Monday, May 15, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Returning to the portion of the letter to the early church that we heard this morning, the author is addressing the persecuted Christian community, encouraging them that God is the cornerstone upon whom the community rests. Our footing is sure, and our basic foundation is solid because it is found in God.

But then, he writes, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house….”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “house,” I picture bricks and mortar, like this sanctuary. It’s true that we are cemented together by our common faith; but bricks disintegrate and mortar erodes, so I’m confident there’s more to this metaphor.

The Greek word at the root of both “build” and “house” here is οἶκος. And in addition to referring to construction projects with joists and beams, lintels and doorposts, this language is used to encourage Christians to edify and strengthen each other, and make each other more able to live as a community in Christ.

A spiritual house is not made of bricks and mortar;
instead it is a holy house where God dwells with the people of God,
a living church, filled with living disciples.

Bringing us all together probably gets even messier than a cement mixer at a construction site, but Christianity is a social faith; you can’t freelance it or go solo. Benedictine nun Joan Chittister writes:[i]
In community, we work out our connectedness to God, to one another, and to ourselves. It is in community where we find out who we really are.

It is life with another that shows my impatience and life with another that demonstrates my possessiveness and life with another that gives notice to my nagging devotion to the self. Life with someone else, in other words, doesn’t show me nearly as much about his or her shortcomings, as it does about my own…
In human relationships I learn that theory is not substitute for love. It is easy to talk about the love of God, it is another thing to practice it.
From Genesis on, we see God creating us for relationship.

First, we are created to live in relationship with God, and God loves us so much that God waits on us. Every time God’s people turn away or flee God’s presence, God is patient and waits for us to return.

And, in the meantime, God entrusts us with care for each other, too. Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum; they intertwine, overlap and weave together into a rich tapestry. Some may be more threadbare or worn, and others may be rough and even abrasive, but they are all of one piece, one people.

And because we are real people who live in the real world, we know heartbreak and elation. But together, we form 
a community that sustains us in the midst of suffering, of illness and disease, and in the face of tragic loss and death;
a community that gently corrects us, encourages us and affirms our gifts and talents;
a community that celebrates our achievements and thrills to watch us soar.

And because we are a community of the living and risen Christ,
and not some lifeless edifice, we are created to be life-giving,
not only to the people who gather here regularly, but to our neighbors. For our neighbors who are hurting, hungry or alone, God’s people are called to provide balm for their wounds, food for their bellies and love and mercy for their hearts.

Maybe you remember in the fifth Harry Potter movie when “Dumbledore’s Army” discovered the “room of requirement.”

It was a giant room where the students could practice defensive spells that would be used to fight the enemy, the death eaters. “The room of requirement” was a magical space that was only revealed to a person

“when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs.”[ii]

It could shift and adapt, and become what the world needed in a specific time and place.

Maybe that’s what it means to be living stones:
to be present for people who have a real need for God and to adapt and become what the world needs, here and now.

Let us pray…
Living God,
Thank you for being steadfast in your love for us
and for forming us into a holy people.
Give us your grace to become living stones, strengthening each other as we live as a community in Christ.
Show us how to be life-giving in a cynical world, that our words and actions would reflect your love and mercy, and not our own selfishness and possessiveness.
We pray in the name of your Son Jesus Christ,

[i] Joan Chittister, OSB. Wisdom Distilled from the Daily.
[ii] “Order of the Phoenix.”

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