Sermon Title “Building for Christ” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden
Good morning! I am happy to be with you again, and grateful for the leadership from Stan Noffsinger and Anne Griffith last week. I heard positive comments about Stan’s message, particularly that it meant that the service was done before 10:30. Don’t get used to that, is all I can say.
I’m going to go into a little church history this morning — not centuries ago, but about 2 decades. This is lived history for some of you, but it may be unfamiliar to others. For some of you, the title of this sermon — feel free to check, it’s Building for Christ — has associations with the capital campaign to build this facility. Later, it was the fund where members could give donations directly to the principle of our mortgage. We had a building committee who met for 2-3 years before our first worship service here in May of 2006, 17 years ago. Most of those committee members are still part of Creekside: Maryann Zerbe was the chair, joined by Sue Noffsinger, Gary Arnold, and Kathy Royer. John Berkebile has since moved out of the area, and David Bibbee, who was the pastor at that time, moved to a different congregation in 2009.
I remember someone in the congregation during that construction process who complained about the name Building for Christ and all the focus on the building. What that person missed, perhaps intentionally, is that “building” didn’t have to be a noun — a thing — but that building is also a gerund; that is, a noun which indicates ongoing action. It is something we are supposed to do. This is the sense of the word building in Ephesians 4:12. The author lists gifts of teaching, evangelism and prophecy and says that these should be used “to equip the saints for ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” This is a beautiful building: it was thoughtfully planned and carefully constructed. It has been used by our congregation and community and families; we have maintained the building and have improved the grounds with beautiful and productive gardens and landscaping. We owe the folks who planned this building a debt of gratitude; and we still owe Old National Bank about $160,000 on the mortgage. We are blessed to have this building. But this structure is not the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the people who are gathered here, both in-person and on our livestream broadcast. The body of Christ is the fellowship of Christians in our community and nation and around the world. The body of Christ is what we will be invited to participate in as part of our service of communion today.
This is not to disparage any of the good work which goes on around here. Beautiful flower beds, clean Sunday School rooms and creative visuals for worship are all good things, in my opinion. They are part of why members are happy to come here, and a well-tended space is a way of offering hospitality to our guests. We know that working outside in a garden or in our kitchen, or being drawn into worship have been pathways for guests to become active members at Creekside. That is a wonderful thing. But none of these valuable ministries are an end in themselves: we are to equip the saints for ministry to build up the body of Christ. The author of Ephesians says in verse 14 that we must no longer be children, but grow up in every way so that each part is promoting the body building itself up in love.
I hope you would agree with that — especially since those are the Bible’s words, and not mine. Because here’s the thing: being mature, that is, no longer acting like a child, takes intentional effort. There is regular weeding and sorting and cleaning which has to be done to keep our spiritual lives in order. And other people see the results. Building for Christ does not mean that we never disagree, or that you never hurt my feelings, or that I don’t accidentally — or maybe on purpose — hurt your feelings. You probably deserved it. At the end of the day, building for Christ doesn’t even mean we all have to agree about what gets done or how it gets done. Building for Christ means being clear about who is the head which joins the rest of the body together, and brothers and sisters, it ain’t us.
This congregation and every congregation needs people with God-given gifts, people who are passionate about what they do and strive to do it well, people who have a vision for the kingdom of God. In this congregation and every congregation I know of, there are people who do more and people who don’t do as much, and whadda you know, the people who work the hardest are the most likely to be criticized. No wonder churches burn people out. The solution to this dilemma, I believe, is NOT to get mad, stay mad, and retreat to our bunkers where we can be by ourselves or with only people who see things our way. The healthiest church communities are NOT ones where you don’t see the conflict; the healthiest churches are ones where the members are building for Christ by building up each other in love: even when they disagree. Ephesians 4:1-2 characterizes this as leading a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and patience bearing with one another in love. If this sounds like a tall order, it is. Nobody said being mature is easy. This is body-building we’re talking about: no pain, no gain.
So here are a few modest proposals. I’m sure you can think of lots of other ways to build up the body of Christ: Vacation Bible School begins this evening — pray for the children who will be attending. We don’t expect them to be mature, but we hope the adults from Creekside are. Not only the teachers who have been preparing Bible lessons, but the folks serving snacks, or those hanging out to visit with parents or other family members. This means not getting huffy if things didn’t go as you had expected or planned, and maybe even being willing to pitch in help with something that you had not planned to do. It might mean just showing up some night and to appreciate and encourage the variety of gifts which our volunteers share.
We’ve been talking about the cleaning and sorting which has been going on at Creekside in closets and classrooms. We may have different convictions about what we should keep and what we should clear out. Before you get frustrated because somebody moved your sacred cow “I put it on this shelf five years ago, where is it?” or that someone else is keeping things that you don’t think they should keep, take a deep breath and ask why this is important to you. Things need to get done, for sure, but maintaining a building should never be more important than building up the body of Christ.