We have a neighbour who is a builder. During this time of COVID-19 restrictions, he has had some time on his hands, so he has started work on a retaining wall bordering our two properties. I have noticed with interest the hours he has put into the placement of a single post – the one on the corner. Why is it so important to get the corner post correct? It is because it is from this post that the fence will gain its straightness, strength and endurance. The corner stone in a building is equally important. A cornerstone in the foundation of a building unites two walls and is the starting point of the building.
The analogy of building a house is used frequently in the New Testament to illustrate the personal growth in our spiritual lives, or the building up of the body of Christ— the Church.
In 1 Peter 2:6, Peter quotes Isaiah, saying, ‘For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”’ Peter sees Jesus as the cornerstone of the Church, agreeing with Paul who says, ‘(You are) members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone’. (Eph 2:19b-20)
As disciples of Jesus, we are part of this building. We are each one of the bricks or stones that goes to make up the temple. Yet it is not a static existence. Paul continues, ‘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.’ (Eph 2:21-22)
Jesus is actively building us together spiritually, into the dwelling place of God. It’s an organic and interactive process both with God and with the other stones. He works with us and in us, to build us into a strong and beautiful temple, fit for his dwelling. The ‘building together’ doesn’t happen in an instant. Jesus works with materials that need much refining. Rough parts need smoothing, crooked parts need straightening, corners need realigning, so that the stones fit together properly, creating a building of beauty, strength and endurance. Our Christian walk, and our lives together as a church, will at times be uncomfortable.
One of the key catch cries during this time of COVID-19 is ‘we’re all in this together’, as we are encouraged to support one another by abiding by strict social distancing and hygiene measures. We willingly do this. During the fire crisis, we saw great examples of support and sacrifice as we came together in support of one another.
What we can do short-term as a nation under siege, God calls us to do at all times and in all situations, in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s as we ‘come together’ and support one another, love one another and serve one another, putting others first and our own desires second, that Jesus is able to craft this building – his Church – into a holy temple which is fit for his dwelling. Then, as Peter encourages, as ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, (we) may declare the praises of him who called (us) out of darkness into his wonderful light’. (1 Peter 2:9)