The Star Democrat
Pondering the significant truths of bricks and mortar
I attend this church, St. Luke’s Parish, situated upon a hill in a town named for the church. Church Hill, Maryland, is found in the northwest quadrant of the Delmarva Peninsula, as defined by the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Its parishioners are proud of their church, for its age, its beauty, and for the fellowship shared there.
St. Luke’s was founded in 1728, so nearly 300 years ago. It is constructed of brick, prepared in a Flemish bond fashion; a design that traces back to German masons. I find myself thinking of those bricks, and the many country folk who have passed through its doors, sat in its pews, and who have offered up their prayers and worship within the space defined by those bricks. These are surely special bricks, due to the multitude of valued parishioners who have silently shared their best and their worst, some of whom are known and many more are known only to history.
I ask myself of the relative significance of those bricks, and the mortar that binds them. When people talk about church, any church, they may be speaking about the tangible structure, the image of which may be found on Christmas greeting cards. Or alternatively, they may be speaking of the intangible church; the gathering of human creatures sharing a common objective.
I recall a passage recording the words of Jesus, that He would rebuild a destroyed church in just three days’ time. He was speaking of the three days He would spend in the grave, and He was referring to an intangible church, with its all so real and ever growing congregation of faithful believers. And so I ponder the relative significance of the bricks, the mortar, and the church not seen.
First, to the bricks: bricks serve as building blocks; they are sourced from selected clay, shaped in molds, and then fired in furnaces. Although their origin is lowly, their destiny may be highly honorable, and at times even stately. Like ROCKS they are strong, and can be depended upon to join and support other bricks. They are well suited for their purpose; they perform well, and are long lasting. When joined, bricks can build just about anything, from bridges to pyramids, from walkways to cathedrals.
I think people are very much like bricks. They too are sourced from humble beginnings. In his story of creation, Moses equates the origin of people to that of dust. People are shaped by nature and nurture. And the extremes of this earthly life are at times as hot as the fire of a furnace. I find that what is important is less to do with the experiences we have had, and more to do with how we react to them. If we keep focus on our purpose, then chances are good that we may become functional and dependable building blocks, and can be put to that purpose, to be contributory and flexible and of great utility to the builder, our creator, and to each other. The determined builder carefully selects his bricks.
And now to the mortar: mortar serves as glue; it holds things together. It is the essential ingredient that permits bricks to take shape, and further it is the quality of mortar to last, and maintain its adhesion for extended periods of time. Mortar makes bricks functional. It is the mortar that yields the realization of the builder’s vision. Without mortar, there is just a pile of bricks.
I think mortar may be very much like the Holy Spirit. It is this spirit that draws people, and permits them to join together, stay together, take shape, and to serve the purpose-filled vision of the builder.
So what is this substance that serves as glue? Of the three facets of the Holy Trinity, I find the Holy Spirit the most challenging to conceptualize. While the Father and the Son are overwhelmingly difficult to describe in terms of the scope, depth, and power of their roles, it is fairly easy for my mind to latch on to the image of the patriarch and his heir. It is the Holy Spirit that mystifies me. Some even refer to this spirit, as the Holy Ghost. And when I think of ghosts, I think of the essence of the dead. But my life’s journey has proven to me that God is alive. Without even the shadow of a doubt, I know that our God is a living God.
So again I look to the Word, to help me explain the unexplainable, and to add shape to that which is without
form. So here are the terms that I found which I believe may assist my goal of adding substance to this ghost. The most recurring term found was love. And in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he attempted to clarify what is meant by the word love. I filtered it down to charity — the giving of one’s self. So I think this may be God’s giving of Himself — true charity from a true God, to give without reservation, expectation or limitation.
Other terms found included: Wonderful Counselor; dwelling in us; a sure foundation; working in us; our peace; our advocate; equipping us; providing us angels; leading us in the way we should go; anointing us for service; giving us revelation knowledge; a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. So, I found a number of terms that I attribute to describing the Holy Spirit, but I like the simplest one the best. The Holy Spirit is the love of God. And just like with people, love can’t be seen, but the evidence of love’s presence can be very tangible.
So, although the Holy Ghost is not seen, the evidence of its adhesive qualities is readily apparent to the eye. And by extension, the tangible church is evidence of the presence of the spiritual church. And just as this intangible church is the result of the adhesion of human spirits by the love of God, the tangible church is the bricks held together by the mortar consistent with the vision and purpose of the builder.
And so what is that purpose? The answer I found in the gospel according to Saint Matthew, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” I am. The great I Am found in the midst of those who gather. That is the purpose for the mortar to bind the bricks.
On a personal level, the history of my family’s structure, at least as measured within my experience, is that the members are held together by a strong matriarch. Initially, Bessie Glover, my great-grandmother served in that role. Then it was my grandmother, Pauline Rider, who served as the glue. And now it has passed to my mother, Wilma Stammer. When cupboards were empty, and when cupboards were full. Through global events that impacted every family, including the Great Depression, and two world wars; and the many personal tragedies that stemmed much closer to home including miscarriages, drug and alcohol abuse, disease, murder, suicide, and divorce; and balanced with the all too few but greatly welcomed events like weddings, and births. These greatly tested matriarchs held us all together and continue to do so in a very uncertain world.
Perhaps some people serve as instruments of the Father, and some as of the Son, and a select few serve as instruments of the Holy Ghost. I thank God for the glue that holds families together, and for the mortar that binds bricks allowing churches to stand for hundreds of years so that thousands of parishioners may share the presence of the great I Am.
The beauty of assembled bricks is due to the adhesion of the mortar. The longevity of the construction is due to the quality of the mortar. Just as the shape, strength, and longevity of human relationships is due to the love that holds them together. Perhaps all people should work toward becoming chosen bricks, and then to look for the mortar that binds for purpose.