Years ago, I was a student at Baptist Bible College, a small college in Springfield, MO. For those not familiar, Springfield is a small city in the southwest portion of Missouri on the Ozark Plateau; a lush, green part of the country with gentle rolling hills. Living in Colorado, after each school break ended, I would begin the 770 mile car trip which took me across eastern Colorado, the entire state of Kansas on Interstate 70, and then due south toward Springfield eventually ending up on Highway 13 for the last leg of the journey. The trip took about 11-12 hours, depending on how fast I drove. And driving across Kansas made it feel all the more long!

With apologies to the folks in here from Kansas, I know there are some sight-seeing spots along the way, such as the High Plains Museum in Goodland, the Castle Rock in Quinter, and the Historic Fort Hays in Hays but they were never enough to distract me from my ultimate destination. Not even Russell, where my grandfather was born or the Garden of Eden in Lucas could get me to stop. It was get through the state as quickly as possible! By the time I crossed the Kansas River and got into Missouri, I was weary eyed and struggling to make it the last couple hundred miles or so to Springfield. As drove those last miles, I watched the day turn to evening and the sun slowly set behind the dark green forests. Driving through the country past little towns, I’d see things that always caught my eye, each and every trip.

For instance, somewhere standing above the trees I’d always see a smokestack with a flame of fire burning at the top. I always wondered what it was connected to and what it was doing there. Another sight was the Osceola Cheese factory. I love cheese, but after 11 hours on the road, I never wanted to stop to try theirs. Finally, there was the Highway 13 Church of Christ, or more specifically, the building where the Highway 13 Church of Christ met. There was a sign out front of the building that said, “Church of Christ meets here.” Yeah, it confused me too—that’s why I remember it to this day. Apparently, in the Churches of Christ tradition—and yes, there is a difference between the Church of Christ and the United Church of Christ—there is a common practice of putting on the sign in front of the building that the (such and such) “Church of Christ meets here” in a distinct attempt to distinguish the building from the actual church.

Now perhaps that confuses you even more than hearing there’s a difference between the Church of Christ and the United Church of Christ! For, when most people talk about going to church, what they mean is that they will be going inside some kind of edifice or building.  The word “church” actually has Scottish roots,[1] and came from a saying meaning “house of the Lord” or “God’s house,” referring to an actual building. One of our sister churches down in Denver is actually called, the Kirk of Bonnie Brae, founded in 1947 in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood of Denver. Bonnie Brae is Scottish for “beautiful hill,” therefore it is literally, the “church of the beautiful hill.”

Adding to the confusion is the fact that in the New Testament, when we read the word “church,” the true definition of the word is something different. When biblical writers wrote about the “church,” they weren’t talking about an edifice or building or structure—they were talking about a group of people assembled together to worship Jesus.  The word is ekklesia, meaning “an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting.”[2] So if I may add to your confusion, if we wanted to be truly accurate, we might say that this structure we meet in is the church building, but we the people gathered together are the true Henderson Community Church; meaning, this building could be no more, and as long as there are some of us gathering together to worship God, the Henderson Community Church would still exist.

I talked about cornerstones with the children already. A cornerstone was literally and symbolically important in ancient times. For practical purposes, the cornerstone was the stone set at the corner of two intersecting walls, prepared and chosen for its exact 90˚ angle, and the basis for the construction of the whole building. Choosing the right corner was basic not only to the aesthetics of the building but also to its stability and longevity.[3] The laying of the cornerstone was also important and symbolic, much as today there is great fan-fare around “breaking ground” for construction of a new building. In the section of scripture we read today from 1 Peter, we are told that we are “like living stones, being built into a spiritual house…through Jesus…a chosen and precious cornerstone.”

The Biblical writer, using the metaphor of construction, was trying to make a point. The people were being gathered together and built up into a spiritual entity with Jesus as their foundation or cornerstone. The author was trying to distinguish the actually wood and stone structure from the people gathered together. In other words, the church wasn’t the building, it was the people—and we, you and I, we are the church, we are Henderson Community Church, not this building in which we meet. Just as this church continued to exist when the first building was torn down and this building constructed, this church will continue to exist long after this current building, so long as there are people like you and me gathering together to worship. In short, we don’t need the building to be a church, we just need one another.
We are then “Living Stones,” human building blocks which God is trying to fashion into something great, greater even then what Jesus did when he was alive. That’s after all what Jesus said in John 14; that “the one who believes in me will also do greater works than these.” We are like human Legos that God is trying to put together into something great. I loved to play with Legos when I was a kid. I had all my various Legos in a box that I would dump onto the floor and start constructing. Though all the pieces were intermingled, I’d always start with the same one—this flat green square. About 6 inches by 6 inches, it was the “cornerstone” if you will, everything I set was in reference to this piece, it was the first step in construction of my creation. Now, if you know anything about Legos, you know that due to their interlocking peg design, they are meant to stack one on top of another. If I’d have tried to use something else for the foundation or cornerstone, it wouldn’t have worked. Say if I started trying to build walls on a pillow, or a linoleum floor, or wooden table—it might have held—but not as long or as strong. Just as in building Legos, we’ve got to have a good foundation. And here, as a gathered group of people here to worship, our foundation has got to be Jesus. Everything we do, everything we’re about, must be about following Jesus and helping others do the same.

There is a difference between humans and Lego building blocks! I’d say it’s quite apparent. Legos are little plastic lifeless blocks whereas human beings are living, breathing, thinking entities. If I want to stack on Lego block on top of another, I simply grab it and put it in its place. I don’t have to worry about it fighting back, resisting, or running away—I think that only happens in the cartoon Lego movies. Human beings are different. We can think and act for ourselves and God doesn’t simply pick us up and put us where we should be. We must allow ourselves to be built into the thing God wants us to be. We, as Henderson Community Church, have to allow God to construct us into the church God wants us to be. We are living stones, living Lego blocks which God wants to join together to create something great. Because truthfully, God is never done building. Let me say that again. God is never done building. Maybe one more time. God is never done building.  I think the biggest problems with churches today, and I mean the assembled group of people, not the structures they meet in, is that churches act like God is done building. What they were constructed into by God 20-30-50- even 100 years ago was something great, but God wants to do something greater. God is never done building, remember that. God is like the kid who is never satisfied with his Lego creation. He’s always knocking it down, tearing it apart, trying to make something bigger and better.

via brickmodeldesign.com

Honestly, how many kids do you see who have their Lego creations proudly on display in their room? I know I certainly didn’t! Mine would last maybe a day. It’s adults who have Lego creations on display. Did you know you can go online and buy a Lego creation of your favorite sports stadium, say Coors Field or the old Mile High? I’d love to buy one of Yankee Stadium to proudly display in my office. Yet what would the 10-year old Loren do? He’d take it down, tear it apart, and try to build something better. This is what God tries to do. And I emphasize the word “try.” God comes to us and says, “hey, I’ve got these new pieces that I want to add to the puzzle to create something even better. Yes, it may require taking some things down and pulling some pieces apart, but it’s going to be bigger, better, and incorporate more pieces.” What do we do? We say, no thanks God, I’m happy with one I got. I’d rather look at that little display on the shelf than see what better creation you could make out of it. It’s a shame really.

We are living stones, living Lego blocks if you will, that God is trying to create into something new. It’s our choice whether we let ourselves be built into the new creation God is trying to make. It’s our choice whether we let Jesus be our foundation or cornerstone. My prayer is that we would set ourselves on the foundation of Jesus—that we would base everything we do on following Jesus and helping others to follow him too—and that we would allow ourselves as living stones to be created into something new and beautiful for God. We, you and me, we are the church, not this building, not this edifice, are Henderson Community Church.

 

[1] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=ekklesia

[2] http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ekklesia.html

[3] Joel B. Green, “1 Peter 2:2-10: Exegetical Perspective,” 463.

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