Living Stones

Sunday May 10th 2020

1 Peter 2:2-10

Pastor Galen Zook

Living Stone

Today we begin a new sermon series entitled “Chosen and Precious,” which comes from our New Testament  lesson for today, The second chapter of 1st Peter, in which Peter refers to Jesus as the “cornerstone, chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:6).

Peter actually talks about a number of different metaphors related to stones in this passage, and it’s a little hard to keep track. He starts off referring to Jesus as a “living stone” (1 Peter 2:4).

The phrase “living stone” sounds like the name for a rock band, sort of like the Grateful Dead. It’s a paradox, right? I mean, how can a stone be alive? Stones are in many ways the definition of something that appears to be lifeless. 

But here Peter is referencing an analogy that had been used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. In the book of Psalms, for example, God is referred to as our rock and our fortress. The One that we can build our lives upon. A sure foundation.

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah said “Thus says the Lord God, See I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: ‘One who trusts will not panic’” (Isaiah 28:16).

The Stone that Was Rejected

Although God is our rock and our refuge, and our sure foundation, the rock that we can and should build our lives upon, so often we as people turn away from God, refuse to look to God for our source of strength and hope. We cling to so many people and things other than God, we try to build our lives on so many things that are fragile and meaningless in comparison to God.

The apostle Peter knew this all too well. He had been one of Jesus’s core disciples, had given up everything to follow him. He has listened to Jesus teach, had watched him cast out demons, and had even walked on water with Jesus. But when the time came for Jesus to be crucified, when he was arrested and tried and beaten, Peter had turned away from him. He had denied that he even knew Jesus.

Now, keep in mind that Peter’s name means “rock!” Peter was not actually his birth name. Peter was the nickname that Jesus had given to him, sort of like calling him “Rocky.”

But even Peter, The Rock, had turned away from Jesus in his hour of need. 

And, just as it had been predicted throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus was rejected by the religious and the political leaders, and even by many of his other disciples, like a stone that builders cast to the side because it doesn’t seem to fit with the other ones. 

Peter, quoting from the book of Isaiah, wrote “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner” (1 Peter 2:7, Psalm 118:22).

Picture construction workers at a building site, sorting through stones as they’re constructing a wall. They come to a stone that just doesn’t fit, it’s so different from all the other ones that it seems unusable, and so they toss it to the side.

But then, later on they’re looking for a stone that they can use as a cornerstone. The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones are set in reference to this stone, determining the position of the entire structure.

The Cornerstone

We often think of cornerstones as more of a decorative or commemorative element, like the cornerstone on our church building that states the name of our church and when it was first built. Our cornerstone even has the name of the stone chapel that was built before the rest of the sanctuary was completed.

But in biblical times, the cornerstone was the stone that would have been used to compare and to measure all of the other stones as they were being built. The cornerstone was the most important stone because it set the pattern, the template, for the rest of the building. 

So I can just imagine the builders looking around, wondering what stone they are going to use for the cornerstone, and then one of them trips over the stone that had been tossed to the side, and says “here it is! This is the one that we need. This is the perfect stone for the cornerstone. It didn’t fit with all the other ones. It wouldn’t have worked for the regular wall, but it’s going to be perfect to serve as the foundation stone.”

I think that’s exactly what happened for Peter and the other disciples when Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus had been rejected by all of the religious and political leaders of their day and even the disciples doubted whether he was truly the Messiah. But when Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning and appeared to them filled them with the power of the holy Spirit, their lives were never the same again. They realized that Jesus was indeed the foundation that they could build their lives upon. 

And so the best term that Peter can come up with for Jesus is that he is a living stone. He is surely not a dead stone, he is very much alive, but he is the very strong foundation that we can build our lives upon!

Peter says that Jesus is “chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).

Living Stones

Then Peter says something rather shocking. Because in the same breath as he refers to Jesus as a living stone, chosen and precious, he points out that those of us who believe in Jesus Christ are also called to be living stones! (1 Peter 2:5). We are called to be people who embody the living Jesus inside of us, people who are bearers of the Good News. We who have the spirit of God living in us and working through us, we too are chosen and precious stones!

Like stones that have been built into a beautiful church building, we too are to be built together into a beautiful place of worship, where Jesus Christ is adored and glorified. Each and every one of us, together as a church — we are to be a place of safety and rest, a place of prayer, a house of worship with Jesus as our cornerstone.

We are not the foundation, only Christ is. But we have been chosen, and we have been called! The apostle Peter refers to us as “a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that [we] might proclaim the mighty acts of him who called [us] out of darkness and into his marvelous light”! (1 Peter 2:9).

Chosen and Precious

Peter says that once we were not a people — and that’s true. We were not “a people.” We are many different peoples, we come from all sorts of different backgrounds, different races and ethnicities, and different nationalities. Peter was particularly speaking to Gentiles, who were originally not originally part of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. But now, he says, all of us — Jews and Gentiles alike, have been chosen to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, to proclaim the mighty acts of God.

Just as the Israelites were called to carry God’s light to the nations, now all who put their faith and trust in Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike, have been chosen to carry God’s love and light into all the world. Just as we have received mercy, we are to extend God’s mercy to others. Just as we have been justified, or made right with God, now we are called to pursue justice and righteousness in the world. And just as God has made peace with us through Christ’s shed blood on the cross, now we are to be people who extend God’s peace to those around us.

And so Peter says, “come to him…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” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This morning, would you let yourself be built into a spiritual house for the living God to work in and through you? 

Will you open yourself up to the stone who was rejected by men, but who has since been seen to be the true cornerstone, the strong foundation rock that we can build our lives upon?

Will you open yourself up to allow God to work in and through you?

In this time that we are living in today we need the light of Christ to shine even brighter than ever. So many people are hurting and dying, so many people are hopeless and without Christ. But God has chosen us, God has called us to be a light in this world, to break down the walls of injustice, to be people of peace who allow God to speak truth and light and hope through us. 

And so this morning let’s come to Jesus, the chosen and precious living stone, the foundation that we can build our lives upon. Let’s give ourselves to Jesus. Let’s renew our commitment to him, and let’s allow God to form and shape us into a spiritual house of worship, to carry forth God’s light to the world!