Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Soon after the original documents of our New Testament were written, but before they were compiled into a single canon, the Church began to speak of her bishops and presbyters as priests. The idea had not come to the letter writers (Paul, James, Peter et al.) nor to the evangelists. They didn't think of Jesus as a priest.
Only the later authors, especially anonymous writer of Hebrews and John of Patmos (Revelation) thought of Jesus as a priest. Hebrews, fully aware that he was of Davidic (royal) descent rather than Levitic, insisted he was "of the line of Melchizedek," an insight both astonishing and brilliant.
Centuries later, Protestants ministers disavowed the title, but it made sense to the early church that the "president of the assembly" should be called a priest. Our ritual of the Mass is not so unlike the one we imagine as Jesus enters the Heavenly Sanctuary through the "veil" of his passion and death. As the priest holds the body and blood of Jesus, so does the Anointed Christ bear his broken body into the Presence of God. As the congregation holds fast to its confession of faith, so does the whole church offer this sweet-smelling sacrifice in the Heavenly Temple.
As Jesus has offered himself totally, without stint, in God's presence, so must our earthly pastor and his congregations offer themselves with -- not despite -- our history of sin. If he is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters, we cannot be ashamed to stand with him as he presents us to His Father.
In today's gospel we have heard the story of Jesus' calling Levi to be his disciple, and of that gentleman's immediate response. We too have been invited to enter the sanctuary with the Lord, crowding together around our priest as he offers body and blood.
This is not an invitation one can refuse. Nor can anyone quietly say, "But of course I have done that all my life." Rather, we drop whatever we have in hand at this moment to say, "Here I am, Lord. You called me."