Christ Lutheran Church Upper Darby
May 10, 2020 Worship Sermon - "The House of God"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
Scripture: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
Have you ever played the game Jenga?
In case you are unfamiliar with it, Jenga is a game where you start out building a tower of rectangular wooden blocks. Once you have used all the blocks, you continue to build the tower higher and higher by removing blocks from the lower levels of the tower and placing them on top. As players remove blocks from the lower layers, the tower becomes increasingly unstable until someone pulls out a block and the whole tower comes tumbling down and everyone shouts “Jenga” and laughs and groans and the game starts over again.
Jenga is a popular game for parties and it is a lot of fun; but mostly it gives adults the opportunity to do something that every eight-month-old baby loves to do: play with blocks. Truly, every child loves to build things with blocks: we start out with those wooden cubes; then we advance to Lincoln logs; then we move on to Legos; and our building projects get bigger and more sophisticated. It’s not just blocks, though; kids love to build with anything they can get their hands on. In the winter they build igloos from snow and in the summer they build tree houses. They’ll make houses from refrigerator boxes and old tires. It must be something instinctual because we all love to build.
It appears that God loves to build, too. That’s one of the themes running through our scripture readings this morning. God loves to build houses, although God’s favorite building material seems to be not brick or stone, but human beings. In First Peter we read: “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” And in the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.” If we keep reading on, we will see that those dwelling places are in Jesus. We human beings dwell in Jesus and together we are built into a spiritual house, the Father’s house, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
This image of God building a house from human beings is a great image for Mother’s Day, the day when we celebrate and give thanks for the people who create a home for their children. We all know that a home is more than a building. You can live in a gorgeous mansion and still be from a broken home. What builds a beautiful home is the love that is shared within a family.
So, on Mother’s Day we celebrate and give thanks for mothers who build love-filled homes for their families. But even more, we celebrate those who don’t stop with their own family when they are building their home, mothers who build homes large enough to include other children, especially vulnerable children, so that they too can be nurtured with the love and the care they need to grow into the people God created them to be. Mothers who build homes that stretch deep into their communities reflect the image of God, whose house includes dwelling places for many, many people.
Celebrating the house of God built from living stones is especially helpful during a time when we cannot gather in this house here at the corner of Walnut Street and Madeira Road in Upper Darby. This physical house, built of Foxcroft stone and oak, is truly magnificent. Our ancestors spared no expense when they were building it back in 1928. But how wonderful that the house of God is not limited by the walls of this church building. How wonderful that we can continue to gather as living stones in the house of God even when we worship from our homes. How wonderful that long after this beautiful building has tumbled to the ground like a pile of Jenga blocks, the house of God built from living stones will continue to stand.
That brings me to my final point: the house of God built from living stones includes those who have died in Christ. The passage from John 14 that we read this morning is a favorite reading at funerals because it reminds us that Jesus is preparing a place for us in God’s house so that we may be where he is. The house of God includes those who have gone before us in the faith. So, during a time when a pandemic is taking so many of our friends and neighbors from us, we remember that nothing can take these living stones from the house of God. We are all still gathered together with generations stretching all the way back to Peter, and Thomas, and Philip, and Mary Magdalene. We are gathered into a magnificent dwelling place… the dwelling place of the God of life.