We are celebrating the faithfulness, and provision of God in building faith, community, and this facility.
And he has done that through pandemic, social unrest, online church, outside church, construction church.
He has seen us through days of working at jobs, going to school, raising families, dealing with loss and celebration, showing up for church and group and for one another…through all of what has happened these past few years
He has used and blessed your sacrificial giving of time, talent and treasure…to build this facility.
We are done building a structure…if you want to embark on another building project…I’m all for it…as long as I’m retired or in heaven.
We are done building our facility…now we get to use this facility to continue to build the greater things…faith and community.
Let’s spend a bit of time in God’s word…
Paul and his buddy Silas were on a road trip…they were visiting their friends in various areas of the empire where they had planted churches.
They went to Turkey and collected young Timothy to join them. (we will get back to Paul’s letter to Tim next week)
But a road trip, Sounds fun?
Not exactly…they were stripped, beaten, flogged and thrown in prison.
They were run out of that town…went to another city…had to hide out and escape by night as the mob tried to hunt them down.
In yet another city, they were threatened by another mob…and Paul was separated from Tim and Titus…and went to Athens, Greece to wait for his friends to join him.
So… clearly “easy” is not the Biblical norm… “not easy, is the biblical norm.”
We tend to ask, when things are not easy “What is wrong? What am I doing wrong? What is God not doing right?”
The answer is…this is the norm…so for now, in the “not easy” norm of life…get busy being faithful and living with purpose.
So, Paul is hanging out in Athens, waiting for his friends.
He is walking around town, and becomes distressed to see that the city was full of idols.
Distressed means Paul’s heart was breaking…breaking over the lives that are destroyed by idols.
It’s not just intellectual outrage…over something that isn’t true or real…his distress comes from what he has seen idols do to actual human lives.
What happens when people try to worship what isn’t real…is that they are broken by the attempt to live in unreality.
No different, really…than someone trying to breath water, or deny gravity…they are broken…the same is true spiritually…with physical, mental, and relational impact…of the worship of anyone or anything but God.
Everyone worships…it is how our hearts are designed.
The Atheist or agnostic may cry “foul” and say “I don’t worship…I don’t believe.”
Of course, you believe…you may just have faith in your own mind…you believe in you…but you believe, you live by faith…everyone does.
And of course, you worship…your heart is devoted to something…it has in fact, wrapped around something at its core.
Sure, Paul was distressed because he had a heart for the glory of God…but that glory is not threatened by idols…it is the human heart and soul that are threatened by them.
That hasn’t changed…worship of anything other than God is toxic for the human heart, and ultimately fatal for the human soul.
What did he do?
He began to talk with people about the gospel…in ways that related to where they were…
He began to tell them the truth of God…this is, of course, the kind and loving thing to do.
To tell the truth of Jesus…is to show love to people.
It’s not love to allow them continue to live, and ultimately die, in unreality.
Now you can tell the loving truth in a non-loving way…but Paul didn’t do that, neither should we.
Still his message was confusing to some of the town philosophers/opinion leaders so they took him to an ad hoc trial at a place called the Areopagus.
Dr. Luke, wrote in Acts 17…
“All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.”
While the internet is a contemporary phenomenon…much of what happens on the internet is quite ancient.
People spending their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.
This, by itself is not bad…unless they never come to a conclusion about what is ultimately true, real, and valuable.
“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Chesterton
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Some see the ancient world as being more tolerant of religious diversity…it was sort of true…but not really.
That tolerance had a fence around it…you could wander around inside that fence…but if you got outside of it…you were not tolerated.
They persecuted, even killed those who tried to walk outside the fence line of their tolerated views.
And Paul, and the gospel…got outside the fence of human toleration.
Again, it’s much like today…tolerance does not extend to absolute claims that go against the prevailing narratives of our time
But he had found a point of connection with them…they had an altar to an unknown God.
This, for Paul, was a crack in their worldview…it was an admission of ignorance.
They had made up gods to explain the world…but they knew enough of own their limitations to commit an altar to one they knew they had probably missed.
Paul would proclaim, they had in fact missed on all counts…they had missed on their unknown gods, and they had missed in that their unknown god…the one true God, had in fact made himself known.
And that God…doesn’t need them, they need him…everything, everything comes from him.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
As he spoke of God not needing human structures…Paul may have been gesturing in the direction of the great temple of Athene, or the smaller temple of Nike(victory, not a shoe)…or just around him at Mars Hill (dedicated to the god of war)
He says, you don’t understand…God doesn’t need your help…you need his.
He doesn’t need you to house him or to feed him…as the Psalmist wrote (50:12)…if he was hungry do you think he would tell you or ask you for help?
The God who made the world and everything in it…made all humans and every nation on earth…spread throughout history.
He has determined when those men and women would live and where they would live.
This didn’t take effort, or a vast spreadsheet…all knowledge is complete and immediate for him.
He just sees it all.
He doesn’t work hard to keep up with sparrows dropping from trees…or in some petty fashion work to keep tabs of the hairs on every head.
He simply knows all that can be known…and he does all that he is pleased to do.
26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
He was pleased to place you and me in this place in this time…so that we would know him.
He doesn’t need us…but he does want us.
We need him…though we often don’t want him.
We are learning that we need him and we are learning to want him…to love him…we are doing that here in community…in this time and in this place.
And we are taking that knowledge and that love…out into the world around us.
Last week we looked at the essential importance of a heart set on faithfulness in order to live a life of flourishing and resilience.
For us, at this time…faithfulness has been to build a facility on this corner to enable and to enhance life together and ministry in this place.
Build a facility
But for what end?
To the end of God’s glory and human good…those two things always go hand in hand.
I don’t know if River or this building will be around when the Lord brings an end to time.
I don’t know if I will be around either…though I know I will eventually come to the end of my own time.
Many years ago, another group of people dedicated a structure on this spot…none of those people are here today…most, perhaps all, are dead.
We took the bones of that building and rebuilt it into this one.
Those people…whom we don’t…God does…
Gave away time and money and effort…because of their own faith and desire for faithfulness.
We have benefited from their sacrifice.
Perhaps in 50 or 70 years, if the Lord hasn’t returned…a group of people will stand on this spot and say something similar to this…I will not be in attendance.
And that’s okay…more than okay.
I am not discouraged by the temporary nature of this this building/my life…because I am convinced of the eternal nature of the Church, the body and bride Christ…of our impact on eternity, through our efforts in time.
What we do…is not in vain…and it will not end when our lives end.
We know God doesn’t need this building, or us…we do need him.
We don’t serve him because he has need…we serve him because we do…and to serve him is our privilege, or opportunity.
Last week one of my grandchildren helped me work…I didn’t get much done, not near as much as if I had just done it myself…but I got something better…time with my grandson.
And he grew just a little bit from our time together.
My grandson doesn’t like bugs…I told him to drag some cardboard to the burn pile.
He stood there looking at it…I said, “Bring it over.”
He said, “There’s bugs on it.”
I said, “Okay, bring it over…”
He stood there the longest time… I said, “Ellis, Bring it over.”
He took a deep breath, grabbed it and took off running with it…but he did it.
The whole thing took a lot longer than just doing it myself…but he needs to learn to deal with bugs…and he is learning courage.
And I enjoy being with him…win/win.
God is not just trying to get stuff done…if he were…he would just do it without us…he is better at everything that we are.
He is after relationship and he is after making us into his mature sons and daughters.
…of course this final building outcome matters, and it matters that it has been done with excellence.
But it matters more thar God has been honored in the process…but the way we have focused on faith and community…how we have treated each other…not just getting something done.
We live in space and time…we worship and live and work in spaces during our time here.
This space…is to facility life together and ministry to the community and wider world.
We are not enamored by it…we are grateful for it.
Grateful for a space that matches who we are and helps us to do what God has called us to do.
The first week we opened…a friend apologized because his children left a mess in some of our new space.
I said, “It’s fine, it’s not a museum.”
It is for us to live life together.
There is a sense in which it is redundant to “dedicate” this building…because the money, time, and effort spent on it…have all been dedicated to him long before we started this program.
Because our lives are his…when we gave our lives to Christ…we gave everything to him…it is all, after all…from him and for him that everything exists.
So, the components parts of this building…time, talents, treasure…have been given to him already…today we say “thanks” as we enjoy the sum of those things together.
I used to underestimate the power and importance of celebrating and commemorating milestones…markers.
This was foolish…the OT is full of them.
Endurance and joy and perspective is empowered by them.
The NT has plenty of them…weekly worship, the Lord’s supper, Baptism, weddings.
So, I’m happy to celebrate this moment, an important part of a larger movement of God in our lives together.
We have called this project build@river
Let’s call this day… BUILT@river
God has, in his mercy…built faith, community, and a facility here…
Though we are done with this facility…he is not done building faith and community…so that we can take the faith out into the community.
We pause to celebrate…because it is good and important to do.
Then let’s move forward in faith and faithfulness…for the glory of the God and the good of others.