Reading: 1 Peter 2:1-10
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual houseto be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, 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.
It would appear that Peter’s ministry was around the same time as Paul was carrying out his mission work across the early churches, as both of their writings refer to Silas and Mark or John Mark. Peter refers to Paul’s writings in a way that show he was familiar with their contents. The areas that Peter is writing to were some of the areas that Paul had established churches as he journeyed around preaching the Good News. Those receiving the letters would most likely have been amongst those Christians who Paul addressed in some of his own letters. In verse one Peter tells the people that they are to put aside all the things that would stand in their way of coming to Christ. Like a new born baby looking for the goodness of its mother’s milk, we are to seek feeding of a different kind, Peter names it as spiritual milk. As we grow stronger in our desire to live according to God’s will we grow into a maturity of understanding. We grow up in our salvation and receive the full blessings of it. Before that whole process begins we must first rid ourselves of all that would hold us back, all that would fill our lives with the wrong feeding and leave us devoid of a hunger for the things of God. Remember as a child you would happily fill yourself with biscuits and sweeties etc. The sort of things grannies tell you not to eat because you won’t be ready for dinner. Peter is warning that we need to hunger after the right things, the things of God, which satisfy us fully. It is when this appetite is satisfied we begin to taste the goodness of God’s mercy. We come to know God more fully and receive his grace. You may remember during Holy Week I mentioned how can we engage our senses to bring memories to the fore of our mind. We read how Mark several times portrays Jesus teaching verbally then using a visual action to drive it home then the anointing at Bethany engaging the sense of smell. Peter invites us now to use our sense of taste, by getting to know God and his ways we can taste that the Lord is good. I want to concentrate our thoughts on the middle section of the reading this morning, verses four to nine. Peter takes a very common object, a stone, quite literally millions are strewn across countryside walkways. Peter taking his reference from the Prophet Isaiah who writes in chapter eight, ‘and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ He refers to Christ as the rejected stone, the useless one cast aside that would cause some to stumble and fall over. But in reality this useless, cast aside stone, is in fact the cornerstone. From this cornerstone a new building will emerge across the world. You and I will be keyed on to this cornerstone and together we will all become this building made of living stones. A keystone is the final piece placed during construction and locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch or vault to bear weight. I mentioned in the introduction Peter and Paul and their similarities, here we have one of those instances. Paul used the metaphor of the body of Christ and how all the parts are joined as one and each is dependent on the other to function in a proper fashion. So too with Peter, remember he was called the rock and he chooses this architectural image rather than the biological one of Paul. Their paths would surely have crossed and given their material the likeliest place would have been in Rome itself. Ingrid and I have visited this beautiful city several times and never cease to marvel at the architecture of buildings that were of course built much later than Peter’s time but are outstanding just the same. Of course in and around the city there are many sites from that earlier period of history and it is not to hard a stretch for the imagination to place yourself in that space at that time and marvel at the wonder of this old city. Peter is breaking new ground in the teaching of the church by stating that they are to become a holy priesthood. There were twelve tribes of Israel but from only one of these could a priest be appointed and that was from the tribe of Levi. He is saying that within the Christian Church we are all to be priests. There are not to be different kinds of Christians, we are one but there are many gifts and talents that make that one church possible. When I was writing this I realised the significance of it for us this very day. For the first time this year we are in the church building as well as in our homes on zoom for our worship services. How relevant when we reflect that in the building we need the keystone to hold the physical building in place but it is Christ the keystone we need to hold the church together in the wider sense of us, you and I, being the living stones and being the church not only in a building but wherever and whenever we are worshipping and serving Christ.