By Derek Weber
A nod to Mother’s Day, it seems, Peter starts with milk, with feeding, with infancy and nurture, with tasting and seeing. What mother doesn’t remember those struggles and those joys? Happy Mother’s Day to all those who help us drink the spiritual milk and help us grow in faith. We are grateful. We are better for it. Thank you.
But 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. He has 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?
“Let yourself be built,” Peter pleads with us. “Let yourself.” It’s not for us to decide, to say, “I’m going here; I’m going to 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 he wants you, where he 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.
But why living stones? Wouldn’t stones that stay put be better? Wouldn’t stones that are inert be better for building? You don’t want your stone house to be all wobbly. Or worse yet, for the stones to come to life and wander about. That is hardly a secure construction pattern.
Well, that’s why riding metaphors too long gets you into trouble. He’s not giving advice to stone masons; he is helping to build the church. He’s bought into this faith thing. God doesn’t want dead weight holding down the pews; God wants living stones who will live and move and grow in their faith. He doesn’t just want a stone who will come and hold up the corner and that’s it. He wants a stone that will look for other places to shore up the walls, will learn other methods for framing doorways and paving paths, will discover more opportunities to be a trail marker or respite giver. The uses of a stone, a living stone, are beyond counting. That’s who Christ is calling for; that’s who Christ was.
A stumbling block – now that’s something all good construction grade granite needs to aspire to, am I right? Sure, I want to be the one that stubs toes and bruises knees. Especially when they deserve it. At least that’s what Peter seems to imply. They stumble because they disobey. And they deserved it. Right? They were just bad, says Peter. We’re better. We’re royal. We’re part of God’s light show. We’re the ones who have received mercy, even though we hadn’t before and even though we were just bad. Even though we deserved it; even though . . . Hmm.
What if Jesus didn’t come to be a stumbling block? What if instead Jesus came to be a stone bridge that leads us from where we are to where we could be, where we’re called to be? Because people are clumsy and sometimes don’t want to move and get satisfied with ruts, they stumble. A better way is before us, and we stumble because it might be better; but it definitely is different. Maybe destined means that as long as we follow our own inclinations, we’re sunk, or limping with bruised and bloody toes. But when we receive the mercy of living differently and once we pledge allegiance to the king and not to the monuments of our own making – however good they may be or seem – then we learn to walk differently.
And Peter says, with, it seems, a certain amount of surprise and relief, that Christ chooses to let us be a part of the plan, a part of the structure to build a better kingdom. Come and be built. Come and be alive and participate in something bigger than yourself. Come and grow into something more. To be a priest is to be a go between. We can help usher someone else into a new way of living. We are privileged to partner with the king; that’s why we’re royal priests, not because we are special, but because he is special. We’re just like the ones stubbing their toes and knocking their knees. We aren’t better than they are; we’re just being used for a greater cause than we even knew was out there. It is his mercy that makes us worthy of being a living stone.
And the more we can learn about what that means, the more effective and the more complete we will be. The more alive we will be. The more we are willing to set aside our own preferences and patterns for the service of the king, the more we will grow as living stones.