I have done very little work with laying brick or stone to finish the outside of a house, or even to reinforce a mailbox post. So I don’t know very much about mixing the mortar or how to start the project to make it come out perfectly at the top with squared corners. But I can imagine a little bit how it works by just looking at a brick and the mortar.
Because mortar is a thick liquid substance, when it is put on the top of a brick, some of that gooey stuff is going to ooze into the holes on the open surface of the brick. And then when another brick is placed on top of the mortar, some of that thick mortar will work its way into the holes of the top brick. When the mortar hardens, because it is inside the bricks on each face, and because the sides have mortar between them, the bricks are pretty much locked together.
On the other hand, if you stack the bricks in neat order but you have no mortar between the bricks, or side to side, then it’s not going to be long before putting a little pressure on them will make them fall apart. And it will certainly fall apart if there is a lot of pressure
put on them. Am I all wet about this or is that partly how these bricks end up stuck to each other as they are placed around a house or mailbox post? Good, because if you would have shook your head ‘no,’ this post would have been a lot shorter than it’s going to be now.
To me, it sounds like the mortar is the key component in linking the bricks together and keeping them together. Yet, when you look at a brick house or mailbox, it’s not really
the mortar that you notice, is it? It’s the bricks that are the visible structure that people see.
To me, this image represents how the Holy Spirit participates in the building of the church. The Holy Spirit is the mortar that links and holds you and me as individuals to
each other as we make up the body of Christ. St. Peter says we are (1 Pet.3) like living stones that make up the house or temple of God. When we are linked together, we become a dwelling place of God.
The physical bricks and 2-by-4s and shingles that make up our churches are not the house of God. It is you and I, the human structure we makeup as a body, who are the spiritual dwelling place of the most high God. And yet, we need something to hold us together. If there’s no mortar to bind us together, then the slightest pressure exerted on us from the outside or the inside, will make us fall apart.
What is the mortar that binds us together? The easy and the theological answer is the Holy
Spirit. Okay. But what’s that? What does it mean that the “Holy Spirit” binds us together? And if a church begins to fall apart, does that mean the mortar, the Holy Spirit, is not present anymore? The short answer for that is “yes.”
I tend to be simple and practical when I read and interpret the words in the Bible. The word “holy spirit” can be thought about in a little different way after you’ve examined
each word and what it means. The word “holy” means “worthy of praise, worthy of reverence.” It makes me think that when a church has a spirit of love, a spirit of caring for each other – that is a holy spirit.
I think a church that is full of loving and caring interaction between its members is a church filled with a Holy Spirit. It’s a church in which God dwells among us in the relationships we form with one another through worship, in prayer, in study of the Bible, in the breaking of bread – both in the sacramental meal and just as much when we go into the fellowship hall and break donuts together.
We are bound together by the relationships formed as we serve side by side in our hurch and community. We get to know and care about each other when we work on quilts or crafts together, working on ministry teams for a common cause, as we prepare snacks for Sunday morning fellowship, when the youth go to youth gatherings together, when we practice acoustic instruments or sing in choir together, when we deliver casseroles to members who are going through difficult times. Anything we do as a group of people who are serving Jesus Christ establishes a spirit that is holy and worthy of praise. The mortar of relationships constructs a spiritual temple in which God chooses to dwell.
I’ve seen statistics that indicate new members need to meet and become friends with 5 or
6 people within the first 6-18 months of joining a new church if they are likely to continue to come. People don’t join a church to get saved. They join because they are looking for relationships – a continuing relationship with God and a human connection with others.
I find that “5” or “6” number a fascinating statistic. Look at how bricks are positioned in a
wall. What is the typical number of contacts one brick might have with other bricks in the same wall? Six. It doesn’t take having a relationship with every single brick in the wall to become strongly linked to the whole structure. It only takes a few friends to bind us
together to a larger body. That shows the importance of inviting visitors and new members to come together in groups where you can get to know each other and solidify a holy relationship with each other.
John Ortberg is an author of some popular spiritual books. He tells the story of a friend who made his first trip south of the Mason-Dixon Line from Chicago to Georgia. On
his first morning in the South he went into a restaurant to order breakfast, and it seemed that every dish on the menu included something called grits…which, as I learned when I lived in Tennessee, is exactly the way God intended it.
Not being familiar with this southern delicacy, he asked the waitress, “Could you tell me, exactly what is a grit?” She looked down on him with a mixture of compassion and contempt, and said, “Sugar, you can’t get just one grit. They always come together.” (from John E. Harnish, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com)
In the church, you and I are like grits…you can’t get just one. We are linked together. Lest we begin thinking too highly of ourselves in the church, let’s remember that we’re a side order of grits in the kingdom of God. We come together. We are bound together by a spirit of love, by a spirit that is worthy of praise. We are held together in and by the love of Christ. Without that, we’d simply be a grit here and a grit there.
We need to keep working on the things that bind us together as the body of Christ so we can be a body strengthened and empowered by a holy spirit that is worthy of praise – a body sent into the world to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to heal the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to proclaim the goodness of God to all we meet.