I once saw a children’s sermon where the preacher reminded us that we are all “under new construction” by God. These past 22 months felt nothing like planned construction, and yet God was able to build new relationships. I witnessed this most powerfully through a ministry I started at St. Andrew’s in Encinitas that I will continue here at St. Paul’s, a young adult bible study. For any younger adults (categorized as under 40 by the Episcopal Church) who may be interested by the time you’re done reading this, know that we meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month at 7.30PM via Zoom (links are in our calendar page of the website), the next one being December 22nd. Over the course of the past year, several of us deepened our understanding of each other and where our faith might have more room to grow. We broadened our relationships by having a few people join us over the course of this year, and some left, but most remained.
If you’ll allow me, there is another word that is floating around a lot in theological circles for some time now, and you likely heard me use it my first sermon with you all: deconstruction. That word is somewhat loaded, as itis often taken as removing faith, or becoming somewhat cool to aspects of religious tradition. But like in construction, it matters what you’re putting together; in deconstruction, it’s important to understand what is being taken apart, and what is left to work with. St. Peter reminds the temple elite after the first Easter season that “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”
What I hope the Young Adults Bible Study is doing, besides building relationships, is to help us take apart the pieces of traditional understanding of Scripture that might hold us back from fully living into our own discipleship. Whether it be shame, fear, or any form of underestimating what God can do with us as friends and followers of Jesus, there is a lot in our religious tradition that has been left as stumbling blocks—often intentionally—overtime that we might find more useful as a foundation for renewed approach to life. For instance, what if instead of reading the Bible with the typical patriarchal and institutional lens, we instead focused on the subversiveness of Scripture in its own time and now.
An example of this would be to see what is often called a “curse” of pain during childbirth on Eve and for all women in the second creation story in Genesis (yes, there are two distinct stories!) instead as a blessing of divinity in women’s bodies for the fact that bringing new life (Genesis!) into the world is a God-like act. Being a life-giver was certainly understood to be a divine attribute in the ancient world. Doesn’t that seem like something that has been rejected, but can be used to build a whole new understanding of God’s love of the real, physical human body? How else might Scripture inform us of the value of this life, in our physical bodies, rather than simply some metaphysical hereafter?
God is always using things we reject to build more room for love, courage, compassion, mercy, and speaking truth-to-power in this world. God is using things we reject to build more joy in the world—we could just as aptly be “under deconstruction.” I am here for it. We only need reconsider things from time-to-time. Who knows—maybe the next thing that falls away, or that we deconstruct intentionally, will become a new foundation for God’s vision to take hold in this world, through us. Whatever phase you are in, being built up, or remodeled, or simply tearing away the rot from your life, God is at work, because God is alive in the unfolding. God always does wonders with what we see as waste!