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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Brick in the Pile

The genius of architects throughout the centuries is their ability to create magnificent structures from seemingly simple materials. The individual units used in the things they build amount to more than their sum, creating something beautiful from a mass of decidedly not beautiful things. For example, a brick. Bricks aren't particularly pretty. I mean, look at this thing:

Just a block of hard. Pretty simple. But look at the things people have built with bricks!
These look more like art to me than the 3D rectangles used to make them.

Many analogies are drawn in the New Testament about the basileia theou, the reign of God: mustard seeds, lost coins, body parts, and so on. But my favorite analogy right now (though not strictly a biblical one) is that of bricks. Of what is the kingdom of God made? It exists in space, for there are certainly places where we may say, "The kingdom of heaven is here." It exists in time, for there are days when it is easy to say, "The reign of the Lord is now." It exists in thoughts and in events, in consideration and in action. But in all these things, so far as we are aware, it does not exist without people.

Right now I want to stress my displeasure with the rampant individualism found in American churches. I do not like the idea of a "me and God" relationship, when the New Testament seems to emphasize a "God and me and you and them and us and everybody" relationship. But without the individuals the group cannot exist.

So it is with the kingdom: the Temple is built, brick by brick. And I believe we are the bricks. On our own, we're pretty plain, just lumps of hard. But our value is found in the use to which God puts us: bricks in the pile become bricks in the Temple. The question is, are we sitting in the pile, or have we been built into something bigger than ourselves? Unlike bricks, we have the option of staying in the pile. What will we be, the pile or the Temple?

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