Fifth Sunday of Easter
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
I Peter 2:4-10 Sermon
April 24, 2005
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
379 "Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me"
151 "Built On A Rock The Church Doth Stand"
242 "Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation"
149 "The Church's One Foundation"
BE BUILT INTO A SOUND STRUCTURE
TEXT: (vs. 4-5) “Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.”
I need a new foundation. If you were to come to my house and go down into my basement, you would soon see the reason why. I live in a house that is over a hundred years old, and the foundation just isn’t holding up.
First of all, my basement is basically just a hole in the ground with a dirt floor. The part in the middle is open, but the rest is just a crawl space under the rest of the house. When they built the house, the foundation they used was rocks and mortar. Much of the rocks are limestone, and so they are beginning to crumble.
The house itself is showing signs of having a poor foundation. Several of the walls have big cracks in the plaster, and in other places the plaster is buckling. Door and window frames are crooked, and I’ve had to do some adjusting on the doors especially so they will close and latch. There’s also a ¾ inch steel rod that goes from wall to wall upstairs to keep the sides of the house together. This is all because of me having a poor foundation. The whole thing needs to be replaced.
Each year before winter, after it gets dark, I shine a flood light along the foundation from the inside, and I fill all the cracks and openings with triple expanding foam. This of course isn’t a permanent fix; it’s a stop-gap measure at best.
In our text for today, Peter is talking about stones used for building. And this is not just the foundation either, but the entire structure. God’s people are described as “living stones” who are built together into the church. Jesus, the so-called “stone” that the builders rejected is described as the “corner stone” for this structure.
Back in the days of early construction, every building used a corner stone, which was a large stone that formed an exact 90 degree angle. When this stone was set in place, the whole building would be square and symmetrical.
Today’s carpentry and construction uses different lasers and levels to make sure things are square and proportional. Or we might use a 3-4-5 system of measure to make sure cement forms are square.
In today’s construction, a cornerstone is mostly ornamental. When a congregation sets a cornerstone in their new church building, various artifacts are placed into it. It is then sealed and set into the structure.
For a church, this cornerstone becomes symbolic of Christ, who our text for today describes as being the “chief cornerstone” upon which the entire church is built. As long as the individual Christians who make up Christ’s Church are squarely built upon this chief cornerstone, and as long as the Christians of Christ’s Church are true to his word, then everything is in order.
But what happens when that foundation starts to crumble? What happens when Christians falter and have foundations in life other than Christ and his Word? What happens when popular opinion and worldly standards begin to replace sound doctrine? What happens when sin begins to rule in the hearts and minds of Christians?
What happens, is that the whole entire structure is adversely affected. It can become weak and unstable; and if things continue to decay, the whole thing can collapse. Just picture my house with the cracks and buckles in the plaster, and the crooked door and window frames because of my bad foundation.
I think we should start at the very beginning. To be a part of this structure, a person needs to be a Christian, first and foremost. This isn’t based upon a definition that the world might give, or based upon a person’s actions or good deeds. It isn’t even based upon a person’s baptism or the fact that they’re in church every Sunday.
A Christian is somebody that has a personal faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. A Christian is somebody that sees themselves as sinful, and comes to Jesus in faith for the forgiveness he offers. A Christian is somebody that experiences this new life in Christ, and seeks to live their life in a manner which pleases God.
In our text for today, Peter puts it this way in verses 4 and 5: “Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple.”
Peter calls Christians “stones.” One pastor made this following comment: “To be called a stone is not all that complimentary; stones are hard, cold, sharp, solid, unbending, and inflexible; and when these qualities are applied to human characteristics, they aren’t very flattering. But note, Peter calls us LIVING stones. Stones naturally don’t have life. In fact, they are about as dead as anything could be.”
If Christians are to be living stones, they have to be given life, and this is exactly what has happened. Once we were dead, lost, and useless because of our sin, but Jesus has given these worthless stones life. He has changed us and has given us something new and exciting and precious; he has changed the worthless stones of sinful humanity into an individual, viable living and precious stone through his death on the cross which he has done for each person individually. Yes, Jesus has given those unresponsive and inert stones life through the Gospel, which means a new life here on earth as well as eternal life in heaven.
Without Jesus, we would be just stones—without life, jagged, with sharp edges, and not much of a future. Without Jesus we would be without life and dead, with no hope at all. But through faith in Jesus our Saviour we become the living stones that Peter describes.
This is a process that is not just for adults either. It is important that this begins early in life. We have our children baptized as soon as we can after birth. By God working a miracle through water and the Word, he gives even the youngest soul a faith that believes in Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
Some of my earliest memories are of Sunday School and Church. To this day, I can still sing the liturgy from the old black hymnal (the forerunner to the red hymnal) from memory. I learned that before I could even read. I also remember Lora Wallwey, our Sunday School Superintendent, standing in front of all the kids leading “opening exercises.” It was there I learned all of those Sunday School songs, which I still remember today. Lora’s sister, Elsie Wallwey was my first Sunday School teacher. We had lessons on story cards, with a picture on one side, and the lesson on the other.
As an adult looking back, I can see how this whole process is important in creating living stones for Christ’s church. Lessons learned early in life are lessons that stick with us. It says in Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” How true those words are.
So whether we come to faith as a child, or as an adult, the result is the same. When we are connected to Christ, we become one of those “living stones.”
As Christians who are called “living stones,” we have been set free from everything that would cause us to be “stone-like.” The life that Christ gives renews and recreates us. We are no longer dead, but alive. And that means that we have been recreated and reborn for a purpose. We can now be his disciples serving others in our world. That’s what Peter means when he says in verses 5 and 6 of our text, “Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter doesn’t talk in the singular sense here. He is talking, not about one stone, but many stones. One stone by itself isn’t good for much; but many stones together can make a mighty building. Some of the greatest buildings in the world—castles, cathedrals, pyramids, and even walls—are made of many stones joined and cemented together. A stone that might have otherwise been useless becomes something that is valuable and useful. God has joined the living stones, his people into one temple, that is, the church.
We are living stones, part of that living community who seek to follow in the steps of Jesus, seeking new ways to serve, to love, to care for people, and to tell others about the Good News of Jesus and his Gospel. We are living stones who worship together, pray together, and learn together; and we support God’s work together with our time, our energy, our talents, and our money.
We are living stones built into the church of God who witness together about why Jesus is so important to us. We are living stones, as verse 9 of our text says, “chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light.” We are living stones together—you and I together, pastor and members together. We are “living stones, who serve as holy priests” in the Seward community. We are all living stones who together serve the Lord with lives dedicated to him.
Foundations are important. The foundation under my house will have to be replaced some day, I know. It’s crumbling, and it won’t last forever. Replacing a bad foundation is a major thing. It involves jacking up the house, taking a backhoe and digging out the basement, and putting in new footings and concrete blocks. It involves cement work, water lines, sewer lines, and gas lines. There’s a lot to it, and it will cost a pretty penny to get it done.
Thankfully the foundation of our faith, which is Christ and his Word, are sure and solid. That foundation never crumbles. In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus says in verse 6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.”
Jesus is the only way that leads to God. Jesus is the truth—through him, we know the truth about our sin, and how he has dealt with it through his death on the cross. Jesus gives us new life—he forgives our sins, and gives us a new life here on earth, and the hope for an eternal life in the future with him in heaven. There is only one way to life, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
A Christian, who is one of God’s living stones, is someone whose life is squared completely on Jesus Christ and his Word. Jesus is at the very heart and core of everything a Christian does. Christ, whom the world rejected, is the sure foundation and chief cornerstone of our lives.
In verse 9 of our text for today, Peter writes: “You are the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people.”
These titles tell us that Christians are chosen people who have been brought together by God through the Gospel, and joined to Jesus and to one another. We belong to God; we are the people of God, brought together to serve God, to tell others about his mighty deeds. We have received forgiveness, love, care, and mercy from God; and as royal priests we share that same forgiveness, love, care, and mercy with others. As verse 9 of our text concludes, we have been “chosen to proclaim the wonderful works of God.”
The great thing about being a Christian is that you are never a Christian in isolation from other Christians. The Bible always talks about Christians working together, worshipping together, praying together, fellowshipping together, and caring for one another. From the first Pentecost, Christians gathered together. Luke records in Acts chapter 2 verses 42 and 44: “The believers spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. They…shared their belongings with one another.”
In our lives many things will happen to try to shake our faith. Satan will try everything to rock us off of that sure foundation we have in Christ. Adversity, hardship, sin, and doubt may cause us to question God’s wisdom. Temptation to sin may tempt us to place our faith on a crumbling foundation. In short, Satan will try to lead us away from Christ any way he can.
Let this be a reminder to us as we seek to anchor our faith more securely upon Jesus Christ and the Gospel. May God help us understand ever deeper what it means to be a “living stone, the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people.” May he impress upon us ever deeper that we are living stones, joined together by Christ to make his church.
All of these stones are important. Each one has its own place. Everyone in the church has been placed in the church for a special reason.
We’re all in this together. We are a congregation of Christians with a purpose. We’re not here by accident. We’re here with the Gospel to minister to each other and to reach out to the community. Mighty Fortress isn’t our church, but it is God’s church, here to do his will and work. We are the living stones in his church, inseparably connected by Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
With the footing and foundation secure, let’s go forth and be Christ’s church together.