Old buildings are full of mystery to me. First Presbyterian Church in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, where I served as a student minister for the summer, is a perfect example. Built in 1925, it has stood as one of the pillars of the community for nearly 90 years. When I first walked through its antiquated doors, I knew that I was standing in an old building right away. It smelled old — not the nasty smell of mould, but that of a building full of wood and lacquer that gave off that "old wood" smell.
I was mesmerized by its size and seemingly endless passages and stairwells, some leading up to the tower standing three stories above the street, and others leading down, down, down into the bowels of the building where the concrete floor continued for about 10 feet until it turned into solid rock and tapered up toward the ceiling. There is not much topsoil in Prince Rupert. Most buildings are built on solid rock or perched on muskeg.
The thing about old buildings is that the forgotten nooks and crannies usually become depositories for unwanted items. This was the case with the church. Brian, the husband of one of the elders, was the building superintendent, and his summer project was to clean out the accumulated stuff. He gleefully commented to me that he was going to have a dumpster delivered to the church and was going to pile everything that wasn't bolted down into it.
A Saturday was selected for the clean-up day, and all able-bodied members were invited to help out. Apparently, an epidemic of physical maladies descended on the members of First Presbyterian on that weekend. That is the only reason I can think of why Brian and I were the only ones there at 9 a.m. A little later on, another man arrived and worked hard for the rest of the day, mostly because by that time, I was packing nails out one at a time. He was lugging out boards, plywood, old bits of metal, and occasionally, a frantic family of spiders. This clean-up work was hard. To make things worse, we discovered that when a new room was built for the new furnace in the basement, a whole bunch of old wood had been left trapped between the foundation wall and the new frame wall with only a narrow space to fit through.
Finally, the work was done. The basement was free of clutter, and the dumpster had become a goldmine of eclectic odds and ends: doors, windows, metal grates, pipes, boards, and an overpowering smell of rotten fish. I am not sure how the garbage disposal company operates, but it seemed as though the dumpster they gave us had most recently been used at the fish processing plant — a very generous gesture by the disposal company!
I couldn't help but compare the church clean-out with my life as a believer. It has been my experience that as life goes on, little things settle into the nooks and crannies of my person without my express desire that they be there. It may be habits, or how I use my time, or, more aptly put, how my time gets used. A good example is that when more and more activities are added to my schedule, consequently, I have less time to spend praying or reading the Word. I think that after years of accumulation, it would be a good idea to have a clean-out time.
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified. (NKJV)
An important aspect of Advent is that it is a season of self-examination and repentance. We should take a good look at our lives and see what things are important and what things just ended up there. The end result of a cleanup is not only a more useful church building, but also a more dedicated me!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You see how our lives can become cluttered with unimportant things. Reveal those things to us so that we can be free to serve You better. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" (Lyrics)