Sunday's message as we walked through Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, centered on just what God would have us understand "success" to be. As always, the one who delivers the message never really knows what the ultimate effect of it will be. I can hope that it will affect someone's heart and direct them to a closer walk with God. But I really won't know. I'm just a tradesman, an architect using God's blueprints to help people build lives that will stand the test of time.
The picture above is of St Paul's Cathedral in London. It was taken during the Nazi "blitz" bombings of that great city. I do not overstate when I state that picture above had a galvanizing effect on the English people and their friends around the world during a very dark and bleak time in history. Through the gloom, through the dust and terror of bombs falling - St Paul's stood - as did England. It still stands firm today, in its 200th anniversary year.
The architect of that magnificent structure was Christopher Wren.
Wren received the last contractor's payment in 1711, on Christmas Day.
Years later, he was buried in the cathedral, not in one of the ornate areas, but in a plain grave. On it is inscribed in Latin, this phrase: "If you seek his monument, look around you."
It's fitting for that to be written on Wren's grave, in St. Paul's. For in last Sunday's text, we read much the same sentiment. Just as Wren's grave encourages people to look around them to see what his life was about, Paul suggested anyone who wanted to know about his life's work to look at the people he had ministered to.
2 You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. 3 Christ himself wrote it— not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives— and we publish it. 2 Corinthians 3: 2-3
We who "publish" know in our hearts that we cannot change anyone.
Still, we "architects" rejoice when we see what God has done in people's lives around us, and yes, it hurts when people we've poured our lives into seem to falter or walk away from God's plan. The prayer of every pastor I know is that when our work is done, God will be able to direct us to "look around you" and we will see how what we did mattered.