“Living Stones!”

Sermon Notes (Sunday November 15th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Living Stones!

Ruth 1:15-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8

 

The New Testament uses a number of different descriptive images to show us what the church is like. For example, the church is described as a family into which we are born again with God as our Father and many brothers and sisters in the faith. The church is also described as a kingdom wherein we are citizens, with Jesus Christ ruling as our king, to whom we have an obligation to be completely loyal, submissive, and obedient. Other scriptures talk about the church as a body emphasizing both unity and diversity, each of us performing different roles with Jesus Christ as our head.

 

Today is a very special day in the history of Elmer Presbyterian. Not only we celebrate today EPC 136th Anniversary, but also we rejoice in receiving new members. This morning, I want us to explore the imagery of the church as a buildinga spiritual building – with every Christian a stone built into that building. This image is found in 1 Peter 2.

 

There’s a story about a king of Sparta in ancient Greece who boasted to a visiting monarch about the mighty walls of Sparta. But the guest looked around and didn’t see any walls, and finally he said to his host, “I’d like to see those walls. Show them to me!” The Spartan ruler pointed with great satisfaction to some disciplined and well-trained troops, part of Sparta’s mighty army, and exclaimed, “There they are! Those are the walls of Sparta!”

 

Just as each Spartan soldier was viewed by the king as a brick in his mighty wall, so we are viewed by God as “living stones… built up a spiritual house.” Christ is the cornerstone. “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Peter here quotes Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 and points out that Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, while chosen by God, was rejected by people. Two observations as we about the church as a spiritual building:

 

First: Jesus Christ Draws us Together

Jesus Christ draws us together and bonds us together in a way that nothing else can. Look at this physical building around you. Many years ago, it was nothing but a bunch of scattered pieces. There was a stack of two-by-fours in a lumberyard. There was a pile of nails in a hardware store. There was a roll of carpet in somebody’s warehouse. There was concrete that hadn’t even been created yet. But now, due to great planning and a lot of hard work and expertise, a lot of love and commitment to the Lord, all those pieces and hundreds more have all come together and been joined into one unit.

 

The same thing is true of God’s building, the church. Many of us who are now Christians were separated in the past into different pieces; pieces that had little in common; different economic situations; different ethnic backgrounds; different interests. But Jesus Christ, the master architect and master builder, has taken us and put us together, joined us together in His building. He grafts us into the family as Ruth the Moabitess ~ the stranger ~ was grafted into the family of Naomi.

 

Jesus Christ takes every part, every stone, and knocks off the rough edges, chiseling a piece here, sanding a piece there, smoothing it out, getting it ready, building it in, fitting it into place in His building as He cuts it precisely to fit snugly and beautifully with every other part. And when He’s done, there’s nothing out of place. There are no defective or inappropriate pieces. And together we form a building. Not just any building, but a temple ~ the dwelling place of God. So we’re not just any building. We’re a building with the highest purpose that any building could possibly have — the temple, the dwelling place of God.

 

Second: God’s Building is Never Completed

God has been building His temple for over 2,000 years. Every time someone is added to the body of Christ, another stone is set into place. God’s building is always growing because Christians are continually being added. We build on the work that others have done. Paul speaks in Ephesians 2:20 about being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets”. They were the first ones to preach the gospel and convert people through their evangelistic efforts. Others picked up where they left off and added more stones to the building.

 

Paul echoes the same idea in 1 Corinthians 3:6,9-10, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase…For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.” Do you see the joint effort here? Paul built up the Corinthians church for a while, and when he left, Apollos and others came along and picked up where he left off. It’s the same way here in our congregation. Some faithful followers of Christ have started certain ministries and we continue to build on what has already done. Today we add new ones and the next generation will continue them.

 

Why Have We Been Built?

You may ask yourself: why have we been built together? In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the Bible says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Friends, it’s important that we don’t forget the purpose for which we’ve been built. The Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in all the world. What you may not know is how the building of that structure came about. It was begun after the death of the wife of emperor Shah Jahan. He was devastated at her death and resolved to honor her by constructing a temple that would serve as her tomb. Her coffin was placed in the center of a large parcel of land, and construction of the temple began around it. No expense would be spared to make her final resting place magnificent.

 

But as the weeks turned into months, the Shah’s grief over his wife’s death turned into a passion for the building project. He no longer mourned her absence. The construction consumed him. One day, while walking from one side of the construction site to the other, his leg bumped against a wooden box. The prince brushed the dust off his leg and ordered the worker to throw the box out. What Shah Jahan didn’t know is that he had ordered the disposal of the coffin of his late wife. And so the one the temple was intended to honor was forgotten, but the temple was erected anyway.

 

I think the church today faces the same danger. If we’re not careful, we can forget the purpose for which we were constructed. We can become so consumed with the building process, that we forget the one in whose honor the building is intended. Peter calls us back to our purpose, to proclaim the praises of Him who called us. The verb translated “proclaim” means “to tell, to show forth, to advertise.” Done, Jennie, James, and Pauline, welcome to Elmer Presbyterian. May your presence here as living stones of this spiritual body add to the beauty, the usefulness, the impact, and the witness of Elmer Presbyterian Church. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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