It seems that as humans we have always expressed our creativity through the buildings we construct. In a dales cottage, a country house, a village church or a great cathedral, can be seen, not only the builders skill, but an aesthetic that warms our hearts and lifts our souls. They connect us with generations past and yet are an essential part of our everyday.
Buildings that last are the buildings that have been built well. Structures thrown together with little care, from poor materials, may serve a purpose for a season, but they, along with property that is neglected, share the same fate, pulled down to be replaced by something new.
Jesus’ friend Peter saw in the community that he served; a building made from ‘living stones’. This collection of ordinary people, he realised, as they did life together were being formed into something greater; a spiritual home, a place where the presence of God might be seen to be alive and active.
As we connect with others, walk life’s tracks together, invest our time and care in friendship and community we become builders, crafts-people, architects of our meeting places. How and what we build matters. What we say and do, how we live, what influences our decisions, all play a part in shaping the communities we construct. Let us strive to build well together.
Before walls can be constructed, foundations must be laid. Before Christian community can grow, the stones on which it is built must be set in place.
Stone 1: Scripture
Every word in the bible was written by a person. This is true and yet; every word in the bible was inspired by God. This God, who we read, caused the universe to come into being through his spoken word, continues to speak. What he says and how the people he speaks to, respond, is recorded for us to read.
This scripture is a story, an account of human strength and human shortcomings and of the God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in goodness and faithfulness. It is a story that speaks to our own life stories. It is a story that gives us a hope and a future and tells us how God, lived as one of us, and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, joined his story with ours. Jesus is God’s word made flesh and the ‘cornerstone’ on which we build.
Stone 2: Take Everything to God in Prayer
“We just stopped communicating,” is a line often spoken through the hurt of a broken relationship. We know too that the opposite is also true, that at the heart of the strongest partnerships are hours of conversation. We are closest when we share, not only our everyday, moment-by-moment thoughts, but our hopes and dreams and aspirations. We connect with those we spend our time and thought on, considering their needs, reflecting their priorities in our decisions.
It is the same in our relationship with God. He is the one who knows us better than we know ourselves and so we cannot offend him with our outbursts or our despair. He is only hurt when we ignore him or turn away, to go it alone. He has promised to hear us and to answer us. He is a promise-keeping God!
Stone 3: One-another Ministry
A friend recently asked me, “If I take some flowers to a friend in hospital, is that the church caring?” My response, “Yes! A thousand times, yes!”
In a functioning family, there are different relationships, yet everyone acts as a member of the family, each showing care through their connection with each other. Some are closer to each other than others are and so care comes in different forms; a hug, a phone call, a kind act, an encouraging text, a heart on Facebook. So too, with Christian community, called to be family, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, elders and young alike.
More than 56 times in the New Testament scriptures, we are exhorted to love one another, forgive each other, encourage one another and build each other up. As every part of our bodies function in relationship with each other, each with a different role, some hidden, some on show, all are equally important, equally valued, equally in need of being kept healthy, resourced and involved. As members of Christ’s body, the same is true; we each have our place and part to play. He as our head is the one who is in control, he is the one who should receive our praise and he is the one who we should elevate above the rest.
Stone 4: Naturally Supernatural
In a fragmented society, community cohesion is costly. Being at peace with our neighbours, bearing with one another, often seems beyond our capacity to care. The call to follow Jesus, though freely given and accepted as a gift comes at the cost of our forgotten former self and takes us to people and places, way past our comfort zones. And yet we are not in this alone.
Together we are ‘in Christ’ and he is in us. Strange, but borne out by the experience of those who have encountered Jesus and received from him his presence and his power and his promise never to leave us alone. In Christ, we have been told to expect to see his power at work in us, through us, in our communities and in those we lift to him in prayer. Our resources are limited. His are limitless. Alone we can achieve little. Together we will see his kingdom come. If we are bold enough to fill out our calendars with the things we plan for the week ahead, might we also be bold enough to trust that we will see God’s Spirit at work around us?
Stone 5: Embracing Suffering
Not an afterthought, not something to be avoided at all costs; suffering sits at the very heart of the good news that Jesus lived. We are saved from death, by Jesus’ suffering, his death and his resurrection. Jesus, a man of grace and truth, who was known for doing good, for bringing healing; walked the path of rejection and pain. So too did his closest friends. They found hope, life, peace, treasure beyond value, whilst at the same time facing rejection, hardship and death.
No one wants to suffer or would welcome it for anyone else and yet we are called to follow Jesus. Called to emulate the lives of his disciples. Called to embrace everything that he was, and did, and said. Hard as it is, anyone who follows Jesus, sets out on a path that will lead to the highest point of his life on earth; a garden, a betrayal, an injustice, a cross, a tomb, a resurrection, a new body and a new life lived forever in the presence of God himself.
Below is a song which I pray will inspire and lift you!
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