Well, it’s taken me a little over a month into the year to mention Fixer Upper in a sermon. Let’s be honest – for me, that’s pretty good! Our Women’s Book Club is actually reading The Magnolia Story for our meeting next week – has anyone else read it?
Someone came up to me after church and commented on how everything in the worship service gelled together really well (scripture, sermon, children’s sermon, music, liturgy). I responded with an appropriate amount of enthusiasm at the time, but inside I was doing a little jig – I definitely try make sure worship is cohesive and flows like that, but some weeks are better than others! Nice to know we made it work this week …
Here’s my sermon. Enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 19, 2017
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Building Something With Purpose
My love of the television show, Fixer Upper, has been well documented here at church. Some might call it obsessive, but I actually do have some concrete – and I would argue, relevant – reasons for loving this show so much.
(And I really do have a point, so bear with me for a moment and hear me out!)
FIVE REASONS I LOVE FIXER UPPER
- I love pretty things.
There is a reason that I have painted and rearranged my office three times in the last six years, that I have a fixation with photography and that I usually put up more than one Christmas tree. I love pretty things; I love looking at pretty things and I love being surrounded by pretty things. And, let’s face it, this show is pretty much chock-full of pretty things, whether you are looking at architecture, design or Joanna’s fashion.
- I love a good before and after.
This show loves the shock value of an incredible makeover and week after week, the results are spectacular.
- I love how Chip & Joanna Gaines ground their family in faith.
I love that, as a couple, they are unapologetic about their faith, but also not exploitative, either. They have a set of values they believe in, and this comes through as they design spaces meant for families and friends to gather, break bread together and be in real and authentic community.
- I love Chip’s antics.
While there are times when I am watching the show and think to myself, “Gee, I’m glad Bruce has taken a bet to eat a cockroach,” (which. actually. happened.), but I appreciate Chip’s sense of humor and zest for life.
- I love that, every episode, they build something with purpose.
There is a reason behind every decision the Gaines’ make when they are working on a house, whether those decisions are related to safety, budget, construction or design. Everything they do has a specific purpose; no part of the process is meaningless.
As I was thinking about our scripture from 1 Corinthians this week, particularly the comparison Paul makes to a skilled master builder laying a foundation and someone else building on top of it, I could not help but think of Fixer Upper. Because more often than not, they build and rebuild the fixer uppers on top of foundations that have already been poured. The aesthetics of the house may change, but the foundation of the home remains in tact.
Well, isn’t that what Paul is saying here? The churches we build and the Christians we become may look different from one another, but the foundation of our faith – Jesus Christ – always remains in tact.
This morning we pick up 1 Corinthians where we left off last week. In the scripture we read last week, Paul talked about divisions in the church; divisions related to allegiances that were forming with different religious teachers. And while, to some extent, Paul was still talking about this, he also went deeper in this passage to talk about why this sense of unity is so important.
Paul believed that churches needed to be unified in God in order for them to grow and thrive. And the reason for this, Paul said, was because Jesus had already laid the foundation of the Church. That part has already been done; the church needed, now, to build on top of that. Building on top of anything else would render a structure unstable and not strong enough.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ … 
Paul, of course, had a vested interest in this community. He planted the church in Corinth and obviously wanted it to succeed, but his words are powerfully spoken to more than this one church. These words speak to us, today, in our lives, in our church and in this Christian story that we are writing together.
We are building something in our lives. Every day, every decision we make, every journey we take creates something in our lives and in the story of our faith.
And so Paul’s words remind us that we have to be intentional about this process, we have to ask ourselves: What are we building? What are we building in our lives, in our faith and in our church?
Perhaps the harder question to ask might be this: What do we want to build? What is God calling us to build?
Every stage of life comes with new challenges, something new to build. Whether we are in school, growing careers, raising families, walking through a challenging medical crisis, understanding the nuances of empty nesting or learning how to accept care when we have always cared for others, we are building something, piece by piece.
And while we may not always get to control the circumstances surrounded what we are building, we do get to make some choices in the process. We figure out the “how”: How are we going to build this? Where do we start? What tools do we use?
This morning’s reading from the Old Testament comes from the book of Leviticus, the third book of the bible, which is part of the narrative of Moses. This passage gives a really practical discourse on how we can live our lives as people of God. It offers simple, basic practices for us, as human beings, as we try to navigate this crazy world, build our lives and grow our faith. Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t fraud others, don’t judge people unfairly, don’t profit from other people’s misfortunes, don’t hold hate in your heart and ultimately, as Jesus later said, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is how we ought to live our lives; these are the tools we need to build our lives, our faith and our church. Every piece we add should hold basic principles of love, human decency and hospitality. This is what the bible tells us, over and over again; this is how we can and will build something meaningful and life changing in our lives.
And this is how we can and will build something meaningful and life changing in our church, as well.
What are we building at this church? What do we want to build? What is God calling us to build?
Here’s the thing: We are as much a part of this church’s story as it is a part of ours and I do not know about the rest of you, but I, for one, want to write a story that is worth telling in the years to come.
Paul called the people of Corinth to build their church off of the foundation that Christ had already poured and it seems to me that we must heed this call in our church, today. We must be intentional about what we are building, we must take care with every piece we set and we must build on the foundation Christ gave us us. We must ground ourselves into the life-changing truths of the gospel and be diligent about living that out, not only in our lives, but also within this community. We must build something here that is worthy of the glory of the God, of the Gospel that has been given to us and of the lives and ministries God is calling us into.
I said earlier that this scripture made me think of Fixer Upper and here’s why: Because when I think about the five reasons I love that show, they mirror some of the exact same things I love about the church.
FIVE REASONS I LOVE FIXER UPPER MY CHURCH
- I love pretty things.
I love the beautifully arranged flowers our Flower Committee puts together and the altarscapes and fabric installations I am able to do. I love my stole collection and the way we use color in worship to breathe life and purpose into a space. I love powerful music that resonates not only through the walls, but also through the very essence of my soul. I love the mouthwatering food everyone makes and the sweet Valentine’s Day cards our Church School made for several members of our church.
Here at this church, we create beauty.
- I love a good before and after.
The church is about changing lives. And while there’s no giant portrait of us that gets pulled away to reveal our new and improved self every week, the shock value of the life-changing magic of the Gospel is every-present here in our worship, in our fellowship and in our mission work. As we do the hard work that is required of us to build this church, lives are being changed. And that is that Good News of Jesus Christ; that is resurrection in motion.
- I love how Chip & Joanna Gaines the church ground(s) their family its community in faith.
I love that this church gives individuals, couples and families a safe space to learn and grow in their faith. In today’s world it is not always easy to proclaim our faith outside of our walls; and while I would argue that, now more than ever it is important that we do that, this church gives people a safe space to be who they are and listen to who God is calling them to be. It gives people a place to learn about Christian values, ask questions, pray for others and hold one another accountable.
- I Chip’s our church’s antics.
We do not have a Chip Gaines running amok, but we do have choir members throwing their music, candles that won’t light during the prelude and communion trays discovered with leftover cups filled with moldy grape juice that were never thrown away and discovered a month (okay, two) later. Sometimes it seems like a comedy of errors around here, but the people around me are always reminding me that sometimes this is just what grace in motion looks like.
We learn at this church that it is okay to laugh and that we do not have to be perfect.
- I love that, every episode day, they we build something with purpose.
Every day, we are building something, with purpose, at this church. Whether we are shoveling snow or leading worship, there is a reason for everything that we do. If you come to this church and participate in one way or another, you are part of that. I would argue that there is not only a place for you at this church, but there is a purpose for you at this church, as well.
There are so many ways to participate in the life of this church and this scripture reminds us that as long as we are building on the foundation of Jesus Christ, we are building something that will practices resurrection and change people’s lives.
This church is a place where children are baptized, where people in need are cared for, where gifts are transformed into ministries, where prayers are lifted up and where people of all backgrounds come together to worship, serve and learn. This church is a place where breaking bread together is not only a sign of nourishment, but also friendship and covenant. This church is a place where the secular becomes sacred and the ordinary becomes holy. This church is a place we are building together.
So let us heed the call. Let us, like Paul said, according to the grace given to us, build something with purpose. Let us heed the call to build on the foundation Christ set for us – in our lives, in our faith and in this church, the Rehoboth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
Remember: It takes a (church in the) village. And we are building that church today.
Thanks be to God!
 1 Corinthians 3:11, NRSV