Worship Christ’s Majesty
Quarter: Acts of Worship
Unit 1: In awe of God
Sunday school lesson for the week of Dec. 7, 2014
By Helen & Rev. Sam Rogers
Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-9
In this new quarter of study, we will be moving through the Church year from Advent to Lent. How appropriate it is for us to focus on why we worship our awesome God, learning to communicate with God, and ways our lives can serve God! Thus, the three units of this study: The Awe of God (December), Learning to Pray (January), and Stewardship of Life (February).
The first lesson is from the Letter to the Hebrews. This letter is important for many reasons. From the title and information contained within the letter, we know it was written to Jewish Christians one generation removed from the first Christians. They were experiencing persecution and were struggling to remain faithful to the faith. We do not know who the author is. The letter is not Pauline in language or structure. Frankly, it reads like a sermon! We know the recipients spoke Greek, not Hebrew, for the quotations from the scriptures (Old Testament) are from the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. There is no salutation or greeting typically used by Paul, and the author does not claim to have seen or heard Jesus. Like his readers, the author came to faith through the efforts of those who had.
The message for this lesson focuses on Jesus: who he is and what he did. First, there is continuity between the prophets and Jesus. God spoke in times past through the prophets, but now God has spoken through a Son! And what a Son! He is bonded with God as both heir and co-creator of all things. Then the writer describes Jesus in powerful terms: “(Jesus) is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3) No wonder this is the key verse for today’s lesson! We want to sing, “How Great Thou Art!”
This affirmation of the sustaining power of the universe by his word has overtones of the Prologue to the Gospel of John. (John 1:1ff) The work of the Son is not only creative, but redemptive as well. He is the Source of physical life in creation, but He also is the Source of eternal life through his redeeming work of taking away the sin of all. When the work on earth was done, the writer uses the vivid metaphor of enthronement with “the Majesty on high” – God the Father. We believe the doctrine of the Trinity had its origin with this kind of biblical statement about the relationships within the Godhead. Remember the affirmation we make each Sunday when we proclaim our faith with the Apostles’ Creed: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.”
Next the writer compares Jesus to the angels, the messengers of God by showing the superiority of the Son. Quoting from the Greek Old Testament he uses passages from Psalms, II Samuel, and Deuteronomy.
With the preeminence of Christ firmly established, how appropriately we focus worship in the Advent Season on Him in music, scripture and spoken word. Hebrews helps us avoid the easy worship of a cuddly baby in a manger by grounding us in the reality of who Jesus really is. We do not gather to worship a human being, but the Son of God – who is fully human and fully divine.
The brilliance of the sun can be dazzling to the eyes. Reflection on water or sand or snow can almost be painful. Hebrews says Jesus is that brilliance, reflecting the glory of God. We are called to look beyond a tiny human child to the awesome glory of God’s own self. Part of the gift of Jesus is we can now see the glory and not be blinded by it.
There is a marvelous account in Exodus 33 where Moses asks God to allow him to see His face. The answer is obvious – no human can see God’s face and survive. Interestingly, God shows him “his back!” Even so, when Moses comes down from the mountain, his face is so radiant he has to wear a veil to protect the eyes of the Israelites! Here is perhaps the greatest gift we have from Jesus – in Him we can meet God face-to-face and live.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the disciples when they have seen him, they have seen the Father. When our children asked, “What is God like?” we have confidently answered them, “God is like Jesus!” The writer of Hebrews would agree. Our private and corporate worship focuses on the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – not three gods, but God who uses His very nature to communicate with all human beings so they can truly know Him.
The fullness of God is so overwhelming and mysterious we cannot presume to describe or explain. Yes, in former days the prophets were the spokesmen for the Divine purpose, but in sending Jesus, the plan of God has been made plain in a human life who is now interceding for us with the Father. No wonder we sing:
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”
“O, for a thousand tongues to sing, the glories of my God and King.”
Over and over, our worship in song and word includes the wonder of God – Who was, Who is, and Who is to come. The lesson forces us to move to a higher plain of adoration and praise.
A few weeks ago in the Corinthian study, Sam asked his Sunday school class what was the most important thing a Christian can do. There were many good answers: make disciples, serve human need, give generously. He startled the class by saying all the answers were wrong! The first and most important thing we do is worship! All the other actions flow from the conviction and power of who Jesus is, what He did, and what He enables us to do on this earth. Let this Advent be filled with the wonder of Jesus: born in a manger, crucified on the cross, and raised to glory.
Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers are a retired clergy couple. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.