The first reading is taken from Hebrews chapter 6:10 and following, but the larger context for the writer’s thought begins at Hebrews 5:11 where a metaphor is employed, one familiar then and now: that of milk and solid food, little children and adults. The basic problem is that those hearing this word are receiving it as children, when they should be teachers. The problem is that the hearers are refusing to grow up in their understanding of Christianity. They are stuck at the level of the ABCs and worse, they need someone to again teach them the ABCs of the faith.
Chapter 6 continues the line of thought with a list of the foundational elements of Christian teachings, but the point of offering the list is to admonish that one must go beyond the most elemental to advance in order to grow up. They are not of course to be abandoned, but the Christian cannot stay at that level. Perhaps a modern expression of this same sentiment is seen in the Catholic adult who has not moved beyond their 8th-grade Confirmation preparation understanding of the Faith. And therein lies the danger.
The danger for those who refuse to advance toward maturity is that of losing hope, of turning away from God, becoming unanchored and drifting away. The author sternly warns his hearers of the consequences. One who has become a Christian, been enlightened, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted God’s word, and yet has gone so far as to reject it all can even be said to participate in responsibility for the death of Jesus. Strong words.
The text then goes on to encourage the listener. The remainder of the reading is a reassuring exhortation to hope marked by the decided change of tone beginning with the commendation of the hearers’ love and service to one another (v. 10; where our reading begins). As a basis for perseverance and progress in hope, the author refers to God’s oath and promise to Abraham that he would bless Abraham’s descendants. The argument is that the promise made to Abraham applies to all Christians. As God was faithful in his promise to Abraham, so too, we can have that same confidence.
It is what the author of Hebrews describes as the “anchor of the soul, sure and firm.”
When a naval vessel “drops anchor” it does not simply let go the anchor chain and then go ashore. The anchoring is tested, an anchor watch is set to ensure that the anchor remains sure and firm and the vessel is not drifting on the currents or tides.
This coming Sunday is celebrated as the Word of God Sunday. It is a good reminder for each of us to move to the solid food of Scripture, to move from student to teacher, and be what the author of Hebrews calls “mature in the faith.”
Make a commitment to know Christ Jesus more deeply this year – leave the ABCs behind.
Image credit: Manuel Keutsch, Pexels, CC-BY