The Household of God

1 Peter 2:1-10
6th Sunday of Easter
Elizabeth M. Deibert

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Someone asked me the other day, “Why do you choose to serve new churches?” Isn’t that harder work than going into an established church? I don’t know how much harder it is, but it is definitely less secure. There are many risks and many adjustments to be made. There is a stubborn tenacity required. Oh, but there is also tremendous joy in being part of the development of a new congregation. Oh, how I love watching us, the people, get built by God into a spiritual house, into a holy priesthood. Every new person is a new rock in the cairn, the landmark of worship. Every new person brings his/ her own gratitude and we pile it up in praise of God.

We can sing “I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together” and know that it is true. We know in the depths of our souls the meaning of our scripture today, when Peter says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” We know we are God’s people, having been brought into God’s marvelous light, that we might announce the goodness of God. We’re here, Peace Presbyterian, for a purpose that transcends all we can imagine. We are the household of God, the living stones which come together as a dwelling place, a sanctuary for God and all who are seeking God in Jesus Christ.

Hear the word of the Lord from 1 Peter, one of the general epistles, not addressed to a particular church, but to a group of churches, to challenge them to live cohesively into their identity as the new Christian community. This letter, which affirms the distinctively holy and obedient way of life for the church, helped early believers, who were suffering and feeling alienated from their culture, to know that they had a deep sense of belonging in their union with Christ and each other. It is attributed to Peter, who was given that name by Jesus. The name means “rock” and he says, “on this rock I will build my church.”


1 Peter 2:1-10

Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile,

insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants,

long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—

3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals

yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and 5 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.

6 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." 7 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,"

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

NRSV



Having told them they are born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the churches are told to be disciplined and to live in love together. They are told to be done with all malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander. There is no place for such meanness, deceit, jealousy, or insults in the church. He challenges them to grow into their salvation.

As I said last week on Confirmation Sunday, salvation is not just about acknowledging the grace of God, which is the wonderful gift of forgiveness, but it is of living into that gift obediently, living changed lives, serving Christ with all that we are. Nothing does more damage to the church than church people lacking integrity of witness. If we have tasted that God is good, we are to be good, to long to grow spiritually, to drink more deeply of the nourishing, sustaining milk of the Spirit.

We are to actively come to Christ, the living stone, and to let ourselves be crafted into a spiritual home for God. We are a holy and royal priesthood, all of us together. I was terribly disturbed at presbytery Thursday when I complimented one of the ministers leading worship, who had been a celebrant at the table, and he dismissed my comments. I said, “Thank you for your leadership in worship,” and he respond, “Oh I didn’t do anything.” I said, “Yes you did. You handled the mysterious of God.” And he said, “Oh, it was nothing. We were having fun up there together.”

Well, I am glad for pastors to have fun together, but I believe that when we come together for worship, holy and mysterious things are happening. Barriers are coming down. Stones of all colors and shapes are being forged together into a sanctuary of grace. Forgiveness is being granted. The Word is being planted in our hearts, minds, souls, where they take root and grow. Bitterness, ugliness, and anxiety are being uprooted. Gratitude is growing. We are being nourished with the Sacrament, and are offering ourselves as spiritual sacrifices to God. I don’t mind people having a good time together on Sunday mornings, as long as they do also realize that these amazing transformations are taking place when we are together. The Holy Spirit is melting and molding and filling and using us.

Recently in my annual pastoral review, I was asked by the Administrative Team to talk about my strengths and weaknesses. I talked about my love of connecting people. I enjoy being like glue for relationships. As I studied this passage, I realized that it is the Spirit is the mortar holding us as living stones together. I just like cooperating with the Spirit in that process, facilitating it.

And one of the hardest things for me in ministry is when relationships come unglued, when stones in the church become dis-lodged or when people in the church are unkind to one another. Another way to put it is that church dissonance really disturbs me. I believe so strongly in our bond, I have a hard time accepting anything that disrupts it. I challenge each of you to recognize that you, as a living stone, are affecting all the stones around you. You are responsible to God for the faithful stability of one another. You belong to each other. You don’t have to agree with each other on everything. My brother, an elder, who left the Presbyterian Church in his young adulthood for charismatic churches, recently decided to leave the Presbyterian Church again because of his disagreement with the language of ordination standards. I believe at times like this, we need to remain together. This sanctuary makes room for people.

The verb in verse 5 is passive – 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. Being the church together means submitting ourselves to the higher purpose of being whom we are together rather than seeing ourselves as individual, free to do whatever we please. The growing sense of individualism in our culture does damage to the church. Can you not see that your choices affect others to strengthen or weaken their faith? Your discipline or lack thereof affects others. Your attitudes affect others, and certainly your kindness or meanness affects others. You have the priestly power and the responsibility to build faith, not to tear it down. Not just those of us standing in the front, leading worship, but all of you bear that burden.

How many youth and their families have disappeared from churches because of the malice and guile (meanness and dishonesty) of other youth? How many adults have left churches because of an insincerity of welcome or a slander of character? Get on board with this, people of God, you are a holy priesthood, bearing with your lives the truth of God’s mysterious and loving presence to all the people – inside and outside this place. You have received mercy that you might lavishly give it away. So be merciful, forgive one another, just as you in Christ are forgiven.

You exist, Peace Presbyterian Church, that others might look at the beautiful sanctuary of loving people God has built, and be amazed. Don’t be anything other than who you are – a beautiful, loving sanctuary, a safe place, for the living God to dwell.

Arise, your light has come. The Spirit’s call obey.
Show forth the glory of your God, which shines on you today.