St Andrew Catford.

The Building of the Church


Ask ninety-nine people out of a hundred where St Andrew's Church Catford is and they will point you to the  building  in  Torridon Road, London SE6..

You an I know that this is only partly the right answer.  For  St Andrew's Church Catford is also the correct  description  of  you and me here this morning.

It would also be a correct description of  two  or  three  of  us gathered together in some other place  to  be  about  the  Lord's business.

It would be true even if the church building had for some  reason to be closed and we had to worship in the church hall.

The word "Church" means at least two things then.  There  is  the popular use, meaning "the church building" or the place where the  Church habitually meets.

Secondly it means the people who are the Church: and of these two  meaning the second is the more important because it  is  eternal.

It will last for ever. when heaven and earth have passed away and  - believe it or not - there is no  more  church  building  to  be called St Andrew's in Road; indeed there may be even no  Torridon Road to speak of - you and I will still be recognized by the fact  that we once worshipped the living Lord there together. We  shall have "St Andrew's Catford stamped upon us rather in the way  that countries we visit are stamped upon our passports.

But although this second meaning - the  people  rather  than  the building - is the more important meaning, it  doesn't  mean  that the building does not matter. And since today is the feast of the  Dedication of your building I am  going  to  show  just  why  the building does matter.

It matters first of all because it is something  which  has  been handed on to you to look after - a family heirloom if  you  like. And this fact implies a degree  of  trust  between  you  and  the people who built it.

Now you can regret that it's too large or too small or  too  dark or too cold or 101 other things; the fact is that  it  was  their present to you made in good faith. And your  commitment  to  this present which they gave you is a measure of  your  commitment  to the Communion of Saints to which we like  them  belong. If  we  neglect our inheritance, or despise it, the odds are that we  don't think very highly of the givers either.

Secondly the building matters because it is a parable in  itself, a parable used both by Jesus and St Paul, to describe our  faith.

We can learn quite a lot about what believing means  by  studying how a building comes into existence.

Every building begins with an idea in someone's mind. And if that  someone is an architect it will soon take the  form  of  a  drawn plan or blueprint. This is equally true of the building which God  is currently working on, which includes not only St Andrew's as a  Church but you and me as individuals.

It needs to be said at once that such a  plan  is  not  the  same thing as the building itself. A plan is  all  neat  and  tidy,  a series of lines and measurements  on  a  piece  of  paper  which, unless we are trained as architects, is  likely  to  look  pretty confusing if not actually rather boring. It needs to be explained  before we can get any idea from it what the final result is going  to look like. Better still of course if  the  architects  if  the architect decides to build a scale model.

Well in God's case he has already supplied us with the model.  In our Lord Jesus Christ we have the model for what we are  intended to become; and in the saints we have examples of  finished buildings of God's creation.

But there is a lot of work which needs  to  be  done  before  the first stone is even laid..

Firstly, the site has to be  cleared,  and  secondly  foundations have got to be laid..

Now both these processes,  site-clearing  and  foundation-laying, are pretty messy, and from the view of the observer, not  usually very interesting. Yet we all know, don't  we,  that  unless  both these things are properly done  it  will  only  lead  to  trouble sooner or later. Bad foundations, or a site which contains hidden  tree-roots is going to lead to a bad building resulting.

Next, materials have got to be gathered, and the success  of  the building is going to depend  upon  whether  these  materials  are sound, or merely cheap rubbish.

Both Jesus and St Paul warned us about trying to build a house of  faith without proper foundations or of bad  materials.  At  first it may not seem to matter very much. But when  trouble  comes  in the form of storms, or fire or lightning, the house of faith that  has been properly built will respond very  differently  from  the one which has not. The latter will collapse, as the saying  goes, like a house of cards.

Then it is to be noticed how bricks and  stones  are  laid  in  a building. If you look at the walls  of  this  building  you  will notice that the bricks are laid across each other.  That  arrange ment is called "bond" and is  infinitely  stronger  than  if  the bricks were laid in straight vertical rows.

If you look very carefully you will see that each set  of  bricks makes a cross; and that should serve to remind us that the  cross is the strongest symbol in the Christian life. And it  also  goes to show that the bricks in a building must relate to  each  other if they are to hold together.

Always remember that there is no such thing  as  "solitary  Chris tianity". Being built together, as living  stones,  is  what  God intends us to be. Together we can, by  his  grace,  achieve  what none of us on his own could do.

There is much more that might be said about this building. I hope that is enough to enable you to see  that  this  building,  whose dedication we celebrate today, is a parable of what God is  creating out of you and me.

Just as no building ever built itself, nor  yet  even  maintained itself in proper repair, the only way of  keeping  it  sound  and standing is to let it be worked on continuously. We too need  God to work on us continuously if we are to be his upstanding Church.

If we do this however we shall find that the end result  of  what God manages to achieve with us is infinitely more  glorious  than anything we could have believed possible.

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