Last night I attended our youth group meeting and had the incredible opportunity to climb the bell tower and see some of the “behind the scenes” things that most people never see. I posted pictures on Facebook of our bells, the view of the street through the wire mesh, and the incredible size of some of the beams that support the roof. Those beams are huge, and every few inches is a rivet the size of a half dollar or a half of a golf ball. Mike Greiner and I were marveling as we remembered what it must have took to put that all in place in 1896. Fifty years before welding was invented, each of those rivets would have been hammered in by hand while still red-hot, and each of those mammoth beams had to be carefully raised into place three for four stories above the ground.
While we were in the tower, we also had the chance to jump over one of those beams, climb down a rickety looking ladder, climb the catwalk, maneuver around some other beams, and ultimately stand in the space above our sanctuary ceiling. It is only in that space that you can see the original sanctuary ceiling which was covered up during a renovation in the 1930’s. At that time, the ceiling was lowered, perhaps in an effort to add insulation and increase energy efficiency, but that effort also allowed the removal of the great sanctuary chandelier gas lights and install overhead electric lighting in the ceiling instead.
I love being able to do things like that. I had a great time, and I’m pretty sure that all our youth did too (Thanks Mike!). But this experience got me thinking. As our trustees and finance committees meet, I often thank God for the gifts that have been given to us by those giants of the faith who were here before us. Since 1839, generations of men and women have labored together in this place and contributed their sweat, their time, their passion, their hearts, and their money to the ministry that goes on here still today.
But we also remember, that as impressive as it is, they didn’t do all of this so that we could take up space in an impressive building. Buildings may be impressive, and they may be beautiful, but they don’t inspire, and they don’t accomplish the mission. Those men and women who were here from 1839 until now left us a legacy of more than bricks and mortar. Each of them worked to preach the message of the Gospel, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to care for the widows and the orphans, to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ, to offer light to a dark world, and rescue to people who were condemned by God.
And thinking about all of that brought me to this thought: What will we be remembered for? Many of us, and many of those in our community, have a relationship with the risen Jesus Christ because generations of people in this place made sure that they passed on what they knew to the next generation. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Those men and women built a church, they carved out a community and a city in the middle of a wilderness, they constructed, and remodeled, a marvelous architectural work of art in which we worship, and they remained faithful to the mission and the vision of Jesus Christ.
But today, the responsibility for that mission and vision has fallen to us. If we are to be remembered, then resting on the shoulders of those giants isn’t enough. We must carry on, and move forward, with the same vision, passion and commitment as those who went before us. It’s our turn to preach the Gospel, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widows and orphans, offer light to a dark world, and rescue the lost.
Make no mistake. Our church building is incredible. But as we admire its beauty we should ask ourselves:
How will we be remembered?
What legacy will we leave behind?