Summary: Exploring our identity as Christians and the actions that should come out of that identity.
Building the Non-Building
1 Peter 2:4-8 August 16, 2009
We are one week into our renovation project, and a lot has happened! I did a real rough calculation and am excited to report that we put in more than 250 volunteer hours in the last week, getting as much done as possible before the contractors came in to start on their various parts of the job. That’s not bad!! We moved hymnals, Bibles, pictures, and furniture out. We ripped out 40 year old carpet, and about a million underlay staples. Walls were demolished, doors recycled, sub-floor installed, and pails and pails and pails of debris removed. Oh yah, and the massive cedar walls at the front were sanded inch by inch – the ugly nicks and gouges removed and the wall prepped for refinishing.
I spent some time with a sander in my hands this week, and discovered that standing on scaffolding 15 feet above the ground with a power tool vibrating in my hands was a good place to pray. Sometimes the jobs that are a little bit physically monotonous are actually restorative for me, as my mind and heart are free to wander, to float around a little, and I found myself returning in prayer to a couple of themes. First was for some of the people in our community as they came to mind, and second that this recent outpouring of time and money that is part of the physical renewal would spur us on to a spiritual renewal as well. Our renovation is not extravagant, it is focused on essential maintenance and on functional changes, with some small aesthetic improvements, and my prayer is that our physical renovation would be accompanied by a spiritual renovation as well, that our lives and relationships together would also be renewed, and our love for others beyond our community restored to the same priority that it is for Jesus. As I reflect on the past week, and as I studied the passage of the week, I’m struck by the thought that as I was building the church physically with my hands and sledgehammer and screwdrivers and orbital sander, I was also building the church spiritually through prayer.
This idea of “building the church” spiritually is the focus of the next passage we find in our study of 1 Peter, and it returns to our exploration of our identity as Christians and the actions that should come out of that identity. Follow along with me:
“4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says:
"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." 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
"The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone," 8and,
"A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
Jesus the “living stone”: vs. 4, 6-8
The passage begins with Jesus, whom Peter calls “the living stone”. That is an interesting description, don’t you think? Have you ever seen a “living stone”? How can a “stone” be “living”? Obviously it can’t, and for Peter this oxymoron is instructive to us, and should make us sit up and take notice: how is Jesus a “stone”, and why call Him a “living” stone? For elaboration, Peter goes to the Old Testament to elaborate on this “stone” idea, and he quotes three passages. First, Isaiah 28:16,
“16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”
Peter interprets this as a prophecy referring to Jesus, now fulfilled, as Jesus becomes the new corner-stone which establishes the new people of God. But not everyone accepted Jesus, so Peter quotes Psalm 118:22,
“22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;”
and carries the stone imagery one step further by revealing that those who reject Jesus will actually “stumble”, trip, and fall away, by quoting
So this idea of a “stone” was a common one in the Old Testament, but now Peter adds the unusual twist – when applied to Jesus, this “stone” is no inanimate object, but it is in fact alive. Jesus is not dead and lifeless, stuck immobile like a rock, Jesus is alive.
“As you come…” vs. 4
Verse 4 began with a very particular phrase, “as you come”. This is significant and meaningful, because the things that follow in verse 5 depend on this phrase. They only happen “as we come” to Jesus. I don’t want to rush over this, in fact I want to make a big deal about it. Verse 5 talks about us being built, which we’ll get to in a moment, but that only happens “as we come” to Jesus. Not “since we came once, along time ago”, but as we continually, regularly, habitually, “come” to Jesus, these other things happen.