Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The heavenly calling here on earth

I used to think the book of Hebrews was all about Jesus and his supremacy. Which it is, but it also has a lot to say about our multifaceted salvation -- that it's for here and now and also for heaven and later.

And so chapter 3 opens with a call to those with the heavenly calling (for heaven and later) -- a call to fix our thoughts on Jesus (for here and now):
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
Hebrews 3:1
What does salvation have to do with fixing our thoughts on Jesus? According to Csikszentmihalyi's Flow, "we are the prey of thoughts and worries intruding unwanted in consciousness" (p. 58) -- "What if this happens?" "Why did (or didn't) I say that? " ...and so on. To the extent that we fix our thoughts on Jesus, our thoughts will be off our unproductive anxieties and regrets; they'll be aimed somewhere higher. We'll be saved, then, from our tendency to obsess over those useless anxieties and regrets.
He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
Hebrews 3:2-6
We are his house, it says; we are not a collection of miscellaneous parts, scrap lumber and bricks and such, but a real house, a place where Christ our brother lives.

This must have been an astonishing idea to its first-century readers. To them, God filled heaven and earth; only his Name dwelt in the Temple. And it was the Temple in Jerusalem; they had to travel there to be near it. The Temple was also divided into several zones: the court of the Gentiles, the court of the women, (I'm not sure of the order here) and so on, and inward to the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. To enter the inner areas required very specific qualifications, and some places could be entered only by one person, and only on one day of the year. So to think of actually being Jesus Christ's house must have been hard to imagine, maybe downright shocking.

And how do we become and remain his house? By doing great things, by observing religious rituals, by making ourselves perfect? No -- by holding on to our courage and hope. By faith, in other words.

But does this make faith another kind of job -- we do the "faith" thing and our compensation is salvation in heaven? No, I'm going to say it's more like holding a winning lottery ticket -- but to redeem it you have to travel some miles to the redemption center in Sacramento. If you hold on to your ticket all the way to Sacramento, you get the prize.

Does that mean you earn the prize by traveling to Sacramento? No, the prize is already yours. But you have to hold on to your hope when your car's radiator starts spewing steam, the train breaks down, you make a wrong turn somewhere, or whatever.

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