Our Living Hope - As Living Stones
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5 ESV) He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! God gives us a new identity in and through the Stone He has chosen that we would be His living stones – a spiritual house “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Today at International Lutheran Church we appreciate again the nature of our Christian witness as His living stones!
Last week we explored Peter’s theme of Jesus as our Risen Shepherd and Overseer of our souls that came at the end of 1 Peter 2. Today we return to the beginning of chapter 2 and plumb our new identity and the new calling we have as followers of Jesus – the Stone that the builders had rejected. In fact, Peter builds on the salvation themes of the Old Testament as he creates an image for us of our new identity in Jesus “as living stones.” Just as the pastoral images of green pastures and still waters in the 23rd Psalm give way in the end to the Shepherd-King motif of “dwelling in the House of the Lord forever,” so the Old Testament garden gives way to the urban, or perhaps we should say “capital” structures found at the center of the City of God - the very Temple of the Most High. The identity of God’s people as a chosen race, a royal priesthood and a holy nation is built on the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem. This structure is critical to the very blueprints of how God “shows His mercy” and “dwells” in the midst of His people.
The radical announcement that Jesus – the “Stone the builders had rejected” – has now become the Capstone or Cornerstone of God’s construction is revolutionary. Jesus – the Temple which is destroyed by sinful man but raised by God in three days – is what makes us now living stones! But what does Peter mean by “living stones”? Peter gives us a hint and Stephen in Acts 6:51-60 gives us an example. We are now “a chosen race, a royal priesthood and a holy nation… that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) We are the stones made alive and incorporated into the descendants of Abraham through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our lives now share the story of God’s grace and mercy in us. We are the very temple in which His Spirit dwells. Stephen, the first Christian martyr or witness, is filled with this Spirit and proclaimed that amazing vision and truth of our Ascended Lord and Savior standing at the right hand of God even as he was stoned to death. Even as his life slipped from him, he prayed for those standing there that God would not hold them to account but forgive and renew them. Jesus did answer that prayer in and through one young man named Saul, later called Paul.
In Jesus, you and I have been made alive and are being built together to make known His mercy in our world today. Each day is an opportunity for us to be a living witness of His mercy in our lives. Sometimes this witness is evident in what we say, but much of the time it is shown in the very simple ways we care for one another. This is the very beautiful part of being His living stones. Our witness is of His grace to us. God give us strength to make known through our lives the excellencies of His Name!