Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. – Hebrews 2:1 (NRSV)
Growing up in the Arizona desert, I didn’t know much about boats until the summer I worked at a YMCA camp in Pennsylvania and led canoe trips down the Delaware River. It only took a day to learn that an unmoored boat didn’t need a big wind to blow it downstream. If it wasn’t secured to a rock or tree, a canoe drifted away in the slightest current.
Whoever wrote the Letter to the Hebrews also knew how easily things, or people, could go adrift. The author may have been writing to a community caught in the storm of Roman persecution. But they may have faced the more mundane challenge of keeping a community from drifting away from one another and their faith.
As in our time, lots of things could distract the early Christians from their faith and from gathering together. Roman imperial spectacles and gladiator fights provided more excitement than a weekly worship service. Mystery cults and emperor worship promised more immediate benefits, spiritually and otherwise. The author had their work cut out for them when it came to keeping their community focused and faithful.
Moreover, as with most letters and sermons, the author may have been writing as much to themself as to their congregation. I know I can (and do) drift away from God’s presence as easily as anyone in the community I serve.
I need to remember the lesson learned on the Delaware River, and wrap my life around God’s word as securely as a canoe line tied to a sturdy tree. Perhaps you do, too.
Secure us with your presence, Lord, lest we drift away from you. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.