Once upon a time I was able to watch while a brick building was being put up next to the school I attended. The job’s foreman was a fellow I knew. Attending the same church scored for me every boy’s dream—an afternoon to tour the job site with him. I was fascinated to watch the speed with which he and the team of bricklayers put up the first wall and then the rest of the walls for the building. In a week’s time the entire wall structure of the building was complete. The walls of a building now stood where a vacant lot had been. The promise of the structure filled the lot where only burdock and thistles were. Before my very eyes I had seen something created where nothing had been.
For that reason, I was I was intrigued by the imagery used of the household of God in the Ephesians passage this week (Ephesians 2:11-22). The metaphor is that the household of God is like a stone building. But unlike my experience as a youth, in the ancient world, building important buildings of stone did not go so quickly. The populace of Jerusalem in our Lord’s time was highly familiar with an ongoing project of the rebuilding of the third temple, known as the temple of Herod the Great. The building of that temple was a project that went on for more than half a century. And, then of course, it was torn down and destroyed when the Roman Army destroyed all Jerusalem in about 63 AD. The choice of the corner stone was an important choice. How good that corner stone was impacted how the rest of the building would fit together. Especially since stones with right angles were highly uncommon, exactly how each stone was placed in relationship to the corner stone was important.
The reading reminds us that “those who were far off are brought near by the blood of Christ.” In his work as the Prince of Peace, breaks down the dividing wall between peoples and in the place of the dividing wall we are built into that temple which is the household of God. “Something there is,” Robert Frost reminded us once in his famous poem, “that does not love a wall.”
Well, the metaphor that is used for the household of God is that it is a household that is being built up. It is a household build on the cornerstone of our Lord Jesus, and the foundation of the apostles and prophets. But all the stones are knit together as a part of one another. The image is that the individual stone is not so tremendously useful, for it remains just one in a pile of bricks, until that moment that the stone mason picks it up, butters it with mortar and places it in its proper place in the building.
Do we not all find the image of building something more compelling that building nothing? And so, we are reminded that we are called to build the kingdom of God, and to work tirelessly for it.