Have you ever considered all of the expense that goes into building and maintaining a sanctuary, that part of a church building where we gather to worship on Sunday morning? A space that is difficult and expensive to heat or cool? A space that is seldom used during the week?
Since the first place of worship was merely an elaborate tent (see Exodus 26), what if instead of an impressive brick and mortar building that would only be used a few hours a week, we had a tent plus a few stacks of chairs, a table, and a piano that could be rolled into place each week? Perhaps a tent we would inflate early Sunday morning then roll away that afternoon; for the church is not the building, but a people who worship together.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NRSV)
For when a congregation is focused on shaping the living stones rather than maintaining brick and mortar, then their spiritual house becomes stronger as the living stones are hewn to fit exactly together, matching the shapes of adjacent stones supporting and provoking one another.
Yes provoking one another. Smaller congregations are particularly good at this. If someone misses worship, they either call ahead of time or someone will check on them, perhaps even before worship begins. And not merely Sunday worship, for living stones have many opportunities to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the world.
While large ornate cathedrals leave me wondering how resources might be used more effectively, I do recognize the value of a permanent place for worship over the labor and wear and tear to erect a tent every week, and how all that labor can be come a distraction to being living stones in a community.
How are you a “living stone”?
I will have more to say about 1 Peter 2:1-10 and living stones on Sunday, May 14th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor