There is a real art in building a house. Steve and Darren would know better than most of us, the work and that goes into every meticulous detail to ensure they build a solid house; a house that will last for a very long time. Of course, care also goes into the safety of those building the house. Occupational health and safety laws help us to have a safe working environment.
I have some photos of safe working procedures.
Why do we build houses? Why do we go to great lengths to rent or own a house? Is it just for shelter? Just to have a place where we can unload all our stuff? No. A house is more than bricks and mortar; more than a storage facility. A house is where we live, where our lives are lived out and a place we call ‘home’; home with the family. A place we feel welcome, wanted and needed; a place where we feel safe. And for children, our house is where mum and dad are; places were they belong to our family and are a part of it; a place of trust, knowing that us, as parents, have the best intentions for them.
As parents we build houses and live in houses so that our family can live together as one. Our hope is that our family would grow up in the house, one in trust and unity; one in safety and respect as a family. Yet we know all to well, that the house, our house, can in fact be quite the opposite. The house we provide for our family can turn out to be places of pain and anger and places that are not safe. Our selfishness is exposed as we grow together as a family. Living as a family in the tight confines of a house, often leads to arguments and power struggles; ‘this is mine’, ‘I never get a turn’, ‘you are always so picky’, and so it goes on. A house becomes a dwelling place of individuals; a place where there are a number of ‘me’s’ but no ‘we’s’.
The walls of a peaceful looking house, with tranquil gardens and meticulously finished décor, can often hide the real picture can they? A house can hide the anger and fighting, the separateness and the division within a family; hide the group of ‘me’s’ and present the family as a ‘we’. Often this is the reality we face, a broken home; a house that is a place for hurting individuals, rather than a home for a loving family. This is the effect of sin and it strikes at the core of society, the family. The devil strikes at the inner fabric of who we are; who we were created to be- members of a family; people who belong and have their identity and self worth in being valued member of a family.
The devil knows that if he can break down the family home, he can break down society. If he can break down the ‘we’ of a family home and make them into individual ‘me’s’, he can destroy a whole family. And in destroying the family, he is destroying each individual. You know yourself, when there is a breakdown in the relationship between your spouse, or another family member, when you are no longer a ‘we’, but a ‘me’, you don’t feel whole anymore; you’re incomplete; a part of you has been taken away. And if not resolved, this leads to anger, resentment and revenge. We try and reclaim what we lost. We hurt the one who hurt us, to get even, to get back what we had. And if we can’t get it, we look to fill our emptiness elsewhere.
Drinking, gambling, internet and even extra-marital affairs are just some of the things we do to try and fill our emptiness, reclaim what we think we have lost. And these often become our addictions, because they can never fill the emptiness inside. Sin empties us of relationships, makes us individuals, loners searching for a house, a home, a family to be part of.
It is for this reason that Jesus came into the world; to rebuild broken relationships, to restore the house of Israel, to make us part of the family again; God’s family. We were originally created to be in relationship with God; created to be in his image, to belong to him and to others in relationships. Sin changed all that, and so we live with a continual sense of loss and separation from a house we once lived. St Augustine expresses it this way ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you’. We are restless and empty until we find our home with God.
And so God sent his only Son Jesus into the world to build a new family home for us to live; a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands but by the loving hands of our Saviour. A house in which we can live forever and never be separated from him. What is ironic about Jesus’ house, is that we provided the tools and the materials for its construction; the wood for the cross, the iron for the nails, and the hammer and spear for its completion. Jesus used these tools and materials, normally used to bring about separation and death, to build a house that will restore broken relationships; our relationship with God, and our relationships between each other through the forgiveness of sins.
The house Jesus built is a radically different house, built on forgiveness, grace and mercy; built out of love for others rather than love for self. By dying on the cross and rising again to new life, Jesus broke the power of sin; forgiveness is available to all who call on his name. By the wood, nails and spear, our relationship with God is restored; we are forgiven; we are whole again. Jesus has given us a new house to live in; a new family to be a part of; a place where our hearts are at rest.
Not only did Jesus build the house, he is also the corner stone, the central building block of our new family home, Peter writes ‘Jesus is the living Stone– rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him’. And through the waters of our baptism, we are born again into God’s house; we are part of his family. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we become part of God’s living house.
Jesus is the corner stone and we are like the bricks which make up his house. Peter adds ‘You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ Living stones in God’s house, that is who we are in Christ. You and I are part of God’s house; a house built on forgiveness, grace and mercy; a safe place for family members.
This is where Jesus’ forgiveness makes a difference in our families now. We are living stones of God’s new house. As baptised believers, we all have a part to play in Jesus’ new building. Peter calls these parts ‘our spiritual sacrifices to God’. That is, in our own homes, in our own families, we sacrifice our self for the sake of others. Our spiritual sacrifice is to remain a ‘we’ and not a ‘me’, especially in times of conflict. Our spiritual sacrifice is to pray for God’s Spirit, to pray for our families, to pray that we would let go of the old self, the old way of doing things, to let go of the addictions we have to fill our void, even when we don’t want to. Now that is truly a strong house; a true family home; a home built on Jesus Christ the corner stone is a strong home. It is built on the ‘we’ and not the ‘me’ and a home who trusts in the Lord will never be put to shame.”