We Are the Household of Faith
“We Are the Household of Faith”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2016
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122
Preparation is an activity that isn’t used very often. We wait until the last minute and in so doing, we find a gap in our lives which prevents us from being comfortable and secure, and with lasting peace. The time of Advent in the Church is a time of preparing us so we won’t be caught unaware, missing something important. In the Old Testament, there is a prophecy about this time. Isaiah tells us that God was preparing something very special for mankind. In the beginning, God created man in His image and likeness, to function as He did on earth and as He’s now doing in heaven. We always pray “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. We pray it but we don’t believe it because we think the world is evil and life itself is filled with iniquity; so we don’t prepare ourselves to do what we should.
In Isaiah 2, we read that “In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains….” In the world today, we don’t see the Church as being the highest entity, with the important ministry of being a light to the world, telling people what to do and what not to do – even if this was prophesied. “It will be raised above the hills and all the nations will stream to it.” This isn’t happening because today, we see people leaving the Church rather than streaming to it. It appears that the prophecy spoken through Isaiah has not come to fullness in our lives. I believe very strongly that the things that God has done are very powerful and everlasting. It’s our unbelief and lack of knowledge that prevent them from coming to our lives. The prophecies tell us that there will be a time of great turmoil in the world, but for those walking with God, there is peace, confidence about the future and great hope. In our meeting with priests this past week, one said to me that he struggles with what I say, that I don’t believe in the devil, in sickness. But I believe this to be true because God said He would bless His people, and if we truly believe this, our lives will manifest these blessings. For example, we trust man more than God to do the healing when Scripture tells us that the fullness of healing comes from God.
Advent is a time of preparation for the time when all that God has done will come true in our lives and in the world. It tells of a time when people will rise up and walk in His ways. Recently, I heard a report of Prime Minister Netanyahu on Israel. Israel is a small nation, with a population that is only 1/10 of 1% of the world’s population. It is always attacked and put down as a nation. PM Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations where he said that things are changing for his country because now, nations are coming to them for direction, asking them how they can engage in productive agriculture when they have little water supply, or availing of their technology to prevent computer hacking and the like. 160 nations are coming to Israel for advice and direction because they have developed technologies that are far more advanced than other nations. This is a small nation with a great impact on the world, that others are jealous.
I use that as an illustration of what God intends for the Church to be to the world. When God talks about the Church, He isn’t talking about an institution, an organization or a denomination. Christ doesn’t have division in Himself. There’s no Catholic Christ, no Baptist Christ, no Presbyterian Christ. There’s only one Christ and one Church. These churches may have different functions, but it is one Body. The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed and never rebuilt. If God wants the temple to be the main instrument in building a relationship with His people, why would He allow it to be destroyed? The New Testament tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit; that God’s Spirit dwells in us. We are the Church! The Church is not an organization or a structure. In Israel, they would go to the temple at certain hours in the day to pray. Now we don’t have to go anywhere to pray because God is with us. He never leaves us, even when we fail Him. Psalm 139 tells us that He is always with us, whether we ascend to heaven or descend to hell. We can’t imagine God as being in hell, but what He wants us to understand is that He is with us all the time. He wants us to understand the power that He has put in our lives, and He wants us to bring this to the world around us – an awareness of His love for His people.
The prophecy in Isaiah couldn’t be fulfilled at that time, but is given to a people yet to be born. It challenges us today to be aware of what God has set – that the Church is the highest mountain and that is you and me! We rise up to a point where we rise above the discouragements and failures around us. We are greater than these failures because of the grace and mercy of God within us. The reason why we’re so affected by what’s happening around us is we meditate on them; we follow the news and we get so tied up with it. If we dwell on the things that God has done for us instead, we’ll have peace, we’ll know His grace and mercy and walk in the hope He’s given us.
In the Gospel, we see that even though God has given us everything to live victorious lives, we often fail because we allow other things instead of what Christ has done for us, to rule our lives. Matthew 24:37 tells us that “the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah”. The time of Noah was a time before there was rain. God told Noah that it would rain and asked him to build an ark. Noah didn’t know what an ark was; he didn’t even know what rain was because at that time, it was the dew that watered the earth. He was instructed by God to build an ark to protect his family. I saw a picture of the remnant of the ark in Turkey and it’s huge! The people didn’t know what Noah was building and why he was building it. They didn’t believe him when he told them that rain would come because they didn’t know what rain was. They were busy eating and drinking and enjoying life. They were consumed with life that they wouldn’t heed any warning that would take them away from their enjoyment, until the rains came. By then it was too late because the door had already been closed. This story is being given as a lesson to us, so we won’t wait till the last minute or till our options are gone, but prepare ourselves now for the coming of Christ. Nobody knows exactly when it will be. We will know the season, and if we look at the world today, the season seems to be now. The world is in tremendous turmoil, with wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and other natural and man-made calamities taking place. Some say the end is near; some have even given dates when the end will come. But no one knows; only God does. Christ will come to fulfill the fullness of God’s promises, to fulfill what God created man to be – the fullness of His creation. Many fear His coming, but if you’re prepared, there will be no room for fear because He is a God of love, grace and mercy.
The Epistle (Romans 13) talks about how we prepare for this. “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another….” How many credit card and other debts do we have? Romans focuses on this as the most important aspect of our lives – love. This isn’t an emotional love but a commitment, a relationship, a fulfillment in a person’s life of the grace and mercy of God. When Jesus was asked which of the over 600 laws is the greatest, He said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Abiding by this commandment to love is the fulfillment of the law. This is especially relevant today when there is so much hatred in the hearts of men. We are divided in every way that we have a hard time getting along. Forgiveness isn’t easy when you’ve been wronged; you want to take revenge. When you do, they will hit you back. The only way to stop it is to forgive, to love. Love destroys anger, bitterness and the need for revenge. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. They will have bitterness but you’ll have peace. We are challenged to walk in the light of the Lord. Let’s walk in the example given to us by Christ in the way He lived. When He was hanging on the cross and people were mocking Him, He said, “Father, forgive them….” The people didn’t understand that He was on the cross to pay for our sins and failures. He had to go through pain to do this. He could’ve chosen to die any moment or called on angels, but He chose to suffer for the people who crucified Him and for us, and He wouldn’t die until He had paid for everything that man had done against God. He paid the price for all sin, and He gave us new life with His resurrection.
We are His Church. There’s a song that we used to sing that says we are the household of God. We are His temple. “Here we are at the start committing to each other by His Word and from our hearts. We will build a family in a house that will be a home, and with faith we’ll build it strong. We’ll build a household of faith.” We are the household of faith. In the Old Testament, the image of the Church was a home. It isn’t going to church that matters; it’s living out our salvation daily. “We’ll build a household of faith that together we can make, and when the strong winds blow it won’t fall down. As one in Him we’ll grow and the whole world will know we are a household of faith.” The Church can’t fail because Christ is in our lives. The Church is not an institution but the individual lives that make it – you and me living in compassion. When people hate us we love them. This will destroy the evil.
1 Timothy 3:15 “….the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” This is why I don’t believe in sickness. When I don’t feel well, I don’t accept it. I talk to it: “Christ bore my sickness and He is stronger and greater than you. And He will not fail.” Healing may not come instantly but it will come. At the farm, I talk to the plants: “You were created by God to bring forth fruit”. And they do – big ones. It’s hard work with a lot of pain, but the end product brings glory to God. When I go out, people call me “Bishop”, even if I don’t tell them I’m one. Our lives tell people who we are. This is what God wants for us – a life of ability and abundance, not necessarily of material things, but of peace, confidence and security. Pope Francis said that when you look at the cross and you see failure, you’re looking with fleshly eyes. Because in what we deem as “physical failure”, there’s victory, conquering, overcoming.
As we begin Advent, we want to walk in the light of the Lord. Believing is not enough; it’s acting on what we believe. In so doing, we become the household of love and faith. We become the Church. God allowed the temple to be destroyed because He wants a personal relationship with us. He dwells within us. We are the household of faith, the temple of the Holy Spirit. God loves you. He wants what’s best for you. He’s not angry at you. He has forgiven you and His love will destroy everything that’s against you.