Friday, January 21, 2011

Building the Church and making the kingdom visible

Nova and I on the front porch at St. Mary with St. Mark's Mayo
during a tea and sale at the start of the Renovation Project. 
For the third time in his life, Jesus was moving house. He and his parents had fled Bethlehem to avoid the soldiers sent by a jealous and enraged Herod. They went into Egypt and found a life among the Jews in that country. More dreams brought the little family back to Israel and to the north of the country where the family settled in Nazareth and Joseph found work in his trade, carpentry.  Jesus, having gone to John to be baptized and now hearing that John was in jail because of his preaching, recognized within himself that it was time to move out and get on the move.  

Where was he going? Capernaum. And he wasn’t seemingly willing to go it alone. On his way he went and found some others, who were friends and who were at least in some ways like mind about God and the things of God. And if we watch and listen closely, we’ll see Jesus inviting these fellows to come along and they become roommates in the city. At least he won’t be alone and it more than likely won’t be boring because where two or three are gathered together, there are at least four or five opinions!

One of the important things about getting to know Jesus is that you need to learn what he wants for you and what he wants to give you. We need to learn what it is that he has for us to give to others. We need to discover the nature of the kingdom and how it grows. We need to be trained in how to live for God instead of ourselves. That means when the call comes, we need to move from where we are to where Jesus is and wants us to be.  We are not to regard our circumstances as more important that the call – we need to move when we hear his voice! We must move because the call is not just about us it is about others; it is about eternity and it is about all of us.     

And there was a better place to start than the Galilee, the crossroads of the world. The Galilee was not unlike our own country: fertile for growing crops and the people like “strong leadership”. The folks in the Galilee liked a good scrap and would go a distance to see one if not get involved. Jesus, according to Matthew’s Gospel was an itinerant preacher who travelled around and moved closer to the people not just to draw crowds but so that he could speak some things on the mind of God so that people could hear it. Jesus did not opt for the cushy seat in the local worship house. He ministered to people whenever and wherever they found him. He ministered to people who had diverse ideas and thoughts about God and even people who weren’t one of his own kind. He preached a similar and popular message for everybody to respond to: repent and believe in God because God and his kingdom are close to you!” Jesus’ first disciples were impressed with his teaching and excited about the ways in which the power of God was displayed… they were certain this was the one that God had promised and they were going to be a part of a great beginning.

But let me ask you – how does the kingdom of heaven come near to you and to your community?  If we take the first image that we are given from last we, we are first to walk away from that place and moment of baptism and we are to go and follow Jesus to the place where he “abides”. And we are to keep following Jesus into all the places and spaces where we are going to find what we need to do and through that, to discover who it is that we are becoming. We are both in essence and in reality, building the Church. And that thought, reminds me of a story.

St. Mary with St. Mark's Church as it is today
after several years  of hard work and fundraising on the part
of the members of the Church.  
A long time ago, a traveler came upon a site in England where swarms of workers were building a grand church.  The traveler saw several men digging a ditch.  He stopped to ask three of them what exactly they were doing. The first replied, "Hey! I'm just doing what they tell me to do. All I care about it making a living to support my family." The second replied, "Me?  I'm digging a ditch from here to that stake over there." But the third worker stopped, leaned against his shovel, and with a gleam in his eye, said, "I'm helping Christopher Wren build a great cathedral."

So you are invited to come and bring your shovel, measure tape, and trawl: we have a church to build and we have a Great Architect who needs our help. And as we build we will draw others and they will see and know the kingdom in and through us, if we let him. 

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