Cloud of Witnesses
In Community with Jesus Christ
Scripture: Genesis 13:24; Genesis 1:26–27; Hebrews 1:1–4; 4:14–5:10; Genesis 14:18–20; Hebrews 7:26–28
2017 marks the 10th birthday of the iPhone. From my perspective, it seems as though that omnipresent device has been around much longer than a decade. Think of all the ways its innovations change how we communicate. Many of us now take the Internet with us everywhere in our pockets, with immediate access to social media, games, email, and messaging. We are connected to our world in ways we never previously imagined.
I’m an Android user, and Droids operate in the same sphere opened up by the iPhone revolution. Every single day I check news updates that connect me with places I’ll never go by helping me to know the issues other people face. I see social media postings from people I haven’t seen in decades, or who live on the other side of the world. My phone doesn’t substitute for face-to-face interactions, but it keeps me connected to people and places I would otherwise never see.
Connection and community: these are needs of every human soul. We were not made to be alone; we were made to exist alongside of, with, and for each other. We were made to know and to be known. We were made to care and to be cared for. That is who we are.
Connection: that is the theme of the PW/Horizons Bible Study for 2017–18. The title of the study is Cloud of Witnesses: The Community of Christ in Hebrews. We Presbyterians love to talk about connectedness. We are connected to the tradition, to our neighborhoods, to the people we care about, to other faith communities, to God. We explore many types of connections in this year’s study.
I felt honored to be chosen to write this year’s study, though I admit Hebrews was a bit of a challenge! Hebrews is long, complex, and deeply theological. Great qualities, all, but they are difficult to condense into nine lessons. I decided to focus the study on nine of the themes that are important to the writer of Hebrews. The overall theme of community ties all the lessons together and emphasizes the fact that the letter was sent to a particular community that was under duress and needed to stay in communion with the God who loves them and the people who support them.
The first lesson of the study is about being in community with Jesus the Christ. This idea is by far the most important theme of Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews believes the main answer for the troubled community is to stay connected to Jesus. Christ is our great high priest and mediator, says the writer. This calls to mind the notion that we can commune directly with God, a type of communion that has brought people strength in challenging times throughout every century.
Communing, communication, community, and connections—whether we are praying or participating in worship, Facebooking or browsing through an old photo album, conversing over a smartphone or sharing coffee, communicating with God and people gives us purpose, hope, and energy to carry on.
As you begin this study, may you reflect on the gifts that come to you through community. And may you communicate those gifts with those close to you and with those you come to know.
Melissa Bane Sevier
Look for the Cloud of Witnesses blogs by the first of the months of September (lesson two), October (lesson three), November (lesson four), December (lesson five), January (lesson six), February (lesson seven), March (lesson eight), and April (lesson nine).
Purchase a Cloud of Witnesses study book and study along with us.
Call Presbyterian Distribution Service at 800/533-4371 or order online —item # HZN17100, $10.00.