I was reflecting recently on the verse in 1 Peter 2:5 – “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.
This spiritual house that we are as a church, this holy priesthood is in a process of continual construction – “being built into …” and we are each the living stones that are being put together to form the foundation, the walls, the roof, the very being of this spiritual house.
Stones which are put together to be something need to have a way that they can keep the connection. It can be a natural fit, or the stones could be shaped so that they do connect to each other, or they need some kind of cementing agent. Each of these is relevant to the church.
Some communities do simply fit together, and some are, for various reasons required to find ways to fit together, for example, groups from different backgrounds or cultures. But the “glue” that holds us together is the covenant which God has made with us in Christ.
In ancient times, people entered into a covenant with each other through fairly elaborate rituals. Each aspect of this ritual marked an aspect of the covenant relationship.
They exchanged their outer garments – an exchange of public personality.
They exchanged weapons – an offer and receiving of a pledge of protection.
They cut their hands and clasped them together so that their blood mingled – an offer of a united life.
They made vows and they shared a meal.
And then, they built a pile of stones to mark the covenant. A memorial to the event.
- In Genesis 31:45-53, Laban and Jacob made a covenant at Mizpah to mark their agreement about their separation of flocks and herds and set up a stone memorial.
- In Deuteronomy 27:4-6, the people were instructed to set up a pile of stones to remind themselves of God’s covenant with them in the Law given at Sinai.
- In Joshua 4:4-9, the people of God picked up stones from the river bed when they crossed the Jordan and built them into a pile on the other side to remind themselves that God had opened the way for them to enter the promised land.
In each of these situations, the pile of stones was a monument to something significant which had happened in their life. In the text in Joshua, we are told that when the children asked what the stones are for, they are to use the opportunity to share their memories of God’s goodness to them.
In Christ, we, the church are a pile of living stones! Being built up into a spiritual house! The process is not over. When the children ask what this pile of stones is all about, we are to point to Jesus, to the Living Stone.
It is important, however, that they see us not simply as a pile of rocks, but as living stones being built up into a body held together by our covenant in Christ.
They need to see it in our lives! In the way, we forgive others (because we have been forgiven). In the way, we deal with loss and grief, in how we move beyond guilt through a submitted life, in how we handle our money, in how we choose to love and so on.
Our lives must point people towards the saving work which Christ has done in us.
Our lives, as this living, spiritual house must shine forth the same love that Jesus has for us.
Rev David de Kock