A sermon on cement and sticking together.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, in Fort Smith, as it is in Heaven. Amen.
As we continue through the letter of Peter to the Church on this Mothers’ Day, we’re given a glimpse of the vision that God has for His spiritual family, not just our earthly parents and siblings, but the family, the household of faith, made up of everyone who sincerely calls God “Our Father”. It’s a family in which all of us are adopted by faith, a family in which each adopted brother and sister is equally dependant on God’s mercy – fully dependent on the goodness and willingness of God to welcome us in, in spite of whatever we’ve done. A family that, like any other, is called to honour our parents – to bring honour and glory to God our Father as we live together as his people in the world.
So far in our walk through 1st Peter, we’ve heard that our Father’s will is that we would live on earth as we will in Heaven. We’ve heard that, “thy will be done” isn’t wishful thinking or a desperate prayer, but is an instruction for the Church: God’s will isn’t a mystery; He tells us how we ought to live, and our job is to do it; and in doing so, we bring His will to bear in the world around us, as we strive to be holy, as God is holy.
And then, last week, we heard the clear call of how we ought to live in the sight of the world. Regardless of our opinions, our preferences, our politics, as members together of God’s family, we’re to live so that, when the world wants to insult us, they have nothing to go on – nothing to say except to name our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.
Just imagine what our world would be like, if every time someone drove by this building dedicated and consecrated to the glory of God, if every time someone met a member of this church, if every time someone saw “St. John’s Anglican Church” on Facebook, all they could say was “wow…”, and “see how they love one another”, and then, even if they don’t know it, they’re giving God the glory for the works done through us, His hands, feet, and voice.
Those have been great instructions these past two weeks for what we should do.
But today, rather than focusing on what we do, St. Peter digs in and casts a vision for what we should be. He’s laying a foundation for who we are, as we are built together in the household of faith.
Peter writes: Come to Christ, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
A living stone.
We’re to be living stones.
Now, right off the bat, this is a weird sort of phrase. I mean, really, if you had to pick a word to describe a rock, I’m guessing “living” is the exact opposite of what you’d say.
I mean, yes, it could be a compliment if you say someone is ‘a rock’.
But, a “living stone”? It’s a weird phrase. Honestly, we’re more likely to think of someone as being “stone deaf”, or, if we’re being honest, I’ll admit there have been times – not my proudest moments – when I’ve thought someone was about as useless as a box of rocks.
What does that mean, living stones?
What if we looked at this phrase this way: living stones are stones that have life. Living stones are stones that have purpose. And, like all things that are alive, living stones are connected, even dependant on one another to sustain that life.
We, being built up on Christ, who is the cornerstone, are no longer mere stones scattered across the ground, lifeless, but are joined together into something with purpose, to build a house that can be filled with life, and warmth, and joy.
Yes, God’s vision for us who become members of his family is that those scattered and loose stones, as numerous as the sand of the sea, are gathered together and built into something with purpose.
And, if we stop to think about it, that’s really remarkable news.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel pretty insignificant. It happens to all of us, but sometimes we get “low minded”, all we can focus on is how small we are.
And, while we’re being honest, I think many of us have times when we feel about as useless as a box of rocks. One of the effects of this pandemic is that, for a lot of us, people who woke up every morning with a routine, with things to do; people who were involved in their communities, visiting those who can’t get out and about; people who were involved in church and many groups in our communities now have moments when we just feel useless, like we just don’t know what we should be doing.
And, of course, left to our own devices, one of the great temptations in the world around us is to get weighed down by those feelings, to dwell on our own smallness, and, sadly, many then begin to question their own worth – they feel as insignificant as a piece of crushed stone spread on the ground.
But here’s the good news that Peter is bringing to the Church:
Because we’ve been made part of God’s Family, Our Father wants to build us together into something with purpose, a household full of life.
Yes, sometimes we feel as insignificant as a piece of gravel, and yes, in the grand scheme of human history, each of us alone is pretty small. But, in the hands of a master builder, building on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ our Lord, even the smallest stone becomes part of something much bigger.
And the glory comes not in what the stones are by themselves, but in what they are made together.
Think about it: if you wanted to build a mighty fortress; if you wanted to build a temple for the presence of God; if you wanted to build a heavenly kingdom, little pieces of crushed stone is hardly what comes to mind as your building material.
But what happens if, once the foundation is firmly laid, those crushed stones are bound together, and moulded – formed – as they come to follow the pattern laid for them.
You take those tiny stones, mix them together until they are bound to one another with cement, pour them into the mould to matches the plan of the builder, and suddenly those stones are no longer weak, small, or insignificant. No, being cemented together, those stones can reach to amazing heights; they become a structure that can withstand waves and storms; a fortress that can withstand any attack; they can even become the grand palace of the King, with dwelling places prepared for all the King’s sons and daughters.
That insignificant piece of gravel, when infused with purpose, and bound together with love, and strengthened from within by the power of the Holy Spirit, is built into a great spiritual house that, because of it’s firm foundation, can withstand whatever comes its way.
Those insignificant stones, strewn along the ground and trampled under foot, become together something much larger – something not trampled down; no, suddenly we’re joined with Christ, the stone that must be noticed, a stumbling block, that will trip up those who are walking down the path of life without a lamp. We become stones infused with life and purpose, bound together in love and built into a dwelling place fit for no less than the very presence of God Himself, as the Church – all of us cemented together – becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, and all for the sake of the world around us.
Built into something great.
This is the message to the Church.
If we say God is “our Father”, we must mean it; and, as with our earthly parents, we honour our father by doing his will.
And, by grace, God takes each of us – tiny as we are – and gives us life and purpose, not that we should stand alone or in a heap of gravel, but that we should be bound together, the greatest and the least, the first and the last, the strong and the weak all built up together into a spiritual house, a home filled with the light and life of God Himself; a house built high on a hill, shining it’s light out into the darkness, inviting all who would see it to follow the way, the truth, and the life, and being made new with the life of God, we find our purpose, we find our calling, not in who we were, not in what we’ve done, but in who we have become as members, joined together as the Body of Christ, living not for our own glory, but to the glory of God.
But, Peter says, even in this great building project, we have a part to play.
“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…” We have to be willing to be built up, to be incorporated into what the Lord is doing in our midst.
To do that we have to be holy, as God our Father is holy.
…to do that, we must work to do his will… in Fort Smith, as it is in Heaven. Amen.