New and Improved!

The packaging is more colorful, the content is said to be far and away so much better than the old product, and millions of dollars in advertising will be spent to convince you that this “new and improved” product is an absolute “must have” if you are going to have any happiness in your life!

And yet, “New Coke” was a colossal failure.

My home town is Atlanta and the Coca-Cola company reigns supreme. Why, any self-respecting Atlantan wouldn’t be caught with a Pepsi in his hand! But we all had to cringe a bit during the “New Coke” craze. Frankly, it was embarrassing. Thank God it didn’t last too long and the tried and true “Original Formula” was trotted back into the market place! Whew, that was a close call.

A lot of marketing of consumer products in this country is just so much bluster all meant to separate you from your money. It’s nothing but smoke and mirrors and sharp advertising that really doesn’t deliver on the promises the marketing makes. No wonder the old saying is “buyer beware!”

But sometimes better really is better.

Especially when you are thinking and contemplating God’s loving plan to teach we humans how to get back to Him, the Only Source for Life and Joy.

It is also the reason why we Christians still hold on to and cherish the Hebrew scriptures of our Jewish past! The scriptures, wisdom, beauty, and massive icon of God’s love that is the Hebrew scriptures is such a treasure house of insight and beauty and wisdom that to remain ignorant of these holy scriptures is tantamount to choosing slavery over freedom. And the main reason for this is that these holy scriptures reveal to us the lengths that our loving God goes to to bring us back to Himself.

The crushing and cosmic tragedy of the Garden when our first parents misused their hunger and their desire for truth to sell creation into slavery, was so thoroughly pervasive that we really needed, no, actually Required, the whole Old Testament system of Temple, Commandments, Sacrifices, and Levitical Priesthood, times of slavery, and times of freedom, stories of heroes and heroines, prophets, priests, kings, wars, murder, mayhem, shame, sin and repentance, to show us just how cosmically tragic this “fall” in the Garden really was. We need this story to show us and bring us to the fulfillment of all those promises in the Old Testament by the time we get to an Archangel visiting a Young Woman in the Temple.

Let’s face it, some mistakes require severe remedial training!

That’s why our Epistle Lesson says what it says today. The writer of the amazing Epistle to the Hebrews uses a word in this book over and over again. It is the word “better.” And today’s lesson makes it clear why.

Look at Hebrews 8:1-6. It says: “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.”

Those who lived before Christ came, look forward to the time Christ came. Those of us who live after Christ came, look back to the time Christ came. Regardless of when we are, we look to Christ. Because Christ makes real the promise of all those Old Testament lesson and shows us the true meaning of all that gracious and God inspired wisdom that finally brought Christ to our world.

So, today, don’t despise yourself by ignoring the wisdom the Church constantly draws from these precious words in the First Testament. Listen during the Divine Liturgy to the Psalms being chanted, those ancient and ever new words written long before our Lord walked in flesh among us. He is the Author of those words and they contain for us such spiritual treasures that we desperately need if we are to ever appreciate the message of our Lord Jesus in His “New” Testament.

We will never fully appreciate the “better” covenant Jesus gives us, and the “better” promises He makes to and for us, if we ignore and dismiss the wonders, wisdom, and beauty of His “First” Testament to us.

Today, if you are really ever going to have the spiritual foundation to persevere in living a purposeful Orthodox Christian life, you are going to need the spiritual nourishment of these holy scriptures and this abundant spiritual wisdom. Take a moment and make it a habit to read and contemplate the scriptures in the front of your Bible. You will never fully appreciate how much “better” the Good News of Jesus really is without a strong familiarity with this timeless wisdom.

Today, read the Psalms. Read Genesis. Read Isaiah. Read and know and love all the scriptures that make the message of Christ so much BETTER!

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