In the beginning God built the heavens and the earth. And you well know, God did not make it all at once, but rather He intentionally built the universe in six days, six discrete phases. He created light and separated it from the darkness. And looked at it and smiled and said it was good. He divided waters and built an expanse which He named the Sky. He pulled the waters apart and piled up dirt and rocks in the middle and pushed trees and bushes and grasses up through the earth, grains for bread, fruits for wine. And then He went back to work on the Sky, hammering stars into the black canopy and hanging two lights, the greater to rule the day, the lesser to rule the night. He flung flying things into the air above the earth, and mixed up an ocean of water creatures to make the deep boil with life. And then He rolled His sleeves up and began digging in the dirt, forming rhinos and rats, lizards and cows, pigs and mountain goats, and finally, He made His masterpiece, Man. And then He broke open the side of the man, tore out a rib, and built a woman from this foundation.
Day after day, God saw what He made and smiled and said it was good. He said it was good, but then He got back up the next morning and got back to work. Each day was good enough, but the next day required more work, more remodeling. Walls had to be knocked out, balconies installed, new lighting, new furniture. This was not a contradiction or divine confusion. It wasn’t that God forgot how good it was the day before, rather, it was His love of goodness that drove Him to make it better.
And when God explained to Adam and Eve how He had built the world on that first Sabbath, the implication was clear: you see how I have built the world? You see how I have made you and all things? You are made in my image; I have filled you with my Spirit. You are like me. And as Dorothy Sayers has pointed out, thus far in the story, the central thing we know about God is that He is Creator. We know that He speaks and makes, He imagines and builds, and He delights in what He has made and then refashions it, re-imagines it, expands it, remodels it, and makes it even better. To be made in the image of God is in the first instance to be a builder, a creator, an artist, a storyteller.
And so as we come this evening to dedicate this building to God and to His service, we do so with at least three things in mind.
First, we come as His image bearers. We come to look at what God has given us to make, we look at the walls, we look at the lights, we look at an organ, and chairs and windows and woodwork, and we smile and we delight in them, and with our Maker we pronounce them good, even very good. And by calling them good, we rest in God’s goodness in giving them to us, and therefore, our declaration that this is good is fundamentally a declaration of gratitude, thanksgiving. Thanks be to God!
But second, we come as rebel image bearers. The story did not end in the garden with a happily ever after. The story ended tragically with a to be continued… and promises about a future world to come. And while God’s goodness continued to follow and haunt all men down through the centuries, the rebels turned their powers of creativity to build worlds of their own devising. They built towers to magnify their own name; they built altars to worship false gods; they built monuments to their own vainglory. And though our kingdoms crumbled again and again under the weight of tyranny and oppression, abuse and murder, sin and death, we stubbornly clung to our own ways. But God was a patient Father. He began to teach us how to build like Him once again. He built an ark and showed us how He planned to baptize the whole world and renew it. He built a child out of Sara’s barren womb and showed us how dead sinners could be called from the grave. He built a tent for us to meet Him in. He built a house of gold to picture His love for His rebel children. And finally, He sent His own Beloved Son to remake us and all things. He said that the new building project would be in His own body, and then He gave His own body to be nailed to a tree, for His side to be broken open, and it grew very dark and He said it was finished. All the guilt, all the shame, all the rebellion, all the defiance, all the bitterness, all the death and suffering was paid for, undone, carried away for ever. And three days later, the dead man twitched and then sat up and smiled. He stretched and walked out of that tomb into the garden where He surprised a woman and assured her that now the world would be rebuilt. And she and all people were part of the building project.
And so last of all, we gather here tonight on the other side of the planet as an outpost of that building project. We don’t know exactly where we are in the overall picture, but we know that the ultimate plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. We know that our marching orders are to disciple every nation, baptizing them in the Triune Name, and teaching them to obey Jesus, our Master Builder, in everything. And if we have learned anything from our Father, we have learned that God’s goodness and glory is far deeper than we ever imagined. We have learned to give thanks for His goodness today and to fully expect that we will need to come back tomorrow to rearrange some of the furniture, to bust out a wall, to build a second story, maybe plant another church. We give thanks for what has been given, but we commit ourselves to following our Master. We do not pretend that God’s building project is primarily about sheetrock and carpet and skylights. God’s building project is primarily a bride made out of broken people who are being renewed in His image as artists and builders and storytellers like Him.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!