Triumphant Living #2 in the Series
Today, Peter, the one Jesus renamed, the Rock, talks to us about rocks. He says we are Chosen and Precious. He talks about the building process and tells us we should become Living Stones that Jesus can build us into a Spiritual House. Let’s look at 1 Peter 2:2-10 (NRSV)
 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,”
 and “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.
 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
A college sophomore who had spent most of the school year in one kind of trouble or another received the following card from his parents who were on vacation in Greece: “Dear Son, we are now standing high on a cliff from which the ancient Spartan women once hurled their defective children to the rocks below. Wish you were here.” (1)
I couldn’t help but tell that little story because we’re honoring our Graduating Seniors this morning. And as parents, we’ve all been there haven’t we? We’ve laid out a carefully constructed pathway for our kids and their future, only to have them kick the flagstones aside and take a different, much rockier path. That’s when you feel like the Spartan women.
Even though there might be that fleeting moment, our kids are precious to us. Peter says that’s exactly how God feels about us. We are “Chosen and Precious in God’s sight” and because we are chosen and precious, we’re called to be “Living Stones.”
I. CHOSEN AND PRECIOUS:
A. Peter tells us that Jesus was Chosen and Precious in God’s sight. From the very beginning of time, Jesus was Chosen to be our Savior. Everything that was created was created for Him and through Him by God. He is the Author of our Salvation. God chose Jesus.
And through Jesus, you and I’ve been Chosen. Can you imagine that. God Chose You. I don’t know about you, but it blows me away, that God Chose Me. Of all people, God Chose Me.
I feel a little bit like Mahalia Jackson when she was introduced to the Emperor of Japan, after a concert in Tokyo. The Emperor commented on Ms. Jackson’s extraordinary voice. In all humility she replied, “I can take you to over 200 of my people who have better voices. But one day God reached down his big hand and said, ‘Mahalia, baby, I chooses you.” (2)
Through the work that God did on the cross through His Son Jesus, to quote Mahalia Jackson: “God reached down God’s big hand and said, ‘I chooses you.”
We are a Chosen People as Peter says. We don’t choose God. God chooses us. What we choose is simply to accept or reject God’s choice in our lives. Through Christ Jesus, God’s Chosen Son, God chooses us. And we become: “God’s own people.”
There was a little boy who just didn’t have very much athletic ability. Every time he and his friends played any kind of game he was always the last one chosen. One day two older boys came to play with them and because they were older and because they were better than ANY of the younger boys, they were made captains of the two teams. That was the way we did it, right?
Right off the bat, the first team captain chose the little boy who was always the last chosen last. Nobody thought it was strange at all. Do you know why? Because, they were brothers; and the older brother loved his little brother, whether he had any talent or not.
And that’s the way it is with God. God chose us not because of our athletic abilities; not because we’re the best; not because we’re all above average. God chose us simply because God loves us. (3) And God sent His Son to be our Savior for the very same reason. Because God loves us.
B. That means that like Jesus, we are Precious in God’s heart and sight. That’s true for each and everyone of us. It doesn’t make any difference where you’re from or who you are. It’s true for every person in creation. Like the song says: “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Jesus loves us like that because God loves us like that.
When we look out into the world, sometimes we see people that we just can’t understand how God could love them. And yet, God does. We see these folks doing things and acting in ways that we know are contrary to what God wants. And we want to dismiss these folks as not being worthy of God’s love. We want to look down our noses at them and think that we’re better than they are.
But the hard truth is, we’re not any better than they are. We just happen to sin differently. But sin is sin in God’s eyes. And as a consequence, none of us deserve God’s love.
But that’s what Grace is all about. It’s about redeeming the unworthy. It’s about loving the unlovable. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what is done for us.
I know you’ve heard the phrase, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” It’s the reason why garage sales work. We take the junk we don’t want, and somebody actually pays us money for it. And they’re happy they bought it. It’s almost ludicrous.
Not too many years ago, an 85 year old widow in Wisconsin died, and her only living relative, a niece had the responsibility of going through her possessions and taking what she wanted and selling the rest. Most of it was junk and so she decided to just have a huge garage sale and sell it for as cheap as she could just to have somebody haul it off.
Among her aunt’s possessions was a box that had been sitting in the attic for at least 40 years. The niece thought it was just a bunch of worthless old bubble gum cards. However, one visitor to the garage sale became the beneficiary of that ignorance. He purchased the whole box for $1.
Within that box were hundreds of mint condition baseball cards from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. According to the story, the total collection, which was purchased for $1, was later estimated to have a value of over $475,000! One man’s junk, truly is another man’s treasure. (4)
And that’s the way it is in the Kingdom of God. Often times what we perceive as worthless in the world is precious to God. Those whom we judge as having little are no value are the most precious in God’s eyes. God CAN and God DOES take the junk of our lives and redeem it. God turns that junk and us into something Precious, simply because we’re Chosen and choose to say “Yes!” to God.
II. LIVING STONES:
A. And when that happens, when we are transformed into the Chosen and Precious people of God, then we become the Living Stones Peter is talking about.
If we put it in building terms, We know that Jesus is called the Cornerstone. A Cornerstone is a very important stone, next to the foundation. It is the first stone to be put in place. Often times, the cornerstone holds special significance and is filled with certain objects or symbols of the times. Once the Cornerstone is set into place, the rest of the walls can be put up.
A Cornerstone is the one stone from which all the others take their shape. It is an anchor of sorts. If it is put in crooked or out of true square, the walls will be crooked. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is the Cornerstone of our faith. He has set the example.
Then in masonry, there is the Keystone. This is the central wedge-shaped stone of an arch that locks all its parts together. It is the one piece that allows the other stones to rest their entire weight upon it. It is the strongest stone and the most critical stone in an archway. If you were to remove the keystone, the arch would collapse.
Jesus is our Keystone. Our hopes and dreams, our salvation, our faith, everything rests upon Jesus. Without Jesus we would collapse and fall. Without Jesus we would be nothing. He is the strength of our lives and our faith. He is the one who holds us up and keeps us together.
Also in masonry, there is the Capstone. This is the row of stones at the top of a wall or another structure, the last stones to go on the building. It is the end. It too, adds extra support. It also closes the course so that no other bricks or stones can be added.
Jesus is our Capstone. His work on the cross is the final sacrifice. No longer do we need to make blood sacrifices as atonement for our sins. No longer do we need to try to fulfill every aspect of the law in order to be right with God. Jesus did all of that for us. His sacrifice put an end to all other sacrifices. His death and resurrection ushered in the age of Grace, not the Law.
Jesus said: “I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.” He could have said, “I am the Cornerstone and Capstone.”
And Peter calls us to be like Jesus, Living Stones. People whose lives are built upon the foundation of faith in Christ. People who have Christ alive in their hearts. People who live as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” People who believe Living Stones can fly.
B. I know, you’ve heard of Rolling Stones that gather no moss. We’ve all listened to Rock that Rolls but I’ll bet you didn’t know that Living Stones can fly.
We enable these Living Stones to fly every time we support our Missionary, Gaston Ntambo. He’s a pilot for Wings of the Morning ministries in the North Katanga Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo. That’s our Mission Project for this month. In the past we’ve done our part in helping to purchase a new plane for the ministry. When Gaston and Jeanne were here a couple of years ago, he shared some of his stories. Recently, the North Katanga Conference got a Communications person who is sending out periodic newsletters.
In those newsletters we find out how Living Stones can fly. Peter says that as Living Stones we are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that me may proclaim the mighty acts of Christ.” And that’s exactly what we do every time the plane goes up. We act out our Priesthood. We proclaim Jesus as Lord. We show that Living Stones can defy gravity and fly.
Every year between the months of January and April a cholera outbreak claims many lives along the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and this year is no exception. Through a concerted effort with UMCOR, Wings of the Morning is delivering 12 tons of medicine to 11 different areas which are very hard to reach by road.
On March 15, Pilot Gaston landed in Nyembo Mpungu with 60 cases of medicine. He reports that almost all of the villagers in Nyembo came to help carry the medicine on their heads from the airfield all the way to the United Methodist Church clinic. The villagers as well as the Ntambos thank UMCOR and all who support them, for saving so many lives.
While reading the newsletters, you get the sense of the vast difference in life between the Congo and Glen Rose. One article describes transporting a 55 year old woman with a broken leg from her village to a larger city because there was no x-ray machine to determine how bad the break was.
Here’s what struck me out of Gaston’s description. The village (Gaston’s word not mine) that this woman lives in has over 70,000 residents with no hospital and not a single x-ray machine. Glen Rose, with a population of 2,500, has at least one. I’d guess that Granbury, population 8,000, has at least two.
It’s 400 miles to the nearest x-ray machine. Imagine having to drive or fly to Little Rock, Arkansas; Wichita, Kansas; Carlsbad, NM, Vicksburg, MS or Nuevo Laredo, TX to get an x-ray. Now, imagine how many x-ray machines there are in that 400 mile radius. As God’s Royal Priesthood, the Living Stones of our faith and faithfulness, through your support of this ministry gives wings and hope to people in distress. We enable others to be in ministry.
I could talk about Youth Mission Trip or Helping our ministerial students be involved in world missions. I could talk about the Thrift Store and Food bank. All of these are the ways in which we make Living Stones fly.
You know, we complain a lot about companies who have outsourced their help desks and tech support to other countries. We complain that we can’t understand them or they can’t understand us, especially those of us from the South. It’s something about our accent that they just can’t seem to get.
I remember in 2005 I had a new laptop computer go on the fritz. The motherboard was dead, so they shipped me a box to send the computer to them for repair. It would take two to three weeks to repair.
That wasn’t a problem, I was going to Ireland for 3 weeks and they assured me it would be ready when I returned home. Of course, it wasn’t there when I got back. So, I called tech support. When the person answered I didn’t understand them at first. I was expecting the Indian accent but instead I got an Irish accent. There I was is in Texas talking to an Irish tech support agent from Dublin who was located in Jakarta about my made in China Laptop, sold by a California Company, which had been shipped to Mexico City for repairs. Talk about outsourcing.
But the thing is, we ought to be used to outsourcing because that’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus “outsourced” his mission and his message to us. Jesus lives with our hearts. They can either be hearts of cold dead stone or Living Stones upon which the Kingdom of God can be built. Living Stones through which the active presence of Christ lives and acts.
The ongoing divine power of Jesus; the power of His resurrection and forgiveness; His message and His mission; have been outsourced to us. That’s why Peter says we are Chosen and Precious in God’s sight. That’s why we have to become “Living Stones,” living examples of Christ.
So the question becomes, Is that what people hear and see when they look to us for help, when they call on us for assistance and support? Do others see a clear picture of the Son of God in your life?
Or are they just as confused and frustrated was we get when we can’t understand the tech support agent who is only trying to do their job?
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation,” so you CAN become Living Stones Chosen and Precious.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), November 1983
2. Told in an Emmaus Clergy Talk by Ruth Huber Rohlfs
3. The Autoillustrator, (Greeley, CO, 1993) 970.330.1925 (Autoill@AOL.com)
4. Adapted from a story told by Evan D. Baltz at www.deaconsil.com
Other References Consulted