I Peter 2:2-10
Stones and Rocks
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I Peter 2:2-10
Stones and Rocks
Dr. Mickey Anders
Six times our passage of Scripture mentions stones, cornerstones, or rocks. And every time I read this passage I think back to one of my earliest memories associated with a rock.
This vivid memory comes from my first grade year in school at the old green building of Hastings Elementary. My brother attended the same school since he was only four years older than me. I guess we were typical brothers because we nurtured a continual case of sibling rivalry throughout those years. (That’s a polite way of saying that we fought like cats and dogs.)
On this fateful day when my brother and I burst through the doors of our house, he was the first to speak because he just couldn’t wait to “tell on me.” He had “the goods” on me, and he was ready to tell my mother what a terrible deed I had done at school.
He proudly announced, “Mickey hit a teacher with a rock today!”
My mother was understandably horrified by this aggressive and inappropriate behavior. But it was true. I was only in the first grade, and I had already hit a teacher with a rock.
But in my mind it was completely justifiable, so I was quick to offer my explanation. I squinted my eyes in anger at my brother, gritted my teeth, and explained, “Well, I wouldn’t have hit her if you hadn’t ducked!”
It’s one of those stories that my father and mother still love to tell just embarrass me at family reunions.
Stones and rocks appear often in Scripture and for other purposes than throwing.
God is often referred to as a rock.
The patriarchs of the Old Testament set up stones wherever something important happened.
The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets.
Moses struck a rock and water flowed from it.
Stephen was killed by stoning.
Peter had his named changed to “Petra,” which means rock.
And it was a large stone that was already rolled away from the tomb on that Resurrection morning.
Our Scripture speaks of stones as building blocks. This passage comes from a time when buildings were most often built of stones. A construction site in Palestine would consist of piles and piles of stones to be used for the foundation and carefully placed together to build the walls.
The most important building block was the cornerstone. Today cornerstones serve a ceremonial function providing a place to record the historical data related to the building. Sometimes churches write the date the church was founded and the date the building was built on their cornerstones. But the cornerstone in Jesus’ day served a more important function.
The cornerstone really was the one piece on which the rest of the house was built. If the cornerstone were not set right then the rest of the house would not be square and would not stand the test of time. The cornerstone determined the character of the whole house.
Our Scripture today contains fluid imagery of stones. First, we are invited to come to Jesus, a living cornerstone. Though rejected by mortals, he was chosen and precious in God’s sight.
Then we are admonished to be like living stones ourselves and to be built into a spiritual house. Christ is the “living stone” which has become the cornerstone of the church.
What does he mean by this phrase “a living stone”? After all, a stone by its very nature is an inanimate object, that is, one that does not have life.
Well, first of all, Webster defines a stone as a rock which is used for a specific purpose, such as a building block, a paving block, a grindstone or a gravestone. If it is used for these specific purposes, then we must next ask why it is used for these purposes.
Obviously, a stone is known for its permanence, its imperviousness to change or to things like the weather. It is also not easily moved from one place to another, especially if it is a large stone. Once placed in a specific spot, it will stay there unless a greater force is exerted upon it. Now all of these qualities can be attributed to persons.
The following story might better illustrate this.
Perhaps you have heard the expression, “He’s a brick!”? Plutarch, in writing about the king of Sparta, tells how the phrase originated. It seems that an ambassador on a diplomatic mission visited the famous city of Sparta. Knowing that its strength was acclaimed throughout all Greece, he expected to see massive fortresses surrounding the city, but he found nothing of the kind. Surprised, the ambassador said to the king, “Sir, you have no fortifications for defense. How can this be?” “Oh, but we are well protected,” replied the king. “Come with me tomorrow and I will show you the walls of Sparta.” The next day he led the ambassador to the plains where Sparta’s army was assembled in full battle dress. Pointing proudly to his soldiers, who stood fearlessly in place, the king said, “Behold! The walls of Sparta–ten thousand men and every one a brick!” (1) 1. He Was a Brick! From Sower’s Seed of Encouragement, Fifth Planting, pp. 64-65. Copyright 1998 by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R. Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ.
Although this story talks about men being bricks, nothing would change if we referred to them as rocks. In this military analogy, the soldiers are rocks because they will not be moved and will be steadfast in their loyalty to their king. Because of this, being called a rock implies bravery and courage in the face of danger.
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“Coming to him, a living stone… as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house” (I Peter 2:4-5). Living stones? Spiritual houses? Peter continues to mix strange metaphors. Then you recall that there is something that can make a house a home … something can transform the bricks and mortar, the boards and nails of a house into the ‘spiritual home’ of a family.
There are houses … classrooms … offices … and churches that are interchangeable boxes, forgotten as soon as we move on. Then are the homes and rooms and sacred spaces that we never forget … the addresses etched forever in our minds. This is the kind of household that Peter would have us long to become. A peculiar congregation of people whose life appears flawed and unworthy. Yet, on closer inspection, a household whose open doors welcome the world’s outcast and prodigal children home. A royal household of ‘living stones’ that even the oldest and wisest long for.
Someone has said that God is like a great rock-collector who finds us.
Once we were nobodies (v. 10) – Cinderellas, Rudolphs, Ugly Ducklings. But somehow God saw within us something that might become useful, so that we might grow up, with help, into beautiful princesses, guides for Santa’s sleigh, elegant swans.
Then the great stone-cutter carves us.
Remember the story of Michelangelo carving David out of flawed marble. It may be painful to be carved, and we might lose some “asset” we thought important. But the carving is necessary. Or think of the rock-tumbling machine that bangs rough stones together until they are smooth. All the other rough-edged Christians are grinding down our interesting bumps.
Finally, the great stone-mason fits us together.
“Lone Ranger” Christianity is harmful to our spiritual health. But God takes “wild” Christians and civilizes them. OR imagine Luke reporting: “And suddenly there was with the angel a mighty soloist!” Perhaps God loves duets more than solos, and choirs more than duets. OR we are all puzzle pieces meaningless until we are snapped into the big picture.
“Coming to him, a living stone…. You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter echoes the words spoken to Moses at Sinai: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who in time past were no people, but now are God’s people, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
That’s who we are, living stones built into a spiritual house so that we can be here in this place a community of grace and peace, a house of prayer for all people, a school of Christian formation, a mission outpost.
And we can be living stones as we come to him, Jesus Christ, who was the stone rejected but became the chief cornerstone, the stone that is the headstone of the arch, the foundation stone of our life and of all life.
Becoming a living stone in this spiritual house is a choice.
At the end of his life Joshua, the first great general of God’s people –Joshua who is listed in the Hall of Fame for his military brilliance, who led the people to victory against all God’s foes in Canaan — called all the people together and said, “Choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” God’s chosen people are at every moment a choosing people, for we must choose and choose again to serve the God revealed to us in scripture and in Christ. Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh!”
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2005, Dr. Mickey Anders. Used by permission.