Saturday, May 21, 2011

You Are....a sermon for Easter 5

1 Peter 2:2-10

When I was a little girl, there was a pretty solid line between the kind of toys boys got to play with and the toys girls got
– for example, my brother got trucks – we got dolls – we got the Easy Bake Oven, he got the chemistry set.
But every once in awhile, my brother got something that I kind of envied, that I wished someone had gotten for me, instead.
One of those presents was something called a “Rock Tumbler.”
This was a contraption, or a machine that promised to make plain ordinary stones into beautiful shiny agates.
You just put the rocks into the machine – more than one at a time, of course, and you put in something called “grit”
– and you turned on the machine and the rocks went round and round and when they came out – magic!
– they were changed, they were beautiful, they were something you might want to put on a necklace and hang around on your neck.

“Come to him, a living stone.... and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.....”

So. Last week we were sheep.
This week we are stones. Living stones. That is what you are, according to Peter.
You are.... living stones being built into a spiritual house.... Last week, you were sheep who need a shepherd.
Perhaps you thought it was a little insulting to be called a “sheep” – if you know very much about sheep, it’s not the most flattering comparison, believe me.
Sheep are not the brightest animals, and getting lost, and getting into trouble is something they are very good at.
But consider what it means to be called a stone. A rock, if you will.
What words come to your mind when you think of the word “stone”?
Stones are — inert, they are unmoving.
They are usually quite plain, they are, you might say, personality-less, or boring. That’s what we are called, though. Stones.
Living stones, but still – stones.

So, what does it mean that Peter calls us “stones”?
What is the significance, perhaps?
We might consider a couple of the stories in the Bible where stones figure.
First, there is the story of Jacob in Genesis.
You remember Jacob? Son of Isaac and Rebekah.
Tricked his brother out of his birthright and his blessing.
He’s running away, having tricked his brother Esau. And when he is exhausted and he has to finally sleep, he uses a stone for a pillow.
I can’t imagine anything more uncomfortable, but Jacob is on the run and has to take what he can get. In the night he sees a vision of angels climbing up and down a ladder, and the next morning he’s convinced that “God is in this place, and I didn’t know it.”
He makes an altar right there, and pours oil over the stone, and calls the place “Beth-el.” Which means, “house of God.”
Where those plain old stones are. The house of God.

Or, there’s the story of the Israelites while they are finally getting ready to go over into the promised land.

Each of the twelve tribes is encouraged to find a stone to carry over with them from one side of the Jordan to the other side.
This stone represented something from the past that they would carry with them into their future. Fair enough.
But the stone was something from a very specific past – they were to carry mementos from their forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
The stones weren’t just for fond memories of their successes back in the good old days.
The stones represented how God kept faith with them in the wilderness, even as they were about to cross over into the promised land.

And then finally there is this stone, the stone that the builders rejected – Jesus, the stone that would become the cornerstone of ourfaith.
Come to him who is also a stone – a stone that most people looked at and threw out, a stone that was rejected,
a stone that was considered plain and ordinary and even worthless, maybe even worse than worthless – you know,
as in, “get rid of that stone hanging around your neck – it’s only weighing you down” –

there is the stone who is Jesus, who is, by the way, the cornerstone, the foundation of a new community, a spiritual house.

Last week, you were sheep. This week, You are .... stones, plain old stones.
Plain old stones, but the house of God
Plain old stones, but mementos of God’s presence in the wilderness.
Plain old stones, but being built into a spiritual house.
But not without some rock-tumbling, and some grit.

You are..... You are....
if we’re honest, you hear a lot more different kinds of endings to this sentence, many of them not like Peter’s.
You are.... you are one small person, and what you do will never make a difference.
You are.... you are... consumers, defined by your wants and your desires.
You are .... trying to make it on your own. You are popular, you are not, you are successful, you are not, you are rich, you are poor, you are liberal, you are conservative, you are what you eat.
You are....

We are always being told who we are by someone or another.

But Peter says, you are stones, and you are being built into a spiritual house, a community.
You are stones in that rock tumbler, and you are God’s people, and you are becoming.... beautiful.

You are stones in the rock tumbler, you are the house of God, which means You are.... something else too.
First, you are .... chosen.
I have a bucket of rocks, a few left, I think, from the stones I found for the children’s message.
I picked them up from around the church after it stopped raining yesterday.
And I’ll tell you something, not one of these stones jumped up into my hand by itself.
All of them I chose, I picked up out of the dirt, turned over, washed off.
In the same way, you are chosen by God, picked up, turned over, washed off.

You are also called, you are called by God to a different kind of life.
Because Jesus is our cornerstone, and your life is built around him.

He is not society’s cornerstone, he’s not our culture’s cornerstone.
In fact, he’s been rejected, again and again, by the powers that be: too plain, too humble, too impractical, to merciful.
But he’s our cornerstone and our lives our built around his life.
And so we are chosen and precious, and we are called, called, called to a different kind of life

And you are... you are not alone

Anna Quindlan was asked to speak at a commencement, to give some advice to those who were graduating. Here’s a little about what she said:

“ here's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life.

Get a real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house.

Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights,
a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you.”
(Source: Commencement address at Villanova University (February 8 1999)

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you.

You know what this reminds me of?
It reminds me of the young woman from our congregation who told me she would rather go on a mission trip to South Dakota than play summer basketball.
It reminds me of the people from this congregation who decided to sponsor refugees, from many different countries;
it reminds me of the people who come out for the funerals of friends, it reminds me of people who have taken time out of their schedules to teach immigrants to read.
It reminds me of people who stick their necks out for people who don’t have a voice.
It reminds me of you, the body of Christ.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love who love you.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is exactly the life we are given in Jesus, our cornerstone.
We are given a life in which we are chosen and precious, in which we are called to live differently, in which we are not alone.
We are the house of God, and surely God is in this place, and we didn’t even know it.
We are the signs of God’s presence in the wilderness, God’s faithfulness in the wildness, on the way to the promised land.

You are.... you are... stones in the rock tumbler, you are the place where God dwells, built around the cornerstone, the one who died, the one who lives.


Wendy said...

I've read your comments at the preacher party, but I have to say, I really, really like it. I like the different stones you mention and the specificity of how your people are being stones.

And I was ALWAYS envious of my brother's gifts and prizes.

liz said...

Diane, this is lovely - affirming AND challenging. Thanks for sharing - and blessings on the preaching and hearing.

Sharon said...

Good morning, Diane! Your sermon is what I am trying to say, and I do like the way you say how it is that we are called by God to a different kind of life. I'm up early looking for some inspiration, so thanks! And thanks for hosting a great preacher party yesterday.

Rev Honey said...

Diane, a beautiful, inspiring sermon. May those who hear it today trust God and follow Jesus into that different way of life+

Robin said...

I love this. I got up this morning and listened to the text and thought, "Stones? STONES? I've head enough cornerstone sermons to last a lifetime; what can anyone do with stones?"

The rock tumbler metaphor is fantastic.

Stephanie Anthony/She Rev said...

I'm on vacation today so I just read your sermon for my worship. I loved the references back to biblical stones and then the connection to how people are stones today. Thanks!

Diane said...

thanks! I'm glad you liked it.