Summary: Being disciples means being involved in God;s church, building it up through our efforts, our service and our giving
Speak the Gospel, Teach the Bible and Build Community that reflects God’s love. I hope those three phrases are familiar to you by now. Yes, that’s our Church Mission Statement. If you think about it, the first two have been the subject of our sermons for the last two weeks. Speaking the gospel - or being on a mission; and teaching the Bible - growing as students of Christ. And just by coincidence, today we’re talking about the 3rd statement - building community that reflects God’s love.
When Jesus called his disciples what do you think he had in mind? Was he just calling a group of men so he could teach them some useful doctrine? Was he choosing those 12 because he thought they deserved to be saved? No, he was choosing them so he could begin the work of finishing God’s eternal plan. What was that plan? If you’d been part of the confirmation preparation over the last few years you’d know the answer very well, I hope. God’s plan was to create a people for himself, who’d show the rest of the world how good it is to live under his rule and who’d therefore become a magnet to attract others into God’s kingdom.
True disciples begin by being students of Christ, as we saw two weeks ago, they’re then sent out to tell others about Christ, as we saw last week and thirdly, they then bring those others into the community of God’s people.
I don’t think I need to repeat what Bill said so clearly last week, but let me remind you that this building isn’t just for us. It’s a building to house the nations. God has called us out of the world in order that we might proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Our task is to bring more and more people into the community so it continues to grow until all of those God has chosen have come in. But then as people join the community of God’s people how are we to build? What do we need to do to create a structure that’ll stand firm.
Well what’s the first thing you need to do if you’re building a house? The first thing you do is to lay a solid foundation. The strongest buildings are built upon a foundation of solid rock. If you’re like me you’ve probably noticed cracks in your walls lately. That’s because houses around here are built on basalt clay which is just fine if there’s a constant rainfall, but when we have a prolonged drought like we’re experiencing at the moment the ground dries out and the foundations shift. And so we end up with cracks in our walls.
Jesus told a parable about this didn’t he? Do you remember the parable about the wise and foolish builder? One built on sand and the other on solid rock. And what did Jesus say was the solid rock upon which wise people will build their lives? It was the words of Jesus wasn’t it? He said ‘everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like the wise man.’ And if it’s important to build our lives on the teaching of Jesus, it’s even more important that we build our life as a Church on that foundation.
In our gospel reading today Peter makes the outstanding statement that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And Jesus tells him that on that rock he will build his church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Notice it’s not Peter, the rock, on which the church is built; it’s the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians talks about how he built the first layers of the church. He says: (1 Cor 3:10-11 NRSV) “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”
Peter in his first letter tells the church that “6it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’”
So the only foundation for our building a community under God is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
But notice that Peter talks about more than just the foundations. He says “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.” It isn’t enough to have the right foundation, you then need to lay down course of brickwork. The bricks need to be bound together so they hold firm. I remember watching my father lay bricks when I was about 5.Yes I can remember back that far, even if it was last century. But I remember he had these cool thick wire things, like huge staples, about 250mm long that he’d lay between the two courses of bricks every now and then, to tie them together so the walls would be bound together. That’s the sort of thing that Peter’s talking about here. He says let yourselves be built into a spiritual house. In other words it doesn’t happen automatically. Just coming to church isn’t enough. No we need to allow ourselves to be bound into the structure, joined with one another in such a way that the building rises strong enough to withstand the forces that come against it to oppose it. So how are we going to let ourselves be built into this spiritual house?