September 2, 2012
Adult Bible Study Online
A current connection to each week’s session
1. Faith: Gathering in God’s Presence
You’ve surely noticed an ugly debate developing over the past few years, often
around Christmastime. It might be about a decorated tree in a local legislature
("Christmas tree controversy...": USA Today). Or maybe it’s about the Ten
Commandments in a local school ("New twist in Ten Commandments school
controversy": CBS). Whatever it is, the heart of the debate seems to be this: Should
public spaces in North America display Judeo-Christian symbols?
If you’re reading Hebrews 10:19-31, you might conclude that we could’ve stopped
worrying about this debate about 2,000 years ago. Then, Old Testament believers
centered much of their faith on a physical location: their temple and, more
specifically, the temple’s holy of holies, a curtained-off space reserved only for
specific priests on specific occasions. But with Jesus, Hebrews reminds us, the Most
Holy Place (v. 19) is available to any of us anytime. As a result, the center of our faith
and worship changed from a physical location to a spiritual communion with Jesus
and with each other.
Thanks to Jesus, we don’t need to rely on physical symbols in any particular location
to worship. We don’t need a Christmas tree in our legislature, or the Ten
Commandments in our child’s school. We just need to follow Scripture’s advice for
faithful living, advice like draw near to God (v. 22), accept forgiveness (v. 22),
encourage one another (v. 24), meet with other Christians routinely (v. 25), and
never stop managing your sin (vv. 26-31).
Of course, symbols can help us to live and worship the way Scripture calls us to. And
the location of those symbols can be useful too. A Christmas tree in front of the
legislature could remind me to be more encouraging the next time I write my
elected official. A picture of the Ten Commandments could remind a local public
school student to share her lunch. But this passage in Hebrews can encourage us to
always keep asking: How do we approach Christian symbolism in a way that puts
Jesus’ message, not our symbols for it, first?
Husband and wife duo Peter Epp and Shanda Hochstetler are our ABSOnline
writers this fall. Peter teaches Mennonite Studies at Mennonite Collegiate Institute,
Gretna, Manitoba. Shanda is completing her Masters of Social Work at the University
of North Dakota. They are members of Portland Mennonite Church and live in
Note from ABS editor: Teachers using the current Adult Bible Study Teacher guide
may notice the smaller font size of the inserted ABS student guide. Last year when
this Fall 2012 teacher’s guide was prepared for publishing, MennoMedia was also
changing design software and designers. The smaller type is simply a mistake that
we discovered after the guides were distributed.
Unfortunately, the Fall 2012 guides were in printing before the problem was
identified. To redo the teacher’s guide at this point is cost prohibitive. We have
corrected the problem starting with the winter 2012–13 quarter.
Given this situation, the next best solution is to use a regular or large print student
guide to prepare that part of the Bible studies. Please receive our sincere apologies
for the inconvenience.
—Sharon Williams, ABS editor