Arnold on the beach

This blog post is based on a sermon I preached on 1st August 2021. The reading for this sermon was 1 Peter 2:4-12.

Over the last few months as we’ve gradually been coming out of lockdowns and the restrictions have been lifting, lots of people have been talking about “the New Normal”, moving into a new way of doing things and rebuilding after Covid – but I haven’t seen much actual rebuilding. So, I think it’s about time that we get started with this rebuilding – let’s just go ahead, knock some churches down, and do some rebuilding.

And that’s what we’re going to be doing in our blog today – we are going to be embarking upon a building project together. Now that might fill you with dread, maybe you’re thinking about all the planning permission and health and safety inspections, and all the money we need to raise. But luckily, our reading today from the book of 1 Peter talks a lot about building so I think this is a great place to start for telling us what to do.

Ok, so first thing’s first, we’ve knocked down a church. It’s all gone. Probably should have done some planning first but it’s fine, just go with it.

What do we need to do first? We need a design – we need to plan what our church is going to look like. We need to find an architect – someone who can design us a new church.

And whilst they’re working on the design – let’s have a look at our reading for today, to see if that can give us any pointers.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans 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”

1 Peter 2:4-5

Well, it doesn’t really help us with the colour palette at all, but what we’re told to build in this reading is a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. Which is a little different to the church we’ve been working on so far I think. Maybe we’re going to have to have two building projects going at once. I think that’s manageable. So, we have a new church building, and a spiritual house.

Now, I think the next thing we need to do is choose our building materials. And we have quite a few different choices. Lego and building blocks seem pretty effective, cuddly toys were fun but not the best for balance. Spaghetti and marshmallows is a much-loved favourite but if the builders are anything like me, they’ll just end up eating the marshmallows.

But still, we have some options. I have a few top contenders: So first we have some pebbles. Very beautiful, very smooth. In fact, male Adelie penguins look for the best, smoothest pebbles to make their nest as big as possible and attract a female penguin – so if we use these, we may attract penguins to this church, which is a huge win in my opinion, and probably counts as evangelism.

Next, we have some bricks – fairly standard in the building world, bit boring but would do the job. And finally, my dad is a big fan of dry stone walling – where you don’t use any cement or anything to stick the rocks together, you just take all of these different shapes and sizes of stones and find ways to fit them together to build a strong wall. So, saves money on cement but potentially drafty.

Which of these would you prefer to build with?

But whilst we had quite a few choices for our church building, Peter’s letter doesn’t give us any choices over our building materials for this spiritual house.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans 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”

1 Peter 2:4-5

It’s all of us, everyone who comes to Jesus in faith. We are the ones who are being built into a spiritual house. We are the living stones. But it’s ok, it’s not just us. Peter quotes from Isaiah 28 when he 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 shame.”

1 Peter 2:6

And from Psalm 118 when he says:

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

1 Peter 2:7

In these passages he is talking about Jesus – the cornerstone of our spiritual house, that’s the stone that is set first – then all the other stones are places in relation to that stone. We are all part of this spiritual house, this holy priesthood, because of Jesus. Without him, none of us would be here.

But, the quote from Psalms reminds us that Jesus was rejected first. When he walked on the Earth, the people thought they needed a strong king, a warrior, someone to lead them in battle. And Jesus didn’t fit that bill – he came quietly, he taught people with words, he healed people. So, he was rejected. Yet, he was actually exactly what they needed – they just couldn’t see that.

And that reminds me of the dry-stone walling that we talked about earlier – a stone may not look useful at all, but once you’ve started building, you don’t know what shapes and sizes of stones you’re going to need to fit this wall together. We need stones of all shapes and sizes to build a wall, just like we need people with all different skills and talents – architects, builders, painters, inspectors – to build our church.

Just like all of us, different people with different gifts and skills and interests, are all living stones needed to create our spiritual house.

And talking about the different skills and talents we need to build our church, now that we have a design and our building materials, we now need to find our builders so that we can start building.

But what about our spiritual house. If this is built out of us, people, how does this work? If you’ve ever accidentally superglued yourself to an object, or to yourself, you know that that is very uncomfortable. So how do you build with people?

Let’s go back to our reading:

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans 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”

1 Peter 2:4-5

It is not us that builds, but God – you are being built into a spiritual house. By coming to Jesus, the living Stone, we all become one family, one body, one spiritual house. It isn’t that we just sit around and wait to be transformed into this one house – but that out of our belief in Jesus, comes our trust in him, and from our trust flows our obedience and service. God works in us and through us, and that is what unites us into one spiritual house.

We have our church building, beautiful design, really awesome, probably over budget. And we have the spiritual house made up of all of us, you and me, the Church body. And when we’ve been talking about rebuilding and the new normal over the past weeks, maybe it’s not the church building that we need to be thinking about. Our church buildings are wonderful and so important, and I’m sure many of us have missed them over the past year and a half. But, whilst we haven’t been able to use them all the time, we have continued to be able to meet and worship as a church, as a spiritual house.

So, what does it look like to rebuild our spiritual house now as we return to more of a normal? We know that this is something that God has designed, we know that it is built out of all of us, and we know that it is Jesus the cornerstone who brings us all together. So, what do we need to do? We need to believe in Jesus, turn to him, we need to trust in him and in his plans above our own. And we need to be obedient in the ways that he leads us.

Just like our church building needed our architects and builders and inspectors and painters, the Church needs all of our gifts and skills, in order to serve and glorify God.

So, take some time to think about you, one living stone in this spiritual house. Are you believing and trusting in Jesus? Where is he leading you? And are you being obedient to him?

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