As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
As I read this text this week, I could not help to but think of our church’s building campaign. When we built a part of the building that was designed for us in the growing part of our city some 15 years ago, we had hopes of building the rest of it as soon as possible. Now that we are getting close to paying off the fellowship hall, kitchen, and classrooms, we are dreaming about finishing the building project with a sanctuary that we hope to fill with worshippers.
When Jesus and his disciples left the temple that day the disciples were oohing and aahing about the enormity of the stones in the huge temple structure.
Jesus spoke these words about the destruction of the temple to the disciples as he continued to reorient them in their faith to give them the resilience and hope that they would need as they faced an uncertain future. He wanted them to realize that God is not contained within even the walls of the Temple or any house of worship. God’s love transcends specific places and is found in people.
These are indeed challenging themes as our congregation contemplates completing the church building we started building 15 years ago. So in the mixed up world in which we find ourselves today what lessons can we take away from Jesus’ reply to his disciples? If we listen to those words of caution from Jesus about placing too much emphasis and glory in building structures we can see that the building is foremost a place to bring people together for worshipping God and serving others. It is a place of learning and a place of serving God and others.
Stepping out in ministry to our community is the whole purpose for any church building.
Jesus seems to be saying to the disciples and to us that the life of God’s people is founded not on bricks and mortar but on the love of God through people to people, widows and orphans, strangers and aliens. Jesus’ challenge to the disciples and prediction of the destruction of the Temple was not a prophesy about dismantling God, but preparing for new beginnings in faith.
Many a church building, and even more of their contents, are dedicated to the work and glory of God. But the building itself does nothing for God’s glory in and of itself. It is simply a great way to keep the world around it aware of God’s work and God’s people working to share the love of God with the world. If it simply stands as an expression of our personal piety, or if it just reflects a distant God who we remember on Sundays, then it is already crumbling before we start building.
When we spend money on bricks and mortar, it must be for an investment in our outreach to the community and the world beyond. It is to be a tool of God’s grace used as a means of sharing God’s love with others. So the changing of a church building is an opportunity to reflect inwards on our faith in God, and outwards towards those whom God is calling us to love and serve in the community around us, widows and orphans, aliens and strangers, God’s people all.
- How are you using the building you call your church? Just for Sunday worship or to bring the love of God to those who are not members?
- How does your church building shape the ministry that you do, or how does the ministry that you do shape the use of your church building?
- As you think about your church building and how it is being used, does it challenge you to love God and love people more and more?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.