Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Living stones: Building the Kingdom of God

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5

I have long been intrigued by the letters of Peter in the New Testament. We don't often hear them in church, and truthfully, they've been eclipsed by the lengthy writings of Paul, who was at times Peter's rival.

The Peter letters feel a bit disjointed; they don't have quite the logical pacing of Paul's discourses. The Peter letters have a certain patched-together feel with sayings strung together. The Peter letters sound more like sermon notes, which is probably what they are.

The Peter letters aren't long, and scholars debate whether Peter really wrote them. But someone wrote them, and they certainly reflect the thoughts and beliefs of an early follower of Jesus. The letters may well reflect the memories of Peter himself.

I've also wondered if the Peter letters are a reflection of Peter's memory of the sayings of Jesus. Did Peter write what he heard Jesus say, or in his old age, dictate these memories to someone else? Or someone heard Peter telling all this, and wrote it down, giving credit where it was due -- to Peter. The Peter letters sound more like "wisdom sayings" than a theological tract, and they have the ring of the Jesus sayings in the gospels.

Take the passage we get in today Daily Office from 1 Peter 2:1-10. Could this be Peter's memory of what he heard Jesus saying while sitting by the Sea of Galilee? The lakeshore is covered in small pebbles, and I brought home a handful from our time there last summer.

I looked at these stones this morning in my morning reflections. Each of these stones is a different shape and texture. Some are light colored, others dark. Some are pocked lava, others sharp edged, and others rounded. I could picture Jesus picking up a small stone, holding it in his hand, and saying to Peter that he is a "living stone," unique in the eyes of God, unique in the gifts he brings to the world. His stone and all the others add up in the Kingdom of God.

Maybe Peter remembered hearing Jesus tell him that, and he repeated it over and over, and this Jesus saying ended up in this letter we read today.

As I looked at the pebbles from Galilee, I could see Jesus picking up another stone and showing it to me. And then picking up another stone  and showing it to you, and telling us we are living stones, we are unique, and that our stone counts in building "a spiritual house" in the Kingdom of God. We are the living stones in this world.

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