Devotions for Hope’s 40th Anniversary: Week 4 – Buildings and People

Monday, February 13

In [Christ Jesus] the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God. 

Ephesians 2:21-22

Did you ever play the children’s game, “Here is the church; here is the steeple; open all the doors—where are all the people?”  A church without people is empty, barren, lifeless.

But one of my seminary classmates reminded me recently of how essential it was for the people of God to have a place to gather.  Buildings are vitally important—they ground us, they give us a center, they are the place where together, we are the church.

People and buildings, buildings, and people.  Hope’s founders were always aware of how important both were.  They used their time, their talents, their money, and their love for God to build a place for us to call home….for us to call Hope.   United in Christ Jesus, we are both physically and spiritually a dwelling-place for God.

We thank you, gracious God, for the gift of this building and these people of Hope.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 14

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  

Acts 2:1-4

 Amazing things happen when we gather in one place.  Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20.)  And not only Jesus, but the Holy Spirit too, as we see in this passage from Acts!

We need to gather together not only in spirit but in space and time.  It’s the reason why Luther Seminary asks those of us studying online to join in a Facebook community and also to gather together at campus at least twice a year.  While there, the members of my cohort and I get together regularly for family meals that we cook and share—we don’t do any serious studying at those meals, but we build deep and profound bonds with each other.

Hope gives us the place—the space and the time—to build those bonds.  Hope gives us the place to gather together so that we can be present together with God.  And now we have joined with our brothers and sisters in South Lyon at a second space.  Amazing things happen when we gather together—in one or two or more spaces!

What are the amazing things God has planned for us in Farmington Hills and South Lyon?  Will we speak in tongues—will we be able to reach out to those for whom Christianity is a foreign language?  Will we feel the power of the Holy Spirit inspiring us to help those in need?  Let’s find out!

Loving God, remind us that whenever and wherever we gather together, you are with us always.  Open our eyes to all the amazing things you have in store for us. Amen.

 Wednesday, February 15

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

While we are wondering what amazing things God might do through us while we are gathered together in the spaces we have chosen and built, we do well to remember that the foundation of all we do was, is, and always will be Jesus Christ.  One thing this means is that everything we do in Christ’s name must be done because Jesus calls us to do it.  We serve others because Jesus calls us to serve “the least of these” his brothers and sisters.  We gather together because Jesus calls us to be in community.  We preach and we teach and we sing and we praise God because this is what God calls us to do.  We welcome all to our church and the table because the table belongs to Jesus, and Jesus welcomes all to his table.  Hope’s founders knew and want us to know today that the foundation is Jesus—the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Mighty God, you are our rock and our foundation.  Let everything we do be built upon you. Amen.

 Thursday, February 16

Walk about Zion, go all around it, 

            count its towers,

consider well its ramparts;

            go through its citadels,

that you may tell the next generation

            that this is God,

our God for ever and ever.

            He will be our guide for ever.

Psalm 48:12-14

 These verses from Psalm 48 call the people of Israel to join in a procession around Jerusalem, to keep in mind and count her towers and ramparts and citadels.  This likely happened at various times in Old Testament History—it would be a very long walk, but it is possible to circumnavigate the old city of Jerusalem.

One of the things we do regularly as a staff at Hope is to walk through the building together to look for things we should work on.  Do the clocks need batteries?  Is there a storage room that needs tidying?  What happened to the TV remote that belongs in Room 2?  We also do this on evenings when people are gathered at Hope—we make sure the doors are open and the lights are on before people gather, and we make sure that doors are locked and lights and electronics off before we leave.

In other words, it is in our charge to help take care of this building that Hope calls home.  Now, Hope is not Zion.  But we are a reflection of Zion—God’s people gather here.  We have no citadels or towers or ramparts, but we have a lovely Youth Room and Sanctuary and Family Center.

What can each of us do to make sure that Hope’s “citadels and towers” are well cared for so we can open our home to all people?

Caring Lord, help us see the ways each of us can help to care for your this house called Hope.  Amen.

Friday, February 17

Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and from that time until now it has been under construction, and it is not yet finished.”  

Ezra 5:16

 This verse refers to the end of the “Babylonian Captivity,” the time in the 500s BCE when many in the Kingdom of Judah were taken to Babylon as political hostages.  When a new Persian king, King Cyrus, came to power, he released the hostages, and allowed for the reconstruction of the Temple—called the Second Temple.

I love when this verse says that “from that time until now it has been under construction, and it is not yet finished.”  Because this is a bit like Hope, right?  Hope began with people meeting in various borrowed places, and then the founders bought a house to worship in.  They worshipped in that house until they were able to expand, and we’ve expanded around the house several times:  building the first sanctuary, adding a family center, building a second new sanctuary, adding a classroom wing. You can still see the house, by the way—if you go up the steps toward the nursery, you are entering the old house—there’s a fireplace in the room on the right, and there’s a basement, and so on.

And it is not yet finished….This is so true of Hope—our work is not yet finished.  There is more to do at Hope and more to do in South Lyon. And it is not yet finished….this is also true of the Church at large—there is always growing and building to do with those who, for whatever reason, have not learned of God’s expansive love.  And it is not yet finished….this is true for all of creation.  We are not yet finished; we are still changing and growing and making mistakes and needing God’s care.

And it is not yet finished….until all of creation is redeemed as God has promised.

 Creator God, you remind us that we and all of creation are not yet finished.  Only in you do we find completion; only in you is creation redeemed. Help us look for ways that we can continue to grow in your name. Amen. 

 Saturday, February 18

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Corinthians 3:9

 God’s people need a place to gather, but it’s also important for us to remember that each of us, individually, and all of us, collectively, are God’s field and building.  One thing this means is that although Hope is our home, anywhere we gather, we are the church together.  We might be in an assisted living facility in South Lyon.  We might be in a hotel room in Lansing while we are attending the Michigan Gathering.  We might be on a mission trip to Queens.  We might be gathering at someone’s house for a book study or a simple meal.

In other words, the House of God is portable.  The early Israelites expressed this idea when they carried the Ark of the Covenant around and placed it in the Tent of Meeting – the Tabernacle.  The House of God is anywhere we are together as the church.  Hope is always home base, but we can travel far and wide, because we have God’s work to do, and God is always with and in us.

Lord, wherever you are, we are. Wherever we are, you are.  Help us to bring that sense of your presence to all we meet and serve. Amen. 

Sunday, February 19

 I was glad when the said to me,

‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’

Psalm 122:1

 This psalm is one of the Psalms of Ascent, which were likely recited by pilgrims to Jerusalem as they ascended the mount on which the Temple was built and then the steps of the Temple itself.  It’s a line that often comes to my mind as I’m getting ready for church on Sunday morning.  I am glad to go to church and join with God’s people!

The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt several times; it was destroyed for the last time in 70 C.E.  Since that time, our Jewish brothers and sisters have worshipped God in synagogues and houses.  Since that time, Christians have worshipped God in churches and anywhere else we might gather.

We know that if anything ever happened to Hope’s buildings, we would still be Hope together, for where we are, God and Hope are.  We will find the House of God wherever we gather, which means we are free to set out into the world to be God’s hands.   God is sending us forth: where will we go?

Sending God, we are ready to answer your call.  Send us into the world to feed the hungry and care for the wounded.  Amen.

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