St. Louis is a city of bricks. It's famous for them. Here on the northside, we have some remarkable brickwork. The best in the city, in my opinion. However, this is not about those bricks.
Bricks are what the Jews were forced to make in Egypt. It was the fruit of their slavery. Bricks were formed out of blood, sweat, and tears. They were formed in the heat, at the demand of brutal men, to build an empire for the slave-owners. The bricks were made from the same stuff as we are – the dust of the ground.
Bricks were also the invention that led men to so proudly construct the tower of Babel. They built a whole city, and a tower that reached into God's domain, all to make a name for themselves. They made it waterproof. They burned the bricks thoroughly to remove all the water, and used tar for mortar to keep any other water out. Maybe they were afraid of another flood. Maybe they wanted to escape judgment, to show God that they were invincible, they were beyond His reach. Maybe they were saying, “You're not welcome here. We got this.” They built a monument to their pride out of the work of their own hands.
And what happened? God confused them. That's what Babel means. It's the city of confusion. They built a whole city to celebrate their pride, and it led them to confusion. They couldn't talk with each other. They couldn't talk with God. They couldn't understand anything.
Despite what's taught in sunday school and Old Testament survey classes, God never destroyed the tower. It never came tumbling down. So you can still live there. You can still choose to live in the waterproof city, the city celebrating your pride, the city celebrating the work of your hands. You can still choose to live in the city of bricks that shows what you can accomplish without God in order to make a name for yourself. You can still submit to the demands of this city. And once you're inside, you're left with only one thing – confusion.
How do you get out?
Through resistance. Resist the lie that says the work of man's hands will save us, that you can do it without God. This only creates slavery. Resist structures that exalt man. Structures that complicate things, that ignore the heart of God, the truth of God, the power of God to reach anywhere. Resist the desire to return to a safe place, to walls, to social clubs, to seclusion. A safe place where you get all the world has to offer, even if that means you're a slave to it. There is a perverted sense of security that comes with slavery. A sense of comfort in knowing your place, knowing where to go, what to say, knowing what today's work will hold. Knowing the precise dimensions of each identical brick. Faith involves risk. It involves the unknown. It's dangerous. Faith is unconcerned with your strength, but wholly reliant upon a powerful, living God that wants to get uncomfortably close to you.
You get out through surrender. To the King, to the Creator, to the Good Shepherd who lays down His life. He designed a City that is not dependent upon towers, bricks, slavery, and confusion. And in fact, it's much bigger than a city. It's a whole Kingdom. And it's not far off. It's here now, in your midst. And its ways and customs are good.
However, there is an enemy already at work, never taking days off, working harder than you ever will, all day, every day, lying, accusing, destroying, deceiving, and enslaving. All to cause you to surrender to the wrong master. All to get your back bent over the mud, making more bricks. He wants to get your eyes off Jesus and onto your self. He wants to get your eyes off God's truth and onto your preferences. He wants you to lay down the sword of the Spirit and pick up the sword of self-righteousness, self-preservation, hacking away to carve out your idea of comfort and justice. He's painting the walls of your cave pleasant colors so you will be complacent, unconcerned with what lies in the darkness, in your past, or even what lies just outside in the light.
Jesus brought something completely new, and the only way to fully embrace that is to let go of what we've been holding on to. We will receive back from God whatever is His, and the things of God are always the best things.
This is how we will be the Church, God's people, the Body of Christ, alive and moving here on earth. The Church, the people, the holy priesthood, is God's Temple. It is not made of bricks. It is made of living stones. It is powerful to overcome the best attacks and fortresses of the enemy.
God showed what He could do to the best systems and structures of men. When people walk in faith, in obedience, when they praise the only Living God, then even in the desert walls can come tumbling down. Even in the most glorious city, with fortified walls and a majestic temple made of costly stones, Jesus can overturn every last one of them.