Living as an Insider; Living as an Outsider

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by Rich Nelson

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’

(from Hebrews 4:14-5:6)

On the day of my ordination to the priesthood, the bishop handed me a Bible on which he had inscribed on the inside cover (in immaculate penmanship), “a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” I confess that the name rang a bell but I had to crack open my reference books to look up who “Melchizedek” was and just what in the world he had to do with the rest of my life, much less my forever.

Turns out Melchizedek has more to do with all our lives than I ever realized. In Genesis 14, he is the Canaanite (non-Hebrew!) priest who blesses Abram, the father of God’s people Israel, with the gift of bread and wine. Abram is blessed and legitimated by an outsider! Now, in the New Testatment book of Hebrews, Christ is accorded priestly lineage by Melchizedek, not by the levitical priesthood of the Israelites. Thus, Christ is proclaimed a priest of the outsider tradition! And on that day ten years ago, I was charged with being one too.

Our legitimacy as Christ-bearers to the world is one of cosmic significance with a lineage that predates even our Judeo-Christian tradition. It is a call for all times and places. It is a call borne out of the kairotic time of the resurrection, not the chronological time of history. We are not Jesus, but though the power of the Holy Spirit we are commissioned by Jesus to be Christ.

Is that who we are? Are we living our lives as the “for ever” incarnation of the priesthood of Christ or are we mere worshipping admirers of Jesus? My answer to that question has shaped my concept of who I am called to be as a priest and as a person. More importantly, our collective answer to that question shapes who we believe we are called to be in a resurrection world. Are we people of the “insider tradition” whose job it is to preside from behind the ornate constructions of our religion? Or are we instead called to go out beyond the walls of the city, to stand waist-deep in the sewers and proclaim them sacred?

Read for yourself Genesis 14:13-24. What part of our life is lived from an “insider” position? What part of your life is lived from an “outsider” position? How well does this align with our call to follow Jesus and incarnate Christ?


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