We’re famous for our gingerbread creations. Not because they’re technically perfect (or even close). Because they’re epic. When we do gingerbread, we go big or go home! My personal favorites have been Minis Tirith and Wrigley Field. All of our family and friends know that if they have a gingerbread building question, we’re their people.
Recently, I gave my congregation the task of building their own gingerbread creations. I offered them the materials—graham crackers, powdered sugar, eggs, candy. One thing I didn’t offer them—directions.
Their houses teetered sideways. Their roofs sagged. The candy slid, and the walls just plain fell over. Ours stood tall. Ours stood because there were some things we knew they didn’t.
- We knew the proportions of sugar to egg white to tartar.
- We knew that if you don’t beat that icing for a full five minutes, it will not hold.
- We knew that if you do, it will hold FOREVER.
- We knew that using a cardboard box as a foundation is technically cheating, but it works.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house.
But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.
Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.” (Hebrews 3)
The writer of Hebrews urges—Think carefully! Literally, pay close attention! To what? To Jesus. Notice him. Keep your eyes on him. Watch how he builds a house.
It makes sense. If you wanted to learn how to play cello and you had YoYo Ma in front of you, you’d watch, not drift off into scrolling Instagram.
If you wanted to rehab your kitchen and Chip and Joanna Gaines offered to come on over, you’d follow closely, not flip through a magazine while they worked.
So here in Hebrews, we’re begged—Watch Jesus. Pay attention! Why? Because he’s the builder of our house. And he’s made us a partner in the process. He’s the master craftsman, and we’re the apprentices.
He knows a few things about building a spiritual house that we do not.
The writer goes on to use the Israelites as an example of the wrong way to build a house.
In the wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, they were supposed to obey, believe, and build their own “house” based on the blueprints of being God’s people.
They built a different kind of house, based not on God’s instructions but on—
- their fears (we can’t conquer them!),
- their ideas of power (rely on might and numbers rather than God),
- their belief in compromise (we can use some of their god, some of ours)
Their house was a train wreck. It had bad pipes, termites, a backed up sewer, and flocked wallpaper ALL over.
To build a lasting faith house, we need to become an attentive apprentice to the Master Builder. There is no other way. He has the blueprints to our life that work, and we don’t even know how to pour a decent foundation. Hebrews’ author urges us:
Pay attention. Do as Jesus does. Speak as he speaks. Treat others as he treats others. Watch, listen, do. That’s what apprentices do. That’s how they become master craftspersons. They watch.
Watching and learning is a long haul process. We don’t learn to play the cello with five minutes of practice every couple days. I won’t learn to write by putting down a few sentences every other day. A builder won’t succeed by nailing together a couple boards five times a week.
It’s long haul, focused, attention-paying work.
A gingerbread house built with two-minute frosting will fall. It takes mixing, blending, spinning that KitchenAid longer than you imagine is necessary when you look in the bowl. But less than that, it ends up sliding down on the foundation.
Less than daily focused attention to Jesus, soaking in all he has to teach us, intentionally doing what we see, leads to the same thing in our lives. We can try shortcuts, giving him our attention every so often, seeking his example when we’re in trouble but not otherwise. If we do, our facade might even look good for a while.
But the icing will not hold.
Eugene Peterson wrote: “There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness. Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.”
A sure foundation in Christ cannot be obtained on a tourist visa. We need to stay. Dig in. Focus. Seek daily the things we need to see, hear, do. Only then will we find what the writer of Hebrews offers. Then—“we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.”