From Bricks in the Wall to Living Stones

Stone wallMy current question, as regular readers of this blog know, is what is the church? What should it be? How should it act in the world?

The perfect metaphor came to me today. (At least I think it’s perfect.) Pink Floyd’s classic “Brick in the Wall” says, “All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.” Seems to me that too much of the church is just that: a great wall dividing the world, perhaps even blocking the way to God. And there’s too much tendency toward uniformity (even among the nonconformists in the bunch). A brick is like its brethren, in almost every way. A stone, on the other hand, as in a stone wall, has its own shape, as different from its neighbor as are two snowflakes. See the picture for an idea of what I mean.

Peter uses another analogy for the church in 1 Peter 2, that of his readers as “living stones” in God’s building. Living because we’re alive with the Spirit of God. From the beginning, God’s Spirit (his breath in the Genesis account, the wind in Ezekiel 37’s valley of dry bones) has been associated with life. And Peter picks up that thread, remembering Isaiah’s prophecy about a “chief cornerstone” (Isaiah 28:16) and the Psalmist’s words about a rejected stone becoming chief cornerstone. Since a cornerstone anchors a building, it was fitting that the Messiah fill that role in God’s building.

What are we then? We might jump to say that we inhabit the building God builds in Christ, and that’s partially true. But as Peter says here, we are both the building and its residents. Paul agrees, writing that we are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). We make up the church (Christ’s body with him as head) and we find shelter inside, safe from the calamity outside.

But the big question still remains: How to move from brick to living stone? The key seems to be inviting the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in our lives, allowing him to really change us from old to new, to raise us from the deadness of a sin-drenched life to new life through Jesus Christ. But that’s really ethereal and theological, isn’t it? What about nuts and bolts? What does living stone living look like?
Bearing in mind that I’m still working this out and still have the audacity to post it for all the world to see, read on.

What if the church really were a building, a shelter from the storm for those in most desperate need of the sanctuary? And no, I don’t mean a physical sanctuary, i.e., the main church room.

What if, instead of allowing ourselves to be consumed by the polarizing, wall-building activities that often pass for church activity–I think of David Gushee’s story about the pastor registering people to vote–we devoted ourselves to fellowship, and biblical teaching, and bearing fruit in caring for the poorest and weakest among us?

Post SecretAnd what if church people actually shared their lives not just with those in the congregation who are like them, but with those who are least like them, embracing “the least of these”? (I’m indicting myself on this one.) I know it’s a generalization, but it’s still amazing to me that most people end up sharing their deepest darkest secrets with perfect strangers. Don’t believe me? Check out Post Secret if you’ve never been there. Add it to your bookmarks and see what people are saying there. Or lurk on a message board at Beliefnet or xxxchurch, or in some chatroom for a few days. Be genuine and caring (sincerely, of course), and you’ll learn far more than you bargained for about some of the people.

I’m sure there are lots more things I could add. Hopefully I’ll actually return to this topic, rather than let it languish in my archives. And surely someone else can fill this idea out better. If you do, put the link in the comments. I’d love to see what you think.

I want to be a living stone in God’s building, not another brick in the wall.

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