While in the Holy Land of Israel and Jordan, we visited many stone ruins. Some of these ruins were of ancient fortresses, like the mountain fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea. However, whether it was the great fortress of Masada in Israel or even the amazing city of Petra in Jordan, these stone fortifications ultimately failed those who made them. Consequently, after visiting these sites, I invited our travel group to sing “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”…
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
no merit of my own I claim,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
Also, as we surveyed the ancient stones of Jerusalem, Qumran, Nazareth, Capernaum, Magdala, and so forth, I was reminded of a Bible passage from First Peter chapter 2. So I invited one of our fellow Holy Land pilgrims to read the following Bible text about being “living stones”…
FIRST PETER 2:1-6
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.”
This text reminds us that we are “living stones” joined together as the spiritual temple of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, so that each of us might work together to support and build-up one another in faith. But what exactly does this mutually-supportive “living” structure look like? Well, the first sentence of this Bible text gives a clear image of an important part of what it means to be the living stones of Christ’s Living Temple: “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.” However, while this sentence is the first important part of what it means to be a living stone of Christ, there is even more to it than this.
When I think of what it means to be a living stone of Christ our Lord, I am also reminded of the “Post-Communion Canticle” that we often sing in worship together…
Thank the Lord and sing his praise;
tell everyone what he has done!
Let everyone who seeks the Lord
rejoice and proudly bear his name!
So, when we are ungrateful for what God has provided us in our lives, when we sing our own praises, when we don’t share together and with others what God has done through Christ (forgiveness, reconciliation, and resurrection life), when we don’t seek the Lord in our daily lives, and when we don’t rejoice in our salvation and proudly bear the name of the Lord in our lives, then we are not being the temple of living stones that we are chosen and called to be. However, when we are grateful for God’s providence, glorifying God alone, sharing together and with others God’s great gifts of forgiveness and renewal, seeking the Lord’s will in what we do, and (with the inner joy of our salvation) proudly bearing God’s inclusive Trinitarian name, then we are being the “living stones” of First Peter.
This is what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ, his Living Temple. Each of us are to let ourselves be assembled together, with each one supporting each other’s God-given role and ministry within the living structure, in order that we will live our lives “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” for our mutual benefit and for the sake of the world.
Unlike the ancient stone fortresses, this faith does not fail us. And this is because God’s promise concerning Jesus our Cornerstone is an everlasting promise that is sealed by his blood and resurrection. And “whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Grace & Peace, Pastor Tim