Rev Dr Tim Johnson is the Senior Minister of St John’s Anglican Church, Diamond Creek. The following Bible reflection was given at the start of the church’s Annual Meeting in 2022.
²¹In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. ²² And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The Bible uses a number of images to describe the church. We are probably most familiar with the image of the body of Christ, where each of us is a part of the body and we work together for the good of the whole. In Ephesians 2:21-22 the church is described as a temple. It’s a good reminder for us as we come to our annual meeting of our core identity as the church. There are three things that it is good for us to remember.
Firstly, remember that everything we have as a church comes from Jesus. Each verse starts with the words ‘in him’, that is, ‘in Jesus’:
In him, Jesus, the whole building is joined together… In him, Jesus, you too are being built together…
Our basis, status and existence as a church is in Jesus. We exist because of Jesus and we exist for Jesus. Jesus unites us together and makes us a holy temple.
If I am in Jesus and you are in Jesus then, guess what friends, we are in Jesus together. This is a powerful reminder of what unites us together as a church and our whole reason for being.
Secondly, remember that God’s Spirit is present and at work in us as a church. The key characteristic of the temple of God is that it is where God dwells by his Spirit. In the Old Testament that was in a physical building in Jerusalem, but no longer. God now lives in his people. We are the fulfilment of the temple.
Notice the Trinitarian nature of what God has done in us as his Holy Temple:
in him – Jesus the Son, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God – the Father - lives by his Spirit.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfilling his plans to have his very presence living within his people. The church is not a building; the church is the people.
And ironically, the people are a building: a temple together where God dwells. We are the place of God’s presence and that is true not only when we are gathered together in a building like tonight or on any given Sunday. We are God’s temple, the place of his presence, and the carriers of his Holy Spirit in our schools and our workplaces, in our homes and our neighbourhoods, in our sports clubs and community groups. We are a temple on the move taking the presence of God with us as we go.
And thirdly, remember that the church is a work in progress. The image of the temple we have here is both dynamic and organic. The temple, that is God’s
people, is not a finished work. In verse 22 it is being built together. There is constant building work going on as new people are added, as we grow deeper in relationships with each other, as we strengthen our unity, confess our sins and forgive each other, as we understand more of what God is calling us to do and change accordingly. We are a dynamic work in progress. In verse 21 the language of the building being ‘joined together’ speaks of an organic connection and the word translated ‘rises’ is more literally ‘grows’. We are organically connected together and grow together as the temple of God. This is almost mixing metaphors of the temple with the body but the point is that this is not something that is static but growing and changing. We are a work in progress and God is doing work in us, and through us, constantly.
Our church has recently set a new vision as we recover from the effects of covid and the associated lockdowns. In this vision we use the language of ‘reconnect and build’ and this reflects well the organic and dynamic nature of this verse. And as we come to this AGM we want to commit ourselves to the ongoing building work of the church. We are a work in progress and we come seeking God’s help to grow us and to build us. We do that on the firm foundation of Jesus to whom we owe are very existence. And we do it in the confident knowledge that God’s Spirit dwells within us. So let me pray as we begin our meeting together:
Thank you heavenly Father
That we gather tonight in Christ Jesus
We exist because of Jesus and for Jesus
We are united together in Jesus
May Jesus be the centre of all our deliberations tonight
May Jesus unite us together in this meeting
Thank you Heavenly Father
That your Spirit lives within us
That we are your temple
The bearers of your presence in the world and to the world
May your Spirit lead us and guide us
May you Spirit be on display in our listening and speaking
Thank you Heavenly Father
That we are a dynamic and organic work in progress
You haven’t finished with us yet
Build us together and grow us
Use tonight, even tonight, and even this meeting, to
continue your renovation work.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.