Unless the Lord Builds the House
Psalm 127 verse 1 says:
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.”
This verse is not meant to discourage us in our endeavors to build up of God's holy people. Instead I have begun to find this thought very attractive, and one which fills me with hope for the future. What I mean to say is this: The church we experience here in our parish is not “Fr. Dave's church”, its not “our” church. It belongs to God!
Many years ago an Australian tourist when visiting St Peters in Rome managed to smuggle in a hammer. You wouldn't be able to do that these days ─ security is much more rigorous, however, that is what this tourist managed to do. Now, in Rome, whatever your religious feelings are along the protestant - catholic spectrum, you would be pretty hard of heart if you weren't moved by a viewing of Michelangelo's sculpture the Pieta
In it, Mary, Jesus mother cradles her son, but not in the traditional
'Madonna and Child” pose we are so accustomed to from icons and the art of the church down through the centuries. In this statue she is doing what no mother on earth wants to do. Not ever. She is holding onto the body of her son Jesus after he has died. This fulfills the prophecy Simeon made over the Holy family at the temple when the infant Jesus was presented there. He turned to Mary after blessing the boy and said, “and a sword will pierce your own heart.
There were two deaths that occurred that day. The death of our lord, Jesus Christ, and a kind of death that would have happened to his mum, in her heart. Anyway, the great renaissance artist Michelangelo has captured some of the heartbreak and poignancy of this time in his great sculpture, and today many are immediately moved to tears when they view it. This makes the travesty of this Australian tourist all the more confronting. They took out their smuggled hammer, and threw it at Mary, breaking off a piece of here veil.
And here we come to the point I want to make about God and his people. Because the Pieta is a masterpiece, they didn't chuck it out. No, instead they restored it. Master crafts men and women were called in, and piece by piece with painstaking care and attention to detail, the masterpiece was restored, and out back on public display.
The church is God's masterpiece. If we love it, and are concerned for its welfare, God is all the more concerned and in love with the church. That is why we don't need to worry about the future so much.
When people say to me “Guess what Father Dave, I'm going to come to your church this Sunday!”, I feel a couple of things. The first is some encouragement that they feel keen enough to come to worship, but the second is a kind of mild disappointment that they still see it as “my” church. This makes their attendance a kind of favor to me, instead of a joyful privilege to them.
Its not my church, its not even our church - the church, and its future belong to God. Invite people to come to Church, yes, by all means, but do it because you love God, and because you care for them and want the very best (wonderful and life giving relationship with God) for them too!
Blessings in Christ, through the Holy Spirit,