How should Christians think about damage to their church property? Here are my thoughts from our June newsletter.
"The church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is a people."
I’m sure you’ve heard this old song. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. As you may know, we had a significant leak in the church on May 12. A hose burst from the water fountain, spilling water throughout the Fellowship Hall and down the hallway to the new parlor, nursery and preschool rooms, restrooms, and choir room. ServiceMaster was quickly on the job to dry everything out with heavy-duty fans and wet-vacs, and most church events have been uninterrupted. Thankfully we have good insurance, and they will be covering the costs of replacing ruined drywall, vinyl flooring, and carpet as over the next several weeks.
Throughout all this, I’ve had that song in my head: "We are the church together"... Is the church bricks and mortar? Nope. Is the church sheetrock and carpet? Nope. The church is us. Think about that for a second. You and me, sinners and saints: the church is us! Isn’t that incredible?
Consider one of my favorite Bible passages, Ephesians 2:19-22:
So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.
Much (not all) of the Old Testament depicts the Temple as God’s dwelling place, a physical structure that served as God’s footstool on earth. The Temple was destroyed twice, and God’s people were scattered to live in exile and diaspora. But when the time was right, "The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, The Message). Jesus was born.
Suddenly God was no longer believed to dwell in a Temple; God was believed to dwell among his people. As Jesus began his ministry, he alluded to himself as a new Temple, one which would be destroyed before rising again in three days. In doing this, Jesus laid the foundation for his church, the gathering of his people who share life together in Christ, the new Temple. We who call ourselves First Presbyterian Church are simply the living extension of that foundation and cornerstone: men and women and boys and girls who love Jesus, love his church, and love our neighbors in Sylva and beyond.
Does a physical building help our mission? Of course. But our mission doesn’t depend on it. Our mission depends on Jesus, who, by his Spirit, makes us his church. The rest is just icing on the cake.