This morning, someone referred to the passage of scripture in first Corinthians 3 about building on the foundation with gold, silver and precious jewels or wood, straw and hay and it dawned on me that I have invariably thought of this in terms of individual growth and narrative. Perhaps it’s because I have been mulling over the subject of discipleship and what it will mean to ‘be church’ in this next few decades here in the UK. Perhaps I just had a rare moment of clarity, I don’t know, but I realised that Paul was actually talking about the growth and narrative of a community, not of an individual.
There is coming a time when church as we know it just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to the job of being the incarnation of the Father’s heart to our nation; disciples making disciples in and of families, communities and sectors – society unable to dismiss the transforming love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If this is the task, I think we have some work to do and I wonder if Paul has given us the key. I wonder if the job isn’t to recognise where, in the church, we have been building with wood, straw and hay, and to embark on a deconstruction of our edifices. Then with new eyes to find the gold, silver and precious jewels with which we need to build.
Gold and silver are precious metals that undergo the intense furnace of purification to reach their pure identity. Precious jewels are made in the intensity of prolonged pressure, stress, irritation and pain. Will we as the church have the courage to enter into the pain of the world around us, armed not with the pat answers of the indoctrinated but the long suffering, faith and hope that come from the Holy Spirit who is willing to travel to the depths of despair with us? Will we sit with the doubts, live the real questions that dwell in the depths of our hearts? Because I think it’s in traveling this ‘road to Jerusalem, the city of suffering’ that we are able to find the gold, silver and jewels with which we will build the cathedral that will inspire hearts to rise to the creator of heaven and earth.
The more I reflect on the nature of discipleship the more I think it has little to do with answers and everything to do with living real life fully engaged with the questions it embodies. For too long we have been stressing about having the right answer to ‘the questions’, too anxious to take the time and listen deeply enough to the questions in our own hearts let alone those in the hearts of others. The people in my street need a church that is built of gold, silver and jewels, indeed they have their own stores of gold and pearls that belong. Perhaps as I learn to bring precious metals from my life, I can stand with them as they bring forth their own. I wonder if the very things I try to shut out are the treasures designed to build for eternity, whilst the easier things I thought were so important, simply straw and hay?
Can I, can we, can the church become a movement of the Father’s disciples making disciples seeking and bringing treasure from the furnace of real life, treasure that will build a new tomorrow worthy of our Lord Jesus, our firm foundation?