We were talking today in my online church community group about how we are now, in our personal quarantines, a lot like the Apostle Paul, who spent much of his adult life in prison.
If he wasn’t being beaten by rods, stoned, or shipwrecked, you could usually find Paul locked in some dungeon somewhere writing letters to his beloved churches and occasionally being sprung from behind bars by an angelic encounter.
The man certainly led an interesting life.
(Image from Owlcation)
I adore Paul’s writing.
I often pray this passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians over my children:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
I like to go back to passages of Paul again and again – Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 13, and one of my favorites, Philippians 4 – and each time that I do, I find new treasure I hadn’t noticed before or a nuance from his words that leads to a deeper understanding of some truth. I know I could do this the rest of my life and never plumb the full depths of his beautiful scripture.
The other day, I was in Ephesians and I came across this:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
The school where I live and work is currently constructing a new center for the arts. It’s a massive project that will result in a massive building which will, in turn, allow us to offer our boys ways to grow and create and expand in ways previously unimagined.
This past fall, when one of the gigantic beams was ready to be raised, everyone in our community gathered around and signed our names on it. For as long as that building stands, a record of us will be tattooed on its bones.
I thought about Paul’s words – that we are members of his household.
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets
Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone, that is, the focal point, the place where the building begins and from whom the building garners its strength.
It’s a structure made up of us, his children, and every one of us is either a brick or a board or a nail or a door – and together we become a holy temple, each of us doing our part to make space for God to live by His Spirit.
I thought about the process of construction.
It’s terribly messy, to be honest: piles of steel and wood and glass, traffic cones and cigarette butts, blowing plastic, canting port-o-potties, trailers and fencing and buckets and mud.
Is that us?
Constantly being added to, adjusted, straightened – wobbly and skeletal, marked by tool and time and trial – relying upon one another floor by floor as we reach toward heaven?
Without that first stone – our Jesus – the building would topple. We would topple.
I am so grateful we have a patient Savior, a kind and loving foreman who doesn’t look at all of our mess and think – that will never amount to anything.
Too many holes. Not enough shingles.
We may be constantly under construction, but even so, we are His holy temple where He has chosen to dwell.
As we bide our time, like Paul, in isolated cells, I pray that we will consider the critical role we play in girding those around us.
Brick by lovely brick, the One who can do immeasurably more than anything we could possibly ask or imagine will shape us into His cherished and enduring edifice.