Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Spirits Under Construction - July 19, 2015

Spirits Under Construction
July 19, 2015
Rev. Katelyn B. Macrae, Richmond Congregational Church, UCC
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Ephesians 2:11-22

Prayer: Dear God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. O God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.


I was once on a planning committee for a church retreat held at the local church camp in Maine. Our theme was “Spirits Under Construction.” I went up early to help get ready for the weekend. We had all kinds of construction themed stuff to decorate with – hammers and buckets of nails, hard hats, and also caution tape. The yellow and black kind that they use at construction sites. I was really excited about the caution tape and took it upon myself to decorate and put it up on some of the trees lining the dirt road going into camp.

Well, the camp director drove into camp that afternoon and saw all of this caution tape and wondered if, unbeknownst to him, there was some kind of crime scene at camp…

Not exactly the intended reaction to my caution tape extravaganza -

Thinking about this moment now from a management perspective I can see why the camp director may have reacted this way!

I also see how beyond just setting the scene for a theme, this idea of Spirits under Construction is one that should be approached with caution, that it might be even dangerous and cause us to don a hard hat!

For the reality is that our lives, especially our spiritual lives, are like a permanent construction zone!

Sometimes we are in a building mode as we draw closer to God and soar to new spiritual heights, and sometimes our Spirits need some renovation.

We need to tear down walls, replace some rotten sills of belief, or get rid of the carpenter ants of sin that have made their way into the places in our Spirits that we cannot see until we begin peeling back layers. 

Our two biblical texts today give us two different examples of how our Spirits are constantly under construction. The first story is in Second Samuel and picks up from where we left off last week with King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Part 1: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a

King David was in a building mood!  As he was establishing himself as the ruler of Israel, he wanted to build a fitting Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. For those of you who were here last week, we reenacted bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem with dancing and tambourines. The Ark of the Covenant was believed to be where the Holy One dwelled. It had on it two cherubim guarding the mercy seat, the place where the Holy One was thought to have sat. Whoever was in the possession of the Ark of the Covenant had an awesome responsibility.

Once in Jerusalem David made a temporary tent for the ark up on a hill, a seemingly appropriate place for God to dwell.

And then David set about making plans for his construction project. David wants to build a house for God, but God, speaking through the prophet Nathan says, David do not build me a house, instead, I will build a house for you.

Since the Ark had been constructed, this is the first time we see God moving from particularity to expansiveness. Instead of being the God of a particular tribe, God says, “I don’t want to be confined just to this place, my work is about more than that. I have a different construction project in mind.” Instead of David building a literal house of worship, God sets about building a household. This marks the start of the Davidic dynasty – a legacy which will stretch to Jesus.

Part 2: Ephesians 2:11-22

As we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, God’s building project continues. In today’s scripture we enter Ephesus. Ephesus was an important coastal city in what is today Turkey.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes to an early church community that is divided. The Jews and the Gentiles (or as you heard the circumcised and the uncircumcised) do not see themselves as a part of the same family. Their divisions, their walls, are seemingly stronger than what unites them.

But as Paul writes he explains that Christ has broken all of these divisions down. Through Jesus, God is building a new house – for Jews and Gentiles – for all who seek God’s love. That movement that began when God said, through the prophet Nathan to King David, I will build you a house continues to expand.

Now we are all part of the same household –citizens of the same place – and this place is the community of Christ, to which all are welcome.

Hear Paul’s words again -

Ephesians 2:11-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

With Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of our foundation, the ground in which we root our whole lives, the love of God flourishes within us. We live in God and with the saints who have gone before us. And God lives in us too!

Another way to imagine it is there are no walls, no separations, no separate compartments where what you do is separate from who you are and who made you. Everything you are and everything you do operates from this foundational relationship with the Divine.

Other religious traditions might call this nirvana, or achieving oneness.

Well that’s great and all Katelyn, but what am I supposed to do with this? How do I actually live this out?

Why it is that in our world the walls still appear to be there? Why I don’t feel this great sense of nirvana and peace and oneness and divine union?

Well friends, I wonder the same thing!

There’s a phrase I’ve learned to use called already/not yet.

Our Christian tradition teaches that God chose to dwell with us through the person of Jesus Christ. God took on human form. And through Christ the world has been reconciled. There is no disconnection; sin and evil have been defeated for all time on the cross.

And yet our experience in the world tells us we’re not living in the Promised Land.

We’re people of the already/not yet.

Our Spirits are still under construction, God’s kingdom here on earth is still under construction. We get glimpses, moments every now and again where we feel God’s presence, maybe in nature or a conversation with a stranger, or in the way that events in life seem to add up in just the right way.

Our task as followers in the way of Jesus is to embrace the incompleteness and still work for this broader vision of a world without divisions.

We know that this task will most likely not be accomplished on a societal or global in our lifetime. But we can still do some work at clearing away these artificial walls that not only separate us from each other but those smaller more personal walls that separate us from God.

And the first step is doing a spiritual home inspection – taking a closer look at what lies beneath!

Nathan and I did that last week. Our home inspector climbed up on the roof, looked in all of the houses’ nooks and crannies, the attic and basement.

Most of the house was in pretty good condition but there was some rot and places of concern that need to be attended to and that we might not have found, like the rotten sill underneath the deck, without the home inspection.

Maybe in our own homes we’ve swept under the rug some grudges that we’re still holding. Until we forgive or apologize, the lump under the rug isn’t going anywhere.

Maybe we’ve locked away a family secret in the attic or closet, and the door can’t be shut anymore.

Maybe we’ve been so mad at God for that time when God just didn’t seem to be there, and we can’t possibly seem to forgive God or want to talk to God.

We need look in all of the nooks and crannies of our own personal homes and lives, and the world we live in to see what is worth keeping and what might need some demolition and Holy Reconstruction!

Sometimes when you do a home inspection you find lead paint or asbestos. In their time they were considered perfectly fine building materials. But now we know that asbestos causes Mesothelioma, and ingesting lead can impact brain development in children.

Similarly, we may have been raised with certain foundational beliefs that some people, some members of the household of God, are more valuable than others because of their skin tone, or their educational attainment, or the zip code they live in. Over time, these beliefs have created cracks and fissures in the foundation of our communities.

But through the process of Holy Reconstruction, God, the chief architect, can help us tear down some of the walls of division between us, and put bridges in their place.

Add some more windows to let the light in. Windows which allow us to look out and see that we’re part of a broader world, and let people look in and see what we’re about.

Improve the building materials we use to meet today’s current specs.

God began this construction project a long time ago when God said, “David I’m going to build you a house.”

God’s work continues today in building up this diverse, wonderful, and challenging household that calls God’s people to live together and work together even though they may be very different.

We are spirits under construction, living in a world in need of some Holy Reconstruction.

So let’s put up the caution tape and don the hard hats and get to work! God knows the world needs it!

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