1 Peter 2:1-10 and Acts 2:42-47
(Quoted Scripture is New International Life Application Study Bible)
A cartoon in a Saturday Evening Post features a young boy sitting under a tree taking inventory of his relationships. ‘I have fourteen people who love me, twenty-two people who like me, six people who tolerate me, and I have three enemies.’ This made me think, how am I doing in my relationships? How are you doing?
John Donne said over 400 years ago, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Any man’s death diminishes me…therefore, never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Christians, particularly, are not called to isolation, Christians are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, formed as the family of God. We are called to belong as well as believe.
When God created the universe and each creature in it, he completed his creation with a human being made from the dust of the earth and the breath of heaven. He put Adam in the Garden of Eden with the responsibility to take care of it. Then God suddenly discovered something was missing. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for a human being to be alone.”’ (Genesis 2:18)
Look at your hands for a moment. Our hands are wonderfully and uniquely made up of twenty-seven bones and many ligaments and muscles. Our fingers and palms have distinctive ridges which help us get a grip on things and identify us with unique fingerprints. With a hand we can throw a ball, drive a car, comfort a child, or help a friend. But our hands are so made that we cannot shake hands with ourselves very well, nor pat ourselves on the back very well, nor give ourselves a meaningful hug. We need other hands for that. We were created for relationship. We were created for community.
The worst form of human punishment is solitary confinement. No child likes to be sent to his room for disciplinary reasons, unless they have a T.V. and video games. Vietnam Prisoners Of War survived the horrible isolation of the Hanoi Hilton by developing a tapping code that kept them in communication with one another. As former Air Force pilot, Ron Bliss, said, “Sometimes we sounded like a den of runaway woodpeckers. On Sundays we joined together in the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance without our captors ever deciphering our system.” We were created for community.
Jesus had a community of 12 disciples, with whom he formed a close relationship. After walking with Jesus for 3 years, and then 40 days after his resurrection, those disciples were commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20, to “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing the in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you -.” They were able to follow Jesus’ command, because they had spent time with Him.
They formed a community of believers, building strong faith filled relationships, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” -Acts 2:42. “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, – shared their meals with great joy and generosity-all the while praising God and enjoying the good will of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” – (Acts 2:46-47)As a faith community, we can learn from the early church. The early church:
- Worshiped together – Sunday worship is essential to our own spiritual growth and our faith community
- Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching – Sunday revelation of God’s word and Bible Studies
- Fellowshipped together – various groups within the church who meet to serve and support the ministries
- Prayed together – praying during Sunday worship and during the week, believing that God hears and answers our prayers
What happened when believers engaged in these practices? “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (vs. 47)
All these practices of our faith community are important, but not one of them can be sustained unless we become Living Stones built on the Living Cornerstone of Jesus Christ.
Peter writes in his epistle (letter), “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.” (vs. 4)
Peter would know Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” Peter would know from Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem., a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.” And from Isaiah 8:14, “-he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall.”
People who are confronted with the truth of their sins, may not believe because they do not want to be convicted, and repent of their sins. It breaks my heart how many people are content to live lives of misery. The people who refuse God’s mercy and grace are fallen and on their way to eternal punishment. God desires for all to be saved, but sadly many will not accept God’s love, mercy and grace, repent of their sins and begin living a life in the light. They continue to stumble and fall in the darkness.
With Jesus Christ as the solid cornerstone of our faith, we become what Peter names Living Stones. Verse 5, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” The word ‘living,’ comes from the Greek word ‘Zoe,’ meaning not just human existence, but life that becomes a light in the darkness of our world. In John 1:4: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Here the Greek word refers to the God who was, who is, and who evermore will be, the divine life uniquely possessed by God.
The living cornerstone being Jesus Christ the Son of God, we as believers become the living stones on which the church of Christ is built. It is only when the church stands on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone of our faith, that we are able to be the church Jesus calls us to be.
Evil behavior; lies, hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech will not happen here. (1 Peter 2:1) Sharing together with great joy and generosity, while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people will happen here. (Acts 2:46-47)
The truth is, when it happens in this faith community, it happens in our everyday life. Just as a child raised in a loving home, learns to love. A community of faith which is loving and caring of one another, will be loving and caring to people outside their faith community. As you and I strive to be Living Stones connected to the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ, our Christianity will be evident, and the spiritual temple of God, the church, will be built.
As United Methodist believers, we claim, open hearts, open minds, open doors. We open our hearts to love all people, but before we do we have to open our hearts to Jesus, the Living Cornerstone.
We open our minds to the brokenness and suffering in our world, but if we are going to bring the light of Christ into the darkness, we first have to open our minds and study what God’s Word teaches, and to walk in the light ourselves.
We say we have open doors to let people in, but the door also opens to let people out, believers, Living Stones, who share the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Gathered here are the Living Stones firmly grounded in the Living Cornerstone of Jesus Christ. How are we doing in our building God’s Kingdom here on earth? Do people know you are a Christian by the way you love?
Pastor Rosemary DeHut