Summary: Let us commit to building a church building with room for personal response to Christ and not business as usual; with room for spontaneity and not control; with room for those who need healing and not for exploitation.

When our children were small, we often took them to the Smithsonian museums, to try and cram a little culture into heads usually preoccupied with cartoons or sports.

The best place to go was the Museum of American History, because there were so many different kinds of exhibits and so many interests to be indulged. But after two or three such visits, we found that our daughter was developing a bargaining position.

She would bargain with us, negotiate with us. She would say, I’ll go with you to the Smithsonian, if we can to go to the Doll’s House. If we don’t go to the Doll’s House, we aren’t going anywhere.

Maybe some of you remember that exhibit. I think it’s been removed for refurbishing. But the Doll’s House is a wonderfully elaborate cutaway model of a Victorian home, with miniature rooms and miniature furniture, everything to scale, right down to the books on the shelves and the food on the table and Grandpa’s glasses on the nightstand. My daughter could have stood in front of that thing for hours.

I would try to lure her away. Hey, come over here and see the giant steam engine. Come over to the main lobby and we’ll watch the long slow swing of the pendulum and we’ll stare up at the three-story height of the original Star Spangled Banner. Child, come down here, surely you want to see a larger-than-life statue of a half-naked George Washington, wielding an eight-foot broadsword!

But those things were too big, too overpowering, too intimidating. What she wanted to see was a child-sized house!

Children do need child-sized houses. I would expect that most of you can remember as children creating your own child-sized house in one way or another. Maybe you found an old packing crate, and you punched a hole in it for a door, and then you crawled in and played house. It was your house. It was your size. It was a child-sized house.

Did you know that children want and need the house of God to be child-sized too? Today we are focusing on children and we are focusing on the task of rebuilding this house of God in which we worship. I want to bring these together and ask you to think about the house of God as a child-sized house.

Over at Washington Cathedral, which is the largest church building in the city, with everything on a grand scale -- a six-foot cross on the altar and pillars some thirty feet around at the base -- this grand church includes a Children’s Chapel. In the Children’s Chapel, everything is child-sized. The chairs, the altar, the paintings, even a tiny pipe organ, everything is scaled down to child-sized, as if to say that even in the face of all of this splendor and grandeur, the church of Jesus Christ has not forgotten that it also needs to be child-sized.

That’s what I’d hope we will remember as we make some decisions about what we will do in the coming days.

Let me show you what I mean. I am not referring to the physical size of our building but to something else.


We all know the Hew Testament story of the cleansing of the Temple. Every one of the four Gospels has some version of that occasion when Jesus strode angrily into the midst of the moneychangers and the merchants plying their trade within the Temple precincts. We are well aware of the fire in His eyes and the reprimand in His voice as He turned over their tables and cried out, "It is written, ’My house shall be a house of prayer for all people,’ but you have made it a den of robbers". We know that story.

But Matthew’s Gospel includes one nuance that is not present in the other versions of this story. Matthew not only tells us how Jesus drove out of the temple courtyard those who violated its purpose; but Matthew also puts children into the story. Matthew hears the voices of children there. And Matthew sees that what Jesus did at the temple as has something to do with building a child-sized house. Listen to the story.

Matthew 21:12-17

Clearly there are two ways here to use the temple. There are two very different ways of using the house of God. One of them is too much an adult-sized way of using the house of God. One way was the way of the official religious leadership, going about the business of church.

The other way was a child-sized way of using the house of God. The other way was a way of responding to the personal, lively, authentic presence of Christ. And in this child-sized house there is no room for other things. They have to be driven out of a child-sized house of God.

One way brought down on itself the hot and terrible anger of Christ, "You have made my house a den of robbers". But the other way brought His warm and loving smile, "Out of the mouths of infants and babes God has prepared praise for Himself."

Which way will we at Takoma Park build and use this house of God? Can we build a child-sized house of God, with no room for things that do not belong?


First, notice that a child-sized house of God has room only for a personal response to the living Christ. It has no room for business as usual. A child-sized house of God will be one in which every corner, every room, every space is filled with signs of the authentic, lively presence of Christ. And there will be no space left over for the cold, calculating, cash-register mind that wants to run the church like a business.

When Jesus came to the Temple to heal and to teach, it was the children who embraced Him. They cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David". They asked no questions about His credentials, they made no calculations about His profitability, they thought not a word about what He might cost them. They simply threw open their arms and loved Him, because they could feel His love for them.

But standing around on the sidelines were the priests and the officials, especially those whose tables had just been turned over, and they were angry. They were angry because this Jesus had become the center of attention. They were angry because in His very person He has suggested that God is very close. Their policies and procedures and bureaucracy had become unnecessary. You see, when Jesus is in the house of God, then God is real and accessible and personal and free. Jesus fills every corner of the Temple with His radiant presence. And there is no longer any need, no longer any room, for their religious routine.

Oh, my friends, look at us and look at the threshold at which we stand. We have an opportunity to create here a child-sized house. I’m saying that we have the chance to build a church building which will be more open, more accessible, more colorful, more inviting in every way. We have the chance to build something which in its beauty and freshness – and I hope ultimately with some art in it –something that will suggest the personal presence of Christ. We have come to the moment when we can rebuild this house of God so that it will be inviting and welcoming and clearly Christ-centered.

The only thing that would stand in our way would be a business-as-usual attitude. The only thing that would keep us from making this a child-sized, welcoming house of God would be the notion that what we’ve always done will be good enough. Doesn’t have to be beautiful, doesn’t have to be personal. Just do it the Takoma way.

But too often the Takoma way has been to be so conservative, so low-key, so slow. We have made changes very slowly. We have not been willing to adjust our church program very readily. There are things we could do to enhance our ministry for the community and we’ve been talking about them for years, but they keep on getting bogged down in committees and routines. More than once have I thought we were on the verge of doing something creative and bold, only to hear someone say, "Well, that’s too ambitious for us. Let’s put it down on paper first. Let’s work out all the details first. Let’s just think about it some more." And you know what has happened; we’re still working out all the details, we’re still plodding along, we’re still thinking about it. We’re still into business-as-usual.

The day has come for us to break loose from business as usual and to focus on Christ. The day has come for every one of us to break out of this pattern of giving minimal amounts of money and expecting and of course receiving only minimal amounts of blessing. The day has come for us to respond as children do to Jesus Christ Himself, to His presence, His power, His glory. The day has come for us to work and to give sacrificially so that we can do something bold and out of the ordinary. The day has come for us to build a child-sized house, one in which there is room only for the personal presence of Christ. One in which there is no room at all for the cold, calculating, cash-register mind that asks how little we can do to get by.

For we do know that an angry Christ turned over the tables of the money changers and proclaimed that out of the mouths of babes and infants God had prepared praise for Himself.

Which way will we at Takoma Park build and use this house of God? Can we build a child-sized house of God, with no room for things that do not belong?


Second, notice that a child-sized house of God is one in which there is room only for praise and spontaneity. A child-sized house of God contains only enough space for joy. It has no room, no room at all, for rigid control. It has no space for those who want to clamp down and shut others off.

"Hosanna to the Son of David"! Can’t you hear the shouting and the laughter? "Hosanna" I hear children responding with everything that is in them. Can’t you hear joy and excitement? "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the Son of David"! Pretty loud, I expect.

And the priests and the scribes said, "Do you hear that?" Do you hear these kids saying the first thing that pops up in their minds? Do you hear them daring to use the language of praise? Do you not know that we control that? We control the worship of the Temple. You are supposed to listen while the choir chants psalms. You are supposed to shut up and be quiet and proper and dignified while we perform our luscious liturgy. We control things here."

You see, here’s a part of what was happening with the moneychangers and the dove sellers. They controlled access to the Temple. You could not come and make a sacrifice unless you had a perfect animal. It had to be without blemish. And so the dove sellers had a corner on that market. Unless you would buy from them, you just might not get to offer a sacrifice. Control.

And you were permitted to pay the Temple tithes only with special temple money. They argued that Roman money was tainted. It had on it the images of the Emperor and of pagan gods, and so you couldn’t defile the Temple with that. You had to come to the moneychangers and let them give you the proper ticket of admission. The game was control. We’re going to control, we’re going to keep things under wraps, we’re going to make sure that only the right kind of people get in and only the right kind of worship is offered.

But oh, when Jesus walked in, you see, the agenda became different. When Jesus walked in, suddenly the whole thing became accessible. Suddenly it’s all warm and inviting and embracing and colorful, and the children just burst out in joy. The children just erupted in love. A child-sized house has room only for the spontaneous, the lavish, the outrageously glorious, but it has no room for the controlled, the haughty, the elitist, the shutdown folks.

I want to see us become a child-sized house of God. I want to see Takoma Park become a church that truly welcomes the child that is in us. I am thinking not only about those who are literally children. But I am also thinking of how we need to let loose the child that is in every adult. We need to let go and praise God with a shout and with laughter and with song. Folks, we are so serious! Your face won’t crack if you smile during worship! We need to find the courage to be at least a little outrageous!

Being drab does not serve the Kingdom. Being tightfisted and cautious does not invite others in. This house needs color, it needs light, it needs a fresh look, it needs spaciousness and accessibility. It just needs to say to the world, "Whoever you are, come on in and praise the Lord with us." Spontaneous. Full of passion.

Now that means we need to praise God with our pocketbooks. You know the Bible says in one place that God loves a cheerful giver. Someone has pointed out that if you read that text literally it says that God loves a hilarious giver. A hilarious giver. One who just lets go. One whose joy just gets out of control.

The time has come for us to let go. The time has come to let go of worrying whether we are going to have enough money for our retirement. The time has come for us to let loose of storing up a nest egg that will hedge against all the disaster we imagine might happen some day. The time has come for us to be spontaneous and to shout Hosanna with our purses. The time has come just to trust the Lord.

For we do know that an angry Christ turned over the tables of the money changers and proclaimed that out of the mouths of babes and infants God had prepared praise for Himself.

Which way will here at Takoma Park build and use this house of God? Can we build a child-sized house of God, with no room for things that do not belong?


Finally, and this is the most important point of all, I want you to see that a child-sized house of God has in it room for everybody who is hurting, room for everyone who has shortcomings, room for everyone who is needy. A child-sized house of God has in it plenty good room for those who need the healing of Christ. But it has no room, no room at all, for those who are always on the take, always hedging and fudging and cheating. The child-sized house of God is one into which those who have a variety of needs can come and find healing and help; but those who seek only to exploit, only to take, will find here no support.

The Gospel tells us that before the children responded to Christ, before the children blurted out their "Hosannas and Hallelujahs", before all of that, the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He cured them. It was when they saw all those amazing things that the children responded in awe and wonder.

But now on the outside, looking in, picking themselves up from the rubble, are the changers of money and the sellers of doves, exposed. Exposed because not only were they satisfied doing business as usual; exposed because not only were they controlling who got in and who stayed out; but exposed because, worst of all, they were cheating the people. They were charging exorbitant prices. I read once about someone who took a taxi in Rome; he was not at all clear about the vastly inflated Italian money. And so he just pulled out all his money and said to the taxi driver, "Here, take whatever you need". You can imagine the result of that. Well, just like that, the people who came to get their money changed at the only game in town were being badly cheated. And now the cheats are exposed, because Jesus has named them for what they are, a den of robbers.

But the Lord Christ is a friend of sinners. Jesus is the healer of the wounded and the balm for the weary. He is the help of all who seek Him and the hope of all who find. And He demands that a child-sized house of God be a place of giving and not of taking. He demands that a house of God include room for the weary, the wounded, the needy, and the sick.

I will be the first to stand before you and confess that we are not doing enough of this sort of ministry. Beyond the Wednesday Club and its ministry to a group of mental patients and beyond the Friday Fellowship and its small number of senior citizens, we have done only a few sporadic, short-term ministries. We are not doing what we ought to do.

But I will also tell you that one of the reasons we have not done it is that we have been unwilling to commit significant amounts of money. It is not that we have no ideas, it is not that we do not care. It is that we just get cold feet when it comes to making a major commitment of resources.

A good case in point is our idea of a missionary residence. Several years ago we said that we wanted to use one of our houses as a residence for missions purposes -- for missionaries on furlough or study leave, for mission action groups needing a place to stay, maybe even as a base where we could build some sort of residential program for troubled young people. We have these fine ideas. But what happens every year? We get scared about committing the money to it. The budget still has only a big fat goose egg at the line that says, "Missionary Residence".

I don’t have an immediate answer for that particular issue, but I do know that as we rebuild this house of God, we have to make it child-sized. That is, we have to make it a refuge for the hurting and a haven for the lowly. We have to make it a suitable instrument for ministry. We have to make it easy for everybody to get into it and use it. We have to have equipment in the kitchen and furniture in the rooms that gives us flexibility and the capacity to serve people.

I’m going to say a whole lot more about this next Sunday, when I speak of the heritage of our church over the past 73 years and about our vision for its future. Right now, all I can say is that this house of God needs to become a place which reaches out with its facilities as well as its heart, and says, "Whoever you are and whatever you need, come here and we will help."

You see, the alternative is that we would be the changers of money, taking, taking, taking, never giving anything back. The alternative is that we would become the exploiters of the poor, the lonely, the weak, and the heavy-laden, interested in them only as they can ante up the dollars, ignoring them when they are bleeding.

A child-sized house of God has plenty of room in it for the blind, the lame, the weak, and the children; but no room at all for the selfish, the closed-minded, the bottom-line hearts.

For we do know that an angry Christ turned over the tables of the money changers and proclaimed that out of the mouths of babes and infants God had prepared praise for Himself.

Which way will here at Takoma Park build and use this house of God? Can we build a child-sized house of God, with no room for things that do not belong?


We are asking that every member and every friend of this church determine within the next week what your commitment will be for the next three years. That commitment should be a significant commitment. It should be a sacrificial commitment. It has to be an over-and-above commitment, something beyond what we are presently giving for the ongoing support of the church.

We are asking that each of us look at the next three years and decide what we will set aside out of all that we have saved, all that we are earning, all that we own. This will be a gift to help build a truly child-sized house of God on this corner. Your leadership is trying to be realistic, we are trying not to manipulate, we are certainly not going to invade anyone’s privacy.

But I would be remiss indeed if I did not say to you that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something out of the ordinary: to do something spontaneous and wonderful: to do something that will give us an instrument for healing and serving.

It is a gift for Christ. It is a gift that lasts. And in the end, when all the doves have flown away and the coins have rolled into the gutter, only what you do for Christ will last.