This week, we had the blessing of having my grandparents with us to help us begin to organize and get ready to move. It was great having them here and having their help with Noah and also with boxing up some of the things we do not regularly use.
Of course, having them here reminded me of many great memories I’ve shared with them through the years. The times my grandfather would drive me to all my wrestling tournaments and watch patiently as I would struggle to advance. The long drives in their huge van to Florida to see family. The many times my grandmother would try, almost unsuccessfully, to get me to do my part in picking up around the house.
Like any child, I struggled with the importance of doing chores. No incentive was good enough to willingly get me to do them. No amount of guilt or family pressure could get me to move from the couch and watching ESPN to actually doing my chores. I felt I had better things to do, even though my family always disagreed.
My thinking is why do we have chores in the first place? Someone needs to explain to me the virtues of making my bed every morning when I’m just going to get back into that same bed later that night. Now I can get taking out the trash or doing the dishes, but why should I pick up Noah’s toys, for instance, when I know that only a few minutes later they will be thrown all over the floor?
Each of us have wondered about the merits of the chores we do not like doing. All kidding aside, the reason we have chores is that these tasks helps us to care for the family’s needs. Doing things like the dishes, mowing the grass, going to the grocery store, paying the bills, or picking up around the house may seem like tedious and stress-inducing tasks, but they are really opportunities for us to bless our family by caring for them. They honestly are some of the things that can help us to love the members of our family. We do these chores not because they have no purpose, but so that we can love our family and make sure that everyone is healthy, cared for, provided for, and protected.
Caring for our families by the things we do in the home helps us, this morning, as we take a look at a passage that, at first glance, is quite confusing. First Peter 2:2-10 is a collection of metaphors that builds on the ideas that the author has expressed in this letter about how we are to live in community with one another. When we read this passage we are overwhelmed with the metaphors of cornerstones, living stones, spiritual sacrifices, and royal priests. Through these metaphors, we are left to try to understand what they mean for us today.
Taken together, I think the author is trying to bring to us another idea about what it means to live in response to Jesus’ resurrection. What we see here in this passage is that God is actively at work in building a family for his children and we are called to care for that family.
Think about this for a moment. God is building a family to be a part of and we are members of that family. That idea comes to life through the image of the cornerstone. A cornerstone was one of the most important elements in laying down a building’s foundation. The cornerstone would give the builders a guide when laying down the other pieces of stone. A good cornerstone would allow a building to be built evenly and correctly.
The author builds on this through the use of the imagery found in Isaiah 28:16. We read there that God would place a cornerstone in Jerusalem that would be built upon. Isaiah is not talking about God’s next physical building project. He is alluding to Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus came as the true cornerstone of faith that God would build the kingdom of God – our new family – upon. In Jesus, we see God’s love expressed through the hope of the cross and resurrection. It is these acts that become the basic building blocks that God uses to build the church and the family we connect with every day. This home, the church, is called to serve as the witnesses of God’s kingdom and the hope of the resurrection throughout the world.
God’s building of this family, the church, includes using living stones as the building blocks. What are these living stones? The author says that we are the living stones. How is this? Through our faith in Christ, God uses us to build up the church and the family of God. Our connection to the Lord rises up from the cornerstone of faith to build a church that shares hope and love into the world. We are living stones through our baptism. Our baptism brings us into God’s family and allows us to be used by the Lord to share hope, peace, joy, and love with all. We are living stones through faith and become members of God’s family – the church – through our desire to go where God calls us and to love like Christ each day.
Think about what this means. Our basic identity as God’s children, which is our first calling, means that God uses us to build his church. God uses our strengths and weakness, our good moments and unfortunate moments, to build the church that is the ongoing witness of Jesus Christ into a broken and hurting world. God choses to build his family by loving us and using us and our faith in God to make the church known in every corner of the world.
Each of us are members of God’s family. We are the living stones, yes, but we are also people who identify ourselves through faith in the hope, peace, joy, and love that comes through our new life in Christ’s love. We have become members of God’s family through our faith.
This doesn’t mean that it comes without responsibilities. As members of God’s family, the church, we each have a responsibility to care for the church and the members of the family. We do this through our participation as holy priests. Now, what is a priest? In the days of Scripture a priest was someone who interceded on behalf of the people before God. They offered prayers to God for the people and made sacrifices for them. A priest was someone who cared for the spiritual and emotional needs of a community and helped them to grow closer to God.
In modern times, we might connect the role of the priest to that of an ordained clergy. The modern expression of the ordained clergy has often been to see clergy as the primary spiritual and emotional caregiver for a given community. It is one of the most important things in my life to care for the flock and to be there in ways that help us all to grow closer to God. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
However, while clergy play an important role in caring for God’s family, the professionalization of the pastorate, I believe, has hindered us from seeing an important element of the royal priesthood. It is not one person who has the role of caring for the community. It is all of us. The idea of the clergy as the primary caregiver for a community separates the laity from living into your role as caregivers within the church. Each of us, clergy and laity, are members of God’s priesthood. We live into this by caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of God’s family. All of us have a role in playing in making sure that God’s family is loved, encouraged, welcomed, and cared for. This is not the role of one or even a few, but it is the role for all of us.
We do this through finding ways to connect with the needs of the church family and asking how God might use us to be a living presence in those needs. These are the spiritual sacrifices we are called to offer on behalf of the members of the family as an expression of our love of God and others. This can be praying for each other, being there for someone when they are sick or hurting, or finding ways to meet a physical need that is pressing upon the life of someone. As members of God’s family, we are called to find ways to use what God has blessed us with to bless other members of the family.
The members of our family does not include simply those who sit in our pews every Sunday or desire to connect with us here in our local church. God’s family includes all people. All of humanity is created in God’s image and are welcomed to be members of God’s family because of God’s love for them. How might we, through the various ways God has blessed us, care for the greater members of God’s family? A question that might be worth each of us asking is this: What are the needs of God’s family as we see them here in Latonia and throughout Northern Kentucky and how might we at Trinity help to meet those needs?
We are members of God’s family called to share the love of Christ by how we care for our family. If we love God, then it is only natural for us to extend the gift of love to others, both those who sit in community with us here and those who are members of God’s larger family. None of us are exempt from caring for the needs of others, whether they be spiritual, physical, or emotional.
What is God asking of you today in caring for the needs of others? How might you live into your calling to be a priest who shares the love of Christ by how we care for the people of God’s family?
May we be living stones, a royal priesthood, that cares for the needs of others as a living response to the resurrection and the hope of Jesus Christ.