As exciting and wonderful as it can be to worship in a large, fully-kitted out sanctuary, in Ephesians 2:17-22, God invites us to look beyond the bricks and tiles and blueprints of our church to the kind of spiritual dwelling that is made up of each person who gathers each week in work and worship to the glory of God.
Now much as there are many requirements to starting a physical building project such as surveying the site and drawing up plans, estimating costs and securing financing, selecting builders and researching suppliers and so on, today I would like to offer a spiritual checklist which we can use as we create a temple in which God is quite at home.
The first requirement of a home fit for God is that everyone must belong. EVERYONE MUST BELONG.
In the early Church there were huge arguments between those who converted to Christianity from the Jewish faith and those who were considered unclean pagans before they encountered Christ. Those who came from a Jewish background felt that they were somehow closer to God, part of God’s special people and ongoing plan, and they distrusted and judged very harshly those who had once kept slaves, indulged in orgies, and worshipped other gods before being touched by the good news of God’s self-sacrificing love for them.
Paul told them clearly, as he tells us today, that in God’s house there are no insiders or outsiders. No one person is better than a second. No minister more important than a member. No gender or age or ethnic group superior to another. No sinner more deserving of God’s grace than the sinner seated next to them.
Through the cross, every one of us has been reconciled to God – and made equals with one another. We share the same Spirit: the Spirit in me is the Spirit in you; the Spirit in you is the Spirit in me. And we all have equal access to God the Father.
Do you feel like you belong? Have you made people who come into this place know that this is a temple in which God is quite at home by making them feel at home, like they’re your equal, your brother, your sister?
Now, it’s very easy to feel at times that we have been left out, excluded. And it’s very easy to point the finger at how another has treated us to justify those emotions.
But in a house fit for God, not only does everyone belong but everyone takes their place. EVERYONE MUST TAKE THEIR PLACE.
You see friends, through the cross everyone is made equal in their sin, equal in Christ’s forgiveness, equal in God’s Spirit – irrespective of how or when we got here. You are all welcome. You are all wanted.
But each of us has to choose what we will do with that message of acceptance and belonging: will we settle down and be part of the family (or for some of us it’s been so long that we feel indeed more like part of the furniture), or will we carry on roaming, wandering around like exiles looking for the perfect spiritual home that has already been built?
It is true for many of us today that we find it hard to settle in, to put down roots, to be planted so deeply into the kingdom of faith and a Christian community that we are prepared to stick it out when the minister changes or the worship team hasn’t been on form for a while or the finances aren’t looking good or someone has thoughtlessly said something that hurt or offended us.
And so we move – we move to a place with a better Easter program or a fully kitted-out sound system or more welcoming members until, in some way, they also disappoint us and we have to find yet again a better place in which to belong.
But the final requirement of a temple in which God is quite at home is that everyone who belongs and everyone who has chosen to take their place is always building to make things better. WE MUST BUILD TO MAKE THINGS BETTER.
There is no such thing as the perfect church, and in chasing the dream of a place that will will always make us happy, always feel like home, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to share in the creative, transformative power of God.
It is God who holds all things together; Christ the cornerstone on whom God’s church is built – not miraculously as in instantaneously, but day after day, stone after stone, brick after brick and – most importantly – person after person as each and every one of us realises that we have a part to play in God’s temple coming together.
How can you be part of building a spiritual home in which God is happy to dwell?
- If you don’t feel like you belong, chat to one of our ministers or leaders because God loves you and we want to know how to express that love better if we’re not showing it very well.
- If you feel like Calvary is home but each week you simply come and go like a visitor, commit to belonging here by giving your details to the church office and looking for a small group to connect with.
- If you have been affirmed as a servant leader in our community, stay true to Christ, remember your vows (which can be found here: Affirmation Vows), honour your commitments, and seek ways in which to grow.
- If you haven’t yet begun to participate in our building project, start reading the bulletin with new eyes and listening to appeals from the pulpit for the place in which God would have your hands, your gifts, your time employed to the glory of God and the growth of our community.
And may God, the Architect of the Whole Universe, oversee all of our work and plans.
Yours in Christ