To Err Is Human (Hebrews 5:2)

He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. (Hebrews 5:2)

Last night, as choir rehearsal let out, I collected my teens for the trip home. I found Olivia exactly where she should have been, minding the little urchins who had been left in child care through the evening’s various activities. Thomas, however, proved more difficult to locate. I searched everywhere for him and called home, but he refused to be found.

Eventually, after Olivia and I decided to go for a soda to cool our–okay, my–frustration, Thomas called. It seems that, despite the presence of both me and my perfectly good car at the church, he had finagled a ride home. The girl who drove him, first had to deliver a girl in Grain Valley, five miles east of the church. Then she brought Thomas en route to her house, five miles west of the church.

I might have been a bit snarky when he called. Some comment about being abducted by pirates came out of my mouth. As I headed home myself, I planned my actions. First, I would smash Thomas’ phone, which he apparently can never answer when we need him, with a ball peen hammer. Then I would ground him until after the London Olympics.

By the time I got home, I’d moderated my plans. Calmly, I explained how frustrating I found the experience and what I expected him to do in the future. The ball peen hammer never came into play.

Anger is easy, but it’s not terribly productive. Thomas made a mistake, something I can easily relate to. If I didn’t make mistakes myself, then I guess I’d be in a better position to stand all high and mighty over him. But I can make mistakes. I do them regularly.

Jesus, during his life on earth, didn’t make mistakes in the sense of sinning, but I have to think that he stubbed his toe or feel asleep at inopportune moments–like in a boat during a storm. Today’s verse assures us that Jesus was subject to weakness. That’s the nature of man. Thomas got the benefit of my realization of that fact last night. I enjoy the benefit of Christ’s mercy, a product of his human years, every day.

Listen Up (Hebrews 3:7-9)

So, as the Holy Spirit says:    “Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
(Hebrews 3:7-9)

I’ve been thinking recently about those movies where a character somehow goes back in time and gets a second chance to make a decision. Did you miss out on love? Did you waste your opportunities for success? Did you trade what was truly important for the trivial? Hollywood loves to take those regrets and create wish-fulfillment films.

As I look back at my life, I see a number of errors I would love to correct. With those in mind, I have been considering how I might script my own turn-back-the-clock movie. The problem with this sort of thinking is that when you slip back in time to, let’s say, high school graduation in order to avoid errors, you never know what new mistakes you’ll make and what correct moves you might miss.

Then there’s the simpler notion. What if you could go back in time and tell your former self what to do or not do? Sounds great, right? But then there’s the question of whether your former self would listen. My guess is that my former self would not. Why? My current self often fails to listen to me when I tell it not to waste money or to eat properly or to exercise. What makes me think that if my current self won’t listen, my former self would?

That’s what Hebrews gets at in today’s passage. Today, with the benefit of hindsight and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have no excuse for failing where those who went before failed. How did the tribes of Israel grumble and rebel after seeing the plagues, the Red Sea, the wonders at Sinai, the Manna, and so for forth? I suppose they did it the same way that I fall into the same sins time after time despite every good reason not to do so.

The answer? According to our passage, it is to listen to the voice of the Lord. It’s hard to fall into sin while listening to God’s voice. So where does the problem lie? At the risk of being obvious, it lies in failing to listen.