Saturday, June 3, 2017

View through the Ruin

Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

Our family was recently blessed to visit Ireland, where the joy of spending time together was enhanced by the unusually sunny weather and gorgeous scenery. The lush green landscape there is dotted by many ruins of walls, dwellings, and even castles!

One of our favorites was Minard Castle near Dingle in County Kerry, still stately atop a gentle hill on a boulder beach, its gray stones overgrown with tangled ivy. It was built by the Knight of Kerry in the mid 17th century and was later attacked by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. In the romantic film "Ryan’s Daughter," it was used to film the scene where Rosy met the English Captain, with whom she would have an extramarital affair.

Our son and daughter-in-law were the first to scramble up the steep, winding narrow stairs to view what remained of the bedrooms and watch towers. There was no signage or docent, so much of it was left to the imagination. I followed not too far behind, while my husband chose the safer and broader perspective from below on the castle grounds.

Later he told me that a fellow traveler shook his head while gazing at those of us scampering about on the upper levels of the ancient structure.

“I’m a mechanical engineer,” he told Richard. “All it would take is one stone from that arch to slip a little, or to crumble a little, for that whole building to come tumbling down.”

Richard shuddered as he pondered our fate, wondering why he hadn’t tried to stop us, or if he could even if he had tried.

As I ascended the rough steps, sometimes painfully clinging to thorny vines on the wall for support, I was thankfully oblivious to the conversation below. I paused often to peek through the window openings, and to imagine what it was like for the original occupants to gaze out on that same scenery. The rolling hills, far-off mountain peak, and sea must not have changed much, despite the considerable deterioration of the dwelling itself.

Were there joyful parties in the castle, or grim watches for invading enemies? Were the occupants blessed with marital bliss and happy, healthy families, or plagued by sickness, strife, trials and death? Most likely a mixture of both, as would be true for most lives at different times.

As I paused to snap a photo of one view through the crumbling ruins, I was struck by the contrast of the jagged rocks that framed the window, jutting out into the bucolic landscape and farmhouse in the distance, and the grand yet hazy view of the mountain peak beyond.

The Bible describes the church, or body of called-out believers who trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), as a building fitly framed together. Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone and the Foundation on which the church is built (Ephesians 2:20-22). Each believer is positioned uniquely to fulfill the specific function God has predetermined for each of us (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

But what happens if the individual stones in the building, or believers in the church, start to fall apart? As the engineer observed, just one stone slipping in the arch could bring the whole castle tumbling down. If a church leader is found out in adultery or other sin, or begins preaching false doctrine, the entire local church body may dissolve (1 Corinthians 5:6-13).

Even “small” sins or divisions among church members, or erosion as vines and leaks work over time on building blocks, can damage the entire structure. Maintenance and upkeep are therefore crucial for a dwelling, and regular, well-attended services (Hebrews 10:25) and immersion in God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2) even more so for a church.  

Crumbling around the edges of one stone can affect its connection to the others, and similarly, willful sin in the life of one church member erodes the body as a whole, for the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Small wonder that so many churches today are in disarray and even closing their doors altogether!

But the view through the ruin also reminded me of my own body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, as is true for every child of God (Ephesians 2:22; 2 Corinthians 6:16). The outward body is aging daily, yet the soul inside should be growing closer to and in better alignment with Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:16), as long as we build our lives on the solid Rock (Matthew 7:24) and Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

Looking out from the jagged borders of the window reminded me that although I am rough around the edges, God still blesses me with the vision to see milestones along my path. As I viewed the nearby farmhouse and heard the far-off laughter of my son and his bride, I remembered God’s blessings of honest labor (2 Thessalonians 3:10), family (Psalm 127:3-5) and shelter in the past and present.

And the mountain peak beyond strengthened my faith that there are still mountains and lands to possess, figuratively speaking, even as we grow older (Joshua 14:9-12; 13:1). Ultimately we will ascend to that holy city, New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 21:2,10), on the heavenly hill! (Zechariah 8:3)

Meanwhile, as our physical bodies age and fail, our souls groan to be clothed with the new heavenly tabernacle of our glorified body! (Romans 8:18-23). Then we will view Him through the ruin of our earthly body no more, for we will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and be as He is, in our heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:40-54) that will never die, sin, age, or experience pain, sickness or sorrow! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett

Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

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Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Thanks for posting a couple of excellent photos of Minard Castle. And yes, it is a great pity if the whole structure crumbles, although in this day of modern technology, a method should be found to preserve the ruins as a heritage site. I hope you both had a wonderful time in Ireland.
Your point about churches disintegrating due to the presence of sin reminds me of the seven churches of the book of Revelation, each represented by a candle placed in each stem of a Jewish menorah. Several times Jesus has warned that if the church does not repent of its sins, then Christ will remove its light from the lamp stand. Thanks be to God's grace, that although there is no such thing as a perfect church down here on Earth, we still make up the glorious Temple for God to dwell in, and at the same time, the Bride of Christ.
An Excellent blog. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thanks so much for your encouragement about the blog post and photos! And thanks as always for the Scriptural insights and references. I believe that although Jesus was addressing specific churches that existed in John's day, His letters to the churches are also symbolic references to the Church throughout history. It seems we are now the Laodicean age, where so many megachurches are rich in goods but spiritually bankrupt. Unrepentant sin has indeed caused many lights of these churches to go out. But as you rightly point out, Christ always has a remnant of faithful believers who make up His Church and Bride.
God bless,

Aritha said...

Thank you Laurie, for this lesson. I've translated it to my own language. Let us pray for our churches. Let us pray: Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Laurie Collett said...

You're very welcome, Ariella, and thank you for your lovely comment! May we join together in unity, praying for the Church as His bride to be preserved without blemish or spot, to His glory!
Love in Christ,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Sadly, like Minard Castle, a great many churches are in physical and spiritual ruins because no one considered it worth correcting the problems when they first occurred. One is left to wonder what it may once have been like because so much has been destroyed over time.

Laurie Collett said...

Very true, Donald! As the old sayings go, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a stitch in time saves nine. But often false doctrine creeps in because no one wants to rock the boat or risk offending those members with itching ears who are drawn to entertaining but unsound teachers. Thanks as always for sharing your insights, and God bless,