At the church I serve, Sunday morning worship typically ends with a hymn of response — a time for worshipers to pray at the altar or to share with others the commitments that the Lord is calling them to make. At the end of worship yesterday, however, one of my parishioners came forward simply to say that he was praying for me. He was aware that my family and I have had a somewhat stressful start to the new year; and he wanted me to know that he and others were eager to be there for us — just as we seek to be there for them.
Now, I’m happy to report that I am frequently made aware of my church family’s deep care for me. But it was still meaningful to have a friend speak this care to me in such a direct and timely way. And that, I think, is one of the great gifts that we receive from the Body of Christ when it’s functioning as it should: we know that we never face our challenges alone, because we become “priests to each other” (to borrow Carlyle Marney’s phrase), mediating the love and presence of God. And this priestly ministry that we share with one another enables us to trust all the more fully in the priestly ministry of Christ, which today’s New Testament lesson describes like this:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Today, I give thanks for the “Great High Priest” — and for all the “lower priests” — who continue to help me receive mercy and find grace in my times of need. And I pray that we will always be eager to be “priests to each other”; so that others will know that they’re never alone before the throne.