One of my daughters went on vacation to Barcelona and brought home photos of a unique church building. Barcelona was home to the architect Antoni Gaudi. His best known work is the still unfinished church Sagrada Failia. It has been under construction since 1882 and completion is planned for 2026. It is unlike any other cathedral sized church in the world. It is gothic. It is art nouveau. It is Gaudi’s vision. (Although, some of the plans were lost in a fire and after his death in 1926, the partial plans and current technology have changed the shaping of the stones and the project itself). New technology that has allowed for shaping of the stones has not stopped the irregular shape of the church itself.
In the Bible, those who follow Christ are described as those who are shaped like living stones. In the book of 1 Peter, Peter writes that those who consider Jesus the living cornerstone are being built into a spiritual house. This past Sunday a deacon from our church, preached on this passage and pointed out to us that we’re stones, not bricks. Stones are all shaped differently and yet we all come together to build a holy temple.
To some Sagrada Failia is a weird and ugly church. I’ve only seen it in photos and I tend to fall with this group. However it is a Unesco World Heritage Site and many have made the building of it their life’s work. To some, the people who make up the Christian church are weird and ugly. That reality has always made me sad; sometimes outraged. I’ve grieved that our ugliness makes us poorly represent beautiful Jesus. I think I should reconsider how I react to the odd architectural design of the Christian church. There’s an irregular beauty to delight in: Christ’s desire to take us in our weird and ugly state and build us “into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”.
Not only does Jesus accept us in our weird state, he makes us beautiful. 1 Peter 2:9-10 tells us that we are a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.
Mercy, (compassion and forgiveness), is about as beautiful a thing as one could imagine. The fact that the Christian church may appear weird and ugly to those who do not yet know Jesus may be a great representation of Christ! We’re displaying that we are precious to Jesus in spite of the shape we’re in. We’re stones that come as we are and invite God to shape us into a building that shows his glory. And this God who is glory and deserves glory, is merciful.
When Gaudi was questioned about the extremely long construction of Sagrada Failia, he is quoted as saying, “My client is not in a hurry.” Glory to God that he is not in a hurry with us.
The house of God is being given time to grow and each new stone is being made beautiful.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.