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I Peter 2:4-10
Living Stones: “Setting the Stones”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
This brick mason was involved in an on-site accident and had to fill out this report for the accident.
I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the Accident Report Form. I put “poor planning” as the cause of my accident. You asked for fuller explanation, and I trust the following details will be sufficient.
I was alone on the roof of the new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later, were found to be slightly more than 500 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley that was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor.
I secured the rope at ground level, climbed to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks into it. Then I climbed back down and untied the rope, holding tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks.
You will notice in Block 11 of the Accident Report Form that I weigh 145 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at rapid rate up the side of the building.
Somewhere in the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the Accident Report Form.
Slowed down slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers on my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.
Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of beginning to experience a great deal of pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs.
(I refer you again to my weight.)
As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. Somewhere in the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, the broken tooth, and the lacerations of my legs and lower body.
Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell on the pile of bricks; fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked.
I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the pile of bricks – in pain and unable to move – I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope. I could only lay there watching as the empty barrel begin its journey back down towards me. This explains the two broken legs.
I hope this answers your questions.
That story has been going around for a few years – if it’s true, it is a horrible story of poor planning when it comes to brick masonry.
For most of the next several weeks I invite you to join me as we listen to the Apostle Peter, and hear some Biblical instruction that’s been around for nearly 2,000 years, and is based on totally true counsel, about “good masonry”.
There is a settler’s cabin not far from my house: I could probably find out from county records who he was and when he lived here. Was he a lone hunter, grubbing a corn patch along the creek, or did he raise a family here in this lost hollow? … His are the hands that set these stones one upon the other …. No one living near knows of a cabin site here …. Nothing is left of this man who set the house among the forest. Nothing but the stones. (These are the words of Charles McRaven in his book called Building with Stone.)
Nothing is left to commemorate this settler’s life, writes McRaven, “Nothing but the stones.” Have you ever wondered what will remain of your life when you are gone? What is there of permanence? What actually lasts?
Listen to these words from the Apostle Peter. This comes from a letter he wrote to the churches in Asia Minor, south Turkey, to people who faced death daily. Listen to how he says we make meaning in our lives that outlast our last breath.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16)
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Psalm118:22)
8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Isaiah 8:14)
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
What does Peter say makes for a lasting legacy? It is not our individual accomplishments that give us durability. It’s not our level of education or our perfect credit or our bank accounts.
As we learned on Friday as some of us gathered to remember Darlene’s husband Ed, that which gives our lives meaning and purpose and permanence is our connection with God and with others. Peter offers us an opportunity to remove our self-focused, time-bound eye glasses in order to view the massive and eternal cathedral of God’s people into which we are being built as “living stones”. It is as these “living stones” that we will find permanence.
So, if we’re going to be a stone … how do we do that? What is the job description of a stone?
Peter, John, and Jude (the last three New Testament sets of letters before Revelation) describe the Church as a community in which each person gives into the common life the strengths and gifts that God has given to them. This God-built cathedral is not a pile of unrelated rocks just randomly heaped together, but a planned structure made up of stones whose unique connection in Jesus Christ holds each other up.
How, exactly, does God build a cathedral with rocks like you and me, when we feel like a rabble of rebellious rubble?
The job description of these stones is simply to lean into the corner stone and to do so firmly enough that we can hold the stones around us to do the same.
Why might Peter be using this metaphor to describe a healthy church, a growing people, a discipling community?
Do remember that story in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus took His disciples to Caesarea Philippi and looking at the giant pagan temple made of rock asked them who they thought He was? Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And what did Jesus say? “I no longer call you Simon. You are Peter (which means Rock!). On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!”
Peter loved the image of the Rock, the Stone.
Peter reminds us that we have been chosen and called by God to be these “Stones” in His cathedral. Look again at the opening verses of today’s passage, and put your names in there: As you [_______] come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you [_______] also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
When have you felt most alive, most motivated, most excited about your involvement in a Christian community? I would wager it was when you were most involved, trusting most in God to lead you, and giving most to the community you called home.
Peter was not writing this letter to the church leaders – but to the people in the church. Look at today’s closing verses, and put our church name in: 9 But you [Lidgerwood Prez] are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you [LPC] may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you [LPC] were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
What God-given dynamics are visible at LPC that hold up “living stones” supporting each other? Are they when the choir sings a beautiful four-part harmony anthem?
Is it when the Deacons work together to feed the hungry?
Do we see “living stones” in God’s cathedral when we pray together for God’s power and love to be known?
And isn’t it always when we are leaning, loudly or quietly, into Jesus Christ our corner stone, depending on Him for every aspect of serving our neighbors the peace of Christ?
I imagine, if Peter had a favorite Psalm, it might have been Psalm 18: I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.
This Easter Season, this Resurrection Season, let’s accept our role as “living stones”, and let’s allow the Creator of all stone to set these stones into His cathedral.
If you hear God calling your name today, if you sense that Christ’s death and resurrection was meant for you today, if you want your life to have a more lasting impact today – tell me on your way out the door today. Let’s dedicate, rededicate, our rocky past into service as living stones today!
Happy Easter Season! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!
Bettridge, Becce; Living Stones: The Making of an Eternal Fellowship; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2012; Pp. 11-18.
McRaven, Charles; Building with Stone; Storey Publishing; North Adams, MA; 1989.