New City Church       1 Corinthians 12:1-11     January 17, 2010

Michael Chesko recently spent 2,000 hours constructing a nearly perfect scale model of Midtown Manhattan. Using only an X-Acto knife, a fingernail file and a small rotary Dremel power tool to turn a pile of balsa wood into a stunningly accurate model of the midsection of Manhattan.
He modeled not just the almost wall to wall sky scrapers, but every building within the 382 city blocks that make up Midtown. He placed them all in proper proximity to each other (on a 35-by-29-inch sheet of wood,) using the scale of 3/8 of an inch to equal 100 feet. 

Chesko
views skyscrapers almost as living beings that have defined the American spirit for a century. They continue to mold the people who frequent the buildings’ neighborhoods. “I think it’s deep in our psyche,” Chesko said of skyscrapers.
“They are natural. There is something about reaching toward heaven, some divine or spiritual engine that drives us to the climax, pinnacle, the apex of existence.”
Actually, New York isn’t the only city to receive attention from a modeler. In 1957, the Army Corps of Engineers built a scale model of the San FranciscoBay and Sacramento (/San Joaquin) Delta. Chicago, Australia’s Sydney and China’s Shanghai all have been modeled and have been used for urban planning.
Building small-scale models of cities also gives us a way to think about God and how we relate to God. In creating the church (universal), God built a small-scale model of the kingdom of God.
The Bible presents the idea of God as a modeler, though it doesn’t use that term. For example, in the Old Testament, God is imagined as a potter modeling clay. “Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?
 
Shall the thing made say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16). Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah’s reflects on God’s relationship to humanity by observing a potter working with clay.

We see the image of God as Creator, but also of God as Modeler, creating us from clay and breathing the divine breath into us — and thus making us small-scale models of some small part of what God is. That isn’t to say that we are little gods, but only that we have the stamp of our Maker upon us.

In contrast to God’s creating individuals our reading from 1 Corinthians invites us to think of God as the modeler of a city. While the apostle Paul never uses that term, he does describe God as constructing the church. God gives different people within it different gifts of the Spirit to match “varieties of activities,” all “for the common good.”
 
These terms can apply to governing a municipality. We might not say that the church is a city, but in New Testament thought, it is a working small-scale model of something much larger, the kingdom of God. In fact, Revelation gives it a city name: “new Jerusalem” (21:2)

Rev. 21: 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
 
The church itself is not the kingdom of God, and Lord knows it doesn’t work as well as the “new Jerusalem” that Scripture envisions. Yet within it lie elements of what the kingdom of God will be. It can be useful to think about the church as a small-scale model of the New Jerusalem, which is yet to come.

So, if the church is, in a sense, a model of something greater, why did God build such a model? One way to think about it is to consider why models are created in general is done. William Klink, physics and astronomy professor at the
University of Iowa, says one key reason to create models is to provide an explanation of how things work. He writes, “Models are constructed for cognitive purposes ... to enable the modeler to understand why some parts of nature behave the way they do.”
Of course, in this case, God doesn’t need to understand how the kingdom of God works but we do. The church exists to help us understand what the kingdom of God is like.
And if the model tells us anything, it suggests — as does our 1 Corinthians text — that the kingdom of God is comprised of many different parts that must function and operate in harmony for the benefit of the whole.
The central idea of these verses 3 & 4 is theological unity in spiritual diversity. There are different gifts, acts of service and works, but the same Spirit, Lord and God is behind them all. This verse is the earliest expression in Christian writings of the seeds of a Trinitarian understanding.
 
The Spirit, the Lord (meaning Jesus, see just previous, 1 Corinthians 12:3) and God affect the activities of the community. God is the one who works all things in all, yet the gifts come through the Spirit and the Lord.
 
An outwardly visible example, take for instance Philip Yancey, in one of his “The Back Page” columns in Christianity Today, (November 2008, 119) tells of a conversation he had with a Christian pastor from India.
 
“Most of what happens in Christian churches, including even the miracles, can be duplicated in Hindu and Muslim congregations,” the pastor said to him. “But in my area only Christians strive, however ineptly, to mix men and women of different castes, races and social groups. That’s the real miracle.”
 
This harmony comes only through the Spirit of God as the people of God endeavor to love one another as God loved them. The church is an organism, not an organization. Christianity is not a religion, it is a way of life—a transformed life. It transcends life on earth with eternity.
 
The church is designed, in part, to be a model display to the world of what the kingdom of God is and how it works. God established the church, but it is our responsibility to expand it.
 
In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul explains,
 
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a
foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how
to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
 
The church is a spiritual building, we are living stones, a royal priesthood; a building whose foundation is Christ (i.e. temple).
 
1 Peter 2
 
…. like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house,
to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
 
As Presbyterians, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. Elders and deacons are just as necessary and important as pastors.
 
Ephesians 2: 19-22
 
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
 
In its perfection, the church becomes the true temple of God. The OT temple structure was only a shadow of things to come – of what we now see in the church – and what we will eventually see in the New Jerusalem.
 
1Corinthians 3
 
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in
you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
 
  
1 Peter 2
 
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
 
 
God keeps working with us so that as we respond to our calling and spiritual vocation, we might enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of heaven right here on earth.
 
And in that final day: the new heaven and the new earth . . .
 
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.(Revelation 21:1)
 
. . . our new home. Amen.
 
 
 
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
 
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