May 22, 2011: 4th Sunday After Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as the living stones which comprise Your temple here on earth, Your goal for us is to shout out Your mercy, compassion, and salvation. Your goal for us is to confess Your goodness and live it in a manner worthy of the trust You have placed within us. Today, we ask You to reinforce those living truths. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ROCK OF AGES AND THE CORNERSTONE OF OUR FAITH!

TEXT: I Peter 2: 4-10

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Most people would call him crude and illiterate. After all, Peter was merely a fisherman who used his brawn every day to scratch out a living. He had no college education. He didn’t occupy a seat of high honor in the community. He wasn’t well versed in the culture of the world like St. Paul was. And yet, the older I get and the more I read of Peter and study his writings, the more impressed I’ve become. He reveals a very high intellect. He’s direct and to the point. And he’s also given to great poetic ability in conveying Godly truths to us—as in our lesson today.

We all know that his given name was: Cephas, or Simon. We know his brother Andrew introduced him to Jesus. We know that both followed John the Baptist before Jesus burst on the scene. We know him as the spokesman for the 12. We know that Jesus gave him the name: Peter, which means: rock; due to his tremendous confession of Christ: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And of course, the rest of his life with its great highs and lows is the stuff of legend.

I

By the time St. Peter writes this 1st epistle he is an old man who knows death and then eternal life are not far off. Probably his wife is already there and although he doesn’t mention it, no doubt he longs to be with her in glory. With age, St. Peter has mellowed a bit. His brawny body has gotten weaker, but his intellect and concern for hurting souls has become more acute. So has his ability to be a bit more nuanced in his writing. And that’s what really struck me this week as I looked at this lesson. Listen to how he begins in addressing his fellow believers: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—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.”

Did you catch the play on words Peter uses? Recall that his God-given name, Peter, means rock. Recall also that his name is based on an open, honest confession of Christ as the only Savior. So, everything about Peter is based on those Reformation principles we hold so dear: Faith alone in Christ, grace alone which comes from Christ, and Scripture alone which tells us and conveys to us these truths—confessing those fundamental principles are the basis for being a Christian rock. Thus, Peter is telling us that Christ, not him, is the real Rock of Ages, and that since He’s risen and lives, by our same confession we become living stones to His glory, as well. To me that says that Peter wasn’t illiterate or crude at all! No, such writing shows just how sophisticated his mind really was, a mind enlightened and inspired by the Spirit.

II

This process of becoming “living stones” is also a lifelong one. No matter your current age, every one of us needs to constantly grow in our faith. We need to learn more and more and to better reflect the forgiving love of Jesus which continually builds us up. Once you quit growing you become a dead stone. Christ doesn’t want that. Dead stones cannot cry out His praises. So, Peter speaks about how we “are being built into spiritual stones.” That means this Godly action of spiritual growth is ongoing and happens every single day. It occurs by being Christian parents, believing spouses, and Godly citizens. It happens through being so grateful for the forgiveness for all sins that Christ won on the cross for us that we willingly sacrifice our time, our talents, and our treasure for Him. It’s also a reminder that such sacrifices are made pleasing to God only because Christ’s holiness covers our still imperfect attempts at living up to our high calling! That fact is reiterated later on when Peter refers to Jesus as the Cornerstone, the foundation of our faith.

To drive home this point St. Peter now quotes his proof of this from both Isaiah and also Ps. 118. “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 (eternal) shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.’ And, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.”

The Christian faith isn’t built on St. Peter. He knows he’s just a man, a sinner like the rest of us. He knows he’s not worthy of God’s love. I can well imagine him recalling his denial of Christ before the crucifixion. He also knows that those religious leaders in Caiaphas’ palace rejected Jesus. They stumbled and fell because they failed to confess Him as their Savior. They failed to embrace Him in love after He desperately tried to embrace them with His loving forgiveness. May such rejection or apathy never infect or inflict itself upon any of us!

III

Humble believers don’t usually think of themselves as God’s earthly VIP’s. We would say that such an honor is reserved for the 11 apostles along with St. Paul. But, Peter the rock begs to differ. Humbled faith always does. True faith isn’t flashy. It doesn’t seek human high honors. It merely seeks to serve the Lord with a glad heart because He has served us in love with His forgiveness and His eternal life. So, Peter wraps up with this incredible verse about each of you: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you have not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

What job, what status in life is more important and conveys more honor than serving God Almighty? That’s right, none. So, as priests of God, as Christians whose lives are all about being living stones conveying ongoing sacrifices to His glory, we’re special beyond compare! Peter spent a lifetime learning that lesson. Today he seeks to give to you and me this wisdom. And all of us are richer for it! Isn’t that really the reason you came to church today?—Yes, by God’s grace you always leave more wealthy than when you entered through His doors. This is St. Peter’s legacy to each of you. Amen