2 Samuel 71-14 Ephesians 2:11-22
July 22, 2012
[I began with a picture that I posted on fb a couple of weeks ago. It’s this beautiful picture of a church with these amazing mountain peaks in the background}
So here’s a picture I took of a church when we were out in Jackson Hole this summer. You could see it for quite a ways on the bike path where I did some running. Now looking at it you could easily say that it was a stunning place to build a house of God. What I think God would say, though, is that it is a stunning place for God to build a house for us.
It turns out that God is a contractor not a client. In that story we just read about David building a house for God, even Nathan the prophet initially didn’t understand this. There was David living in a quite luxurious palace, while the Covenant of the Ark, or the Chest of God, as the Message Bible puts it, was sitting in a tent out back. So it seemed to King David and Nathan that building a really nice house for God, a Temple, would make sense. It seemed like God should have better digs. It turns out, that David never planned for God’s House to be better than his anyway, but it seemed like they could do better for God even if it was going to be less than half the size of David’s place. God doesn’t have a lot of stuff, anyway.
But God told Nathan that he should let David know that God wasn’t particularly interested in a new place. God had never asked for a house, and seemed just fine with a tent that could be on the move. God might just be yurt material.
God said something else. “Instead of David building a house for me, I’m going to build a house for David.” Not something bigger and better than David was already in, but house in the sense of the House of David, a dynasty, a monarchy that the writers of the New Testament understood Jesus to be a part of. Remember that part in Luke’s birth narrative that says, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.”
So David didn’t build a house for God, but God built a house for David. And God didn’t stop with the house building there. I think God really likes HGTV. We read in Ephesians this morning about another house that God is building. “God is building a home. God’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what God is building, using the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now God’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
It was probably a bit exciting and a bit scary when this letter was first read to the early followers of Jesus. They were actually committing an act of treason by even listening to it. That’s because the Roman Emperor was the one who claimed to be the bringer of peace. By the power of the imperial army Rome had established the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome.
What this letter says though, is that Christ is our peace. Sally Brown, a Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary says it this way. “What is being claimed, after all, is that despite all the swaggering claims of Rome’s emperors, true peace has been inaugurated by a man the empire crucified. The dissonance between the chilling rhetoric of the state and the thrilling rhetoric of the Gospel would set any listener’s blood racing.”
The cross, that instrument of death and torture that was supposed to be the guarantee of Rome’s ultimate power, became the thing that united Jews and non-Jews in a way far beyond the power that Rome ever imagined possible. And that was just the beginning.
The cross of Jesus Christ served to tear down all kinds of walls and the people in the first churches were seeing just that happen. God was using each of them, each of us, in a new building project. A new kind of house, a church built not of wood and brick and stone, but out of the bodies and spirits of the followers of Jesus. That’s the house God is building for us, and a house where God is more than glad to live with us.
Just a few verses later, in the third chapter of Ephesians, we read the Apostle Paul’s testimony. “And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!”
This house that Gods builds for us, the church, is the key to what God is doing in this world. We’re not doing this for God, God is doing this for us. Making a church out of us, out of our lives lived with each other, lives empowered by the Holy Spirit who is the head of the church, lives built of the foundation of Jesus Christ to reveal who God is and what God wants for this world.
You don’t have to have a beautiful building or have a building in a beautiful place like in the picture to have a church worthy of God. One of the most beautiful churches I have ever been to is Emmanuel Baptist Church in Mexico City. It’s far into the slums of the city and it’s barely a shack. For pews they use boards set on top of tree stumps. The windows are all broken out and when I was there I could hear the noise of the people and chickens outside. But that little group of 20 people understood that God had made a church out of them, built them into a house of God that in the name of Jesus would take on the violence, oppression, corruption, greed, and the Imperial arrogance that impacted the people of Mexico, Central America, and this world.
They knew and still know that the cross of Christ is meant to tear down the walls that divide us and bring an end to the hostility between people. The really beautiful churches that God builds for us are the churches that bring us together.
God is in the house building business. I guess God came up with the idea of Habitat for Humanity long before any of the rest of us. And like our own Habitat for Humanity, God doesn’t build this alone. We get to put in our own sweat equity, build something suitable for any of us, including God, to call the church, to call home.
The foundation of the whole building is Jesus Christ. The Jesus who came making peace has called us to make peace ourselves. He tore down walls so we could tear down walls. He showed us a new way of living so we could live in a new way. That’s what this house of God, this house not built for God, but by God is all about. To reveal the God that Jesus revealed to us.
People like to think of this building, and buildings like it, as God’s House. But God thinks of it as our house, too. We’re kind of like house mates. This is the place where we gather to become the church, and from where we are sent to be the church. The dwelling place of God is between, among, and around us. Don’t look at this picture to see God’s House, the church, but to each other. And be sure to say hi to God.