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08.21.16 Hebrews 13:1-8 Buddy Breathing Sermon Summary

by on August 22, 2016

The reason you can’t hold your breath is because God is always at work in your life.

Summary Points

  • A depiction of how God’s Spirit saves us
  • How Paul applied faith to real life
  • More examples of how we can apply faith to our real life
  • Another image to guide us
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

The word translated “spirit” in the Bible is the same word for “breath.” It’s instructive that God’s breath/Spirit, which gives life to the first human, and makes the Bible’s witness authoritative, continues to flow through our lives to direct us in how to grow into Christ.

One of my favorite depictions of this reality is from the movie Signs. In this scene, biological father and reverend father Graham Hess leads his son Morgan through an asthmatic episode without medication. He invites Morgan to breathe along with him, to not fear, to believe that the air is coming, and that this trial will pass. Eventually the father’s coaching saves the son.

God really is present throughout our lives, and not only interested but involved in every aspect of them. We can trivialize God’s presence by praying for our football team to win or for a favorable parking space. But the fact remains that God is present, like air, whenever we turn our attention to him.

Philemon is the shortest book in the New Testament. It doesn’t even have chapters. It’s written by Paul to a church leader and a slave owner. Paul is sending Onesimus, a runaway slave, back to Philemon. He sends the accompanying letter asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as an equal, as a brother, as a free man.

It’s a fascinating book because it is a concrete application of one of Paul’s principles: In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, man and woman, slave or free. (Galatians 3:28) It’s an example of Paul working out his faith in real life.

In other of Paul’s letters, he teaches principles, and then applies them. These applications must always be read in their context, and then interpreted in ours. The applications can’t be lifted out of their context and dropped on to ours. That’s an abuse of scripture and of our context, and a denial of the Spirit’s leading today. But the practice of applying the truth of God’s Word to our lives remains.

The process is: We hear the principles; we see an example of how they were applied; then we ty to find applications in our day.

Hebrews 13 is a good example. It’s not written by Paul, but shares the same pattern. It begins with teaching and ends with applications. How might we find applications today?

The preacher (Hebrews, scholars tell us, may have been a sermon preserved as a “letter”) begins by urging us to “practice mutual love, but to include strangers also.” The church is to welcome and encourage one another, but also eagerly welcome visitors. God’s Word (through “angels,” that is, messengers) comes to the church through such strangers!

Hebrews says we are to remember “prisoners” as if we ourselves were prisoners, and those who are being tortured as if it were we ourselves. Hebrews is not referring primarily to common criminals, but more likely to political and religious prisoners. This “as if” is an application of Jesus’ summary of all religion to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We’re invited to think of someone in our life—a neighbor, a fellow worker, someone we meet—How would we want to be treated if we were in their shoes? This one question is enough to lead our Christian life!

Hebrews’ statement on marriage, that it be held in honor by all, urges upon us the importance of promises. It directs us to keep our own promises and to help others keep their promises. As an example take the promises of childhood baptism. By their promises, the congregation takes on the role of parents. Baptism calls us to keep our promises, and to help parents keep their promises. The great symbol of this “covenant keeping” throughout scripture is marriage.

We’re urged to “keep ourselves free from love of money,” and to “be content.” We’re reminded of Jesus teaching that we “can’t serve two masters”: One we love, the other we hate. Perhaps this is the principle behind Paul’s letter to Philemon? Philemon needs to be free from an economic system that makes him believe he requires slaves. Onesimus needs to be free from his earthly master to serve a heavenly one. The questions for us are: How are we trying to serve two masters? And, How are we in the role of a master to someone else?

The final injunction from this passage in Hebrews is to remember our church leaders. Obviously to be a leader is to have followers. In the church, everyone, including leaders, is a follower of Christ. Paul tells us that Christ is the head of his Body the church. Together, leaders and followers grow into Christ. We’re always following, and always growing, because, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Church leaders have additional pressure on them because they are leading others in following Christ. How often do we pray for our leaders?

We grow together as the church, but we also grow as individuals. And to do this, we have to be guided by the Spirit. To “conspire” usually makes us think of secretly collaborating with others in some usually illegal activity. But literally conspire means “to breathe with.” Like Graham Hess saving his son Morgan, the Bible calls us to conspire with God, to breathe with the Spirit, and in doing so to live into and bring about the Kingdom of God.

In scuba diving, if there is an emergency failure of air for a diver, a fellow diver shares air as a “buddy.” They engage in “buddy breathing,” passing the air from the good tank back and forth so that both divers can return to the surface. This is an image we can remember to live into God’s Kingdom. We are to breathe with God’s Spirit, to conspire with God, to turn our attention to God’s presence and leading at any moment in the day.

Imagine the effect upon your life and upon those around you if you would conspire with God in this way?!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Some people avoid interpreting the Bible for their own lives, preferring to simply lift biblical statements out of their context and dropping them into our own. How do you respond to the invitation to the harder work of interpretation? What are some examples of how you have interpreted the Bible for your own situation?
  • When have you been surprised by the Word of God coming to you through an “angelic” stranger?
  • How do you help others keep their promises? How are you doing at keeping your own?
  • In what ways are you trying to serve two masters? Or how are you limiting the freedom of someone else to serve God?
  • How often do you pray for your pastor and the other leaders in your church? Do you just assume they are “covered” by their professional association with God? How do you pray for other leaders whom you follow?
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