It was done. At last, it was completed. It wasn’t all that long ago that our daughter, our youngest, finished college and started a life on her own, apart from us. We were there to watch her graduate. We saw it done. She walked across the stage, shook various hands, tried to get her service dog in training to shake at least one hand (but the dog wasn’t interested), got the big white envelope, and smiled for the camera. And with that, it was done. Of course, it was done. Of course. We planned for this day. We were waiting for that day. And then it was here. And then it was gone. Just like that. Gone. Hard to believe, frankly. Hard. Like a stone. A stone in the gut, weighing you down. Sadness in a way, that it’s over. Gone. In a blink of an eye. A stone skipping across a quiet pond, making ripples that disappear, even as the stone sinks out of sight. Gone.
What am I saying? It was a good day. A bright sunshiny day. We were proud to watch her walk across those stones set into the ground forming the platform on which they all stood, they all passed. Built up into something new, something more. The horizon was clear; the future was bright. She stood on those stones and launched herself into a new tomorrow. I couldn’t have been prouder.
It wasn’t easy— getting that far, crossing that threshold. It wasn’t easy for her or for us, just as it wasn’t easy for her brother the previous year. There were rocks in the road, stones on the path; there were trips that made us fall, stumbles that bruised us. But we kept walking. They kept walking forward, over the stones and into ... what? More stones?
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 Chris. (I Peter 2:4-5 NRSV).
As a nod to Mother’s Day next week, I guess, Peter starts with milk, with feeding, with infancy and nurture, with tasting and seeing. What mother doesn’t remember those struggles and those joys? Be sure to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to all those who help us drink the spiritual milk, who help us grow in faith. We are grateful. We are better for it, for you. But that’s next week.
And it’s the stones that dominate the thinking in these verses. Come to the stone, and be a stone, and live inside those stones. Peter gets a little carried away, it seems. Stones on the brain, I guess. Rocks. Rocky, that’s what they called him. Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter (Petros - Rock). Maybe he’s trying to return the favor. Come to the living stone. Come and let him build you into the house he’s trying to build. Be a stone, like him. A living stone. Part of the foundation. Part of the structure. Be a stone, a temple made of stone. Be a stone sanctuary; let worship take place in you. Make worship take place in you. We’re both the structure and the activity that takes place inside that structure. We’re the building and the worship that inhabits that building. It makes your head spin a little bit. Which is it? What is it? What are we; who is he; and what in the world is a living stone? If living water is water that moves, water that bubbles and rushes and flows, what is a living stone?
The psalmist wants to talk about stones too—maybe living, but more importantly, strong, and constant. And protective. A refuge. “You are my rock,” the psalmist sings, “and my fortress.” There is a commitment here: “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” I’m putting everything I have in this rocky refuge. My times are in your hand.” My past and my future, not to mention my present, which sounds a bit shaky right now. Why else would the singer want to hide, want to run, want to be covered up?
And yes, a living stone, because there is a desire for action. This isn’t just a hiding place; this isn’t just a mountain cave to hide in, a rocky fortress to duck into. No, “rescue me,” the song says, “take me out of the net that is hidden for me.” I’ve fallen into a trap and need saving. Was it my fault? Was it the fault of the enemies? Well, that’s not important now, is it? Just get me out! “Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and my persecutors.”
Save me. While I sit back and watch you work. Is that the approach, the attitude we express when calling on the rock and refuge? Well, Peter says no. Peter says that this is not a “get out of the way and let God work” kind of thing. He wants to talk more about a partnership. Not of equals, to be sure. A partnership of consent, however. We need to want it; we need to allow it; we need to seek it out. Our task, Peter argues, is to invite the Spirit to use us. The potential is within us – “we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” But the Spirit waits for our consent. The Spirit waits for us to be willing participants in the building of the kin-dom, the construction of the community of faith. “Let yourself be built into a spiritual house.”
“Let yourself be built,” Peter pleads with us. Let yourself—not decide for yourself. I’m going here; I’m gonna hold up this wall; I’m going to frame that window; I’m going to lie on this path. No, let yourself be built. Go where God wants you, where the Spirit can use you. You’re not in charge; you’re a stone, for heaven’s sake! You’re not the architect; you’re building material. Be built into something greater than yourself, something you may not even see right now. Who knows what you will be? He’s not done with you yet.
Not done. There was a finality to that day in the sun at Wittenberg University. A door closing, a chapter ending. It felt done. But I must tell you a secret and a contentious one, at that. Maddie defied her parents (again), and she and a few girlfriends went to celebrate finishing their schoolwork by getting a tattoo. We didn’t want her to get the tattoo. We told her not to. That’s a door that closed, I suppose. What are you going to do? Let it be the end?
It’s a tiny thing, tucked behind her ear. It’s a semicolon and a plus sign. It says there’s more; more to her. More for her. There’s more. That’s why we’re living stones, I suspect, and why he is a living stone too. Just when you think you’ve nailed him down, he pops up again. Just when you think you’ve buried him deep, rolled the dead stone over him, he lives. Again. There is more. More to him. More to you. More to me. More to her.
I want to see what’s next.