Homily for Proper 7, Year A, 2011
Sunday, February 20th, 2011
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: 1 Cor 3: 10-11, 16-23
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple?”
-I Cor 3:16
In each generation we are called to be builders. The kingdom of God is an edifice that grows and changes with each generation of Christians; and with each generation new possibilities are revealed. The glorious possibilities that are before us are unveiled when we realize that we build on the work of others. Even a little child standing on the shoulders of a giant can see farther than the giant alone. Thus, we stand today on the shoulders of giants, not simply the giants of this parish who have gone before us, but the giants of Christendom, our mothers and fathers in the faith, whose lives punctuate a two thousand year history of proclaiming Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. This is reality of the edifice to which we add ourselves as living stones.
As all who have ever been involved in building projects or home renovations know, every building project has its challenges; every home improvement has its hurdles. Sometimes it can be money. At other times, members of the construction team may have trouble getting along. Sometimes fatigue sets in. Sometimes the rules change when a new building code is introduced. Yes, at times it can feel like the challenges and obstacles are too great.
When the challenges seem so profound, it can be helpful to stop and rest for a moment, to stand back and gaze upon the edifice and ponder, for a moment, our place in time and our part in the project of building the kingdom of God.
Sometimes when we look back on the great builders of the past, we wonder how we can ever measure up. Osler, Hill, Creighton, Hopkins, and so many others – they were great builders in this parish, and certainly men whose work I cast my gaze upon with admiration and awe. We all look back to the heroes of our past, mothers and fathers, mentors and friends, who have played their part in the building of the edifices of our individuals lives, who helped make us who we are; and we wonder, can I ever do that for someone else?
Looking back on the great people of our lives and of our history can be an inspiring thing, but it can also be an intimidating thing. Sometimes we can stand gazing upon the edifice that they have built and idolize the builders so much that we forget that we stand with a trowel in hand and task to perform. In Corinth, there was so much devotion to the builders and their work, that this is what the Corinthian people forgot. They boasted of their great builders, of Paul, of Cephas, of Apollos. Each pointed to the parts of the building so carefully and lovingly constructed by their favourite builders, forgetting all the while that they, too, were called to be builders.
The temple that we build is not an edifice that can be seen and touched by human hands. It is not a building, but a community. It is not a house, but a household. It is our shared life in Christ. The edifice of this temple is adorned with acts of kindness, demonstrations of love and compassion, and gestures of faith. The edifice of this temple is adorned with the labour and love of generations offering themselves not only to each other, but to the living and loving God. As we stand back and gaze we see memorials to the magnificent builders of the past, and yet we see new possibilities upon the stones they laid. Standing back for a moment we appreciate the edifice, and are inspired by the labourers of old, and we imagine what the structure will look like when we have done our piece, placed our living stones upon the walls. Standing back for a moment we are granted a certain perspective; that the task is not ours alone. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we lay stones upon which future generations will stand. We realize that we have a part to play. We begin to imagine, and we are reinvigorated for the task that lies ahead.
Have you ever see one of those great European cathedrals? On my living room wall hangs a nineteenth century picture of York Minster Cathedral. Athena and I visited this cathedral in 1995. At the time, the edifice was covered in a scaffold, for necessary renovations and repairs. Even so, we stood back and admired it in awe. In an age when buildings go up over night, it can be helpful for us to remember that a cathedral takes generations to build; and even when we think it completed the work goes on and a scaffold once again goes up. Think of the builders who invest in that structure that never see it through to completion, yet they know that they take part in a holy task, a grand work, an act of faith. That cathedral on my wall reminds me that our work as the people of God is such a thing, and indeed the kingdom of God is such a thing. We shall not see it completed and yet it matters not what we see, what matters is that we form a part of the edifice, as living stones, built upon other living stones – Paul and Apollos, Osler, Creighton, and Hopkins, and oh so many more!
The building only stands though, for one reason, and that is the cornerstone upon which it is laid. That cornerstone is our Lord Jesus Christ. We take up our place in the edifice with confidence because we know the rock upon which it is built. We continue to build because we know that the foundation cannot be shaken. We build to the sky because the Temple is built on Christ and belongs to God. We belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God, and God’s work will not be destroyed.
c. 2011, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves