Did you know that I can be annoying at times (it’s true!!) and I blame Bill Bryson entirely for it. This is because when I’m reading Bryson I will interrupt Gilli reading, a dangerous thing to do, to pass on one of his ‘laugh-out-loud’ gems. One of the reasons I like to read Bryson is our shared interest in etymology. This is the study of the origin of words, of their relationship with words in other languages and their historical development in form and meaning.
A good example of etymology is the word ‘economy’. The root of this word is the Greek word ‘oikos’, which means ‘household’. When we read the word ‘oikos’ we are invited to immerse ourselves into its full-on 4D imagery of the life of a noisy, bustling house. It wants you to pause and smell the baking of a cake or the cooking of a meal. It wants you to hear the sound of games being played and argued over. It wants you to know the stillness of a television being watched and that sudden eruption of laughter, cheers or tears. It wants you to hear the sound of domesticity as floors are hoovered, cars are washed, grass is cut, flower beds weeded, plates being washed or clothes hung on the line.
However, there is also a danger. This is the temptation to merely translate one word for another. Instead of this full-on 4D imagery of a life giving and self-sustaining community, we can reduce it just a balance sheet of merely pounds, shillings and pence with debits recorded on one side and receipts on the other. This temptation to reduce economy, or ‘oikos’, to merely items on a ledger is the same when we think of another ‘oikos’; that of ‘The Household of Faith’.
The etymology for this ‘oikos’ is vast and stretches throughout the whole Bible. If you listen carefully you can hear God promising to Abraham a house through whom the whole world would be blessed. You can hear God command Moses to build a house, or Tabernacle, for him to dwell in. You can hear God promise to David a house that will last forever when David wishes to build God a house. You can hear the Prophets’ thunder against the Temple and the house of David but yet gently promise the renewal of both houses. You can hear Jesus shock his listeners by saying that he would raise this house in three days even though the Temple had taken over 40 years to build.
When Paul says to the churches YOU ARE the ‘Household of Faith’ his focus isn’t a convenient metaphor, but a story filled with the love and glory of God. May this full-on 4D story excite and inspire us to live as the ‘Household of Faith’, as the ‘oikos’ of God here in this place.