Summary: A sermon for Pentecost Year B, Lectionary 10
June 6, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
A House Not Made with Hands
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
“We have a building from God, a house not made with hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
When St. Paul wrote this, he was talking about the promise of a heavenly home to come. The life we live here on earth is temporary. Compared with the eternal life to come, this realm is a mere a temporary shelter, more like a tent.
This promise kept Paul going. He had totally committed his life to promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived out of a suitcase. When Paul arrived at a new city, he relied on the kindness of strangers to welcome him into their homes. In his travels he endured perils at sea, robberies on the road, beatings, persecutions and imprisonment. For a man trained in the bookish world of a scholar, his life ended up being very physically taxing.
As far as we know, Paul never married. He had no family, no children. This freed him up to dedicate his life to international travel. But on the down side, there was no place to come home to.
Despite all of his hardships and perils, Paul told the Corinthians that these things didn’t get the better of him. He did not lose heart. The hard living was certainly taking its toll on him physically. He described it as his “outer nature wasting away.” But to Paul, it was nothing more than a “slight momentary affliction.”
Paul could see the big picture. He wrote, “What can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” That house not made with hands, that’s the dwelling to focus on. Paul looked to his eternal and permanent home in the heavens.
For now, we find ourselves in this momentary existence. But even as transitory as this lifetime is, friends, we already enjoy a house not made with hands, a house given to us from above. I’m talking about the Church.
The Church of Jesus Christ isn’t founded on human principles or motivations. It’s grounded on the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s Christ’s church. He is the way, the truth, and the life of this spiritual house. The Holy Spirit filled the house where the disciples were gathered on that first Pentecost. It continues to breathe holy life into this house not made with hands.
The church is a house made of living stones. We’re being built into this living and holy house. You and I are being set atop the layers and generations that have gone before us. The lives of the saints shine on as an example and testimony to us. And together all of us are built upon the solid rock of Jesus. The church is God’s house, not made with hands.
Informed and led by Christ, we, the church, walk in his ways. We walk where he leads. But Jesus’ footsteps sometimes led him into trouble and controversy. We read one of these passages today from Mark. Jesus’ actions and words had led to quite a stir. Jesus’ family thought he was going crazy. They came to fetch him and take him with them. The diagnosis of the religious community was even bleaker. They said that Jesus was in league with the devil!
As the Spirit-filled church of Jesus Christ, we are led to speak and act in ways that aren’t necessarily popular with the world. If Jesus was deemed crazy at best and evil at worst, then hateful accusations will certainly be hurled our way, too.
But we remember who we are. And like Paul, we don’t lose heart. We are part of a house not made with hands. We are the church of Jesus Christ. We’ve been grounded on his compassion; our walls are made of justice. Our beams have been plumbed by kingdom values and kingdom priorities.
We are God’s house not made with hands. It reminds me of the Jay Beech tune called “The Church Song.”
The Church is not a building
where people go to pray;
It's not made out of sticks and stones,
it's not made out of clay.
No, no! The refrain calls out:
We are the Church,
the body of our Lord;
We are all God's children,
we have been restored.
The final verse identifies that the church is rooted in people:
The Church, it is the people,
living out their lives
Called, enlightened, sanctified
for the work of Jesus Christ.
As God’s people, we are the church. We dwell in this building from God, this house not made with hands. And under this spiritual roof, our family expands.