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Living Stones
November 2, 1997

1 PETER 2:2-5

Our two granddaughters and their mother, Jennifer, were visiting friends. There was a new baby in the home. The baby's sister and Adrienne, age four, were taking turns holding the baby. As Adrienne is the younger child in her family, she was quite enthralled with the infant. When the baby became restless, Jennifer took her, telling the girls, "The baby doesn't want to be held anymore." The baby's sister protested and said, "She's my baby!" To which Adrienne responded, "She is not. She's your family's baby." "But," said the sister, "when you go home, the baby stays here." Adrienne stood up to her full height, placed her hands on her hips and sputtered, "Well, I have a cat!"

It is fascinating to see how children work out relationships, how they find where they fit, where they belong. It is difficult for the second child to fit in the family. She is smaller, younger, inexperienced. She rarely gets to do anything first. It is also difficult for the first-born when number two comes along. Number one is dethroned, no longer queen, no longer the sole object of her parents' attention and devotion.

According to the psychological theory built on the works of Alfred Adler, where we belong is the primary motivation of our behavior from the time we are born. Where do I fit? Where do I belong? Who am I in relation to my family and to other people? These are questions that haunt us and drive us. In this day of rapid change, how and where we belong is a deep concern and driving force. Fortunate are those who discover their place in positive, productive relationships. Unfortunate are those youths, for example, who find a place in a gang to be preferable to no place at all. Have you worked out your place in life, where you fit, where you belong?

In Peter's letter, he tells his readers how they fit and where they belong, and his message is still fresh and applicable to us. He says we are living stones. Not Rolling Stones, but living stones. Maybe that could be the name of the church band Denni Bumgartner is putting together for our new outreach service-- the Living Stones! I'm not quite sure what Peter meant by calling us rocks, but because Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter which in Greek means rock, he might have had rocks on his brain, so he calls us all rocks! Peter is using the metaphor of a spiritual house, a temple, a church. Jesus is the cornerstone on which the entire building rests, and we are the stones God is using to build the rest of the house. Where you fit, where you belong, where you can rest, relax, and be yourself because you fit, is the spiritual community of faith we call our church.

In Israel where there is only sand and limestone, the stones were carefully cut and placed together without mortar. The stones had to fit together perfectly. As living stones being built into a spiritual house, you and I are constantly being shaped. The rough edges are made smooth. The bumps are evened out. The warts are surgically removed. I guess there aren't warts on stones, but you get the point. Jesus used the image of pruning. Spiritual growth is not necessarily easy. Growth often involves pain, surgery, change.

In 2:2, Peter tells us that we are like infants and need spiritual milk so that we may grow into salvation. Salvation-- a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that extends into eternity where we receive our inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading-- is a process. Salvation is not a one-time event, but a growing, developing process. Through prayer, study, discipline, we are pruned, we are shaped into living stones God can put together into a strong, sturdy spiritual house. The spiritual house is big and extends even into heaven. The walls of the house cross the boundary between physical and spiritual. Today is All Saints' Sunday when we remember and celebrate the living stones of our spiritual house who are now in heaven.

The spiritual house replaces the Jewish temple. The temple of God is no longer a physical building, but a community of people joined together like stones in a house. As the spiritual house, we are to discharge the functions previously performed by priests. You and I, all of us together, are priests. What do priests do? Priests intercede with God on behalf of people by offering sacrifices.

God has called us together. Paul used the metaphor of a body, together we are the body of Christ. Peter used the metaphor of a temple. Together we are a spiritual house acting as priests interceding and offering sacrifices. We intercede on behalf of the world. Our spiritual house believes in the power of prayer. The foundation of our church is prayer. Last Thursday evening, the Fireside Room was full of prayer warriors who celebrated last quarter's Prayer Ministry, and planned the next quarter.

We are taking very seriously the role of intercessor. Our church is a link between God and our neighborhood. Your church is now responding to God's call to be in mission on behalf of our neighborhood. We have a deep concern for the children who go home to an empty house. We want to provide an After-School ministry for them.

We have a deep concern for the singles, single parents, and two-parent families who are struggling to find where they belong. We want to offer an alternative, non-traditional kind of worship service in the hope and expectation that they will be attracted to our spiritual house where they can discover that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone on which they too can build their lives.

We have been given an exciting mission. To do what God is calling us to do on behalf of people in need requires prayer and sacrifice-- "spiritual sacrifices" Peter called them. No longer do we make sacrificial gifts of grain, birds and animals, but we gladly and joyfully make spiritual sacrifices of time, energy, prayer, and money. The first step in our mission for next year is the plan which we are now designing. The second step is the financial support, which you and I are asked to provide with increased giving through our participation in the Leap of Faith campaign for 1998.

Do you know where you belong? Let me tell you! Where you belong, where you fit, is in this congregation, bonded together with one another (the living and the dead), joined together like living stones in a house to be a spiritual house and do God's work.

© 1997 Douglas I. Norris