1 Peter 2:10
October 14, 2001
A PURPOSEFUL COMMUNITY
Mary J. Davis, Pastor, The Grantham Church
When my daughter, Lynsey, was a preschooler, she received a straw cowboy hat and went around saying, I want to be a cowboy when I grow up! You, too, can probably go back and think about what you wanted to be when you grew up...maybe a nurse, or a fireman, a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a journalist. But did you ever think about becoming a stone? Yes, I said a stone!
Peter, in 1 Peter 2, is telling believers that they are to think of themselves as becoming living stones so that they can be built into a spiritual house.
Like any builder, Peter also knew that to build anything there had to be a solid foundation on which to build this spiritual house. Christ is made the sure foundation. We sang it earlier, and the children helped us to picture this concept. Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ like the wise men who built their house on the ROCK.
The great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was given the challenge of building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, one of the most earthquake prone cities in the world. Wrights investigation showed that a solid foundation could be floated on a sixty foot layer of soft mud underlying the hotel which would provide a shock absorbing but solid support for the immense building. Shortly after the hotel was completed it withstood the worst earthquake in 50 some years while buildings all around it toppled to the ground.
Building our lives on Christ Jesus as the foundation is even a much greater support.
Peter begins his teaching on this subject by referring to Jesus Christ as a living stone. The word he uses for living here is the same word used by Jesus when he told the Samaritan woman about living water and when he told the Jews I am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. Knowing the Scriptures, Peter gives us this picture of Christ by quoting Isaiah, See I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. Paul in Ephesians backs up what Peter is saying, You have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Why do they describe Christ as a cornerstone? Webster says a stone which lies at the corner of two walls and serves to unite them; specifically a stone built into a corner of the foundation on an important edifice as the actual or nominal starting point in the building.
That is the role of Christ in the church. Paul says it this way, In whom (meaning Christ) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Jesus has not become this cornerstone by accident nor by his own initiative. God chose him for this position, and he is precious to God. One who is held in honor, to be prized. Its a term of endearment. If someone is precious to us, he or she is dear - is someone we care about tenderly. Jesus is precious to God. He is His only begotten son.
But although he is precious to God, his Father, Christ has been rejected by many. The stone which the builders rejected. Jesus himself said, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. People not only reject him, but they stumble over him. This time quoting the Psalmist, Peter says, A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. To each person, Jesus will either be the chief cornerstone, the Lord of his or her life, or He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. We cannot be neutral concerning our relationship with him. To ignore him is to reject him.
Do you notice how comfortable our society seems to be in using the term God? We read and see everywhere these last weeks, God Bless America... but we are less comfortable with mentioning Jesus Christ. In some situations Christs name may not be used because it will be offensive. That is the reason for the stumbling and falling. When the Word of God is disobeyed, when Jesus Christ is rejected - the one who was given by the Father as the gift of grace to save us from our sins, we will certainly stumble and fall.
In this passage Peter differentiates between the purposeful role of the individual as a living stone...and the purposeful role we as living stones have together. verse 4. As you come to him, the living stone, you also, like living stones.
Coming to him in verse 4 flows out of verse 3. Coming to him.. to whom? To the one.. to the Lord who you have tasted to be good. This is not a reference to conversion, that initial coming to Christ. Rather is a reference to the daily, hour to hour of purposefully drawing near to Christ. It means intentional discipline of developing a spiritual intimacy with Christ; a life of conversing of dialoguing with God not just one sided prayers of request and praise, but a dialogue of talking and listening to God that builds a deeper level relationship. It means a life of being in the Word, and not just for information but intent in reading the Word as Eugene Peterson, the author of the Message, says it is reading the word to allow God to speak reality into being, creation into shape, salvation into action. We are what happens when the word is spoken and we respond. We read and listen to find out what is going on - in us, Its in the coming to Christ, knowing Christ, spending time with Christ, that we are shaped into a living stone, that takes on the look, the essence of Christ, the living stone.
Its not a new fact that we take on actions, looks, vocabulary, attitudes of those with whom we spend quality time. Our children model us in everything we do. I told a Lynsey story...heres a Megan one. When the girls were very young, just starting to actually play together, they were in the room off the kitchen playing with their dolls. I thought, Ah, Good they are finally playing nicely together, I can get some work done, when I heard Megan reprimand her dolly. And inside I silently groaned, for I not only heard my words come out of her mouth, I heard my mothers words. I caught them from my mother and Megan was catching them from me. I knew I needed to be more intentional about what I did and said around them. If she was going to imitate me, which she was, I wanted it to have a more positive outcome.
Over and over in Scripture we are challenged to be imitators of Christ, to be Christ-like in every aspect of our lives. This is the picture of that. He is a living stone, and as we individually live purposeful lives to be more like him, we too will take on his appearance, his actions, his attitudes. Our lives will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Yes, we will grow up to be living stones.
But Gods purpose for us doesnt stop with each one of us becoming a living stone. He has a much greater plan for us. Verse 5 Like living stones we are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. The great architect has a master blueprint for us. Those of you who have been at the Grantham Church over the last four years know a lot about master blueprints, about building a large edifice. Weve been there, weve done it. We arent going to build another structure, but we are called to build a spiritual house. The term house is not intended to mean a house for Gods people, but a house in which God the Almighty is pleased to dwell. This naturally demands a figurative understanding, because God does not dwell in temples made with hands. But he does dwell within the church, the spiritual house Jesus built. Look once more at Pauls words in Ephesians 2. Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone in him the whole building is joined together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. What does that look like for us?
We need to be willing as these living stones we have grown to be to purposefully come together and share in the building of this spiritual house God has mapped out for us. It requires the living stone of Sarah Babcock who babysits during clubs, and the living stone of Doris Harley who has an artistic eye and designs centerpieces for tables in Fellowship Hall, and the living stone of Jon Wheat who plays the sax, and the living stone of Rosalie Fraser who has taught preschoolers for many years, and the living stone of Ruth Cassel who comes into the office each week to stuff mailboxes, and the living stone of Dale Bicksler who mows the grass, and the living stone of Ruth Bierbower who copies the weekly audio tapes of the services and mails them out, and the living stone of Brian Marquart who teaches 9th/10th grade SS., and the living stone of Sandra Jamison who as a deacon provides congregational health ministries to us, and the living stones of Ryan and Ann Mark who are youth leaders. This spiritual house requires each of us to be purposefully integrated into Gods plan, each stone having a place, each stone equally reliant on the others as we form the body of Christ here at Grantham. There is an interdependence that is formed, a unique relationship as these living stones mold together to make something that is bigger than anyone him or herself can be. Alone we are but a stone - small, insignificant in a sense, but together we can create a temple, a dwelling place for God.
Sir Christopher Wren, the great English architect, was one day visiting the building site in Europe. He walked around the great edifice going up and he stopped and talked as he often did with some of the workers. He watched with interest the man working on the stain glass window and asked what he was doing? The worker replied, I am putting lead in to fit the pattern. Then he stopped and asked the mason what he was doing, and the mason replied, Ah, my work is matching these bricks for this little alcove here. And then he saw an elderly man sometimes sweeping the floor and sometimes mixing mortar, and he asked him, Sir, what are you doing here? And the elderly gentleman paused and then looked up to the top of the building and said, Im building a cathedral for the glory of God. In the spiritual sense you and I have a great purpose here together. Yes, each doing our task, but with the knowledge and insight that our purpose is the same. We want to say like this elderly worker, Im building a spiritual house in which God can dwell.
When we think about being a purposeful community, we can readily say that our purpose is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Each spiritual house, each community of believers then builds on that foundational purpose with what God has specifically called them to be where God has placed them. The staff has begun that process of discerning our specific purposes, but we will not do it alone. Just like we all worked at designing and modifying the blueprints for this actual building we are in, the staff envisions us as a body all taking part in discerning the specific purposes, the what and how of who God is calling us to be as his spiritual house here in Grantham.
Now Peter doesnt stop with us just living stones being built into a spiritual house. He says we are doing this to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Peter emphasizes that in verse 9. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people. If we ever questioned our self esteem, this passage confirms that its not our accomplishments that render us a positive self concept. It is foremost our relationship with Christ, which is far more important than our jobs, any successes we may achieve, any relationships we have, our wealth or our knowledge. Our value comes from being one of Gods children. But more than that we are one of his royal priests.
Within the first covenant, the priesthood belonged to the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi. These priests had at least three distinctives. First they had direct access to God. At appointed times they would go into the Holy of holies to communicate with God. Secondly, the priests represented the people of Israel to God. And thirdly, they brought the offerings and sacrifices for the people to God. It was an honor to be chosen a priest within that first covenant. What would happen if you went to school tomorrow or to the office and said, Hey, gang Im a priest. Maybe some would say, Hmm... yeah, right, a priest, but more than likely the response would be YOU, a priest?
Have you ever been in a group or a waiting room and someone walks in and is addressed as Rev. Jackson or Rev. Smith. By saying Reverend real loudly, its an announcement to everybody that a pastor is in the room - Watch your language , watch your behavior. Quite frankly, I dont particularly like that title myself, but whether we are in the church, in a restaurant, a football game or a gas station, the fact that we are Gods chosen people points to the reality that we are priests. Its not our location which makes us priests, its our calling by God. We dont need to be concerned about our wardrobe - wearing black suits with white collars. We dont need to be concerned about titles. What we need to focus on is that God has chosen us to carry out his mission here on earth. He will fill us with his spirit to provide us with the wisdom and knowledge which is necessary to get the job done. That seems overwhelming sometimes, doesnt it?
Remember Jeremiah when he was attempting to explain to God why he could not carry out the mission God had for him to do? Jeremiah said, Oh Lord, Im too young to do this. You need somebody with more experience. Im even afraid to try to do it. Do we have similar responses? God, Im too young. Or is it, God, Im old. Ive done that before, let younger ones do it? Or is it like the third response, God Im scared to get up front or Im scared to teach a Sunday School class. But do you remember Gods reply to Jeremiah? Before I formed you in your mothers womb, I knew you and what your potential was. Before you were born, I had already appointed you to be a prophet of the nations. Just as God called Jeremiah to be a prophet from birth for his purposes, God has called us to work out his plan and purpose for our life which has a kingdom outcome. No, we dont have the look we think of when we think priest. We are, in a sense, disguised. It doesnt matter to God what others will designate you as. Dave Brandt looks like and is the soccer coach at Messiah College, but to God he is a priest in a coaches uniform. And then there is priest, Russel Ostrander, who represents God as a piano tuner. And there is priest, Bonnie Prior, who does it as a graphic artist and there is Dale Wolgemuth, a priest who is a carpenter, and Ellie Yoder, a priest, who is a teacher. But notice Peter uses the word priesthood both in verse 5 and in verse 8. We are a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood. We arent priests out on the corner by ourselves. Whatever it is we are called to do as priests, we are united as one body to join in the priestly work together of coming directly into the presence of God and of sharing the responsibility of bring others to him also.
Peter connects the fact that we are living stones being built into a spiritual house to be, yes, a holy priesthood, and then he tacks on this modifying phrase, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
As living stones made into a holy priesthood, a vital part of our Christian lifestyle is to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. Romans 12:1 makes it very clear that we are to sacrifice all that we are. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Sometimes we dont feel we have much to offer... It reminds me of a Christian midrash - which is a piece of literature written sometime after the 4th century that gives underlying significance to a Biblical text. This midrash is reputed to have been told often by the church. When Jesus returned to glory after his victorious resurrection and ascension, the angels received him back into heaven with much joy and celebration. During the celebration, however, one of the angels said to Jesus, Lord, you have selected a handful of men and women to whom you left the building of the Church and the advancement of the Kingdom. But they are such weak, simple and inadequate folk. What if they fail to win humanity to your Father and do not become transformers of society? What will happen then? What is your plan if those who follow you fail? Jesus looked at the angel and replied, You dont understand. Whether Gods Kingdom manifests itself on earth and whether my Church is built from generation to generation depends solely upon those weak, simple, inadequate folk. Do you not see? I have no other plan!
In February 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team slipped its foot into a glass slipper and walked away with a gold medal at Lake Placid, New York. Those collegians had shocked the world by upsetting the powerful Soviet team, and then they grabbed the championship from Finland while the crowd chanted, "U.S.A.!" Before his teams victory over the Soviet Union which advanced them to the finals, the coach of the U.S. hockey team told his players, "You are born to be a player. You are meant to be here at this time. This is your moment."
That is what Peter, our coach here in the Scriptures, is saying to each of us today. You are born to be a living stone to build this spiritual house here at Grantham, to be a holy priesthood, offering your spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You are meant to be here at Grantham at this time to be part of making a purposeful community. This is your moment.