For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever.
The second voice from our Reformed tradition that I invite you to listen to is Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). Influenced by the German Romantic movement, Schleiermacher was a preacher and theologian who tried to make religion believable to people with modern assumptions. With his definition of religion as ‘the feeling of absolute dependence on God’, he is regarded by some as the founder of modern theology.
What was singularly important to Schleiermacher about the earthly Jesus was his unbroken consciousness of God and relationship with God. By virtue of this, Christ remains the advocate on behalf of the entire human race. Like a high priest, Christ brings our prayers before God and delivers divine blessings to us. At the same time, though, Christ is the end of individual human priesthood traditionally understood. Christ passes his priestly activity to the communal body of the faithful in such a way that Christians as a whole are called a priestly people. The Church’s mission is to be Christ’s advocate to the entire human race (Christian Faith, §104.5-6).
One of the most powerful parts of the Gospel message we advocate is the belief that Christ offered himself as an atoning sacrifice for sin “once for all.” The Cross towers over all disputes about who did what to whom, claiming that the price has been paid, reparation has been made, and redemption has been achieved for all who embrace it. We embrace redemption when we let go of our grievances, and our achievements, and lay them at the foot of the Cross. Christ’s perfect once-for-all self-sacrifice on the Cross reduces our grievance and achievement tally to zero. This is not, or ought not to be, license to neglect justice. It is rather the permission to regard oneself and others as equally loved and redeemed sinners in the sight of God. Schleiermacher believed that we need to feel redemption—affectively—in order to believe and experience it. Redemption necessarily involves heart and head and body.
O God our Redeemer, we sometimes find it difficult to let go of our grievances and achievements. In such times, set before us the once-for-all offering of Jesus. Let his perfect God-consciousness reset our grievance and achievement tally to zero, and liberate us in heart and head and action to share his blessedness.
The Rev’d Julian Templeton, Minister, St John’s URC, New Barnet