A Roof on the Move
I grew up in Africa seeing roofs move down the road or across the street with human walls underneath them. It never seemed unusual… just interesting to watch. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized there is a wonderful spiritual analogy in both the building of these roofs and the placement of the roof on its designated wall.
The roof is skillfully constructed with a variety of grasses and reeds. These grasses, if left alone out on the plains or in the marshes, will remain alone without any purpose. But when the grasses and reeds are cut and skillfully assembled together into a roof, they will serve the purpose of covering a round hut—providing shelter for the occupants of the house.
The roof is not just a neatly layered thatch that is pleasing in appearance. The roof, if well-constructed and maintained, may last and provide shelter for fifteen to twenty years As the saying goes, “A daughter may be born under this roof, and the daughter will herself later give birth to her child under the same roof.”
The roof is built using different grasses for different parts of its structure. One kind of grass or reed is used to weave together a grass mat in the shape of a cone to provide the basic structure of the roof. Around the base of the cone is fastened a “belt” woven out of reeds taken from marshy areas. These have to be woven into this belt when they are still wet and pliable. Later, when this belt’s reeds dry in their woven position, they will not stretch. Thus they will hold together the bottom of the roof so that it doesn’t stretch out and slip over the side of the wall. Another grass reed about 5½ feet tall is laid vertically over the conical mat. Holding these vertical reeds in place are “ribs” of reeds that surround the roof, spaced at 18-inch intervals. All of these are tied together with ropes that are made from the leafy part of the reeds. Finally, thatch is laid on top of the supporting structure to complete the roof. The skillful builder of the roof knows which grasses and reeds must be used for each part of the roof and places them in their rightful place.
These roofs are not assembled on top of the walls of the hut, but on the ground, sometimes under a big tree where the workers can work in the shade. When a roof is fully assembled, the house owner will gather a group of his friends and neighbors. Together they will lift this roof off the ground, place it on their heads, and carry it to its place on top of the wall that has been built for it. They must work together, each equally spaced under the perimeter of the roof, carrying their share of the load, walking in the same direction and at the same speed to the roof’s destination, until the roof is placed on its wall. After this, the house owner provides a meal for his helpers to celebrate and rejoice with him.
Like the builder of the roof, God puts together his “roof.” He knows our unique characteristics (what kind of a grass or reed we are). He knows into which part of the roof we best fit. He assigns us a place in this roof. Like the different grasses and reeds skillfully placed by the builder in the structure of the roof, so also God places or assigns each one of us, people chosen for a place and purpose in his roof. God assigns us spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8), he assigns us a life to live (1 Corinthians 7:17), and he assigns us a sphere of influence (2 Corinthians 10:13). Like the grasses and reeds that are skillfully and wonderfully put together, we also are skillfully and wonderfully placed to be a part of God’s roof. As the grasses and reeds work together to form a solid roof and shelter for its owner, so also God’s people work together to form a solid structure that is pleasing to God both in function and in appearance.
The roof, however, is no good to anyone unless it is lifted off the ground, brought to the house, and placed where it can serve as a covering or a shelter. The builder cannot lift and carry the roof by himself. Here again we see how the builder and his friends or community work together to bring the roof to its place. So also we, the body of Christ, work together. We each carry our share of the assigned load. Together we walk in the same direction with a common purpose and vision of a completed household. We walk in the same direction and at the same speed. If we take off and walk in a different direction than the assigned one, we leave the roof and are no longer bearing our share of the roof. If we walk slower or faster than the others carrying the roof, we again leave the roof and others are left carrying what we were supposed to be carrying together.
When we see these men carrying this marvelous structure to be put in place, we think of the way we, the Church of Jesus Christ, are put in place by God to live and work together, and to carry out his mission. As God’s chosen people, we bring the message of salvation to those who are lost. Every one of us is necessary. We are told that, at the end of time, we will be invited to sit down at the marriage feast of the Lamb. There we will rejoice in his presence when our work here on earth is done. Praise God!
Rev. Jim Erickson serves as senior pastor at Calvary Community Church in Fullerton, CA.