living-stones

Peter provides rich imagery for us in his letter:

  • long for the pure, spiritual milk
  • the stone the builders rejected
  • royal priesthood
  • holy nation
  • God’s own people
  • Living Stones

This images tell us about God, Jesus and ourselves. They tell us about how God has elected to care for us, that a place has been set aside for us. We are important to God’s creation, we are called to be Living Stones, just as Jesus was. 

Stones

Text: 1 Peter 2: 2-10

Have you ever noticed how often stones are referenced in the Bible? Obtain even a passing acquaintance with scripture and you will notice that stones and rocks are a foundational metaphor in the ancient and ongoing conversation around things divine. The psalmist, traditionally understood to be King David, says in Psalm 18: 1-2

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.

Stones figure in the story of the Israelites crossing into the Promised Land after their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. God had parted the waters of the Jordan River, much like the parting of the sea at the Exodus, for the ark of the Covenant to pass by. So, God instructs Joshua to have twelve stones from the Jordan set up as a monument. We read in Joshua 4:6b-7,

“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

The writer of Ecclesiastes is traditionally understood to be Solomon, David’s son. Writing in his old age, he tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-5,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together…

Stones and rocks are seen, in just these three passages, as imaging the sure and solid love of God, as representing significant moments in the lives of people of faith, and as being memorials of God’s miraculous and saving acts. Stones and rocks are a powerful way of imaging the fact that God loves us.

Of course, the last time I checked rocks were not alive. In fact, when looking at the natural world, rocks are the one thing you can say for sure are not alive. Yet here we are talking about rocks. Peter calls Jesus in verse four, the living stone, rejected by humans but chosen by God. But he goes further than that and calls us also living stones, that we are to be build into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Let’s think about rocks or stones for a moment. Would you build your house on sand? No. Perhaps in a swamp? No, I didn’t think so. On a rock? Yes, you would build your house on a rock. The foundation is sound, it provides safety. The reason New York city has such towering buildings is the rock that Manhattan is built on, dense stone that can support all those buildings.

It comes as no surprise that stones are referred to in the Bible as the building block of all things. The analogy just makes sense. But Jesus, and if we take Peter’s message to heart, and us are more than just stones. We are living stones. The very heart beat of the Christian message. The teachings of Jesus are personified in our very actions and words. What we do is a reflect on our Lord and saviour.

Peter refers to Christ as the cornerstone the builders rejected. I don’t know much about buildings or construction, but I’m fairly certain that without the cornerstone the building will fall down. It’s an integral piece of the building, providing support for the weight of the entire structure. Remove the cornerstone and the entire structure will crumble and fall.

I believe we live in a time where for many people the cornerstone is missing from their lives. They have no foundation upon which to base the decisions they make, they have no source of wisdom to turn to and as a result the look inwards and do whatever feels the best or will benefit them the most.

The result is a society that is rude, inconsiderate and out of touch. Parents devoting more time to themselves than the children they choose to bring into the world. People more connected to their iPhones than the individuals in their lives. Technology might bring us together, but I would argue our relationships are not as deep or fully developed as they once were. Society, is no longer set on a firm foundation. It’s shifted away, and the house is often in a perilous state.

Just as every building has a cornerstone, so do we. After all, we are the Living Stones. Christ is the cornerstone of our lives. He is the foundation of our faith. When we aren’t right with Christ it shows. When He, who is our cornerstone, isn’t set as our firm foundation our lives reflect it. If we are honest we realize that there are many times in our lives when things are not as they should be. When we have shifted out of alignment of Christ’s teaching.

To this we look at how our message from Peter opened. Where we read, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…” If there was ever a passage for Mother’s Day perhaps this is it. On a day when we as the church celebrate our families, our spouses, children, parent’s, brothers and sisters. Today is Christian Family Sunday and we are encouraged to celebrate the vast diversity of families that are in our midst. We are invited to crave what God has to offer, for God is good.

Peter requests that we rid ourselves of those things that are not Christ-like. That we align ourselves to Christ who is our foundation. That we might be Living Stones. A testament to all who we meet, an enduring witness to Christ’s love and grace in our lives.

Though we are called to be Living Stones, often we stumble. When I trip, more often than not it’s on a stone.

Our message today speaks to this. I stumble because I disobey the message. We are called to be faithful followers of Christ, called to be Living Stones. But sometimes we struggle with what that call means. We stumble on the rock which is our foundation. There are numerous reasons for it. Some look for excuses, others just call it sin. Sometimes we simply feel torn between what we feel we should do as a Christian and what appears to be acceptable in society.

Stones as we reflect on them are the word of God and they represent our relationship with God. This reminds me of an ancient fable which is told concerning three men in their journey across a Mid-East desert. Late one evening as they were traveling across the desert sands, a stranger mysteriously appeared before them from out of nowhere. The stranger then informed them that soon they would be crossing a dry river bed and that they should pick up stones from the river bed and put them in their packs. He went on to inform them that they should look into their packs the next morning and the result would be that they would be both glad and sorry. Then suddenly he disappeared as quickly as he had come.

Just as was told them, the three travelers soon came upon the dry river bed and so decided to take the advice of this stranger. They spent an hour or so picking up rocks and placing them in their packs and then went to bed. The next morning, they opened their packs and discovered an amazing thing–all the stones had turned into precious jewels! They also discovered their stranger’s prediction had come true–for they were very glad for the stones they had picked up, but sorry they hadn’t picked up more!

I believe this fable illustrates the amount of quality time we spend in the Word of God. For like those three friends, most of us will look back at the end of our lives and be glad for the time we did spend, but probably be sorry that we didn’t spend more.

As we live our lives as Christians it is essential for us to see who we are because of the grace of Christ that has been given to us. Once we see who we are as Christ sees us, then we can live our lives accordingly. Peter tells us that we are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession…” How then should we live our lives in light of this revelation?

We demonstrate the good that Christ has done in our lives. This should be the one great desire of our heart as we remain continually aware of the fact that we are a people who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Or as one missionary put it so well, “witnessing is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

We join the disciples as Living Stones, but Christ is the Living Bread, able to sustain us and provide the nourishment that we require. Our call as disciples is to share Christ’s message, to allow others to become Living Stones. As Peter tell us, we are “God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.” And what a wonderful light, and what a wonderful journey that is. Amen.