While it is true that our church is made out of bricks, the title for my blog points to the New Testament metaphor that Christians are “living stones” or bricks.
If you are a Christian, then you are a “brick.” And God never made a brick expecting it to be out laying in the weeds by itself. God makes bricks with a building in mind. We are to be mortared into community.
Maybe the best way to make the point is to describe a conversation I had with four bricks I found out behind the tool shed at our previous home. . .
Four bricks hide behind my tool shed. The shed sits on the edge of the woods so leaves hide the bricks. If you weren’t looking, you wouldn’t notice them: just a few bricks settling into moist, black soil under brown oak leaves.
If I picked up one of those bricks, brushed the leaves off it, and asked it what it is doing, I wonder what it would say. I know that bricks can’t talk. Bear with me for the sake of the thing. A brick disconnected from any building, lying behind my tool shed, how would it explain itself?
It might be a little defensive. Can’t you just hear the brick bristling when asked why it is not in a building?
“Look, I am a brick! I assure you that I am a brick. Are you implying that I am not a brick?”
I would probe gently. “No, I’m just wondering why you aren’t part of one sort of building or another? Just curious.”
The defense would continue. “Look, I don’t have to be in a building in order to be a brick. I can be a brick all on my own.”
Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be a defensive brick. It might be a “friendly, procrastinating” brick: agreeable and well-intentioned.
It would say, “I know what you are thinking and you are right. I do need to find a good building. I just haven’t gotten around to it. I mean there was a time when I was in a building, a school actually, but I drifted away and now I’m back here behind the tool shed. But, I am going to find a good building. I still listen to the radio – – -you know, to stay in touch with what is going on in the building industry.”
Or, it might be critical: a brick that lists and describes the imperfections in other bricks. This brick would point its finger while it answered. It would go on offense.
“Hey, I got tired of being next to so many irregular bricks. Bricks, and I am talking especially about the ones in buildings – – they have rough edges. I don’t want to judge, you understand, but they’re lopsided. They’re uneven. I decided if that’s what the other bricks are like, then I am not interested in being in a building.”
Or maybe the brick would be too busy. It has nothing against buildings per se. At some point it would even like to be part of one; it just can’t find time.
At the end of the day, there would be as many different excuses as there are loose bricks in the world. Each brick would offer some logic about why it is stacked out behind a tool shed and not mortared into a building.
Of course, none of the explanations would work. There is no good reason for a brick to be lying in a sloppy pile, dirt crusted on the side of it, underneath brittle leaves.
Don’t get me wrong. The explanations make sense. I can relate. I understand that a brick is still a brick regardless of whether or not it is in a building. We’ve all seen enough brick-laying going on to know that it is an involved process; there are legitimate reasons why a brick might take some time jumping into the wheel barrow. And, there are a lot of uneven bricks in the world – – certainly, it is a challenge to fit next to them day after day.
What brick isn’t busy?
But, none of those reasons adequately explain why a brick would be tossed aside next to a tool shed under decaying leaves and hollow excuses.
Bricks are made with a building in mind. A brick, and I looked this up, is “an artificial stone made by forming clay into a rectangular block.” After it has been formed, it is hardened, either by burning in a kiln or sun-drying. And, the whole process is done for the purpose of building.
No brick was ever kiln fired with a goal of seeing it exist unto itself. Brick-makers dream about a school or a store, a high-rise or a home. Bricks are meant to build something grand.
* * *
If you didn’t know the point of the word picture, the Bible might insult you by calling you a “brick.” Think about it. If someone looked you dead in the eye and said, “Hey, ‘rock,’” you might take offense.
But, if you are a Christian, then you are a brick: a “living” brick, but a brick never the less. Peter wrote:
“. . .you also, like living ‘bricks,’ are being built into a spiritual ‘building’ . . (1 Peter 2:9a).”
Peter means no offense. He’s explaining that God makes “bricks” with a building in mind. The Creator never envisioned building blocks in isolation from one another. He pictured community.
“Living stones” is a more accurate translation than “living bricks.” Bricks are the same. Stones come in all shapes and sizes. The kind of building that God intends has widely varied stones laid together. Picture the stones in cottage chimneys in stories like Hansel and Gretel: oblong stones of all sizes, shapes, and colors, smoothly nestled together.
* * *
I pointed out reasons that bricks give for not being in the building. But, what really deserves attention is the positive side of the thing. What should motivate a brick to be in a building? Why give time, energy, and space to be part of community? Why be laid together and over and under and next to one another’s lives?
The answer begins and ends with the foundation of the building, what Peter calls a chosen and precious cornerstone: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is such a stunningly perfect foundation for any building, so brilliant that anyone who glimpses Him would long to be mortared into a building with Him.
But, along with Jesus, part of the motivation to be a part of community must be to see the sheer beauty of human lives in all their diversity coming together. If we took the time to look at lives the way that we soak in sunsets, we might find ourselves out behind the tool shed far less often.
People in community are a beautiful sight to behold. Being in the building, in community, doesn’t mean that we lose our individual identity. In a way, when a brick is incorporated into the structure, it gets more attention because it is visible. Reflect on that. Long grass and leaves swallow a brick in isolation. Loose bricks are soon lost and forgotten. But a brick mortared into relationship with other bricks is seen, like the red bricks in the church building where I pastor, unlike the bricks behind my tool shed. When a stone is in the building, that’s when you might stop and look at that one unique place in the building and how it is a part of the whole, a tile in the mosaic, a pane in a stain glassed window.