I Peter 2:4
Come to him, 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.
I thought I had a real good tip for my cousin Bill in Nashville. He plays guitar and writes music. He’s real good, and I’ve often thought that he got the better share of the musical genes in our family!
So here’s the tip I gave to Bill. “Hey, Bill, how about writing a song called ‘The Resurrection Blues’?” It’s a winner, you could make it to the Grand Ole Opry with it!” It made sense to me, the resurrection is the happiest thing we’ve got, but only a few weeks after the happy day of Easter we’re right back in the trenches, dealing with all of the hard stuff, just like before Easter. All this hope, joy and wonder, but then we’re right back where we started. “Bill, you could become famous, “The Resurrection Blues”, a true crossover hit, just waiting to be written. Go for it!” I’ll tell you how Bill responded at the end of my message, so stay tuned. Don’t touch that keyboard!
Now, the key verse in Peter’s letter: “living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” A striking image, “living stones”. I live on the edge of an old sandstone quarry, and let me tell you that there’s nothing more stubborn than a rock. They are everywhere. Anytime you want to dig a hole for a fence post, or a lilac bush, or to remove an unwanted shrub, there’s guaranteed to be a big rock in the way. These stones don’t move, they don’t think, they don’t laugh or cry, they are not living. They are dead.
One day our neighbor in New Canaan, Connecticut, Mr. Wheeler, decided that a stone just barely poking up in his lawn had to go. He kept hitting it with his lawn mower blade. So he got his shovel. But that stone wouldn’t budge. He got out a crowbar, nothing doing, soon all of the neighborhood dads began to appear with shovels and crowbars, and by the end of the afternoon, with chains and ropes, a station wagon with a tow hitch, and everyone pulling, we got that stone out of the ground. I think it was as big as a small Volkswagen! In the end, Mr. Wheeler decided to leave that big rock in the middle of his lawn, maybe as a monument to human persistence, and his family later planted beautiful flowers around it.
Peter identifies Christians as “living stones”, and I think of Mr. Wheeler’s big rock, and that it took the whole neighborhood to bring it into the sunlight. Maybe Peter thinks of the church as a buried rock far from the sunlight, but all of us working together can lift that old rock into the land of the living. “Living stones”, indeed!
Our church feels buried deep in the ground right now, like that big old rock under Mr. Wheeler’s lawn. The building is empty, the doors locked, no people, no music, no bells. Many of us feel lost, confused or afraid of what is happening with the virus, and what may be still yet to come.
But we are not dead stones, we are “living stones”, Peter tells us, out of which the spiritual house is built. A useful reminder as we worship in isolation outside of our beloved church buildings that the real building is not the beams and boards and stones, but the living stones of our faith family. If we cannot come to church, we can be the church.
Let me tell you about the living stones I am seeing. All of the sewers making and distributing face masks, I’ve given over a hundred of them to area farmworkers. A Sunday School that sends out 60 lessons each week. Food being shared at North Bergen PC. Better Sunday worship attendance on-line than when we worship in our buildings, and our Prayer Chain is as active as I’ve ever seen it. The needs are great, but our faithful hearts are bigger than the need. Living Stones, indeed!
Oh, “The Resurrection Blues”. Here is what Cousin Bill said in response to my great idea, “Sounds like a great song, go ahead and write it!”
(This is the second half of the message for this day. The first part of the message was offered by Pastor Dave Fish of North Bergen Presbyterian Church)