A new and living way 

What is it about we humans? Whether we are talking Polynesian tribal taboos or the gothic cathedrals of Europe our art and our activity bear witness to our irresistible pull towards the sacred.  

As Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Hamlet:  

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” 

In other words, we can’t shake loose the belief that there is more to life than can be measured on a spreadsheet. Despite the Scotland 2022 census concluding that 51% of our neighbours are non-religious the fact is many people are reporting a holy discontent and looking for something beyond themselves, people (dare I say it) like Russell Brand.  

A Great Awe

Kenneth Grahame captures this draw to awe and otherworldliness in his classic book “The Wind in the Willows”.  

‘This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,’ whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. ‘Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!’ 

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror—indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy—but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew. 

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper. 

A Sacred Space

So, what has all this to do with Hebrews 9!?  

The fact is the book of Hebrews is saturated in the Old Testament and aims to show us how the hopes and history of the Hebrew people were brought to fulfilment in Jesus.   

These Hebrew people bear witness to our human passion for communion with God. The Psalmist puts words to the heart cry for God’s presence:    

 “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” Psalm 61:3-5 

That longing for his awesome presence is expressed in the worship of the tabernacle and temple which host the thinnest spiritual membrane between earth and heaven, the holy of Holies. The most sacred space on earth. Yet to read the story of Israel’s worship only serves to show how detached we are from God and how costly it is to reconnect with God.  

Hebrews 2 tells us that God’s great plan, executed in Jesus, is to bring many children to glory v2:10-13. That is to bring us home to dwell with in his glorious presence. In chapters 9 and 10 we hear the wonderful message that Jesus’ work does not end with forgiving our sins and making us right with God but qualifies us to directly access the most holy place and to dwell in God’s presence.  

As we approach this Sunday with all our presumptions and preferences around corporate worship why not take time to ready your heart by recalling the privilege to us and the cost to Jesus of breaking open that “new and living way” into the sacred presence of God.