Foundations of Faith & the Future

02.17.17 | Pulpit Posts

We are very familiar with building in this city. Just in the church’s neighborhood there is the massive Hudson Yards project unfolding with some 11 buildings with allied infrastructure providing for the thousands who will work and live there. But this building activity is being replicated all over the city. I have to admit to an almost boyish fascination with building, especially big buildings! In my years as Rector of Transfiguration I was involved in the parish’s partnership with the developer of the 55 floor Sky House built on the original Parish Center site during my early years. I became very involved and interested in the whole process of building such a huge structure. I felt I knew every girder, pour of concrete and brick used in the process. I remember on some days there would be 19 pours of concrete with the trucks lined up in front of the church and my office. Sometimes I could hardly hear myself speak on the phone such was the din outside. What really hit home in the overall process is that the foundation stage of the project took almost the same time as the erection of the 55 floors! Once those buildings start going up they go real fast! But it was that digging down to the bedrock and the drilling into it for foundational pillars that was such a major and important task. For we all know that unless the foundations are right the whole building is compromised. Only last year we read about the new building in San Francisco which has developed a dangerous “lean” because of the insufficiency of the foundations. It is hardly surprising that Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, the second reading for this coming Sunday, uses the image of a building and its foundation as a metaphor to describe the church. Paul imagines himself laying the foundation of the building in his initial proclamation of the gospel and of others subsequently building on it. He counsels the future builders to build carefully but most importantly not to forget that the foundation of the whole enterprise is Jesus Christ. So we sing from time to time the great Charles Wesley hymn, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” But then Paul stretches the metaphor even further and says: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” It is important to note that in the Greek text all the “you’s” are plural for Paul is talking about the church. His words are a great reminder to us that we, the people, at Holy Apostles are the Church of God in this place. Not only is our foundation Jesus Christ (into whom we are baptized or incorporated or “built”) but also that God’s Holy Spirit inhabits us. This transforms the way we see ourselves and reminds us that we are much more than a club or society or association of people (while we share much in common with all three) but that we have a divine calling and spiritual purpose. Paul sees this spiritual building not as a completed project but rather as an ongoing one that will have its completion in the “Day of Jesus Christ”.  This highlights for us the dynamic aspect of our life together as church: that we are a spiritual work in progress, ever building, ever being renewed. This insight may be helpful to us as we reflect on the life of the parish in this “self-study” part of our Search Process. Rather than see the parish as a completed project which simply needs routine maintenance to continue it may be helpful to see it as a dynamic organism growing and developing at each stage of its existence. But most important of all is not to forget that our firm foundation is built on Jesus Christ and that God’s abiding and loving Spirit is present in our community of faith.

Bishop Andrew St. John

Bishop Andrew St. John

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