Summary: God brings us into his church to be built into something that will proclaim his glory to the world, his mighty acts in the way we live together.
Picture a team of stonemasons, preparing to build a great temple; perhaps it’s the replacement for Solomon’s temple that was destroyed by the armies of Babylon. They pick up all the stones that look the right shape to fit into the wall of a building and put them in a pile, ready to use later. Every now and then, though, they find one that’s been broken off in such a way that it’s too crooked to use in a wall. Those ones they cast aside. But then when the construction begins the master builder comes along and sorts through the rejects to find a stone that’s just the right shape to form the cornerstone of the foundation. This is the stone that the rest of the building will be aligned with. It’s the critical stone in the foundation because everything else gets it’s alignment from it.
It’s a great story isn’t it? The reject that becomes the most valuable member. There’s something there that appeals to our Australian love of the underdog, isn’t there? And I guess it’s something we all dream about. Going into an op shop, as I do every now and then, and discovering some treasure - not that I ever do - though I did get a coffee plunger for $2 the other day. But of course this isn’t a picture of some everyday occurrence. No, Peter here is talking about the spiritual temple of God: the replacement for Solomon’s temple, yes, but a spiritual replacement. And notice what he says about it.
The Foundation of the Temple
First of all, what’s the foundation, the cornerstone of this new temple? Well it’s Jesus Christ isn’t it? Jesus was rejected by those he came to speak to, by the leaders of his own people in fact. He was put to death by them, but God had chosen him to form the foundation of this new spiritual temple. He’s the living stone that’ll begin the process of building a living temple for God. And he wasn’t just chosen, he was precious in God’s sight. He appeared to be a reject but in fact he was the most precious treasure you could imagine.
But notice that this isn’t just about Jesus either. It’s also about us. What does he say? He says: “Come to him.” “Come to Jesus.” Why? Why are we called to come to Jesus? We’re called to come to him so we too can become part of the temple of God. He describes us as living stones as well, just like Jesus. This is a temple that will have a life of it’s own, that will grow and grow in strength and stature.
But there’s something else in this picture of a new Temple of God. We discover that we actually have two different parts to play in the growth of this temple.
First of all we’re the building blocks that form the structure of the building. The church is nothing if it doesn’t have you and me to hold it up. You may have seen the old notice board proverb “CH__CH is nothing without UR in it”. If you’re old enough you might remember the show “Yes, Minister!” You’ll recall that it was set around the work of the UK Minister for Administrative Affairs and I remember one episode when a new hospital had just been built and the Departmental Secretary was asked how the new hospital was functioning. His answer was that it was going fabulously. When asked what was the secret to this success he pointed out that they didn’t have any patients yet. Hospitals work much better when there aren’t any patients. Well, you might think the same thing is true for a church. There’d certainly be fewer problems if we didn’t have any people in the church, that’s for sure! But it wouldn’t be much of a church would it? In fact it wouldn’t be a church at all. No, the church is the people. We are the living stones, being built into a living temple, a place where people can come to encounter God.
Our task as building blocks of the temple is to bind together in unity to create a strong and stable structure. We’re living stones which means we need to keep growing, not in size but in strength, in maturity, so the bonds we have with one another become stronger and stronger as time goes on.
But having said that, we need to be careful how we understand all this. It’s all too easy to hear what I just said and still think of a physical building. Where is this place where people can come to encounter God? Is it this building here? Well, it might be when we’re here meeting together. Our weekly meeting to praise God, to hear from his word, to give him our corporate worship is a vital place where people will meet God. But equally they’ll encounter God when they encounter us. Do you see that next bit. Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood. The priests are those who stand between God and people. They’re the ones who bring God’s word to the people on behalf of God and who offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. So one of our roles as God’s people is to bring God’s word to those around us. To share the gospel with people. To introduce God to those who don’t know him.