St Andrew Catford.
The Building of the Church
Ask ninety-nine people out of a hundred where St Andrew's Church Catford is and they will point you to the building in Torridon Road, London SE6..
You an I know that this is only partly the right answer. For St Andrew's Church Catford is also the correct description of you and me here this morning.
It would also be a correct description of two or three of us gathered together in some other place to be about the Lord's business.
It would be true even if the church building had for some reason to be closed and we had to worship in the church hall.
The word "Church" means at least two things then. There is the popular use, meaning "the church building" or the place where the Church habitually meets.
Secondly it means the people who are the Church: and of these two meaning the second is the more important because it is eternal.
It will last for ever. when heaven and earth have passed away and - believe it or not - there is no more church building to be called St Andrew's in Road; indeed there may be even no Torridon Road to speak of - you and I will still be recognized by the fact that we once worshipped the living Lord there together. We shall have "St Andrew's Catford stamped upon us rather in the way that countries we visit are stamped upon our passports.
But although this second meaning - the people rather than the building - is the more important meaning, it doesn't mean that the building does not matter. And since today is the feast of the Dedication of your building I am going to show just why the building does matter.
It matters first of all because it is something which has been handed on to you to look after - a family heirloom if you like. And this fact implies a degree of trust between you and the people who built it.
Now you can regret that it's too large or too small or too dark or too cold or 101 other things; the fact is that it was their present to you made in good faith. And your commitment to this present which they gave you is a measure of your commitment to the Communion of Saints to which we like them belong. If we neglect our inheritance, or despise it, the odds are that we don't think very highly of the givers either.
Secondly the building matters because it is a parable in itself, a parable used both by Jesus and St Paul, to describe our faith.
We can learn quite a lot about what believing means by studying how a building comes into existence.
Every building begins with an idea in someone's mind. And if that someone is an architect it will soon take the form of a drawn plan or blueprint. This is equally true of the building which God is currently working on, which includes not only St Andrew's as a Church but you and me as individuals.
It needs to be said at once that such a plan is not the same thing as the building itself. A plan is all neat and tidy, a series of lines and measurements on a piece of paper which, unless we are trained as architects, is likely to look pretty confusing if not actually rather boring. It needs to be explained before we can get any idea from it what the final result is going to look like. Better still of course if the architects if the architect decides to build a scale model.
Well in God's case he has already supplied us with the model. In our Lord Jesus Christ we have the model for what we are intended to become; and in the saints we have examples of finished buildings of God's creation.
But there is a lot of work which needs to be done before the first stone is even laid..
Firstly, the site has to be cleared, and secondly foundations have got to be laid..
Now both these processes, site-clearing and foundation-laying, are pretty messy, and from the view of the observer, not usually very interesting. Yet we all know, don't we, that unless both these things are properly done it will only lead to trouble sooner or later. Bad foundations, or a site which contains hidden tree-roots is going to lead to a bad building resulting.
Next, materials have got to be gathered, and the success of the building is going to depend upon whether these materials are sound, or merely cheap rubbish.
Both Jesus and St Paul warned us about trying to build a house of faith without proper foundations or of bad materials. At first it may not seem to matter very much. But when trouble comes in the form of storms, or fire or lightning, the house of faith that has been properly built will respond very differently from the one which has not. The latter will collapse, as the saying goes, like a house of cards.
Then it is to be noticed how bricks and stones are laid in a building. If you look at the walls of this building you will notice that the bricks are laid across each other. That arrange ment is called "bond" and is infinitely stronger than if the bricks were laid in straight vertical rows.
If you look very carefully you will see that each set of bricks makes a cross; and that should serve to remind us that the cross is the strongest symbol in the Christian life. And it also goes to show that the bricks in a building must relate to each other if they are to hold together.
Always remember that there is no such thing as "solitary Chris tianity". Being built together, as living stones, is what God intends us to be. Together we can, by his grace, achieve what none of us on his own could do.
There is much more that might be said about this building. I hope that is enough to enable you to see that this building, whose dedication we celebrate today, is a parable of what God is creating out of you and me.
Just as no building ever built itself, nor yet even maintained itself in proper repair, the only way of keeping it sound and standing is to let it be worked on continuously. We too need God to work on us continuously if we are to be his upstanding Church.
If we do this however we shall find that the end result of what God manages to achieve with us is infinitely more glorious than anything we could have believed possible.
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