Failing in faith can lead to estrangement, as the prophet Jeremiah declares in the scripture reading. The broken relationship between God and God's people is not God's fault. Rather, Jeremiah points to every level of community leadership for the failure; priests, scribes and scholars of the Law, political leaders, and even the palace prophets.
Led to pursue worthless idols - Baal gods - God's people have acted as if there is no covenant. Having forsaken their God, they've chosen a poor substitute. And their prosperity will be forsaken as well.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, we gain a glimpse into the conditions of Christian community at the end of the first century, about 70 years since Jesus and the start of his post-resurrection movement at Pentecost. Time are tough for many Christian communities as those faithful to Jesus find themselves facing persecution and punishment from all sides.
Our selection is a recap of what was said earlier. The emphasis is on the strength of the community. As the NRSV aptly puts the opening of chapter 13, the writer says: "Let mutual love continue." The exhortations that follow make it clear that mutuality cannot be sacrificed under the difficult conditions being faced. In fact, mutuality must become even more pronounced.
The memorable verse, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels unawares" (13:2), recalls Abraham and Sarah's encounter in Genesis with strange visitors. It should also remind us of the faith required in trusting God the stranger, and Jesus the stranger in all circumstances.
To find out more on this, there is the sermon video below, and downloads below the video panel.