Teresa and I recently completed a remodel project where we converted our basement into a fully functional one-bedroom apartment complete with a nice little kitchen and a bathroom that even has a washer and dryer. Over the forty plus years of our marriage every house we’ve lived in has required remodeling and updating. One thing we have learned over the years is to let the professionals do the technical things that are way above our skill level and get the project to the point where we can come in and do the finishing work. The apartment remodel was just one of those projects. Teresa was, for all intents and purposes, the project manager as she had drawn up the plans and knew what she wanted. We then had a general contractor who struggled to grasp her vision and make it work. He was responsible for lining up all of the subcontractors who were specialists such as plumbing, electrical and sheet rocking. Because we live in Port Townsend everything was required to meet certain code standards. I suspect the City of Port Townsend funds its operations through permit and inspection fees. In any event, once these subcontractors completed their assigned tasks the apartment was ready for Teresa and I to step in and do the finishing work which would actually make the apartment livable and ready to rent. The general contractor and Teresa did their walk-through and the rest was up to us.
This is where we are in our Easter story. Jesus’ work on earth is just about finished and he is giving his disciples some last-minute instructions and encouragement. He has laid the foundation for the church and he is about to turn the project over to his disciples and, eventually, us to complete the job. Think of God as the architect who has drawn up the plans for his creation and his church here on earth. He has a vision and knows what he wants and has made Jesus his general contractor who is in charge of getting the right people lined up to do the on-site work which the Holy Spirit will supervise. Each of his disciples bring different skills to the table and, from time to time, he may have to call in some specialty people like the Apostle Paul, Mother Teresa or John Wesley, to name a few, to trouble shoot some problem areas. As I said, God has given us the Holy Spirit to serve as the job superintendent who manages the project during the construction phase giving encouragement and instruction to the subcontractors as the project progresses and the building begins to take shape and assumes some sort of recognizable form. Soon the project will be ready for those of us who can come in and do the finishing work and see to the details that make it functional and ready for occupation.
In our scripture reading for today we see Jesus wrapping up his address to his disciples at the conclusion of the Last Supper. He says, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you.” Jesus continues by saying, “I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” He is about to turn the job over to his disciples when he says that he has revealed God’s name to the people and that they now know that everything they have comes from God. He states that they truly understand that he came from God and that they believe he was sent from God. Jesus concludes by saying that he is not praying for the world but for the people that God has given him because they are God’s. Jesus says that he is no longer in the world but that they are in the world, even as he comes to God and he asks God to watch over them and that they will be one just as he and God are one.
In 1 Peter 4: 12-14 and 5: 6-11 the Apostle Peter tells us not to be surprised about the fiery trials that have come among us to test us. These are not strange happenings. They are to be expected. What building project would be complete without some surprises, challenges or complications? He instructs them to rejoice in these sufferings as they share Christ’s sufferings. He says that you share his suffering now so that you may have overwhelming joy when his glory is revealed when the project is completed and the keys of the kingdom are turned over to God. He tells us to be humble as we work for God and to keep our heads down and move forward so that he may raise us up in the last day. Throw all your anxiety onto him, because he cares about you. He tells us to keep alert because our accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. There may be people or entities that do not want us to complete our project and will stand in our way either passively opposing us or offering up out-right resistance in various forms and fashions. Jesus tells us to resist them and to stand firm in the faith and to do so in the knowledge that your fellow believers are enduring suffering throughout the world. So very true. We seem to have it pretty easy right now and right here but our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are struggling to complete their building projects. Some are facing stiff opposition and even death as evidenced by the recent Palm Sunday massacre of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Jesus tells them that after they have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, the one who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, empower, strengthen, and establish you.
In the Book of Acts, written by Luke, we learn about the forty days Jesus spent with his disciples after the crucifixion and before he ascended to heaven to be with his Father. In Acts 1: 6-14, he has a discussion with those who had gathered together and was asked, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or season that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” After Jesus had said these things he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. Jesus turned the project of building the church over to his subcontractors to complete the job.
Think of what we do here at Community as our own little habitat for humanity. We’ve had our own subcontractors who have come before us who have worked on the foundation laid by Jesus and the early leaders of the church. Much good work has been done but the project is not yet complete. There is still more work to be done before we can turn the keys over to God. We need to look for projects that need subcontractors and others where the projects need some finishing work. Not only does the community around us need some workers but our own Community, our own church, need subcontractors and finishers. Our Nominating Committee met earlier this month and we discussed the filling of the many positions here at the church. We discussed the ones that we may no longer need and discussed the ones that need to be filled with hard working motivated people. We also discussed some new areas that we might like to create. Areas like Faith Formation where we can come up with a Spiritual Education Plan to meet the needs of our congregation or Mission and Service where we organize ourselves to look for mission opportunities that we can fund and/or staff with volunteers that can step in on a moment’s notice and render help like our own local VIM (Volunteers In Mission) team. There are so many opportunities for service that are just waiting for us to step forward.
When Jesus returns to accept the keys to the kingdom and do his final walk-through we want to be ready to present a finished project, show him the projects that we are working on that are nearing completion and those where we are in an active planning stage. Jesus told us in Matthew 5: 16 to “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Together we can do so much more.
Please pray with me.
Most gracious and loving God, what a privilege it is to be your servants here on earth. All we have is because of your grace and compassion. Inspire us to use all we have at our disposal to make our world more habitable for your people who are lost and searching, who are hungry and need to be fed physically and spiritually, who are homeless and need a place to lay their heads or a church they can call home. Move us out of our comfort zones to do your work in the places where it is really needed. Fill our hearts with joy as we work with gladness in the building project of your church here on earth until the return of your son, our savior, Jesus Christ. In the name of all that is good and great, we pray, Amen.