Anchored: Part One – Firm Footing For A World in Flux
I. Learning to Pivot
The Church has always had to adapt and seek ways to love through all kinds of challenging circumstances. This situation may be unique in our time, but it is not unique to the church.
During the plagues of the 3rd century, we read of reports in the history books of Christian people running toward areas were there were outbreaks of infection to care for the sick and dying when everyone else was running away (see Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria in Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 7.22.7-10).
“There was a severe plague in the Roman empire in the mid-third century. In North Africa, bishop Cyprian wrote about how this tested the humanity of all, “whether the well care for the sick, whether relatives dutifully love their kinsmen as they should, whether masters show compassion for their ailing slaves, whether physicians do not desert the afflicted.” Above all, Christians could show their neighbours that they did not fear death.”
- Bruce Hindmarsh, Coronavirus and the Communion of the Saints, Regent College, March 23, 2020.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 6:19a.
In our time of truly uncharted waters we have a place that is firm and secure – unmoved – that won’t let us move.
We are moored to an unmovable object – or better an unmovable Person. The “Hope” that the writer speaks of is the promises of God – the promise that we have access to the very throne of God; that we come to before God almighty and find his grace in our times of need. This hope goes well beyond the temporal as well. It is eternal.
II. Love in the Midst of Disruption
Context of the Letter of Hebrews:
- We don’t know who wrote this letter-form sermon, or the really anything about the church that received it.
- This was a group under intense pressure – we don’t know who they are because they were likely wiped out and scattered due to intense persecution.
- So when we read this letter, we are reading about how to focus our attention – how to think and act in a time of crisis. These words are what the author really wanted the church to grasp in their moment.
- “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” – Hebrews 13:1
“It’s times like these you learn to live again. It’s times like these you learn to give and give again. It’s times like these you learn to love again.”
– Dave Grahl of the Foo Fighters, In Times Like These
When we are faced with our own fears there’s this legitimate desire of wanting to go into self-preservation mode.
What are we to do? “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Like, don’t back down, or back away from love in times like these.
- “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” – Hebrews 13:2-3
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers…”
The Greek word for hospitality is philio-xenia. Philo means “love” and xenos means “stranger”.
Xenophobia drive communities of people who are different, apart. Philoxenia calls us to welcome – to love the stranger.
This is our moment to “love the stranger” How?
- Use the phone to connect – not only with your close friends and family, but with those you may be aware of from our church community or your work who may be in particular need of social connection.
- Join our Serve Team to help meet practical needs in the community.
- Give generously to organizations that are continuing to meet the physical needs of our community – Food Bank, Mustard Seed
III. Firm Footing For a World in Flux
“In times like these” we an opportunity to evaluate what really matters and examine where our hope is really planted, what we are really trusting in.
a. Two Warnings and a Promise
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” [Deut 31:6] So I say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” [Ps 118:6-7]. Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:4-8
What or whom do you love? Time of crisis or challenge often reveal what we really love, and where our trust is.
The Hebrews writer warns against inappropriate sexual pursuits and the love of money. In our present setting these are both incredibly significant.
- What are you looking for online? How will you “guard your heart”?
- What does the promise of God say to our present concern about finances?
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8
The same. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow…and every tomorrow after that.
b. The Anchor Himself
How do we connect to God? How do we come to have the hope that actually goes beyond the grave, that can lead us to not be afraid of anything, not even death?
Through trusting in Jesus, and what he has already done for us.
“Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” – Hebrews 13:12
“Let us, then, go out to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” – Hebrews 13:13-14
We can know that God has a future for us – a city that is no longer broken by injustice and ugliness and disease, but full of God’s life. No more tears. We’ll hug and be hugged. There is life eternal awaiting all who trust him.
So why not worry in this time?
We need to wise: to trust God, and wash our hands, and, for those of us who aren’t essential services, to stay in our homes. Yes, we love our neighbors in practical ways, and help stop the spread of this virus. Yes, of course. But we aren’t driven by fear. And ultimately, fear does not have a hold on those who trust in Jesus – the one who makes a way for us to the very throne room of God Almighty. We can live in that hope today.
Because there is a city that God is bringing. There is life beyond this one. And that’s a hope that is an anchor for our souls.
Life Group Study Questions:
Take a few moments to check in with each other.
1. What is one thing you are particularly grateful for this past week? What one challenge did you face?
Take a few moments to open in prayer.
2. What stood out to you from Dave’s message? Encouraged you? Challenged you? Why?
3. Read Hebrews 13:1-3.
a. Why might it be difficult to “keep loving one another” in our current situation?
b. Dave pointed out that the Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, meaning: “love of the stranger.” Take some time to consider how you and your Life Group could take the route of generosity in this time, especially toward those who are “strangers” – who you may not know or know well – whom you could care for:
4. Read Hebrews 13:4-8. Why might knowing that God is present with us keep us from giving in to patterns of sexuality that are inappropriate or from the love of money – and toward contentment?
5. In verse 6 the writer quotes from Psalm 118:6-7. Does it often feel like the Lord is your helper? Why is it important to remind ourselves of this reality – and what is the result according to this text?
6. Read v. 8 again. What difference could knowing this make on a day-to-day basis for you?
7. The writer makes sure to warn us off of taking in wrong-headed ideas about God and how to connect with God. He then focuses our attention on Jesus – and what his blood accomplishes for us. How does knowing that God is preparing a city – an eternal home for us – relativize the fears that we might be experiencing during this time?
8. Look at vv.15-16. How does this encourage you? In what ways will you put these instructions into action this week? Take some time to pray as a group. Pray for specific needs for each other, and for our city. Ask God for creativity and joy as you find ways to reach out in this time.