Building the Church


Last Sunday was the 40th Anniversary of the stone-laying ceremony of the premises of my current church in Ballybeen, and I was preaching on the nature of the church as described in I Peter 2: 4-10 in the light of Jesus' response to Simon Peter's confession in Matthew 16: 17-18, and I was reminded of the following dialogue that I wrote on a previous exploration of these same passages:



Peter: Eh... Jesus...?
Jesus: Yes, Peter?
Peter: Its about that church...
Jesus: What church Peter?
Peter: The church... your church... the one you’re going to build on me.
Jesus: Oh that church... What about it?
Peter: I was just wondering what it was going to be like...
Jesus: That depends...
Peter: Depends on what?
Jesus: The building material...
Peter: Oh right... See I fancied a big cathedral, a basilica... Made out of marble. I’ve been and seen the architect and he says...
Jesus: No I think you misunderstand me Peter...
Peter: Oh, you fancy something smaller... More cosy and comfortable... Made out of bricks and...
Jesus: No Peter... What I’m saying is that my church will not be made of bricks and mortar, or polished stone, but from living stones...
Peter: Living stones? Is that some sort of environmentally friendly stuff... Biodegradable building materials?
Jesus: I suppose you could put it that way... But I’m actually talking about people...
Peter: People!? Oh, I see, “living stones” that’s one of your parable things again, isn’t it... I like it... Very poetic... have to write that down to use that myself some time...
Jesus: Recycling my words... You are getting to be environmentally friendly!!
Peter: So you’re not really going to “build” a church building... You’re really going to form an organisation... Can I be the Chairman... John could be secretary... he writes well, but should we have Matthew or Judas as treasurer? And what about the constitution? Do we need to get legal advice? The lawyers aren't too keen on you, you know...
Jesus: No... its not an organisation either, Peter.
Peter: What? If its not an organisation or a building what is it then?
Jesus: Well, I suppose you could call it a body... or maybe a family...
Peter: Well, how can you become part of this family?
Jesus: Same way as ever... You’re born into it...
Peter: Oh so this church will only take people if they have the right father...
Jesus: I suppose you might say that... When you are born again as a child of God...
Peter: Born again?
Jesus: Yes... Go and ask Nicodemus... I explained all that to him...
Peter: So can anyone be part of this family, this church?
Jesus: Yes.
Peter: Gentiles as well as Jews?
Jesus: Yes.
Peter: Women as well as men?
Jesus: Yes.
Peter: Children as well as adults?
Jesus: Yes. Yes. Yes. Everyone. Anyone. All sizes, shapes, colours, cultures, languages and inside leg measurements...
Peter: No restrictions?
Jesus: No.
Peter: But then how do you keep the riff-raff out?
Jesus: They are the very ones I want in...
Peter: Sounds like a pretty dysfunctional family if you ask me...
Jesus: I didn’t...
Peter: But Jesus... You said you were going to build this church on me... Yet you haven’t given me the slightest clue how its supposed to work... You haven’t told me how it should worship... What songs it should sing... How it should be run... What we will call its leaders... What costumes we should wear...
Jesus: What does it matter?
Peter: What does it matter? Well, what happens if you disappear off the face of the earth, and I drop dead? What will happen then? Will the whole thing just disappear in a puff of smoke?
Jesus: Well, that would be an interesting way of choosing your successor?
Peter: What?
Jesus: Never mind... And never mind about the church... You’re not the builder... God is. Just you concentrate on following me.
Peter: That’s hard enough...
Jesus: I suppose it is... But its only when each living stone is following me, that they will fit together into a church which is useful and attractive.
Peter: A church that is useful and attractive... That’s a nice idea... A multipurpose building with pastel colours, soft seats...
Jesus: Peter... How many times do I need to tell you? the church is not a building...
Peter: Sorry Jesus... Its hard to think of it in other ways...
Jesus: You’ll not be alone in that Peter...
Peter: But I do like the idea of it being made of living stones...
Jesus: I’m glad... Actually, that reminds me of a joke... What would you say to a member of the
church who practices medicine if you met him in the jungle?
Peter: I don’t know, what would you say to a member of the church who practices medicine if you met him in the jungle?
Jesus: Dr. Living Stone I presume...
Peter: I don’t get it...
Jesus: Don’t worry, it’ll make sense in about 2000 years...
Peter: Yes but will this church you’re talking about still make sense in 2000 years?

© David Campton 2003
with apologies to John Bell and Graham Maule who first devised this format with their "Eh, Jesus, Yes Peter" dialogues.

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