Christians Under Construction - Calvary Memorial United Church
Christians Under Construction
A Builder Or a Wrecker
As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell
I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled,
And the men you'd hire if you wanted to build?"
He gave a laugh and said, "No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need."
"I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do."
And I thought to myself, as I went my way
which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Am I shaping my work to a well-made plan
patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks to town
Content with the labor of tearing down?
"O Lord let my life and my labors be
that which will build for eternity!"
Let us pray: As clay takes form in a potter’s hand So do we in Yours, O Lord. Mold us into human form.
You are the potter; we are but clay. As words are shaped by a poet’s hand so are we by Yours. Make us Your
song. You are the singer; we are Your work. As threads are patterned by a weaver’s hand so are we by Yours.
Weave us into Your plan, O God. We are Your people; You are our King. Amen
So- how do you like all this construction around the church and in the neighbourhood? What is it that
they say: ‘The road to success is always under construction?’
I hope the contractor who is doing this work out there is not like the 3 contractors I heard about: Three
contractors were visiting a tourist attraction on the same day. One was from New York, another from Texas,
and the third from Florida.
At the end of the tour, the guard asked them what they did for a living. When they all replied that they
were contractors, the guard said, “Hey, we need one of the rear fences redone. Why don’t you guys take a look
at it and give me a bid?” So, to the back fence they all went to check it out.
First to step up was the Florida contractor. He took out his tape measure and pencil, did some measuring
and said, “Well I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew, and $100 profit for
Next was the Texas contractor. He also took out his tape measure and pencil, did some quick figuring
and said, “Looks like I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew, and $100 profit for me.
Without so much as moving, the New York contractor said, “$2,700.”
The guard, incredulous, looked at him and said, “You didn’t even measure like the other guys! How did
you come up with such a high figure?”
“Easy,” he said “$1,000 for me, $1,000 for you and we hire the guy from Texas.”
I’m sure that’s not what’s going on outside though!
Pretty soon, we’ll have our own construction to accommodate and deal with and work around as this
sanctuary is painted and gussied up- that’s not a liturgical term. So for a little while we will be inconvenienced
as we worship around scaffolding or drop cloths. Maybe the pews will be moved out for a little while. A lot
depends on how things progress for the painters. Their name is Expert Painters.
This small renovation-well
not so small actually- is thanks to you and your donations made over and above the regular support you
generously give to Calvary already and so –Thank You! Thank You! Some of us from Calvary attended a
workshop recently and the speaker, Rev. John Pentland, clearly said that the best thing that the church can do is
to receive money given out of gratitude. Now that may seem obvious- until you wonder ‘how often is money
given out of guilt?’ No: our giving comes out of gratitude not guilt, said he, which got me to thinking about how
and why we do give money. It made me think that sometimes we may give not out of gratitude or guilt but
because we expect to gain something from it. Have you ever been given a gift with ‘strings attached?’ It
happens in the church, I’m sorry to tell you. Our motives around money are often complicated- maybe as
complicated as our relationships with God and with each other. Some of the money to paint here in the
sanctuary comes from memorial funds that were redirected by church families to make the sanctuary more
beautiful than it already is. And I’m sure it is money that was given and re-directed out of gratitude!!
While we are renovating, maybe we will go down to the chapel downstairs to worship some Sunday and
we can pretend that we are in the Catacombs for an hour. We will survive, though we will have to change our
pattern for a little while. Well, that’s the thing with any renovation, or construction: we cope with upheaval
because we see the bigger picture. In a way, every day you come to the church is a surprise, and brings
something new! And that’s a good thing! Remember the Sunday last year at the church picnic and blessing of
the Animals when Darcy Spencer had arranged for a stuffed snake- a very realistic stuffed snake- to make an
appearance and look for blessing! Which reminds me- please pray for Darcy and Norma today.
So: construction outside—on Glasgow and Gruhn – and many other places around us. The city is
working on the infrastructure, keeping the deep unseen places we don’t think about in good working order.
And soon there will be a kind of construction inside the building here, as the sanctuary gets a little face
lift. We’re working on our infrastructure as a community of faith.
How about our own infrastructure, as Christians? Aren’t we always under construction ourselves,
inside, spiritually? I mean the infrastructure in those deep places where we come to God in prayer, and reveal
our deepest sorrows and regrets and fears. I mean the infrastructure in the deep places where we work out our
salvation, as scripture says, “In fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) I mean the infrastructure in the deep
places where we know God guiding, blessing, pushing, correcting. Aren’t we always learning and growing and
trying to become more Christ-like? More connected to God and to each other?
The Christian life- inside and out- is a work in progress. I don’t know any credible, believable Christian
person who would ever say, “Ah, Now I have arrived! Now I understand all!” Do you know anyone like that?
My advice to you if you meet someone like that is to run away. Fast. Think for a moment of the most spiritual
person you know: would they ever say that their spiritual journey is accomplished? Or would they humbly say
they have more to learn from God, about God? Would they pray the prayer that Thomas Merton prayed: “My
Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where
it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean
that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have
that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I
do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will
never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude)
I think that’s what got Peter into so much trouble in the scripture that Harold read a few minutes ago.
First Peter gives the greatest confession of all to the toughest question of all. ‘Who do you say that I am?’ asks
Jesus. “Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Peter gets
wonderful praise! You are the Messiah,[a] the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are
you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell
you, you are Peter,[b] and on this rock. I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Proud Peter! He has the keys to the kingdom! He rocks!
But the next thing you know Jesus is talking about his coming suffering: Jesus began to show his
disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests
and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him,
saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind
me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human
Poor Peter! Now he is not the rock on which Christ will build his church: now he’s a stumbling block
who hinders. Now, it says in Greek, Peter is a ‘skandalon’, a stumbling block, a scandal. From being a hero to
being a scandal in just a few words!
Peter was a work in progress- he was ‘under construction.’ You might even think that God deliberately
gives the weakest ones the most courageous mission.
Just like Moses, a man with a stammer. God picked him as spokesperson, to free God’s people.
Just like the prophet Jonah who ran in the opposite direction. God caught him and sent him anyway.
Sarah couldn't have children. God made her the mother of a nation.
Jeremiah was speechless. God made him a prophet.
Matthew was a social outcast. God made him a writer and apostle.
A little boy had only two loaves and five fish. God fed a multitude.
A widow had only two pennies. God financed the Kingdom.
You only have to be available for God to be able to use you. You don’t have to have all the smart answers
to the hard questions. You are already more useful to God than you may know. You might think you have to be
specially equipped to answer God’s call when the truth is that God gives you what you need and when you need
Christians are not self-made people.
A bright businessman sells hand-crafted university blazer buttons. From the Ben Silver Collection, as a
graduation or Christmas present, you can purchase crested blazer buttons for hundreds of colleges and
universities across the nation. What about those who never went to college? For those who went to the School
of Hard Knocks, there are buttons where the crest reads in Latin, Collegium Pulsationum Durarum (College of
Hard Knocks) with the seal in the form of a pick and shovel against an industrial construction site or campus.
The perfect gift, the catalog says, for the self-made individual. The only problem is there is no such thing as the
self-made individual. We are who we are because of the gifts and graces, the kindness and hospitality of others.
There are times when I really wish
that the Gospels told the stories of the years between Jesus’ birth
and his ministry- you know the in-between years. The early years, the teenaged years. Maybe though it’s
enough to know that Jesus worked as a carpenter with his father Joseph, daily grabbing up his tools and making
a living by shaping and fixing and creating. I think this is how God works in us too: shaping and fixing and
creating. Giving us strength when we are weak, propping us up sometimes and making us true and real.
We are Christians Under Construction!
Please join me in singing from MV# 1 Let Us Build a House.