I have been given an assignment and so (flashback to high school) I am procrastinating. Although, truthfully, I don’t know if that is really the right word. I mean, I’m not actually doing the assignment, but I am thinking about it. I’m, you know, mulling it over. Sifting ideas. Organizing thoughts in my head.

Okay, I’m procrastinating.

The assignment. A friend asked if I would write an article for a small magazine she helps edit. The topic is to relate to the “living stone” theme found in 1 Peter. Anyway, she asked me, and, well, I didn’t say no. So I guess that means I said yes. And so here I am feeling that “the paper is due” feeling.

On the plus side, I have been reading 1 Peter, over and over, from several different versions, for the past few days and I gotta say, I love 1 Peter. Lots of good stuff in there. And I never really stopped to realize, until now, that Peters 1 and 2 are the only books (letters) this guy wrote. This amazing, passionate, I’ll-cut-your-ear-off-if-you-don’t-watch-out guy only has two, rather short books in the whole bible. But I digress…

I love 1 Peter. I love how he uses the idea of LIFE in the book. From The Message version:

Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life

(emphasis mine, but totally called for, in my opinion). Okay, I want to be part of that building project.

And then, later on:

Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless– that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

I love that. That’s your job, everyone. To bless. Just get out there and… bless.

And this is from the guy who, according to Eugene H. Peterson in his forward to the book of 1 Peter in my copy of The Message, could have been a bully. He says:

From what we know of the early stories of Peter, he had in him all the makings of a bully. That he didn’t become a bully (and religious bullies are the worst kind) but rather the boldly confident and humbly self-effacing servant of Jesus Christ that we discern in these letters, is a compelling witness to what he himself describes as “a brand-new life, with everything to live for.”

Life, with everything to life for. Life, lived out secure in the foundation of the Living Cornerstone, Jesus. All my life I’ve heard sermons based on this passage and they have usually gone something like this:

Jesus is the cornerstone of the church. A cornerstone was the most important part of the foundation when building using stones in Bible times. The cornerstone had to be just right or the building would not have a solid foundation.  That is what Jesus is to the church. The foundational stone. The one the the church is built on.

But as I read this passage, I wonder if it actually says something more than that. If Jesus was the traditional cornerstone, the perfect fit, then why did the builders throw that stone out? Why is that Living Stone called a stumbling block? I wonder if this passage is saying that Jesus was NOT the traditional cornerstone. In other words, he wasn’t what the traditional religious people were looking for. He was different. Perfect, because he is the Living Stone, but different. And so the church that will be built with THAT stone as it’s cornerstone will be different. After all, it says, “whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it”. Building with this particular cornerstone requires trust. Hmmm.

I have to trust this living, out-of-the-religious-box stone. That gives religion a kick in the pants, I’d say. Because what he is asking here is for us to build with him something that lives and breathes and… blesses. That, my friends, is a whole lot different than the “building” that had been going on. Tradition, obligation, expectation… sound familiar? But Peter says, Wait. Catch the paradigm shift. Let’s quit thinking in terms of building codes and blue prints and let’s start living. Trusting the Builder. Trusting the Cornerstone. Trusting the One that is the perfect fit. The One that you can bring your unique self to and know that you will find a place in the thing he is building. A living, thriving, growing organism… okay, this is starting to sound like something out of an old Star Trek episode.

The thing is, I love the idea of being part of this living, blessing, building thing that Peter is talking about here. I love how it makes me feel. I want it. I think that is what the church, established by Jesus, is supposed to be. So, how do I get there? Can I really be a part of that church? What does that church look like in 2009? And, most scary to think about, would that church want me?

Help.

***

And then there is this, in 1Peter 4, from The Message:

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless– cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everthing through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything– secure to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Maybe it is not up to me to find the perfect church to be “a part of”. Maybe I just need to be the church, trust the Cornerstone, accept and offer grace, and the church (that Jesus already established, remember) will find me. Or we’ll find each other. Or whatever. But it will be something beautiful, full of people who are serving, loving, helping, caring, forgiving…

blessing.

A sanctuary vibrant with life. Hey, I think I’m already churching with some of those folks.

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