Wednesday, March 2, 2016
How long does it take to build a church from scratch? I guess that depends on what our definition of the word “church” is. Maybe you’ve never really thought about it, but we use the word “church” in a lot of different ways. “Church” can be a verb, something we do. For instance, right now we are “doing church,” as opposed to what we will be doing at other times like, Bible Class. “Doing church” is when we gather together around the Word and Sacraments in worship and praise to our Lord God. Usually, “church” is a noun. This evening you drove your car from your home address to 32410 Willowick Dr. These 6-some acres with a building is “the church.” We can even narrow it down more. I might be sitting in my office home, “oh, I have to get something over at the church.” “Church” in that sense is just the building that we use for worship…that’s a church.
Some of you may know that in the New Testament, “church” always has a different meaning. It never means a building or a piece of property, rather “church” refers to the gathering of believers. The church isn’t bricks and mortar and rooms with a roof and a parking lot and trees. The people are the church. And isn’t that true? A tornado could level all the buildings on our property, but we’d still have a church, since “church” is the people here, not the building we meet in. And let’s say that this tornado would even take all of our lives…we would still be a church. But instead of being the Church Militant on earth, we’d be part of the Church Triumphant in heaven.
So now that we’ve reviewed a bit what “church” means, let’s ask ourselves again, how long does it take to build a church from scratch? To answer that question, let us look at the master builder himself, Jesus Christ. He was on earth visibly for 40 days between His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven, and do you know what He was doing? He was building a Church. You see, the main purpose of His 3 years of ministry was to be the world’s substitute: to live under all of God’s laws and to obey them perfectly in our place, and to die that awful death on the cross that we sinners deserve.
But come Easter Sunday, that was all finished. He just had one more task to accomplish before He went to heaven; Jesus had to build a Church. And the fact that we’re here in church many hundreds of years later proves that Jesus did a pretty good job building His church in those 40 days. So let’s look at “The Church Jesus Built.” And His Church has priests.
I want you to notice something about Peter, the writer of our text. Here he was, not college-trained, but a simple fisherman. But look how well he knew his Bible.
Peter talks about us in the these few verses of our text.
He calls us “a chosen people.” Just think, before the world was even created, before the first trees, before the Sun and Moon even existed, your name was written in God’s Book of Life. God chose you from eternity to be a member of His Church.
The Lord has made us into “a royal priesthood.” When was the last time someone called you, “Your Majesty”? When was the last time people bowed down for you wherever you went? God sees you as a king or queen. You might not feel like it, you might not look it in this life, but rest assured that you are part of God’s royal family.
And we are all priests. What percentage of Christians are called workers? Less than 1%. What percentage of Christians are priests? 100%! We all are. We all have the privilege to come into the Lord’s Temple and offer up our prayers on behalf of us and others. In the Old Testament, only a tiny fraction of the people had this opportunity. In Christ’s New Testament Church that He worked so hard to build, He has given us all the right to be priests, to come before His Father’s throne whenever we want and ask Him for whatever we need, knowing that He will hear and answer every single one of our prayers.
Why did God make us into this “chosen people, royal priesthood,” and so on? “That you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We were as good as dead. We were in the dark, prison house our sin with absolutely no way to get out. But just as Jesus rose from His bonds of death, He has raised us up from our darkness and now we dwell in the light of forgiveness and peace with the Lord.
Maybe you’ve had this peace for so long that you take it for granted. But just think what a rare thing this peace is. So many people in your neighborhood don’t have that peace with God. They aren’t a royal priest like you are. They continually stumble over Christ, the living Stone. We declare God’s praises when we show these people what Christian lives look like. When we take the high road by not getting back at someone, by not gossiping, by helping out someone who doesn’t deserve our help, we are declaring God’s praises. We also do that when we tell people how important Jesus is to us, and how excited we are to be members of God’s family. God has built you into His Church, not just to take up space, but each one of us has an important task to do in His kingdom. Yes, we spend our lives declaring God’s praises to a darkened world.
If we look at our church building, what stones could we do away with? If we took out this one brick, we would definitely notice it. It would stick out every time we came to worship. What stones can we do away with in Christ’s Church? Can we say, “this second row, you are out of the Holy Christian Church…we don’t need you anymore”? We can’t do without them; they would be missed. I don’t care if you’re a confirmed life-long LCM member, a 4-year-old, or a first time visitor who’s never been to a Lutheran church. Jesus has built us all into an important part of His building. All are precious to Him. The Church Jesus Built has a place for you. And won’t it be a marvelous sight when we see this completed building, as we gather around God’s throne in heaven, and for all eternity, celebrate our membership in The Church Jesus Built.