1 Peter 2:1-9, 19-25
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
‘He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a man who went to the doctor and asked him to check his leg. “Something’s wrong. Just put your ear up to my thigh, you’ll hear it!” The doctor cautiously placed his ear to the man’s thigh only to hear, “Give me $10! I’m desperate! I need $10!” “I’ve never seen or heard anything like this before! How long has this been going on?” asked the doctor. “That’s nothing, Doc. Put your ear to my knee.” The doctor put his ear to the man’s knee and heard it say, “Please! I really need $5! Just $5! Please! I’m desperate!” “Sir, I really don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never seen anything like this.” The doctor was truly dumbfounded. “Wait, Doc, that’s not all of it. There’s more. Just put your ear down on my ankle,” the man urged him. The doctor did as the man said and was amazed to hear his ankle plead, “Please, I just need $20! Please lend me $20, please! I am really desperate!” “I have no idea what to tell you,” the doctor said. “There’s nothing about it in any of my books,” he said as he frantically searched all his medical reference books. “However… I can make a well-educated guess. Based on life and all my previous experiences, I can tell you with some certainty that your leg seems to be broke in three places.”
There are few things in life that are certain, aside from death and taxes as they say. We hope that a parent’s love is certain, that our bodies will carry us through long and fruitful lives is certain, that our various freedoms are certain, that our doctor’s prognosis is certain. Alas, none of these are certain despite our hopeful wishes. Parents can neglect us, our bodies can fail us, our freedoms can be denied us, and even our doctors can deceive us…there are few things in life that are certain. We hope the people in our lives are looking out for our best interests but really there is no guarantee. People are people, sinful by nature and limited in their capabilities to serve. They can’t and won’t always be able to help and serve each other and to think otherwise would be naive. And even in death and taxes there is great uncertainty. None of us know the exact time and day when we will be called to our heavenly home. None of us know exactly how much in taxes we will be expected to give from year to year. And sometimes we can cheat death and taxes. Some of us somehow get by without paying taxes. I haven’t figured it out but I know some of us have. I’ve yet to hear of someone figuring out how to cheat death though. Sure, they might buy themselves a little extra time but everyone dies eventually. Unless, of course, you’re God. The person of God in Christ Jesus figured out how to cheat death altogether. Sometimes I wonder if he figured out how to cheat taxes as well. It stands to reason that if he can cheat death then he can probably cheat taxes too! Hmmm…
Regardless, in Christ God shows us that at least in one of the two things we believe are certain, death, there is great uncertainty. Or, more accurately, that death is an end to life. No, death is simply a transformation into new life. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus taught us that death is not an ending but rather a beginning. There is more uncertainty in death than there is certainty so we should probably get away from placing our trust in it. No, God used Jesus’ great revelation on death to remind us where and in whom we should be placing our absolute trust in–in God himself. God transcends life and death. God put us in this world just as He’ll put us in the next world and the world after that. We are his creation and his creation alone and we are created to reveal his glory and his glory alone. There are few things in this life and in this world that are certain but there is one thing that is certain–God.
So why all this discussion about certainty and uncertainty? What do these have to do with our reading for today? Well, nestled in our reading is Peter’s call to us to become “living stones.” He went on to describe how Jesus is a “cornerstone,” presumably the stone upon which we, as living stones, ought to lean upon and trust to hold us up. But I’ve been wrestling with this idea of “living stones” all week, trying to wrap my brain around what Peter means. It’s a paradoxical expression, “living stones.” Stones, by nature, are not alive nor can they become alive. But they are hard and unchanging unless acted upon by outside forces, say water or wind. So it got me thinking, what is stone-like in relation to God? His truth and love! His truth and love found in scripture, in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection! God’s truth and love is hard and unchanging! It’s the cornerstone of our church and of our lives! We can lean on it, trust in it, depend upon it. God is a never-changing, ever-present “rock” in our lives. Of this we must be convicted! We must be certain and assured! Our lives may continually change but the “rock” within us must remain unchanged and solid.
We are called to be “living stones” because we carry within us great truth and love. We ourselves must continually grow and adapt to maneuver the world around us but the truth and love within is always the same. Our God is within us. Our God is truth and love. Our God is a rock. Our God is certainty. We can trust him, have faith in him. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1) Assurance and conviction come from the rock that is our God. He is ever-faithful, ever-loving, ever-forgiving, ever-true. There are few things that are certain in this world but there is nothing more certain than God. Paul goes on to write, “and without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (11:6) Our God is certain and his love is equally certain. Our God loves us and wants nothing but the best for us. Our neighbor might not always want the best for us but our God certainly does!
As “living stones,” carrying the truth and love of God through this world, we have been set apart as a distinct community within this world. Peter tells us in our reading that we “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Friends, we have been chosen to carry God’s truth and love through the world. We aren’t just anybody, we are his chosen! What a gift to be able to carry his truth and love! Recall Jesus’ words, “for many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14). God’s truth and love have taken root in our lives and bear fruit for those around us. What a gift to be pulled out of the darkness of this world into his marvelous light! Let us go forth convicted and assured of his truth and love. He is the rock of our lives and for this we give thanks! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.