Once again, we were back at Living Hope Church this morning to work on the renovation of the building. If you haven’t checked out the pictures in the previous post, do so, because they’re awesome. The drywall is beginning to go up and you can really see the progress in the building. Having been involved in renovation of old buildings (and otherwise seeing buildings constructed), I know that the moment the drywall goes up is the moment that the building begins to look like a structure instead of simply a framework.
One thing that we have to get done in order for the drywall to go up is create room for the workers to actually put it in! We often simply lean stuff against walls to get it out of the way – but when it’s time for the drywall, you actually have to get to the wall. This leads to a situation in which you have to move things – so you can move more things – so you can move yet more things – so you can put up the drywall. It’s basically musical chairs, except with construction materials. This was one of our tasks today.
One of the things we had to move was a pile of bricks. The bricks were in a room that had to be drywalled, and they had to go into the next room, in which the walls will stay the original brick. We had to move the bricks and then stack them in a wall-like structure – not so much a wall as a “structurally-sound pile of bricks,” in the words of young Wyn. It wasn’t a particularly onerous task or physically demanding. But there were very few intact bricks in the pile. Many of the bricks were broken; perhaps it was a minor thing, like a chipped brick. Some of the bricks, however, were broken seemingly beyond repair, to the point that it was half-size or smaller and maybe had only one smooth side.
Our instructions were to stack the whole bricks and maybe the bricks that were basically intact. The half bricks were basically useless, fit for the trash. As we started to stack these bricks, however, we began to realize the proportion of bricks in the pile. We would be throwing out a lot of bricks. We made a group decision to stack up some half bricks if they were particularly good-looking, if we found a niche appropriate to the half brick’s shape in the stack. We stacked up some half bricks and set aside others. And then it was lunch time, and we left the back of the church for tasty fried chicken from Harold’s across the street.
After lunch, the people I was stacking bricks with went upstairs to paint, another thing on our agenda list, but I stayed behind with the bricks. I thought to myself, ‘I want to go through all these bricks and make sure that we don’t waste any useful bricks.’ And as I kept stacking brick by brick, the bricks just kept fitting together. I began to think of these imperfect bricks not as useless, but simply differently shaped. With a touch of mortar in the right place, it’ll fit together in a wall just right.
And as I stacked these special bricks, I started thinking about how these bricks point me to Christ. I realized that there are so many different ways that they did! The first thing I thought of is the wall of bricks as the body of Christ. We all have different roles to play in the body of Christ. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” Paul goes on to declare that we all have different giftings and roles in the collective body by asking if rhetorically if we are all teachers, healers, interpreters, miracle-workers? Of course we are not. Each brick – even those that were weak, broken and shattered – had a role to play in this wall, analogous to our roles within the body of Christ.
I then thought about Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, when Paul discusses his thorn in the flesh. Paul discussed how he had pled with God, begged God, to remove this weakness of his, but his relation of God’s response is simply mindblowing: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Power made perfect in weakness? That throws our cultural paradigm completely upside-down. God chooses to work through the weak among us, not the strong. As Paul wrote in another place, “Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? … God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” We had thought about simply dumping the broken bricks. They were, quite literally, despised. But they were useful and integral to the wall.
I thought of how the broken bricks remind me of our broken selves. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” and we are all broken with sin. We come born into this world with a sin nature. We’re broken people, but we still get used by God in amazing ways.
Finally, I thought of that famous first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees: “I tell you, if [my disciples] were silent, the very stones would cry out!” The stones were actually crying out this afternoon in Living Hope Church. The stones themselves were pointing me to Christ.