Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sermon: 1 Peter 2:4-10 Living Stones

Now, I wonder if anyone can tell me why we’re meeting in the church hall today? Why is it we’re here and not across the road? We’ve got a bit of a building project going on. There was a problem with the paint and plaster peeling off the walls, so while we’re getting that fixed, we’re here in the church hall.

Here are a few pictures of the progress - the plaster has been chipped away, and we can now see the stones in the wall - the big ones, the small ones, all together in the wall.

Now last week if you were with us, we saw that the church is a bit like a garden, where the imperishable seed of the word is sown, with it giving us new birth and bringing the fruit of love. But now Peter moves from the garden to the building site. You might have heard ... mention the stones and builders in the reading.

You might be wondering if Peter was giving some advice to people doing building projects. Was it like a builder’s magazine with some hints and tips for building your house or building a new church? Well, no, because he talks about ‘the living stone’ and other ‘living stones’. Go on to a building site, ask any builder, but you won’t find any living stones. The stones aren’t alive. They’re just stones.

So what is Peter talking about? Or rather, who is Peter talking about? Here’s the description: ‘As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-’

This living Stone is a person, a man. Someone rejected by men - who men didn’t want to listen to; whom men wanted to get rid of; but was chosen by God and precious to God. Who is it? It’s the Lord Jesus, of course.

Jesus was crucified - the ultimate rejection; but God showed that he was chosen and precious, because God raised him up to new life.

Jesus is the living Stone. And Peter goes back into his Bible and finds something written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a promise, a prophecy of who Jesus would be: ‘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.’

Jesus is this stone, this chosen and precious cornerstone. Now what is a cornerstone? It’s the most important in the whole building. It’s the one which all the rest is built upon; it’s the one that keeps the whole building straight. It’s like a foundation stone.

So what do you do on a foundation stone? You build on it, of course! But it’s not with bricks and mortar. It’s not with stones. Rather, what is the building Peter is talking about? Let’s see what he says: ‘As you come to him... you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house...’

Peter is talking about building the church - a spiritual house, a place for God to dwell - but it’s not a church building; it’s not a parish church; it’s not the place across the road. We used to sing a song in Dundonald, but I couldn’t find the words or music to it: ‘Church is not a building, it’s the people there inside; people who love Jesus ...’

You see, it’s us - we are the building; we are the church. We’re each like a stone being fitted together and being built up to be the temple where God lives, inside us. In the mountains of Mourne there are the famous dry stone walls, where the stones are placed together to build the wall. It’s like that with us. We are being joined together.

I’ve brought along a visual aid to help us see this. We’ve got the foundation stone - Jesus. But we also need the individual stones. Here they are. We’re going to write our names on these, and then we’re going to see them being built up together - on the foundation of Jesus, built up.

One more picture - this time not on the wall, but as we join together. Stand up, join hands, end of row join up with people in front - we are the people of God, we are being built together.

As we come to Jesus, we’re added to his church, we’re built into this spiritual house. But verse 7 reminds us that not everyone comes to Jesus. Peter tells us that we who believe know that the stone, Jesus, is precious. But some do not believe. Some people reject Jesus.

What about them? What will they do with Jesus the living Stone? Rather than building on it, instead they stumble over it. The stone is sitting, and they trip over it.

One of my interests is history. I love to explore ruins and castles. But when you’re visiting castles you have to be careful. Look at this picture and see if you can notice something odd about it?

The castle stairs were carefully built to help the defenders and make it difficult for the attackers. There’s a trip step. In your house if you’ve got stairs, they’re probably all the same height. They’re regular. But in a castle, there would sometimes be a trip-step, one of a different height. The defenders knew the stairs, how they were arranged, but the attackers wouldn’t, they would get so far and then trip; they wouldn’t be as quick on the stairs.

For those who don’t believe, Jesus is the stone that makes them stumble. You may not really believe that Jesus rose again from the dead; you might think it impossible that there is anything after death; you might not think that Jesus is the only way to God. You can’t accept what Jesus says about himself - the way, the truth, the life. Please think carefully - to reject Jesus is to stumble over him and to finally fall.

But the focus isn’t on those who fall. Rather, the focus is on Jesus, the living stone. Some may reject him, but ‘the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’ - the most important in the whole building.

Peter reminds his readers and us as well of the change that comes about as we come to Jesus, as we’re built together in him. He uses some more pictures from the Old Testament.

We are a chosen people; a royal priesthood; a holy nation. We have been changed from being in darkness to being in light. We have been brought from not being a people, being on the outside, to now being on the inside, the people of God. Once we had not received mercy, now we have received mercy.

It’s what happens as we come into the church - the people of God, as we believe in Jesus and are built up together. And what is our purpose? It’s to ‘declare the praise’ ; to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise - not just on Sundays, but on every day, wherever we are!

I’ve got a stone for everyone to take away, to be reminded of Jesus the living stone, and of our part in his body.

This sermon was preached at the Family Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 19th May 2013.

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