Sunday’s Sermon: Church DIY from the Inside Out

  • Have you noticed how popular Do-It-Yourself – or DIY – projects have become?
    • Websites like Pinterest – catalogue/organize all your DIY projects
    • Magazines devoted entirely to Do-It-Yourself
    • There’s even a whole TV channel – the DIY Network – that’s devoted to shows that both inspire and walk you through these types of projects.
    • Even careers built on DIY – e.g.: Martha Stewart
    • A lot of DIY projects taking something that’s a little bit ratty, a little bit dirty, and a little bit beat up and revitalizing it into something beautiful and new. Now, when people talk about whether or not a specific piece (furniture, clothing, or even a home) is a good DIY-project candidate, they talk about whether or not it has “good bones” – whether or not the piece has a strong enough foundation to stand the DIY process and come out shinier and yet still sturdy on the other side.
    • This morning’s Scripture readings – DIY Scriptures
      • NT reading = makes sure our faith has “good bones,” a sturdy foundation
      • OT reading = makes clear how the stability of our own faith affects worshiping community
      • You see, before we begin to build up the church, we have to make sure we’re firmly grounded in Christ.
  • In this part of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is very clear: as Christians, our foundation – the bedrock on which we build not only our faith but our lives as well – must be Christ.
    • Text: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.[1] –> There is no question in this. There’s no hedging. There’s no uncertainty. If we’re going to bear the name ‘Christian,’ our whole selves – our hopes and dreams, and our identity – must be grounded in Christ.
      • What does this mean?
        • Dedicating time to learning more and more about Jesus –> And for this, we need a Bible, and we need prayer.
          • Bible – dig into the life of Christ
          • Prayer – get to know Christ working in and through us –> This is going to involve more listening in prayer than it is talking. One of my favorite sayings is that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen twice as much as we speak.
          • Also means acting on what we learn
            • Changing our habits to reflect Christ
            • Changing our attitude to reflect Christ
            • Changing our perceptions to see Christ
              • In the world around us
              • In the people around us
    • NT passage also makes it clear that a strong foundation is one that’s been tested – text: The work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.[2] –> Again, there is no hedging or guessing here. “It will be revealed with fire.” Our faith will be tested. But in Paul’s words, we also hear the message that that testing – that fire – isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
      • On one hand –> burns away unnecessary
      • Other hand –> refines what is good/useful
        • Scholar: Fire consumes and destroys, but is also may refine and purify. Paul’s abiding conviction that God is known for grace, for giving new chances for redemption, leads Paul to hold out the hope that salvation may ultimately come even to the one whose work is burned up.[3] –> Ultimately, this is why it’s so important that the foundation of our faith be firmly grounded in Christ. There will be times of testing. There will be times of challenge and discomfort and fear. In this passage, Paul is both acknowledging the reality of those times and reminding us that while we may not come out the other side completely unscathed, there is no fire strong enough or hot enough to burn away the grace and redemption that we find in Christ Jesus.
          • Important to remember – refining = change
            • According to her self-described “cranky, beautiful” faith/theology, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber’s description of Christianity = “process of things constantly dying and being made new”[4]
  • So how does being grounded in our faith affect the church as a whole? –> where OT text comes in
    • Haggai’s e.g. – rebuilding of the temple
      •  Background: temple destruction by the Babylonians in 568 B.C.E. –> began to rebuild it decades later during Haggai’s time but no one could remember its former glory (exiled too long) –> temple rebuilding ended up taking backseat to people’s personal rebuilding –> This is the context into which Haggai was delivering the word that we read today.
        • People distracted by the many demands in their own lives
        • Placed ultimate worth in things other than their faith
        • Led to lackluster attitude toward rebuilding –> Because the people’s hearts were grounded in things other than their faith, the temple was being rebuilt, but it was a half-hearted attempt at rebuilding – spiritless and pale in comparison to the temple’s former splendor.
          • Still God desired success in the work – Scripture: Yet  now, take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadek, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts.[5]
            • Heb shows us God is active in this work: My spirit abides among you; do not fear – “abides” = stands –> To me, “stands” sounds more dynamic and more interactive than “abides.” It implies participation and expresses a collaboration, but here’s my question: How are we supposed to be aware of this dynamic and interactive God if our faith isn’t securely grounded? If we are so distracted by everything else, how are we going to hear God’s call to the work that needs to be done – the work that is on God’s heart, the work that the church is called to do in this world?
            • Other problem in this passage = Israelites forgot that ultimate worth comes from God, so Haggai reminds them – text: The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.[6]
              • More than just material splendor – Heb “prosperity” = shalom … completeness, soundness, welfare –> So God is promising wholeness … a sustaining peace. This sounded to me like the peace promised in Jesus Christ: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.[7]
                • Again, this leads us back to building a firm foundation in Christ. It is in Christ that we find our strength and surest support. It is in Christ that we find our greatest peace and reassurance. It is in Christ that we find our true treasure and significance. The ultimate worth that Haggai encouraged the Israelites to find in God is the same ultimate worth that we find through Christ Jesus.
  • Also why the building materials that we use don’t really matter so long as we are grounded in Christ
    • Scholar: Our life of faith is not a quest for the “right” material with which to build; instead, the life of faith involves each of us building with the material available to us. … So our building and our using the Spirit’s gifts are alternative ways of talking about our responsibility to put what we have and what we are into service of God at all times.[8]
    • But let’s talk a little bit about what sorts of building material we have available to us. What can we use to building upon and strengthen our relationship with Christ?
      • First and foremost = PRAYER –> I know it sometimes feels like “all we did” was pray for something, but in truth, prayer is an infinitely powerful thing.
        • Story of how Iona community (Scotland) was built up
          • Founded in 1938 in context of a Depression
          • Community intentionally living in faith – monastic life without the Catholicism/vows
          • “All they did” was pray … and people just started coming.
      • We can also build on our relationship with Christ through Bible study – reading Scripture each and every day and taking the time to consider what it’s saying to us about …
        • Relationship with God
        • Relationship with other brothers/sisters in faith
        • How we can/should live more like Christ
      • And linked to both prayer and Bible study is Sabbath time – that time that we set aside so that we can both find rest and honor God.
        • Sabbath time = planning time
          • Think of Sabbath time as the blueprint for building on your relationship. Every building needs plans, and planning takes time – time to consider things like dimensions, the needs of the builder, and the goal of the one for whom the structure is being built. In our lives, we need to take that time with God to figure out the dimensions of our faith in our lives, what it is that we need to keep building that faith, and what goals God has as the ultimate One for whom the structure of our faith is intended.
  • Anyone who’s been involved in any kind of Do-It-Yourself project knows how easy it is to become consumed by what you’re doing. You sit down to start working on your project, and before you know it, hours have slipped by … if not the whole day! It’s funny to think that we ourselves are DIY projects for God – something that captivates not only God’s attention but also God’s heart, the kind of work that brings God a challenge but also delight and peace. And when we make our faith our own DIY project, we can find that same challenge and delight and peace. And when we feel strong in our own faith foundations and firm in our identity as followers of Christ, you never know where that will take us in the life of the church. We’ve got good bones … now it’s time to see what kind of creation we can become together. Amen.

[1] 1 Cor 3:11.

[2] 1 Cor 3:13.

[3] J. Paul Sampley. “The First Letter to the Corinthians: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 10. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002), 829.

[4] Nadia Bolz-Weber. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. (New York, NY: Jericho Books), 2013.

[5] Hag 2:4.

[6] Hag 2:9.

[7] Phil 4:7.

[8] Sampley, 830.

[9] Frederick Buechner. Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1973), 119.

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