Nebraska farmer Herman Ostery had a problem. His barn needed to be moved 110 feet to make room for a new road that was coming through. He planned to tear it down, though it was in fine shape, and rebuild it 110 feet away, but he dreaded all that work. When his neighbors heard about this, they had an unusual idea: “What if we all picked up your barn together and carried it where you want it to be?”
Herman was dubious, but agreed to let them try. Days later, 328 friends and neighbors arrived. Using a hydraulic jack, they lifted the barn slightly off the ground. Then everyone picked up Ostery’s barn and moved it 110 feet. Each person carried an estimated fifty pounds.
The Protestant idea of the priesthood of the believers, with an s on the end of believers, is that we are priests to one another, taking care of each other. The misleading version—the priesthood of the believer—leaves off the s and claims that we don’t need a priest or anyone else. It’s just me and God. But that’s not true. We’re in this together. When we recognize, even cherish, our dependence on others, we become church.
Selfishness keeps us from seeing how much we need each other. Paul tells the church to stop complaining. Stop dwelling on how we think we’ve been slighted. Stop ignoring, fearing, or merely tolerating one another.
At its best the Church moves past selfishness. A complaining person becomes grateful. A lonely person is welcomed. A hurting person is brought back from despair. A selfish person is invited to care. Church happens through warm handshakes and surprising smiles, through relinquishing our stubbornness and helping to lift.
When have you seen the church do the equivalent of moving a barn? What similar thing could you do in the near future?
God, use us to renew your church. Help us to recognize our need for one another and the possibilities you create for us when we see that truth. Amen.