KOINONIA      |           Hebrews 2:10-18   |   12/30/2007

If you are looking for the perfect conversation-starter as you head out to that New Year’s Eve party, the American Dialect Society has a great one for you: What is your nomination for the “Word of the Year”.

Every December 31, the ADS sifts through hundreds of neologisms (new words) coined during the previous year and picks one to lift up for an award. In 2006 the word was “plutoed” — a reference to the fact that the planet
Pluto
was declassified as a planet by some astronomers. “Plutoed” means to demote or devalue someone or something as in, “No Christmas bonus. Totally plutoed by my boss!”

The runner-up Word of the Year in 2006 was “climate canary” — any species whose extinction might indicate the destructive onset of global climate change. In 2005 the word of the year was “truthiness” — a word spawned by fake news reporter
Stephen Colbert meaning, “what one wishes to be the truth regardless of the facts.”

You get the idea. The 2007 Word of the Year hasn't been decided yet, but there is a biblical word we can consider for the coming year.

On this last Sunday of the year, the writer of Hebrews gives us a possible “word of the year” candidate to ponder. As we learned in Biblical Exegesis 101, the repetition of certain words and phrases in a particular passage indicates their emphasis and importance. Look at Hebrews 2:10-18 and the words that jump off the page are those concerned with family relationships: father (once), brothers and sisters (3 times) — and children (3 times).

Put it all in context and you could suggest that the neologism for 2007 could be "KOINONIA." The Greek New Testament word koinonia reflects the special divine, fulfilling and grace-filled relationship Christians have with one another. True Christian fellowship is koinonia.

However,  the thrust of the text is aimed, of course, at explaining the function of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus became “like his brothers and sisters in every respect” (v. 17) by sharing “flesh and blood” (v. 14) with them, suffering with and for them and thus “he is able to help those who are being tested” (v. 18). It’s Jesus’ identification with humanity that enables him to act as a “high priest” and mediate the forgiveness of God’s children through his own atoning sacrifice on their behalf (v. 17).

It is instructive to realize, though, that the writer of Hebrews ties the incarnation to suffering.
Jesus, “the pioneer of their salvation,” became “perfect,” literally, brought to completion through his identification with human pain (v. 10),

Verse 10It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

taking it on all the way through death itself (v. 14).

Verse 14Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.

Through Jesus’ suffering and death, his human brothers and sisters find the way of healing, wholeness and new life. The Father God is not a distant deity who looks over the suffering of humanity with dispassionate judgment, but a God who enters the lives of his children by coming in person and coming alongside them as they deal with the pain and joy of life.

Biblically speaking, “family values” are not about the acquisition of stuff or about self-indulgence but about the Jesus-modeled life of sacrifice, service and self-denial. Change happens only when God’s children take on God’s character and concern for the whole world.

The good news is that we serve a God who meets us right in the midst of human suffering. A God who became brother, child, human, and who was acquainted with our grief, our hurts, our struggles, our pains, our fits and starts in the attempt to be a true human family. In Christ, God wrestled with all that it means to be broken humanity and showed us the way to be whole.

We often refer to the church as a “family.” This might be a great time for us as a congregation to define what that means in terms of the coming year. What can we do to strengthen our relationships with each other, and, even more, help us strengthen our relationship with God?

The point of this text is that
Christ
came in human form so that God might be in full communion with us.

As the family of God, our koinonia is the good news that in an age of increasing interpersonal alienation God is the one who really can say “I understand.”

God, through
Christ
, knows our grief, our joys, our sorrows, our hopes and dreams. This is good news when many will wake up on January 1 saying, “Wow, another year has passed, I’m still lonely and no one really cares.”

The good news is that God has given us one another, the body of
Christ, made us more than friends, but family in the Spirit of God. Moreover, we are called to share that good news which can offer the same hope to others, inviting them to relationship with Christ, not just to be members of a church.


That is what people want, relationship.

 

What will we be doing to help promote the "koinonia," the “family values” of God next year?

Maybe if koinonia, Father, or
Jesus were the number one word on the lips of people as the year begins, the year-end would look a lot different!

 

Go in peace, and remain in koinonia with God and each other. Amen.

Rev. Rosemary Stelz


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Sources:

American Dialect Web Site. americandialect.org. Retrieved
June 19, 2007.

Pluto’s revenge: Word of the Year Award.” CNN Web Site, January 7, 2007. cnn.com/2007/US/01/07/word.of.the.year/index.html. Retrieved June 19, 2007.


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