Like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
On my first Sunday, when I arrived in this church I found an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a card and a stone. It’s a stone from one of my favourite places, Lindisfarne, an Island right up in the very north of Northumberland – almost in Scotland and which was known as ‘the Cradle of Christianity’ because it was from Lindisfarne that Christianity was spread throughout the north of England over a thousand years ago.
This stone was collected by Tim and Kate and Kate has a marked a cross on the stone in metal. When I come here during the week and sit here by myself, early in the morning I hold it in my hand as I make my prayers.
There’s quite a lot about stones in the Bible. Jesus is called the cornerstone. A cornerstone is the stone on which the building depends; completely essential to the building, without which the building would collapse.
Jesus calls Peter the stone from the rock (or that same cornerstone), on which he will build the church. Hundreds of years before Jesus, the prophet, Ezekiel, spoke of God removing the people’s hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh.
In our reading, Peter calls us to be like living stones to be built into a spiritual house. I wonder, what does all this mean?
Stone is solid, ancient and enduring. It lasts and lasts and lasts. The stones you’ll find around the church today, when we come to move about a bit later on, are, each one of them, millions of years old. Inside some of them are the skeletons of creatures that lived on the earth before humans, before the dinosaurs even.
We speak of things, traditions, habits, sayings that are lasting as being carved in stone. Churchyards are full of memorials laid by people to remember their dead loved ones – Some of them are hundreds of years old and even the people who laid them there have been long forgotten.
God gave Moses the Law, the Ten Commandments, carved into two tablets of stone. The Law, the Commandments that would be enduring, that are enduring the lasting covenant between God and his people.
All up and down the country there are churches and cathedrals, raised up to the glory of God, built in stones laid one upon the other, each one carved by hand, blow by blow of the mason’s chisel, each one raised up on another without the aid of machinery and some of them now a thousand years old. Look up and imagine how many blows of the mason’s hammer and chisel it took to dress just one stone.
These are the buildings which contain the memories of kneeling prayers, of candle-lights, of incense rising, of praise and celebration and voices raised in song, of shared sorrow and hushed petitions; Babies brought for baptism, children in Sunday schools, young lovers listening to their banns Old people listening to familiar hymns and prayers and feeling comforted.
Thousand upon thousand Christian people who have built up and sustained the church across the centuries. Within these walls are the ‘living stones’; the people of God with hearts of flesh.
People with compassion, people with a love for Christ, a hunger and thirst for justice, people who are broken and weary, people who are searching, seeking a way. All of these people are the living stones that form the walls of God’s church, the community building the kingdom of God here on earth with Christ as our cornerstone.
You and me.
Gracious God, be with us as we form our prayers to you.
Give us the thoughts, the words, the imagination, the compassion and love to draw us closer to you.
Give us open minds and hearts to hear you and to know your will for us. Amen