Dedication of a Church–Chad Martin

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house…”(1 Peter 2:5)

One of our traditions here at St. Thomas’ is to observe the Dedication of the Church on the first Sunday in October each year. As many of you know, the worshipping community of St. Thomas’ first gathered in 1954, meeting on Sundays in a rented TV studio.

One family would bring the folding aluminum chairs, another would bring the hymnals and prayer books, another would bring the altar furnishings, and another would bring the altar itself.

Over the next twenty years, the people of St. Thomas’ gathered in a variety of spaces, including an army surplus tent on this Meyerland property during summer. And I’ve been told that one of our members would hang a sign outside the tent that read: “Air conditioned by the front flap.”

As the congregation grew, members developed a vision of this permanent building in which we worship today. And by the grace of God and the patient generosity of the congregation, was opened on April 1, 1972.

However, before this beautiful building was built, St. Thomas’ existed as a church, because, as we know, a church does not consist of mortar and bricks; a church is not a building, it is the community of believers, God’s family who comes together to worship.

Therefore, today not only do we re-dedicate this building for its purpose; we also re-dedicate ourselves to our purpose: to become followers or disciples of Jesus Christ.

By doing this, we honor the reading from today’s Epistle in which Peter uses the image of a building, with a key cornerstone on which all additional stones find their place, purpose, and support.

Peter declares that Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church, and we are its (lively or) living stones, who by resting on Christ give the whole structure its shape and strength, and allow future generations to rest on us.

Bishop N.T. Wright in his book “Surprised by Hope” (which we have been studying over the past few weeks) expands on the imagery used in today’s epistle by comparing us to stonemasons working together to build a great cathedral and God as the great architect.

Write states, “The architect has already drawn up the plans and passed on the instructions to the team of masons… The foreman distributes these tasks among the team. One shapes stones for a particular tower…another works on gargoyles or coats of arms; another is making statues of saints, martyrs, kings, or queens.

They are vaguely aware that others are getting on with their tasks, and they know, of course, that many other departments are busy with quite different tasks as well.

When they are finished with their stones and statues, they hand them over without necessarily knowing very much about where in the…building their work will find its home.

They may not have seen the complete architect’s drawing of the whole building with their part identified in its proper place. They may not even live…to see the completed building with their work at last where it belongs. But they trust the architect that the work they have done will not be wasted.

Write makes it very clear that, “They are not, themselves, building the cathedral, but they are building for the cathedral, and when the cathedral is complete their work will be enhanced and will mean much more than they could have ever imagined.”

In the same way, on this dedication Sunday, we remember that we do not build God’s church, we are called to build for His church.

However, if you are anything like me, sometimes it’s all too easy to think that life revolves around you and that you are the star of your own movie. You have a cast of characters in your life who come and go.

Some, such as family and close friends, have a very large role while others, such as business acquaintances, and store clerks, (and in-laws), play a very minor role.

Yet, the truth is, and what today’s service reminds us of, is that we are not the star of our own lives; instead we are part of something much larger; we are all supporting characters in the movie starring God.

The theologian Urs von Balthazar once said that we should think of ourselves as being engaged in a Theo-drama. In other words, we should accept that we are but actors in a play. Not the director. And in fact, we must listen carefully to the whispered stage directions.

This is not to say that we are not important and that our lives do not matter. Of course they do! After all, in a good play or movie, even the most minor character serves a purpose essential to the plot.

And in the drama on this planet, the unique role that is yours and mine only becomes clear as our life unfolds. Yet, we only succeed by following the counsel of the director, who alone knows how each part fits into the whole.

A while back I saw an amusing bumper sticker on the back of a car that read “I wish Morgan Freeman narrated my life.” This got me to thinking, “who is the narrator of my life”? Do I strive to listen for God’s voice or do I constantly pursue my own?

Do I remember that it’s not really my life at all? Instead, it is a precious gift from God and that I am part of something much larger than myself.

Today, as we re-dedicate our church St. Thomas’, may we remember and recognize that we are part of something much larger than ourselves.

Today, may we remember those who have gone before us and those who will come after.

And today may we trust God to work in and through us, using us as “living stones” to build for His church that has been generations in the making, and shall last until eternity.

10/7/12
1 Peter 2:1-5