First Presbyterian Church

To Build Or Not To Build

2 Samuel 7:1-13
Ephesians 2:13-22

Have any of you ever had a house built? What was involved? I assume picking out a floor plan, picking out bricks and shingle colors, windows and doors, landscaping, and on and on? How long did it take? How many people were involved? What was the best experience you remember in building that house? What was the worst of the most absurd/humorous experience? Consequently, have any of you ever built a house (notice I clarified “built a house”; not had a house built?” This means that you physically did the construction. I imagine your experiences in building a house were perhaps more rewarding, there were perhaps fewer people involved, and even less absurd experiences (maybe not).
My brother spent several years as a developer/builder outside of Atlanta and I watched the grueling process of going from lot to frame, to bricked in and finally finished. I listened to his stories of woe from dishonest subcontractors to miffed homebuyers who were all too happy to take him to court for every little fault. No wonder he turned me down flat when I called and offered to head up his new Flip This House division that was my idea for his company’s next expansion. Why would a blood relative respond so negatively to your own kin!! I merely thought that some of his most expensive homes that had sat empty for over a year and were just taking up space could by now profit from being flipped as shown on all the TV shows of late where mere magic is done in 30 minutes or less. He didn’t think so! Why do building projects that are supposed to create such wonderful new creations cause such headaches?
Today’s scriptures each have to do with some rather major building projects.
Actually the first scripture seems more about an order to “not build rather than build” and the second scripture more about “tearing down rather than building up”. Still there is much construction happening in 2 Samuel and in Ephesians, which can speak to our own lives in this construction zone in which we live.
King David is living in a palace. He had brought Israel through skirmish after skirmish with those who had sought to do them in. Finally they could enjoy a relatively peaceful tenure and suddenly he realizes, “While David lives in luxury, the people are still worshipping in what they had worshipped in during their entire experience wandering through the wilderness – a tent. Mind you it was quite a tent that, when taken apart, it took a sizeable work crew to carry. But when assembled, when the people gathered, it represented where God met His people. Let me ask you something: When you think about church…about worship…what do you picture? Is it this building? All the fond memories you have experienced through the years here…is it that beautiful instrument that we are reminded this morning that we don’t get to hear enough…is it the conversation we have during fellowship time (you’re getting warmer). Because the Presence of God/church/worship has little to do with this building, with the organ but it has everything to do with you and you and you. When someone asks about the First Presbyterian Church, Connersville, IN, your answer should be – it is us – the people who together comprise the place where the Presence of God meets us in worship. If we were to meet at Roberts Park one Sunday for worship and a picnic, we are at that location the First Presbyterian Church as much as if not more so than this building at 700 N Central Ave.
So when King David began to spread around his dream of building God a new house…after all his palace was bigger than God’s (God still met in a tent and deserved so much more) God sent word back to David, “Tell David, instead of him building me a house, I will build him a house.” (He didn’t mean he would build a literal house, he implied that David was to continue working toward peace for his people, working through conflict, stabilizing his world around him) and if he would continue to do those things, God would restore peace among his people. He would end wars. He would defeat his enemies before they ever got to David. He would sustain David’s family so that it would be David’s son who would finally build the Temple that David so wanted to build for God. But first, David had some things to do – and so do we. Restore peace in our world. Work to end violence and suffering. Make a place where the Presence of God can dwell – right here among us – who are the People of God apart from any denomination – any building.
But if you are still awake even, you’re wondering if I read the paper this week? You’re thinking that I don’t watch the news much. Yes, I have been as transfixed to the terrible, senseless act of violence in Colorado in which a masked gunman went into a movie theater and didn’t stop shooting before 12 were dead and 58 others wounded.
We feel that once again, our hearts have been ripped open. Once again we shake our heads and say “Why?” Will violence never stop? Why do we insist on hating one another? What must we do to protect ourselves? The knee jerk reaction is to want to arm ourselves to the hilt, barricade ourselves in and dare anyone to break through our fortress. Does God’s commendation to David seem even remotely possible, “Restore peace in our world. Work to end violence and suffering. Make a place where the Presence of God can dwell – right here among us – who are the People of God apart from any denomination – any building.” Or were those words long ago extinct for another place and another time?
Travel to the site of another building metaphor. We met and heard David desperate to begin construction on the Temple. And we heard God tell him, “No, you have other things to do first. Don’t build here, Don’t build now. You have some things to do first, and he was told what those were.” And so do we…In the letter to the church Paul wrote to the Ephesians he describes another building project. This time he talks about walls but not about building walls but about demolishing walls. Here’s the story…
Apparently their world was a lot like ours. It was a world of conflict and hostility, a world torn between life and death, a world deeply divided by different classes of people, divided by race and religion and economic classification. And not only was their world divided, their church was divided. Go with me into the Temple (remember this was years later from David’s story after they actually had a temple), Their Temple was divided by walls with signs pointing where you could and could not enter. Behind this wall were men only while over here were where the women couldn’t go beyond. Out there more toward the front of the Temple was the court of the Gentiles (all of us who aren’t Jews had to remain here where the worst livestock and market goods were sold at the highest price. It was inside there – behind that wall where only Jewish males could enter. Just beyond was only for the priests (the clergy) and inside the innermost part of the Temple was the head of all clergy called the Holy of Holies. Go outside of your designated area and it could mean death. Similar to buses, bathrooms, lunch counters, water fountains and more in the 50’s was marked for Whites only and some of you remember those signs and the exclusiveness that existed that put them there. And now our signs are more implied than literal. Some Christians condemn other Christians (even saying they aren’t Christian if they don’t subscribe to the “right” political party. Peace and freedom? Not quite. The walls and border patrol are rapidly increasing along the border to hold back the illegal’s. The Israelis continue to build walls and separate themselves from the Palestinians. Make the walls higher, the boundaries more fortified because, after all, strong walls, effective boundaries whether they be more locks or more stringent voter criteria or Stand Your Ground Laws or Legal Carry Laws make for more peace. Or do they?!!!
Paul told about these hostilities and said the wall that had divided them had been torn down. What he meant were the walls in the Temple that previously had divided them between Jews and Gentiles had been destroyed. What Jesus did through his resurrection and death and what he is/can do through us in order to make peace between ourselves. But didn’t you read the newspaper…there is no peace. Christians understand peace differently that most others. Peace has already been made. The seeds are there. The grass roots have been laid. The foundation has been poured. Peace happens when we – the church – act on those things. What does that look like? What does that mean when Colorado comes around all too frequently and we are left holding our heart in our hand as it breaks? We never expected the Berlin Wall to fall in our lifetime. Euphoria, surprise, new possibility became real! The end of the terrible period of apartheid in South Africa brought even more hope and excitement. Archbishop Desmond Tutu believes God’s hand was on that miracle:
God saw our brokenness and sought to extricate us from It-but only
with our cooperation. God will not cajole or Bully us, but wants to woo us for our own sakes. The Bible is God’s attempt to effect atomement, to bring us
Back to our intended condition of relating to each other. God was, in Christ, bringing the world to God. God sentJesus who would fling out his arms on the cross as if to embrace Us. God wants to draw us back to an intimate
Relationship and so bring unity to all that has become disunited.
That was God’s intention from the beginning. And each
Of us is called to be an ally of God in his work of Justice and reconciliation.
IN other words, peace happens here first. Keep building peace. In every conversation, every interaction by phone or text or email, in every relationship, build the possibility and hope of peace. Tear down criticism. Pull up blame. Break down walls of bitterness and hostility – some that have stood for years. It’s time to let them go. Peace begins here – now – with you. Actually it began long ago with what Jesus did. But the next building phase is in your grasp.