Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! We are commissioning Kenton to serve as the lead pastor here at Christ Church and calling you, as the people of God, to support him and pray for him in this calling. For many years Joost has faithfully served this congregation; for the past couple years Kenton has been faithfully serving this congregation; now each is assuming a new role, embracing a new vocation.
As we inaugurate this transition, no doubt some young man is going to come up and ask us, “Excuse me, Sir, what are you doing?” So what are we doing? Are we merely cutting stone? Merely commissioning a new lead pastor? Merely making sure things run smoothly here at Christ Church? Or are we building a cathedral? Laying another stone in the construction of the Kingdom of God here in Spokane? Battering against the gates of hell?
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called us is not merely cutting stone, not merely running organizations, not merely filling vacancies. The work to which God has called us is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Our task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what we’re doing.
Do you see that? Do you see that today in what we are doing and do you see that daily in the work that you are doing? Have you remembered the end for which you are laboring? Or are you, like the first stonecutter, just cutting stone? When someone asks you – be you student, plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral? I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Reminded that we often fail to remember our true vocation, that we lose sight of God’s noble and glorious calling in our lives – to rebuild the ruins and raise up the former desolations – let us confess our lack of faith and vision. And as we confess, let us kneel together.
We confess that we often lose sight of our calling in this world. We become so focused upon our particular task that we lose sight of that for which we weekly pray – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and grant us grace to keep before our eyes the vision of Your kingdom, that we would be your instruments in the world rebuilding the ruins and restoring the devastation that our sin and others’ sin brings to the world.