Building for the Next Generation

Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. Nehemiah 4:17–18  
Sunday we dedicated our new Children's Ministry Center, part of a three year project to remodel and rebuild the buildings and spaces on our entire seven acre campus. "The Story" text aligned beautifully for the day-- "Rebuilding the Walls" gave me the opportunity to connect the lessons of the ancient text with our current experience. 

Nehemiah's project was to rebuild broken down walls that left those returning from exile vulnerable to the attacks of enemy neighbors. As they were rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem, they were threatened by those neighbors and therefore carried weapons in one hand and their tools in the other. It's quite a picture: hammer or trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. 

It made me ask the question: I know what we are building, but what are we defending?

We are defending our ministry to children. God has called us to be a growing community, which leads us to share with children and their families the faith passed down from generation to generation. In one of the letters to the churches in Revelation Jesus warns, "Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from it's place." (Revelation 2:5)

What did we do at the first? Our very first commitment as a church was to children. More than seventy years we gathered children to teach about Jesus as the first church in Solana Beach. Almost fifty years ago we started a preschool, and replacing outdated and declining buildings was necessary to keep our commitment fresh and growing. 

We are also defending the vision of our church to be a growing community, beyond just surviving or maintaining the institution of the church. We want to be part of what God is doing for generations to come, and that requires we are united in spirit and purpose. It takes all of us giving, serving, praying toward that vision. We defend against the disunity of the evil one who comes to lie, steel and destroy. 

The lampstand in Revelation was the presence and blessing of God among his people who are called to make disciples of all nations, to demonstrate the kingdom of God, to become more and more like Christ for the sake of others. If we don't stay vigilent in our calling, the blessing of God can be removed and we'll no longer be part of what God is doing in our community. 

Nehemiah and Ezra rebuilt walls around the rebuilt temple and rebuilt faith in the people. They held up the word of God and the people wept in repentance and joy, they worshipped God and gave thanks for the space and protection to worship God and know his word in community.

We aren't building walls, but spaces where God's word is known and lived in community. May we build and rebuild faith in God (which is eternal) as we build and rebuild buildings (which are temporary). 

Here's the prayer to dedicate our Children's Ministry Building (adapted from an Anglican prayer):

Father in heaven, 
We dedicate these buildings and spaces which are temporary,
to be used in service to share your life which is everlasting.
May this campus be like a city set upon a hill,
bright with the glory of your presence
and echoing through the prayers of the generations.

In this place
may your word be proclaimed with boldness,
may the waters of baptism cleanse and renew us, 
may we celebrate Christ’s risen presence,
may prayer resound through heaven and earth.

On this day
we bless generations past who laid the foundation of our faithfulness. 
we bless children present and generations to come,
we bless parents pointing their children to Jesus,
we bless leaders who mentor and guide and love.

From this place
may we be equipped to be a people who are sent, 
may we dedicate our lives to loving and serving our community,
may we work for the restoration of your creation,
may we join you as you are at work in our world.

Help us to remember your faithfulness to generations past,
to follow your leading for what is ahead.
to be your church in the present.

Through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.


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