Summary: The Church Jesus Built... I. It has significant stones II. It has regal priests
How long does it take to build a church from scratch? I guess that depends on what our definition of the word “church” is. Maybe you’ve never really thought about it, but we use the word “church” in a lot of different ways. “Church” can be a verb, something we do. For instance, right now we are “doing church,” as opposed to what we will be doing in an hour, Bible Class. “Doing church” is when we gather together around the Word and Sacraments in worship and praise to our Lord God. Usually, “church” is a noun. This morning you drove your car from your home address to 2101 S. Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32835. These 3-some acres with a few buildings are “the church.” We can even narrow it down more. I might be sitting in my office over in the other building and think, “oh, I have to get something over at the church.” “Church” in that sense is just the building that we use for worship…that’s a church. Some of you may know that in the New Testament, “church” always has a different meaning. It never means a building or a piece of property, rather “church” refers to the gathering of believers. The church isn’t bricks and mortar and classrooms and roofs and parking lots and trees. The people are the church. And isn’t that true? A tornado could level all the buildings on our property, but we would still have a church, since “church” is the people here, not the buildings we meet in. And let’s say that this tornado would even take all of our lives…we would still be a church. But instead of being the Church Militant on earth, we would be part of the Church Triumphant in heaven.
So now that we’ve reviewed a bit what “church” means, let’s ask ourselves again, how long does it take to build a church from scratch? To answer that question, let us look at the master builder himself, Jesus Christ. He was on earth visibly for 40 days between his resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven, and do you know what he was doing? He was building a Church. You see, the chief purpose of his 3 years of ministry was to be the world’s substitute: to live under all of God’s laws and to obey them perfectly in our place, and to die that awful death on the cross that we sinners deserve. But come Easter Sunday, that was all finished. He just had one more task to accomplish before he went to heaven; Jesus had to build a Church. And the fact that we are here in church many hundreds of years later proves that Jesus did a pretty good job building his church in those 40 days. So let’s look at “The Church Jesus Built.” 1. It has significant stones. 2. It has regal priests.
The first words of our text read, “As you come to him, the living Stone – ” Doesn’t that title strike you as odd…a “living Stone”? Have you ever seen a stone that was alive? Of course not! By definition, a stone is something that has no life in it. Years ago there was a fad called “Pet Stones.” The joke was that it was a very easy pet to take care of. You didn’t have to feed it, clean up after it, groom it, or bathe it…it was a low-maintenance pet. When I was in college, a couple of my classmates had not a pet stone, but a pet Chicken McNugget. Early in the school year they went to McDonalds, and put one McNugget into an empty aquarium that they had. And they called this their “pet” for the year. During the 9 months of the school year, this thing became pretty nasty. And I think with the microbes and whatnot, that this “dead” pet actually did move. But stones do not move. Stones are about as dead as can be. If you were doing some gardening, and out of the corner of your eye you saw a stone walking around, I guarantee you that would grab your attention. In the same way we are drawn to Jesus, this living Stone. “As you come to him, the living Stone – ” Peter writes. There is something unique, something fascinating about Jesus, something that catches our interest.
I want you to notice something about Peter, the writer of our text. Here he was, not college-trained, but a simple fisherman. But look how well he knew his Bible. As he compares Jesus to a living Stone, he is able to think of three Old Testament passages that elaborate on how the Savior was like a stone.
First he quotes, “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.” There is a difference between ancient cornerstones and our modern-day ones. Our cornerstones tend to be mostly commemorative objects, maybe having a year inscribed, but with little or no architectural benefit. Ancient cornerstones were the first stone of a building laid. It had to but cut and placed to absolute perfection, because all the walls of the building would get their angles from that cornerstone. The stone had to be strong, since a great portion of the building would rest on it. And doesn’t that describe Jesus well? He is the foundation of everything. He is where we start, where it all begins. Without Jesus, there is no Church. You might think that’s pretty obvious, but so many people do not place Jesus as the cornerstone. Some feel that the Church exists to make this world a better place. To them, the Church is here to wipe out hatred, to build bridges of understanding among the races, to feed the homeless, to build habitat for humanity. All these things are great and noble ideals, but they are not the chief cornerstone of the Church. Forgiveness of Sins through Christ is the cornerstone, and if Jesus is removed from that cornerstone position, is there really Church anymore?