Saturday, March 11, 2017

Stone by Stone

1 Peter 2:-2-9                                                                                   

Al Quads, Yerushalayim, Jerusalem.  She is one of the most troubled cities in the world and yet one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The ancient Hebrews thought it was the Axis Mundi, the center of the world or where the connection between heaven and earth is so fine that it is rendered one of those thin places.

If you have not been there someday you must go.  You must visit the ruins of the Temple that was destroyed in 70 CE.  This temple, built by King Herod, was done so by using enormous limestone blocks now called Herodian stones and was quite an accomplishment to build.  They form the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall, and are the base for Alaqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.  Some lie around randomly unmoved from when they fell.  In fact much of Jerusalem even to this day is either built or has the façade of this meleke limestone.  Stone was important in the first century and the author of 1 Peter uses ancient images of stones to help these new believers identify as Disciples of Christ.

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.

So with stones all around him the author of 1 Peter pens this Epistle well after Jesus’ resurrection to the early believers.   He praises God for their rebirth through the resurrection and gives them hope for salvation in a chaotic time.

The temple was where people presented offerings to be in fellowship with God you see they believed that this is where God resided.   But that had to change.  Now with Jerusalem destroyed and the temple gone, where were they supposed to find God?  Peter tells them they are to be the spiritual house of which Jesus is the cornerstone.  They have been converted to imitate Christ by doing good and not retaliating against those who wish to slander their community.   God is to reside within them.  Each one is now a temple for the divine.

Our Lenten sermon series for the next five weeks will employ the metaphor of stones to help us reflect upon this unique time in the liturgical year.  Lent is a forty day descent into the interior of your soul where we die to ourselves and we lament our loss so that we can live with Christ on that day of resurrection.  So that we are the spiritual house that is built upon the cornerstone which is Jesus Christ. 

The question for us today is, what does it mean to be a spiritual house?  But before that question you might ask what is it to be spiritual?  So many people today say ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’.  Well what does that mean?  How do you know that you are spiritual and how do you define your spirituality so that you are that spiritual house and holy priesthood as a Christian?

I think that is a good question for us to ponder this first week in Lent.   The word spiritual can, and has, taken on many meanings throughout the ages.  I think fundamentally being spiritual is a bit hard to define but it is weeding out the material distractions of life and focusing on your soul and what makes it sing to God in the heavens.  I think it is not something that we can achieve but something that is within us all along that we just can become more attuned to. 

After all it was Pierre Teilard de Chardin who said, “We are not humans having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  That is our soul, our psyche; our most intimate life lives in a world of facts and figures, profit and loss, assets and commodities.  So sometimes we can be at odds, often we are at odds when we try to pay attention to our spirit.  Materialistic ways and tendencies have drowned our spirit thus leaving us spiritually thirsty.

You know spirituality is not a thing.  It’s not something that you take a course in and say; well now I’m spiritual.  So stop trying to be spiritual and but let yourself be spirit, allow yourself the time and the space to see and experience all things in the light of Christ.  It is to be attuned to everything and everyone that is around you.  It is to pay attention with all of your senses, to see the Creator’s handprint on everything.  It is to be compassion living into divine purpose.  It is to do no harm and to open your heart.

When we are the living stones shaped into a spiritual house with Christ as our cornerstone then coming to Christ daily or even hourly to taste his kindness, to feed on his word and his promises, to engage in his ministry of justice is what is asked of us.  Our spiritual houses are in order when we live into the desires of our soul through Christ.  Here is where we find grace and blessing. 

You were asked to bring in a stone, which will be blessed at the benediction, and you may retrieve it after the service.  During this Lent put it in a prominent place, and let it represent Christ as your cornerstone and your foundation.  Let it be for you a reminder that he is with you during these forty days as you strengthen your spiritual house so that God and the light of Christ may reside within you.

Rev. Suzanne Wagner
Orange Congregational Church 2017  

Blessing of the Stones
That there may be blessing for us in this season of Lent
We bless these stones carried here today.

Like us, these stones are diverse;
Light and dark,
Tattered and smooth,
Large and small,
All seeking a place in Christ’s house,
as living stones.
We bless these stones carried here today.

May these stones be for us Christ;
The cornerstone of our living,
The foundation upon which our spiritual homes will be built,
And the center of our being.
We bless these stones carried here today.

And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you this day and all your days.

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