The book of Hebrews has a theme, or I should say, it has something to prove. The unknown author wants us to know that Jesus is our temple, our sanctuary, our high altar that we cling to in times of distress, our song that we sing both in joy and sorrow. Everything that religious people seek for as they bring their sacrifices to the various altars that are constructed around the world, we as Christians find in something that is invisible; our faith in God through Jesus.
Most scholars believe that the book of Hebrews was written shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The great temple that Solomon had laid the foundation for, and which Zerubbabel and Herod had rebuilt, had been burnt to the ground, the golden of the temple taken to Rome, and the orders given that no Jew or Christian visit the holy mountain under penalty of death. The question on the hearts of the survivors was, how can we have faith when we have no place to go and worship?
Similarly, we find ourselves attaching our faith to particular people, places, rituals, and religious items. What do we do if we lose our preacher, our organist, our choir? How will we go on if our church building is torn down, or worse yet, made into a beer hall? (which is what often happens in Pittsburgh) How can I worship God in without my holy stuff? (Psalm 137:4)
Hebrews turns that question up side down. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." The author then goes on to give us a list of great people of faith, who did incredible things, and not one of them had a church building or a temple. In the fourth chapter of John, Jesus is asked by the woman at the well, if it is better to worship at the nearby mountain where the Samaritan people had an altar, or in Jerusalem. Jesus answered, "A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."(4:23)
There is something invisible that we always have. We have Jesus. And, for Christians, Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.