This is Not the Church
Proper 28, Year C, RCL, Track 1
Today we are in Jerusalem with the disciples and Jesus. We are looking at the largest and most beautiful structure that we have ever encountered. To put it into perspective, as of today, the ruins of this temple contain some of the largest stones ever hewn by human hands. As we walk past, we see intricately carved stones. Huge doors covered in gold. Lanterns, tapestries, and other adornments; made by the best artisans from the finest materials available. We aren’t the only people gawking at the temple. Any visitor to the city would never have seen anything like it. Our eyes and minds are filled with the beauty and vast scale of what we see. A literal house built for God.
Now Jesus overheard some of us speaking about the grandeur of the temple and said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” No one in their right mind would have believed him. There is no way to move even a small part of this structure in three days. But we, the Disciples of Christ, have seen more miraculous things than this. So, we don’t ask how could that be possible, all we want to know is when will this happen. Jesus tells them, you will know the time when it comes. It will be the most horrific time ever recorded in history. No one will have seen anything like it.
Today, we can sit in our pew and look around at this beautiful structure. We can see the stained glass windows; the thousands of tiny pieces of wood which have been carved and assembled to make the balcony behind you. We can imagine the labor that went into the bricks holding up this structure. Each was made by hand. Yet we know that this building isn’t impervious to destruction. Some of you were here when the steeple was ripped off by a tornado. And I think many of us have some small understanding of the extent of time and money that has gone into building, renovating, and maintaining this structure, the classrooms, the fellowship hall, and the gardens.
Yet we often think about all of this as being the church. But it is not. Grace Church cannot be destroyed by fire, earthquake, tornado, or anything else we can think of. Unlike the temple, Grace Church cannot be destroyed in three days, or 80 years, because this building is not Grace Church. This beautiful building is where Grace Church meets; congregates. We as a collective of people are Grace Church. And we have decided to set this building and everything in it apart from the world around. This building and its contents are an offering to God made with the best that we have. But the building is just one of our offerings. We offer fellowship, friendship, and emotional support. We are here when a loved one fall ill or dies. We are here to celebrate the birth of a child, or the blessing of a marriage. We go beyond the walls and offer beautiful spaces for school children to play, people to pray, a labyrinth to walk, or for someone to just sit under a tree on a hot day. We offer food to those in need and help with utilities. We share music and worship with the world beyond the walls.
As was mentioned last week, Grace Works is off the ground again, growing its ability to help those in poverty. Everyone who worships here in person or online is part of the community which we call Grace Church. By our involvement, we are the hands and feet of Christ to one another and the community beyond. And it does take organization; it does take people with special skills or talents to allow Grace Church to function together as one body of Christ. And each of us is blessed with a gift to share.
And I thank God for allowing me to serve you, sharing my skills and vision, and walking with you on this path we call life. I am blessed by each of you, whether you have more time than money, more talent than time, or more money than either of the other two. This church offers each of us a place to fit in and a way to help with the work God has set before us.
I know that the world feels a bit off-kilter. We are still coming out of COVID. Our money isn’t going as far as it did a year ago, and if you are blessed with investments, well those have also suffered. But the Gospel has shown us that God offers us more than enough. God offers abundance.
In the letter I sent out last week I touched on the “Feeding of the 5,000” as an example of this abundance. Even if we only have a little of something, with God, it can go much further than we think. Five loaves and two fish fed five thousand. This multiplication isn’t only biblical, just think about someone stopping by at dinner time. There is always room for one more. Or at a potluck – I’ve never been to one where we ran out of food, no matter how many people showed up or how many people didn’t bring any food to share. I believe God’s abundance is very similar.
By giving to others, we still have more than enough. By giving to the church, you will still be able to make it. Giving, will not make you more prosperous, as some televangelists say, but when we give in love, or out of our abundance, there always seems to be a bit more. We know this in the love we share. When we offer love, there is always more love to be given. When we offer kindness, there is more kindness to be offered. And when we share the abundance God gives us, we will still live an abundant life.
Thanks be to God.