Last Sunday was not only the first day of 2012, but also, by the church calendar, the day we celebrate the circumcision and naming of the infant Jesus. I was struck by how appropriate was the appointed Old Testament lesson, Joshua 24:14-24. Under the leadership of Joshua (the Old Testament figure for whom Jesus was named), the people of Israel finally had crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. They stood on the threshold of a new era. They were offered a new beginning - and a choice.
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
We have replaced the water pump that was stolen and modified the connections so that it may be detached from the well and stored in a more secure place at the end of the day. The plan is to set the pump in place once a week or so, to fill the tank that will supply our public restroom/shower faciiy, as well as our house and preschool in times of emergency. This project, the renovation of the well as an auxiliary water source, and the construction of the restroom/shower facility, is nearly complete. It will greatly enhance our ability to host larger groups of people.
But this is only preparation for what we hope to begin this year: The construction of a freestanding worship/classroom building. Up to now we have been meeting for Sunday service under a covered patio. The roof protects us from the intense tropical sun, but not from the wind and rain, which we have in abundance in Venezuela. A white plastic lawn table draped in the appropriate liturgical color serves as our altar. There is no pulpit or lectern. Aside from exposure to the weather, the biggest drawback to this arrangement is this: When we was have especially good attendance, the patio is filled to capacity and it becomes difficult to maintain a line of separation between the "chancel" and the "nave". Often it is difficult to serve Holy Communion because of the lack of space between the "front row" and the altar.
"The church is people, not a building." This is true. It's even biblical: "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pedro 2:4-5). But as people we live in a world of the five senses and of spatial relationships. That is how we understand things.
That is one reason why "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). It is also why our Lord instituted the office of the ministry of Word (that through public preaching the inspired message might be heard audibly) and sacrament (the administration of visible means of grace). And it is just common sense that as creatures of five senses, we are able to dedicate ourselves to certain task better in the appropriate environment. We hope the new building will provide that environment, plus some additional space for Christian education beyond the preschool level.
In fact, our long-term vision is of an center for Christian education serving all of our southwestern region of Venezuela (actually it was first Luz Maria's vision and now I share it). We have had our property plotted and we have the space and plans for six-room complex, plus playground, courtyard and parking lot. May God grant that these plans come to fruition.