the Bible, Eerdmans, 2003 p418.