Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Building God's House : To Be LIke Him

This is a talk that I gave last week. My friend, Susan, who is temporarily confined to her house (go to her blog for details : ), typed it up from my very messy notes. So thank her for this.


BTW : it may help to know that the speaker before me was Sister Littlefield, who told about the great experience the Elyria Ward had when they decided - as a ward, under the direction of Bishop Steve Huff - to build a house for a disabled member of their ward. That was followed by a song written by Sally De Ford and sung by Mary Beth and Jeanette , accompanied by Jill . Mary played prelude music on her violin. Mary Beth on piano and Catherine on cello played their own arrangement of some Primary songs as the opening song.

[Talk given by Rebecca Holt Stay, September 11, 2009 : Westlake Stake Center : Cleveland Ohio Stake Relief Society Meeting]

Thank you, sisters, my good friends, for the wonderful music this evening which has done so much to bring the spirit here to touch and to teach us.

And thank you to Sister Littlefield and the whole Elyria ward, for so literally helping to build the Kingdom of God.

“They built a house that they dreamed of together.
The built a house with sturdy wall of prayer.
They built a house where riches are now measured
By memories that linger everywhere!”

[note: these are adapted lyrics from the song, Build this House with Me from Sally DeFord’s play, Built Upon the Rock. See her website for details]

The scriptures often use the metaphor of house building.

For example: In Exodus, the two Egyptian midwives refused to obey Pharaoh’s command to kill the Israelite babies. They loved babies. The were MIDWIVES! And saved them so “God dealt well with them. He built them houses.”

I thought about that: what kind of house did God build? A Colonial? A Split Level? Is that what Ex. 1:21 means? NO! of course not. It means He gave them sons and daughters: built them houses.

Since the creation of the world, women have been central in building houses for God’s children—His Sons and Daughters.

When Adam and Eve were married in the Garden, I believe it was under the same everlasting covenant that God offers each of us. The terms of the covenant are that God will give us Land and Seed if we are faithful to Him.

Adam…whose name means “soil, dirt” . . . got some great land: The Garden of Eden: fruits and flowers grow spontaneously. But Eve - her name (Chava in Hebrew) means ‘living things’ = LIFE (L’chaim like in “Fiddler” to Life, to Life, L’Chaim). Eve had no seed; She could not have children in the garden. I personally think that’s why she chose to eat the fruit: in order to bear fruit.

And after the Fall, look at what God commanded each to do: Adam was to labor in the fields to feed his family. Eve to labor in child bearing to create a family.

Same imagery is in the Proclamation to the World: The Family. Father are responsible to provide the necessities of life. Mothers primarily responsible for the nurture of children. We do these together – as Even labored with Adam in the fields and together they taught their children.

Moses 6:58-9 tells us one of the things we are commanded to teach our children – I think it’s a good idea to pay attention when God commands you to do something –

58 Therefore I give unto you a
commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten. . .

Did you catch that: Mothers perform what I call the ordinance of BIRTH: blood and water and spirit are there. And in an ideal world, Fathers would all perform the ordinance of Baptism - being born again of the blood and water and spirit. Now, Which is more important? They are equal before God.

Jesus often used the metaphor of men laboring in the fields or vineyards to talk about building God’s kingdom. The fields are white, ready to harvest = missionary work

There are Two ways to Build God’s House—
1) Give birth to children 2)Baptize new converts

Which is more important? They are equal . We are ALL born and we are all to be BORN AGAIN.

As Paul said: Eph. 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more
strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

We are to be temples (HOUSES) for God to dwell in. But what kind of house are you building? Is it built upon the Rock of Christ? What kind of house did Jesus build? In his mortal lifetime? He was a carpenter, after all. What do the scriptures tell us about how he spent his time and effort?

We know the kind of houses Herod built; Jerusalem temple : one of the wonders of the world….Masada fortress : incredible murals and terraces

We are not told much about Jesus’s political or social, academic or economic success in the scriptures – stuff we can read and know abou Caesar or Herod, Pilate or Midas. We are not told about some fancy interior decorating He did.

We do know what Jesus taught… to Love One Another.

See, that is REAL interior decorating: filling the rooms of our heart with kindness and charity. Think of the scripture stories. Did you notice the pictures on the walls during dinner? [Lots of pictures of Christ with people, healing, teaching,etc]. These show us what HE filled his LIFE and time with. He went about doing good. Building people UP. Loving and Caring for his Father’s House.

The focus is not on what He HAD but what He DID. He healed the sick, like Peter’s mother in law.
The dead He raised : those emotionally or spiritually or LITERALLY dead.
He fed the hungry….the 5000 in the field or the Twelve on a Lake Galilee beach

At that time he said to Peter, If you love me, feed my sheep
If you love me, keep my commandments
If you love me, Love one another.

Jesus said: I do only that which I saw my Father do. Will our children say as they serve, “I do only that which I saw my MOTHER DO”?

Ye are my friends, if you DO what I ask. What incredible friends Elyria turned out to be.

They responded just like the Children of Israel when Moses asked them to help in Building God’s house in Exodus. 35:

4 ¶ And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord
commanded, saying,
5 Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a
willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver . . .
10 And
every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded; [bringing] his boards, his bars, his pillars, and his sockets,
21 And they came, every one whose
heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering dto the work of [building the House].
22 And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, . . .every [one] that offered offered an
offering . . .[offered it] unto the Lord.

Willing and wise hearted friends. Friend is actually a COVENANT title.

The Old Testament talks about two people named “FRIEND”
JETHRO was also called Reuel – friend of God . He was Moses’ father in law; he ordained Moses to the Melchizedek priesthood and taught him how to serve in the church, how to share the burdens and the blessings with others. ‘Friends’ are the High Priests in your ward, the quorum leaders…being good shepherds who train other men to lead and to serve, care for the widows and the orphans.

And RUTH – the feminine form of the name ‘Friend”: I think it’s a new name she took when she converted to belief in Jehovah. (Like Moses’ Egyptian mom: she left Egypt , walked thru the Red Sea and became one of the covenant people taking a new name : Bithyah, which means ‘daughter of Jehovah”.). When Ruth said: Wither thou goest I will go. Wither thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be, my people and Thy God, my God” she was expressing her testimony.. MY PEOPLE is a covenant name of the House of Israel. Ruth’s mother in law, NAOMI, was an older, widowed woman..a member all along. Naomi had a wise heart, she shared practical advice as she encouraged Ruth in her new life in the church.

This is rather like today’s RS sisters who teach Sunday lessons and enrichment and share their wisdom and visit teaching and become friends.

Naomi taught Ruth how to get a job so she could feed herself and Naomi. Ruth went to work for Boaz who noticed her hard work and asked around and found she was taking care of Naomi. He noticed her charity and He chose to be charitable in return. He gave her seeds ; a whole bushel full.

Boaz is called a Near Kinsman which could better be expressed as ‘ Covenant Friend’.

As members of the covenant, we offer to care for one another:
Like in the Book of Mormon
We bear one another’s burdens, comfort, and mourn together, strip wallpaper for a friend, talk to each other, drive to doctor’s appointments, ask about kids and health and job. Comfort…………Mourn….Bear burdens like helping pack 16 tons into moving pods).

Boaz was a covenant friend to Ruth and Naomi

Naomi also taught Ruth social customs and mores, how to let Boaz know she was interested in him as a possible husband ;Ruth returned the kindness Boaz had shown: Ruth found Boaz attractive: She went to him at night on the threshing floor where he and all the workmen were sleeping to protect the harvest. She pulled his cloak over her. He got cold and noticed And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near a
kinsman. He understood. She was interested in Marrying him.

Ruth 3:10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.

He was astonished and highly complimented. She could have had any of the younger men….buff and tan. Boaz was older, maybe balding, with a bit extra weight.

But Ruth saw behind the fa├žade. Saw a GOOD man: Gave Boaz what he needed most. The love of a good woman. She desired him. Soon they married. Ruth and Naomi gave Boaz LAND and he gave them Seed; both food and family.

Ruth gave birth to a son whom she shared with Naomi: Obed who was the grandfather of David.

Children cannot have too much love; find a Naomi in your ward and invite her into your life, your home, your family. Invite her to your sons’ Priesthood Ordinances, forward emails of dating adventures, take her along when your children receive their temple endowments, share their letters and she will be there at the airport holding signs at their mission return and will arrange the flowers at their weddings.

Did Ruth KNOW when she chose to befriend Naomi that she would become the grandmother of King David? Did she know that in building a home, she was building a PALACE?

CS Lewis speaks of this in his book ‘Mere Christianity’ :”Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself (c.s. lewis, Mere Christianity, 174; book 4, chapter 9 paragraph 10)

Ruth, the convert, became the ancestor to Jesus Christ, Himself. He was able to come into the world because of her good choices.

He still comes into the world, and into the lives of our friends because of our choices.

As Ruth got a new name at her conversion and baptism, so we take a new name—HIS NAME: To BE LIKE HIM. And what is His name?

In Exodus 34, Jehovah shared his name with Moses, on the mountain top, at the time Moses went up to receive the 10 commandments the second time :1
And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
2 And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in theatop of the mount.
4 ¶ And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
5 And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, [but] will by no means clear the guilty. . .

As baptized Christians, that is the NAME we have covenanted to take upon ourselves. And we renew that covenant each week as we partake of the sacrament:
Do we keep that promise? Are we each week becoming MORE LIKE HIM? MORE patient and merciful with each other? MORE Gracious and long suffering? More forgiving?

Let us build in our lives and our homes a House of God

Let’s build a house where faith is our foundation
And furnish every room with heaven’s peace

Let’s build a house where hearts are turned to heaven
To God on whom our hopes and dreams depend
He will be our help in all our labors
And make this house a mansion in the end

And we’ll leave a priceless heritage behind us
To bless our children’s children yet to be
With the master Builder’s plan
To guide our willing hands
Won’t you come and build this house with me?

[Sally DeFord]