I was minding my own business the other and found myself through no fault of my own defending building shelters for orphans. I have said it before and will say again when we talk of Project 24 rescue centers don’t think of “Oliver Twist” and that kind of orphanage, think “boarding school” and you will be closer to the idea. But this discussion was not about the nature of an orphanage, it was why are we building these at all. That money could have been spent translating the Small Catechism into Kswahili, or translating the book of Concord into Borano. I know it sounds funny but this is a serious issue and one that we have to get a handle on somehow. I have to pull myself up short because I ask the same question from a different perspective. When I hear, for instance, of a rural congregation with a declining population that spends $150000 for an elevator that will probably be used once a month ( I am guessing of course, but I have been in churches where we spent an inordinate amount of money on chair lifts that no one used because they were embarrassed) and I think that we could have spent that money on 3 – count them – three rescue centers.
Now the person that I was talking to was not into building buildings for orphans but he was into building and adding to churches as well as into translation work. I have already ranted that for most mission congregations that finally get their “building”, the building becomes the mission. It isn’t spoken that way of course but watch the amount of emphasis that is placed upon that mortgage and listen to the language of “mission”. “Don’t we have a ‘mission here too'” will be spoken with great regularity especially when the discussion has to do with the choice between paying down the LCEF loan and sending that money to “missions”, or giving it to the District or Synod so that they can help us do “mission”. The fact that they have a mission there and a mission around the world, that this is not either/or, but both/and, usually escapes notice.
Tommorow is Transfiguration Sunday and it is a big deal. We see Jesus in his glory and this marks the bookend of the “this is my beloved Son” statements. Once again, as Luther says, “heaven is torn open”, and we get a peak at the Divine. And what does Peter want to do? Build a building.
I came across this blog by some guy named Steven Pankey – blog spot called Draughting Theology. He sufferes from the same malady as I do………………..
Oh Peter, how I love thee. You make my craziness seem normal, thank you.
In the midst of the most amazing thing he had seen to this point, the Transfiguration, Peter stops being present to the glory just long enough to say, “Master, it good for us to be here. Let’s build three dwellings: one for Elijah, one for Moses, and one for you.”
God is pretty clear about his feelings toward dwelling places in 2nd Kings. Suffice it to say he’s not a fan, but it is just so human of us to want to codify, to make permanent, to set in stone those good things. Of course, no matter how grand a statue we build, the greatness of the moment or the person or the experience will never be fully captured forever. It just isn’t possible.
As my Seminary prepares to launch its Chapel for the Ages capital campaign, I read Peter’s words with new eyes, pondering the concept ot buildings. What purpose do they serve? Who are they for? What feeling are we trying to capture. Is God glorified?