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February 3-9, 2010–The Biggest…Building…Ever

Contributed by Jay Gamelin, Jacob’s Porch/ Lutheran Mission to The Ohio State University,Columbus, OH

Warm Up Question

What is the biggest human-made space you have ever been in?  Describe the space to someone in the room who has never been there.  What descriptors do you use? 

The Biggest…Building…Ever…

The biggest building ever built has opened in the small country of Dubai.  The Burj Dubai rises 168 stories or 2,684 feet above the desert floor reaching more than a kilometer into the sky.  This is now the tallest man-made structure in all the world, eclipsing a tower found in North Dakota that, although not a building, has claimed the title of tallest structure created by humans.

The tower features the seven-star Armani Hotel designed by the Italian designer, Giorgio Armani. The 430,000-square-foot hotel has 160 guest rooms and suites across ten stories. The Hotel features eight restaurants, a spa, swimming pool, library, fitness center and business center, as well as 30,000 square feet of conference and banquet space on “mirror-smooth marble floors,” according to the Armani corporate Web site.  Burj Dubai is part of a massive complex that includes five hotels, a huge shopping mall, more than 150 restaurants and 1,200 shops. Entertainment options include a ski resort, an Olympic-size ice skating rink, a 4.6 million-gallon walk-through aquarium, a SEGA game theme park and an 80,000-square-foot play village for children.  That is a play space the size of almost two football fields, excluding endzones.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of this building and complex?  Would you want to visit someday?
  • Why do you think people feel challenged to build taller buildings?  What is to be gained out of tall buildings?
  • What is the allure of something being the biggest, tallest, deepest, or widest?  Why do you think so many more people try to climb Mount Everest than attempt the second highest mountain in the world, K2?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, February 7, 2010 (Fifth Sunday after Epiphany)

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13]

I Corinthians  15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

Gospel Reflection

We love big things, don’t we?  In America it seems we love our big cars, big budgets, big cities, big buildings, big appetites, big stars, and big ideas.  We are captured by big-ness. It gets our attention, captures our imagination.  “Second place is just the first loser,” we say.  We strive for first or not at all.  We climb the tallest or ignore the feat.  We build the biggest if we can.  We plan the largest that we can afford.  We want attention.  We want to show what we’ve got.

“Big” is a word throughout these texts.  Isaiah describes God’s presence in the temple this way: God is so big that in this huge temple the Israelites have built, God can only fit in a stitch at the end of God’s cloak–and still it fills the whole temple.  The disciples cast a net into the sea and bring in such a huge catch that it strains the net to the breaking point.  Paul says he worked harder than all the other apostles… but he’s not bragging, it was God’s grace that allowed this.  Big, bigger, biggest.  Something is clamoring for our attention. 

I was in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna with a friend,staring about this fifth largest Cathedral in the world. I asked my friend what he thought God thought of this big building.  What did God think of all this grandeur?  My friend, who is much smarter than I, said he thought God probably saw this as a two-year-old’s crayon drawing posted on the fridge.  How nice.  How cute.  Look what they did for me!  How sweet.  I made Everest, but your building is really big.  I painted the sky with the crab nebula, but your artwork sure is pretty.  I adore your expertly carved baptismal font, though I hold the waters of the whole world in the small of my hand.  How can we perceive big when God is above all things?  How do we perceive God when we are so enamored by our own creations? 

The season of Epiphany means literally “to be revealed.”  Today’s lessons remind us that God is so above and beyond our concept of eminence that all we make is only a pale shadow of what truly is big. God is so far “above” us and “beyond” us that we can only deem ourselves as a specks of dust on a speck of dust on a speck of dust.  After all our building, budgets, and ideas, we are still so small. 

And how much more of a wonder for that! Though we are so small, God knows us, dwells with us, and participates in our smallness!  How much more amazing that the God who could ignore us, instead, becomes one of us through Jesus, becomes a dust-person, to show us that we are known intimately and loved extravagantly by something so big.  It is this idea, God’s attention and love, that is the most humbling news of all.  May it be revealed to you today that our God is not too big to forget you.  May we be humbled today by the love and the presence of God through Jesus in our lives.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever flown over a major city?  What did it look like from above?  How about over mountains?
  • What do YOU think God makes of our skyscrapers, church steeples, and stadiums?  There is no right answer… just what do you think?
  • Have you ever felt small and insignificant?  Describe how it felt, or perhaps the situation that led you to feel this way.
  • Believing that God set all this in motion, what does it mean that God became human in Jesus?  What does this say about God and what God thinks of us?  What does this say about our significance?


Activity Suggestion

CRAYON DRAWINGS FOR GOD:  Set out supplies for an art project- paper, crayons, scissors, tape, or whatever you’ve got.  Read aloud Psalm 138.  Have the students draw what they see or hear in the text, either literally or figuratively.  For example, they may draw someone bowing toward the temple or the text may make them think of love.  Maybe they will draw a big heart!  In any case, invite them to draw what they feel as a gift to God.

PROCESS:  Our gifts are so small, so little.  It seems they are too small to capture God’s attention.  The good news is that God loves and appreciates our gifts, no matter how small.  God knows and sees our hearts and God makes them big, beautiful, and holy.  Give thanks that our small gift is known and appreciated.

Closing Prayer 

It is a wonder, Lord, that you would know us.  It is amazing that you would love us.  Thank you God for showing us your presence.  Thank you for humbling yourself by becoming one of us.  To you be power and glory, forever and ever.  AMEN.