Easter 5a

Preached: April 20, 2008

You're Built on the Living Stone
1 Peter 2:4-10

Grace and peace in abundance from God our Father, who has given you rebirth into living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord and Savior. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit edifies our faith is 1 Peter 2

Having come to him, the Living Stone, who was rejected by men but chosen and precious with God, you also as living stones are built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices that are well-pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: “Behold, I set a stone in Zion, a precious, chosen, cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Therefore, the honor is to you, who believe. But for them who do not believe: “The stone, which the builders rejected, that stone has become the cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of entrapment.” They stumble against the Word because they do not obey, for which they were set.

But as for you, you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God's possession, so that you declare abroad the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people but now are God's people. You had not received mercy but now are receiving mercy.

This is the Word of our Lord,

Dear friends in Christ, God's elect sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ:

Is this stone block alive? It doesn't grow or reproduce. It doesn't respond to stimuli. If I touch it, it doesn't move. It doesn't turn toward the sunlight like a plant does. It doesn't take in food or nutrients to maintain itself. It has none of the characteristics that we associate with life. In fact, the phrase stone-dead, emphasizes that there is no life at all in something. It has dead as a stone.

So how amazing to talk about a living stone, as Peter does. Such language makes us stop and think. Yet what a fitting way to describe Jesus! Jesus was stone dead, crucified for our sins, died in our place. The soldier proved that Jesus was stone dead. He plunged the spear into his side and blood and water flowed out. His friends buried him, dead in the tomb. Stone dead.

But Jesus rose from the dead. He came back to life. His body left the tomb. Up form the grave he arose. He is living. He is the Living Stone. Because he is alive, he is our cornerstone. He is the bedrock of our faith. He is our one, sure foundation. For you are built on the Living Stone.

That's the theme this morning. You're built on the Living Stone. Yes, you who believe in the Rejected One. That's are first part. And since you're built on the Living Stone, you are now God's priesthood and his people. That's the second part.

A. You, who believe in the Rejected One

1) What do you believe?

“As you come to him, the living Stone -- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him” (1 Peter 2:4), Peter writes. He takes us back to Jesus ministry on earth. At first he wasn't rejected; the crowds followed him. They were amazed at his miracles. He healed their sick. He fed 5000 men plus women and children from five small barley loaves and two fish.

But as Jesus preached that he himself was the bread that came down from heaven, that only those who feed on him have eternal life and those who do not believe have no life, then many left him. They rejected the message. In fact, Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” ( John 6:67). Peter answered for them, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68, 69 NIV).

And that is your faith. You believe in the Rejected One. You believe that he is your God, the Son of the Father, who came to us from the Father. You believe that he came into this world to save sinner. You believe that he sacrificed his flesh and poured out his blood on the cross to carry out his saving mission. You believe he did this even for you.

For at one time we were stone dead in sin. Like this stone, we could not believe in Jesus Christ or come to him by our own thinking or choosing. But in Baptism the Holy Spirit called you by the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus. In Baptism he brought you to Jesus, the Living Stone, so that you also became as living stones. That baptismal faith is built on Jesus Christ, the Living Stone, your Cornerstone.

2) How do we stay built on Jesus, our Cornerstone?

“See, I lay in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6 NIV). The cornerstone was the stone on which all the other stones, the entire building, was lined up on. Jesus is the only cornerstone. He is your cornerstone

Stay built on Jesus. Don't break loose from him, especially you, the soon-to-be confirmands. In Catechism you have been built on Jesus, the Living Stone. Don't through that way. Rather, stay on Jesus by staying in his Word. For you see, our sinful nature is working to kill the faith in our hearts. Satan wants to dislodge you from your Cornerstone. For when we willingly give into sin, we've put our foot back into the grave. When we take Jesus for granted or fail to build our life and choices on him, then we're building on sinking sand and all will be lost. Without Jesus we're dead stones once again. Stay on Jesus your cornerstone.

3) Why can your faith be sure that Jesus will not crumble beneath you?

For faith that trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame. For Jesus will not fail. I can stand on this stone block with confidence that it won't give way. Faith stands on Jesus alone. Look what happens when I stand on this paper block. It gives way. Faith in anything else besides Jesus will be put to shame. It will not stand up before God's judgment throne. And then you will be lost

But Jesus will not fail, for he is the Living Stone. Yes, the people rejected him as if he were only rubble. They crucified him. But God raised from the dead. That's why you can be sure that Jesus is the chosen, the precious Stone. His is your Cornerstone, for he is the Risen One.

When sin torments you, when others reject you because you follow Jesus, when life bears down on you and all seem lost, remember you're built on the Living Stone. Stand firm. You believe in him who was rejected. He will not fail you. He lives! So your sins have been paid for. He lives! So he is with you even if others reject you. He lives! So he gives you the strength to bear up, for he will never crumble. He is the Living Stone.

B. You, who are now his priesthood and his people

1) What confidence do you have as you approach the holy God?

And you, you who through faith are built on him, you are now God's priesthood and his people.

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NIV). Think of what that means! You need no priest or Pope to be your go-between. Through faith in Jesus you approach the holy God with bold confidence. This is not confidence in ourselves. No! We know our sin. We confess our guilt. We deserve nothing but death and endless torture in hell. Our confidence is in Jesus. His perfect life covers our nakedness and shame. His blood washes us clean. Clothed with his righteousness and sprinkled with his blood, you stand as a priest before the holy God offering spiritual sacrifices well-pleasing to him.

How can that be? Aren't even our best works like filthy rags, filthy with the sin that still lurks in our hearts? Yes, on their own. But your faith offers them trusting that Jesus' blood has washed them clean. Because of Jesus, they are well-pleasing and acceptable to God.

2) What do you have the courage to do as God's priesthood?

What godly boldness this gives us in our daily lives! For as you carry out your god-given responsibilities, as you live for Jesus and serve him in whatever role he gives you, even though the world may reject what you do, it is well-pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Remember that. So as you go about your daily chores in life whether as a father or mother or child, whether as a husband or wife or single person, whether as an employer or employee, or as a student or a teacher, see everything you do -- no matter how trivial, even if it's eating or drinking or changing a dirty diaper -- see everything you do in faith as a spiritual offering that is well-pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. For you are his priesthood.

And when you stand up for what is right in the face of pressure to do wrong, when you live out your faith even though others make fun of it, when you show Christ-like love and kindness even to those who are hurtful toward you, do so with the courage and boldness that offers these as spiritual sacrifices well-pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. For you are his priesthood.

3) What is your purpose as God's blood-bought people?

And you are also his people, his chosen, dearly loved people. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9, 10 NIV).

On the cross Jesus purchased you to be his own precious people. On the cross Jesus ransomed you to be his own, a people belonging to God. He is your merciful Lord; you are his blood-bought people.

Now as God's people, what a marvelous purpose you have: “to declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)! We, too, were once sitting in darkness, in our own dark unbelief and filth of sin, doomed to death and hell. But Jesus, the Light, shattered your darkness through his Word and Sacraments. Now you and I, as God's people, get to reflect the light of Jesus so that others see him. Declare God's praises. Tell others the wonderful things your God has done for you. That's praising him. Especially tell them how God gave his Son to be the Living Stone. He became stone dead, dying for the sins of the world, for yours and mine and everyones. Then God raised him up from the dead, our glorious and ever-living Savior, the Living Stone. He lives because your sins are forgiven. As the Light shines into their hearts, they too are built on the Living Stone as their Cornerstone. They, too, become God's priesthood and people. What purpose we each have as God's own people! Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313