My pastor and friend, Andy, made a joke at my expense at the conclusion of last Sunday’s service. When I was out of town. When I was unable to defend myself. Coward.
He announced that he’s put together a building committee. Then he went through the list of its members, detailing why their expertise and experience makes them an asset to the team. This guy’s a realtor. That guy’s a contractor. On he went like that until he got to my name.
I am on the building committee, not because I’m qualified or expert at anything, but because, as Andy put it, I dislike buildings.
He thought that was funny. Becky did too. Irony can be pretty funny and I admit that me on a building committee is truly ironic.
I wouldn’t say I dislike buildings though.
I don’t dislike buildings. I’ve never once struck or talked down to a building of any kind, be it a bank, post office, grocery store, whatever. Not once.
I don’t love buildings either. Not once have I and a building sat down for coffee; me confiding and it drinking in my secrets empathetically. We’ve never had a building over for dinner or made sure a building was one of the first to hear our good news.
I’m indifferent to buildings. I use them. And they stand there quietly and let me.
It’s people I care about. I care about them enough to disagree, fuss and fight, and beg forgiveness. On good days I care about them enough to give them my time and energy, words and ears and even my cash.
On good days. For people.
But not buildings.
People contain and carry around with them the mind and compulsions and character of God Himself. Buildings are just the places people gather together out of the rain, away from the outside noise for a little while, to hear God and talk to God together in ways they just can’t alone.
Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.” Luke 17:20-22 THE MESSAGE
The kingdom is among us in the local elementary school where we currently meet up every Sunday: the assembly of the saints. I see the kingdom on the shelves of our food pantry too: So no one has need among us. I hear the kingdom at the conclusion of every service, in the clanking of metal chairs being hung on their racks to be wheeled back into storage for the millionth time: serving in the small things side-by-side. The kingdom is with kids learning about Jesus in classrooms that belong to the city and not us: this is not our home. The kingdom stays behind when we leave the building cleaner than we found it: salt and light. The kingdom is among us when, instead of church shoppers drawn to a sign or steeple, neighbors and friends join us because they want to be with us, they trust us: the favor of all men.
Buildings are fine. I could take ’em or leave ’em. But people? I like people a lot. The kingdom is among them. The kingdom is already among us. That’s a good thing to remember when preparing to break ground.
Andy’s joking aside, he and I both know why I’m on the building committee: Because I’m afraid we’ll forget. And so is he sometimes.