Wednesday, June 26, 2013

God's Architect

Did you check out yesterday's Google doodle celebrating the 161st birthday of Antoni Gaudi? To be honest I had never heard the name so I clicked out of curiosity. And I was completely blown away.

Once upon a time I was into architecture and considered that as a career field prior to college, so reading about Antoni, dubbed "God's architect", had be glued to my screen. His masterpiece, if you're not familiar, is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This basilica (anointed such in 2010; not technically a cathedral since a Catholic bishop does not serve there) began construction one hundred and thirty years ago and still isn't finished. In fact, it isn't expected to be finished for several more years. Despite being commissioned in 1882, the Sagrada Familia did not celebrate its first mass until its dedication by Pope Benedict three years ago.

I encourage you to check out this profile from the Christian Science Monitor that came up when you'd click on the doodle. Included is an embedded video from 60 Minutes about Gaudi and the basilica that includes such tidbits as the fact that the highest spire is 3 feet shorter than the nearest mountain because Gaudi didn't want to upstage God.

What is fascinating about this story is how this one man was so dedicated to a single project all with the intent of glorifying God. This building became his life's work and his legacy. And since he knew it was so complicated, so grand, that it could not be completed in his lifetime, he built many scale models so that others could complete his work.

About those others: three generations of one family has carried on the legacy; a young architect never returned home after visiting it while touring Europe; a Japanese sculptor converted to Catholicism while working on this project. There is just something captivating about this place and now I feel I must someday visit.

Gaudi wrote, "A church is the only thing worthy of representing the feelings of a people,
for religion is the highest thing in people." His design is intended to tell the two-thousand year history of the church in a single building. In a culture where we spend millions on churches as monuments to ourselves, such a purpose is inspiring and refreshing.

Was Gaudi Crazy? Maybe. But I think about the Universal Church. While not a physical construction project, we have been works-in-progress since Jesus himself walked this earth. So much today is made of being like the First Century Church that we forget they too were imperfect. God has been refining us, sculpting us, for two millennia. And we're still not finished.

Paul described the church as being "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20) He writes elsewhere,

"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple."
(1 Corinthians 3:10-19)

Our construction is incomplete. You and I are each individual spires in God's temple, reaching up towards heaven. Reflecting on Antoni Gaudi's life work, I wonder what it is I am building?

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