My Dear Shepherds,
A certain wealthy man summoned a building contractor and told him he wanted to enlist his services in building a home. This was to be no ordinary home. “I have all the plans,” the rich man said as he unrolled the blueprints. “I know exactly what I want.” The contractor studied them in growing amazement. This wasn’t just a house; not even a mansion. It was a palace. No expense would be spared.
The rich man began to describe his construction plans. He had already laid a foundation much deeper and stronger than the contractor would have thought possible; or necessary, for that matter. Great stones had been quarried and fit tightly together deep below ground so that there would be neither settling nor seepage. Nothing would ever undermine or shake this house!
But when the rich man began to describe the materials he wanted the contractor to use his astonishment turned to bewilderment. There was no mention of marble or mahogany, of rich tapestries or gold decoration. This incredibly wealthy man, who clearly wanted the best of everything, required that his house be built from bricks of mud and straw, that the woodwork be of driftwood and salvaged lumber, that the carpets be of woven rags, and the windows crafted from broken glass.
“Those bricks will crumble under the weight,” the contractor protested. “The wood will be impossible to work. Every mantle and cornice and tapestry will look cheap and they won’t last. And those windows won’t let in enough light.”
But the rich man wouldn’t hear it. He explained how he planned for the mud brick walls to be several courses deep to hold the weight. He showed the beautiful carvings he wanted worked from the wood, the rich patterns he had in mind for the rag rugs, and the glorious stained glass windows he envisioned from the broken glass, not to let light in, as it turned out, but to let light out. “Just build with the materials I give you. Follow my plans and my house will be like no other. Now, if there are no more questions, go. Begin.”
You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
So, pastors, keep at it. God knows it’s hard to build something beautiful with mud bricks. (“He knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust.”) It is difficult to carve castoff wood into the image of Christ, but as it turns out, our people are “God’s handiwork [not ours], created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Just as surely as God’s first earthly tabernacle was crafted from what Israel plundered from the Egyptians so we can craft the house of God from the people he has redeemed.
And one day this great house, this temple over which we have labored, will descend from heaven, literally alive and alight with the glory of God. Not a building at all, really, but a bride, a radiant gathering of God’s redeemed people, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Be ye glad!