Heather Kramer serves as a volunteer cabin counselor and chaplain at Camp Fowler. She is currently enrolled at Western Theological Seminary under the care of Schenectady Classis.
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
I was thinking about the story The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss, the other day. It’s the tale of a small boy, Bartholomew, who gets an unintended audience with the king. Bartholomew starts out wearing one hat, and a rather plain one at that. The king insists that Bartholomew remove his hat. Each time he tries, however, another appears, until he has gone through 500 hats.
This story had me thinking about hats in general, as a metaphor for our roles in life. If we think about it, we all wear a lot of “hats” in our lifetime: daughter/son, student, friend, employee. Jesus wore many hats, too. He was a student in the temple; he was a carpenter; he was a servant; he was a teacher and a minister. Jesus is the special son of God.
In the letter to the Hebrews, Jesus is called the chief priest. That’s a really important hat! A chief priest in the tradition and history of the letter was a sacred hat to have. It was not the same vocation that a priest has now. There was a special ceremony to appoint the chief priest. The chief priest’s most important responsibility was to pass through the temple, which was God’s house. He could only do that once a year, and he was the only one, ever, who was allowed to do so.
In Hebrews 4:14, Jesus passed through the heavens. Jesus, as chief priest, carried his own blood into the most holy place in heaven so that God could forgive our sins. The other hat Jesus wore was one of a person. God sent his son to walk with us in human form so that he might know the same struggles and trials and experiences that all people know. This is the hat that qualified Jesus to be our chief priest. Only a person can act on behalf of other men and women as their chief priest. Only a human could ever know how difficult it can be to obey God, and truly sympathize with our weaknesses.
Because Jesus wore the hats that he did, we can pray with active belief and trust in God. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can pray with confidence because of that faith. Jesus is the king who sits on the throne in heaven, next to God the Father. He has the highest honor in heaven and earth. For the Hebrews, the throne of a king would have been a place of terror. This was where judgment was meted out. But this isn’t so for God’s people, because Christ receives us with grace, and part of grace is kindness. We may approach the throne through prayer, and thankfully we are met with kindness.
The king in the Dr. Seuss story was silly and unreasonable. He lost his temper and had the power to punish Bartholomew. The kings of biblical times could also be unreasonable and act on a whim. However, in Jesus we have a king who has worn as many hats as we have worn. He knows how we suffer. He knows joy. He is not like the kings of fiction or history because we are welcome in his presence. We have an audience with an advocate who will meet us with grace and kindness.
Prayer: For the gift of knowing that you have been Emmanuel, God with us, we are grateful. For the knowledge that you are our chief priest who has judged us with grace, we are humbled and, therefore, better able to wear our many hats in our daily lives. Thank you for your kindness. Amen.
The 2015 Lenten reflections were submitted by staff, volunteers, board members, campers, and friends who have spent time at Camp Fowler in New York.
For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to:
Read the passage.
Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.