Let Yourselves Be Built
Joshua 4: 1-4, 19-24; 1 Peter 2: 1-10
by Rev. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
November 26, 2017
Christ the King Sunday
When the entire nation [of Israel] had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.” ’ Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe.
The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, saying to the Israelites, ‘When your children ask their parents in time to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, “Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God for ever.’ - Joshua 4: 1-4, 19-24
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
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. For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy. - 1 Peter 2: 1-10
I don’t think I will ever forget that day. I had just accepted my first call after graduating seminary to serve a church in Tupelo, Mississippi. I was driving around Tupelo with Miss Bea, who was our realtor, to search for our family’s next home. You know how it goes with house hunting. As soon as you walk through the front door, you are trying to perceive if this is it….is this where I belong?
Every house has a way of telling its story. Some houses have a way of sharing the family lineage that has embodied many generations through thick and thin. Some are brand spanking new with the hope of a bright future. And some houses tell the story of longing for better days if someone could just see their potential.
I made my way through the knee-high grass and approached the cracked oval window in the front door. The house had been empty and on the market for one year. It was dirty and required a lot of work to become livable again. I could sense the story of brokenness that the walls held.
Miss Bea thought I was absolutely crazy when I said that I thought this was the house! She affectionately called it the “goat house” because there was no way a lawnmower could make a dent through the knee-high weeds and grass. This house was in need of a resurrection and you know how we preacher types are!
What I remember most from that day was meeting the next-door neighbor on the cul-de-sac. When I asked him about the house, his reply was this:
“Carson, the past year my family and I have been praying for the family God would send to buy this house. In fact, all the neighbors on this cul-de-sac have become close over the years and they have been praying too.”
That was a powerful moment to me; it still gives me goosebumps to this day. Through his words, I felt God nudging me to let our family become part of this house’s story.
The letter of 1st Peter invites us into a community’s house that is also telling a shared story. Churches in the first century were not attractive houses of worship like Van Wyck Presbyterian. There was no beautiful brick architecture or an inviting sanctuary with stained glass windows. There was no beautiful walnut arch in the chancel. The first Christians met in people’s homes as small intimate gatherings.
A typical house in the 1st century of Asia Minor was a small box-like structure. The outer walls were built of stones or clay bricks made by hand. The level roof was made of branches. The living area doubled as a kitchen and bedroom.
The meager surroundings and threadbare walls told a story of families united in quiet strength and deep perseverance to follow in the footsteps of the Christ and his disciples.
Something memorable had occurred among the church community which the letter of 1 Peter addresses. This early church community was tender in their new shoots of faith. They remembered encountering the risen Christ in the ordinary places of life.
Their hearts and minds were being redirected from the cultural tendencies of malice, deceit, insincerity, envy, and self-absorption. The bread and the cup fed the community with the Lord’s spiritual milk as they tasted and experienced the goodness of the Lord. The lives of these men, women, and children were being changed. And they were being prepared to walk along the pathway of new life in Christ. God nudged them to let their families become part of the story of God’s household to proclaim God’s glory.
The story of God’s household was reforming faith and reshaping lives. God did this by laying the foundation of God’s household with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.
The cornerstone was an important piece in masonry construction. In ancient Judeo-Christian times and still today, the cornerstone is the first stone laid as a foundation. All other stones were set in reference to the cornerstone, thereby interconnecting each stone into a united structure. As the cornerstone strengthened and fashioned the walls into a household, so Christ as the foundation of faith joins together Christians into one body dedicated to God.
You and I are tethered by these stories of faith to unite in quiet strength and deep perseverance to keep walking along the ancient paths. The Lord goes before us and is our rear guard. We walk with a growing assurance in the footsteps of Christ and all his followers for our Lord and Savior has done mighty things.
The story of the early church matters. Those early Christian communities prepared their minds for action and set all their hope on the grace that was promised through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They went out into the world in the ordinary places of life to share genuine hospitality and care towards a hurting world. They encountered the brokenness and suffering of others with great hope. And each time they made the choice to show up, God continued building up the household of God.
By daily living out the gospel our lives are being shaped and set in reference to the cornerstone of Jesus Christ. And the spiritual dwelling of the household of God continues to grow this day.
God sees our greatest potential to hold fast to our confidence and hope as we gather around the Lord’s Table. The spiritual milk of the bread of life and cup of salvation nourish us to grow deeper in our faith. The messy and broken places of our lives are changed by Christ’s resurrection hope. Therefore, we leave this Table as living stones to tell the story of what God has done, is doing, and promises to do for us, among us, and through us.
The church is God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole building being held together is growing (Ephesians 2: 19-20). Look around you now and imagine God’s house filled with so much godly potential to go out and make a difference.
“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” Feel God nudging you as you search for a new church home. Feel God nudging you to grow in your knowledge of Scripture and its practical application. Feel God nudging you to share your gifts with the deep needs of our community. Feel God nudging you to extend compassion to someone who is going through a rough time as the holiday season begins.
Friends, the text cautions us to be mindful that we are not the ones building the spiritual house. We are to recognize that because we are precious and chosen in God’s sight, God is the One shaping our jagged edges and fitting us together.
God’s kingdom points to the cross and the empty tomb that even the largest stone could not contain. Christ the King reigned then and Christ the King reigns among us today. His rule of love should bear weight in all we say and do.
Today we gather to celebrate Christ our King just as the early church did with the bread of life and the cup of salvation. God takes these ordinary elements and makes them holy to proclaim that God’s Spirit is building us up into the great household of God.
I want you to know that Christ our King is always praying for those who will be drawn to dwell in God’s household. Christ our King is always praying for you and me to let ourselves be built more strongly into the story of God’s house.
We are to be God’s household - a living sanctuary on the move - with open doors and open hearts to be a source of strength and refuge for all God’s children.
May it be so for the King of glory.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.