The household of faith (Horizons 8)

Horizons Bible Study 2017-2018
“Cloud of Witnesses: The Community of Christ in Hebrews
Lesson 8: In Community with the Household of Faith (Hebrews 3:1-6, James 2:1-4, Numbers 12:6-8)

“Home is where the heart is.”
— Billie Letts

 “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
— Robert Frost

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
— Maya Angelou

”Home” is such a loaded word.  We all have feelings, smells, music and people associated with the home in which we grew up.   The memories may be full of ordinary comforts: feelings of acceptance and love, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, cherished holiday traditions or the warmth of being snuggled up for a bedtime story.  Our recollections may bring us discomfort because of an alcoholic parent or the insidious message that we did not measure up.  Reminiscences may make us long to go home or desire to never return.

When Scripture talks about “home” it is an equally weighted word. With Abraham and Sarah and for the emancipated Hebrew slaves, home is a life of uneven and ambivalent trust that God will bring them to a new land.  For those carried off into slavery after the temple was demolished, home is the distant f uture of returning to the land and rebuilding the temple.  God promises King David a “house,” which refers to David’s descendants.

A house is both a physical dwelling and a place of delight in God’s presence.  God is the protector of widows and orphans, giving “the desolate a home to live in,” while the “rebellious live in a parched land” (Psalm 68: 5-6).  God blesses the barren woman with a home by making her the “joyous mother of children” (Psalm 113:9). Pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem revel in the gladness of coming into God’s dwelling place, into the presence of the living God, where even the sparrow finds a home in the temple (Psalm 84).  To be with God and to do God’s will is to be at home.

Good parents teach their children compassion, thoughtfulness, right from wrong and how to properly behave in public.  We also teach children who and what a person of faith is and how we trust and love God and neighbor.  In Hebrews 3:1-6, Moses is referred to as “faithful in all God’s house.”  This is a reference to Numbers 12:6-8, in which God admonishes Moses’ siblings for speaking against Moses.  God describes Moses as one to whom God speaks directly in both giving the law and in giving direction to God’s people.  To be faithful in all God’s house is thus being faithful to what God teaches in the Ten Commandments and the rest of the law.

The Mosaic Law is like a house’s foundation.  To build a well-constructed home, the ground must be made level and “footings” (rectangular concrete bases broader than the wall) are set.  The footing bears and distributes the weight of the walls.  The law is like the footing, providing a strong foundation on which the “weight” of life can be distributed.  To be faithful in God’s house is to construct a way of living that honors God and neighbors through justice, mercy and compassion.

Teaching children compassion is a hot topic because of bullying at school and on social media.  Like faith, compassion is both “caught” and taught.  Children catch on to the compassion that they receive from adults and the acts of kindness that they see their parents do.  When caring for others is talked about, it is reinforced as a priority in the family.  However, if parents talk to their children or to other people in demeaning ways, then meanness is taught to children.

The household of faith refers to the life of community who seek to be faithful to God.  New Testament letter writers use a lot of ink describing the Christian life.  Romans 12:9-21 is referred to as “the marks of a true Christian” and teaches, among many other things, to “love another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. … Bless those who persecute you.”

1 Corinthians 13 is a lengthy description of the importance of Christian love.  James reminds the congregation to not show partiality to the rich and to do deeds of compassion in feeding the hungry and clothing those in need (James 2:1-4, 2:14-16, respectively).

Christians show hospitality to strangers. Kitty, in her 80s, still enjoys cooking for family gatherings.  She talked about her home as a place to welcome her children’s friends, international students who couldn’t go home and anyone who needed the warmth of welcoming love.  The Christian household of faith are people who dwell in God’s love and from whom God’s love flows outward into kindness, justice and mercy.

rosalind-banburyRosalind Banbury is the interim pastor of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia.

You can purchase the PW/Horizons Bible study book through the PC(USA) Church Store.