Summary: We are each the temple of the Holy Spirit. Sermon explores the materials of our faith that build on the foundation of the Gospel.
Building A Temple for the King
The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy was going to fall over. Scientists traveled each year to measure the building’s slow descent. They reported that the 179-foot tower moved about one-twentieth of an inch a year, and was once 17 feet out of plumb. They further estimated that the 833-year old tower would have leaned too far and collapsed onto the nearby ristorante unless drastic measures were undertaken. Several metric meters of soil from underneath the raised end were eventually removed and this action moved the tower one inch towards the center. While this does not seem like a major stride, the action makes the tower stable for at least another 300 years.
Quite significantly, the word "pisa" in our leaning Tower of Pisa actually means "marshy land," which gives some clue as to why the tower began to lean even before it was completed. Also--its foundation is only 10 feet deep. No wonder why the building never stood entirely erect, the foundation was flawed from the beginning.
Just as the building’s foundation is important to a building’s long-term sustainability and strength, the foundation of our faith is equally important to the viability and quality of our soul. Even though we may be teachers, accountants, firemen, lawyers, or restaurateurs, the bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 that we are all builders. Each of us is involved in a life-long construction project building a temple for the Holy Spirit. Today we are going to learn how to build a first-rate temple for God.
Every construction project begins with the foundation because the foundation is the key to the building’s stability (remember the Tower of Pisa). Jesus Christ and His Gospel are our foundation. Once we have accepted the basic message of the Gospel, (that Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to save sinners like us) we can build upon this foundation. As we mature in the faith additional stories can be added to the foundation.
Other people in the world have other foundations for their lives. We see people all the time proclaiming that their motto is sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, or they place their belief in science or in man’s ability to solve its own problems. Still others place their trust in the government, their own abilities, and still others have no foundation for their lives whatsoever. All people who have built their lives on a foundation other than Jesus Christ are doomed to failure because all worldly values, systems, and ideologies are imperfect. Only God is perfect, eternal, and capable of satisfying the desires of our body, mind, and spirit. Keep in mind that we can only develop our faith if Jesus Christ and His Gospel are our foundation. Any other foundation will crumble under the pressures of the world – only Jesus Christ can hold firm.
Architect and Designer
Before any construction begins, all buildings require an architect so that they are both functional and pleasing to the eye. St. Paul states in today’s passage that he is a skilled master builder or the designer of the human temple dedicated to God. St. Paul is pointing out his unique role in the spiritual development of the Corinthian Church. It was through his guidance that many Corinthians came to know Christ and through his instruction they grew in faith. Many of us can attribute our spiritual growth to the influence of other people. Our faith didn’t happen overnight – other master builders helped in our own spiritual development. For example, our Sunday School teachers, clergy, and many other godly people helped us mature spiritually through their encouragement, example, and teaching. St. Paul recognizes that godly people are needed to help people build their faith upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and His gospel. These are the architects of faith.
No building can be built without materials. General contractors and even the home improvement specialist know that there are different grades of materials. Some materials are superior to others for certain tasks. This is why municipalities have building codes so that homeowners and commercial business owners can have reasonable assurance that their building will not cave in on them or catch on fire due to negligence. This reminds me of the movie called the Towering Inferno that was filmed in the 1970’s. The Towering Inferno was built with sub-par materials in order to save costs. The building caught fire on its opening day due to overloaded circuits. People were trapped at a penthouse party and several lives were lost. Penny-wise, pound-foolish is an adage that applies here. The contractor may have saved money by scrimping on safety features but that decision resulted in the loss of lives and property. In hindsight, it was an unwise decision.
People can be unwise builders of their temples because they also use sub-par materials. St. Paul makes the distinction between two types of building materials. Each group will later be tested to whether it is fire resistant. Superior materials include gold, silver, and precious stones. They are all considered good materials and can be used for different purposes because of their different properties. As we strive to build our own temples to God here are some of the basic quality materials that should be included in our construction. Our first building material should be the knowledge of Holy Scripture. Without a keen awareness of God’s commandments and an idea of what is expected from us we cannot progress in the faith. Holy Scripture also gives us examples of holy people who lived virtuous lives that we can emulate. Virtuous living, good works, partaking in the sacraments (including confessing our sins to God), serving our fellow man, and a willingness to do anything for the sake of the Gospel are other items that help us build on our foundation. All of these actions will result in the creation of a beautiful temple for the Holy Spirit. Good materials also complement one another. A good builder will fuse or join the materials together in such a way that the building will both be structurally sound and pleasing to the eye. A soul that dedicates itself to unconditionally serving God radiates inner beauty and it can also withstand any temptation. It is interesting that all of the good materials I spoke about have a way of complimenting each other and creating synergies. The builder who serves God with respect and humility will raise the most magnificent temple.