Summary: The church of Christ is built of living stones, the communion of saints. That includes you and I.
May 10, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Pastor Mary Erickson
The On-going Construction of God’s House
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.”
As this period of pandemic distancing continues, I find myself going through a series of evolving emotions. It’s kind of like Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief. At first, I was fairly numb and confused when this Coronavirus bomb was dropped on us. It’s been hard for me to absorb the full scope of what this ordeal means for us in terms of its duration and the impact on our overall welfare. Right now, I think I’m somewhere between Anger and Bargaining!
As this unusual ordeal persists, I find that I’m becoming more aware of the things that I most miss. At the top of the list is human interaction and community. I miss the wide range of people, the close discussions, the physical warmth and contact others. What we’ve been enduring a social fasting.
I try to ask myself how I can grow as a human, how I can nurture the depth of my soul. That’s not true just for now, but during every passage and season of my life. As I now feel this inner ache for more human community, I wonder what lesson this social fasting teaches us.
Fasting is a time when we can identify more clearly with the breadth of the human family. It helps us to stand in solidarity with them. When we hunger for food, we identify with the malnourished and the starving. During this time of fasting due to social distancing, the people I’ve been identifying with are those who must live daily with isolation:
• Prisoners in solitary confinement
• Young, single people living in a new city where they don’t know anybody
• Elderly individuals who live alone and have limited mobility
• The mentally ill, the homeless, who are shunned and misunderstood
I can better sense some of the pain that these fellow members of human society feel each and every day. I pray that this experience makes me a more compassionate servant of Christ.
Being a servant of Christ. Peter likens us to living stones. We are being built into Christ’s church.
Stones are so hard and immovable. The Rock of Gibraltar, for instance, stands as an image of permanence. There it is, and nothing will move it! Stones are rigid and unyielding. They stay the same for millions of years.
That’s because they’re void of life. But Peter speaks today of a living stone. A living stone is not lifeless. It has vibrancy to it. It’s dynamic and changing. It grows and evolves.
What does it mean that the church of Christ is comprised of living stones? Let’s reflect on some stories about churches. Here’s Story One:
The time: World War Two. The place: Cologne, Germany. The Allied forces were hammering Germany with bombing runs in order to break their resolve. The city of Cologne was on the list. Cologne was known for its marvelous cathedral. The gothic style architecture made it an iconic landmark. Inside, the soaring ceiling lifted your eyes upwards in heavenly amazement.
When the Allies prepared to bomb Cologne, they wanted to spare the cathedral. They strictly ordered all their bombers to avoid hitting the cathedral. With surgical skill, they destroyed the city around the cathedral. But the cathedral remained untouched. The church was spared for its historic architecture. This wasn’t about living stones. This was about revering lifeless stones.
Story Number Two. The place: China. The year: 1949. Mao Zedong has just taken power in China. When China became a communist state, many radial changes occurred. One of these was China’s relationship with religious institutions. Christianity had a long-established presence in China. My own grandfather’s brother, Adolph and his wife, Harriet, had been missionaries in Hangzhou, China for years. And for that reason, this story is near to my heart.
When Mao took power, churches in China were forced to close. My Uncle and Aunt and their children had to leave, and quickly. They were able to take with them only what they could carry.
When Adolph and Harriet left in 1949, there were less than four million Christians in China. And then the Cultural Revolution unfolded during the 1960’s and 70’s. Sentiment against Christianity swelled even more in China.
After Mao’s death, China began to open up in the 1980’s. There would now be some tolerance for religion. The global Christian community watched in anticipation. What had happened to the Christian community during its long period of banishment? Were there even any Christians remaining in China?
To everyone’s surprise, the church had grown by over 2 million souls! Even without a building, while lacking social legitimacy, the church had grown. Since then, the numbers of Chinese Christians have swelled even more. There are currently around 100 million Christians in China. It’s believed that in ten years, those numbers could swell to as many as 247 million. This is a story of living stones.