Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today

Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, a sermon series based on the book by Mark Labberton First in series: Called to be Living Stones, 1 Peter 2:1-10

Rev. Shari Jackson Monson

8 March 2015

On planet Earth in 1988, young Peter Quill sits in the waiting room of a hospital, listening with headphones to "Awesome Mix tape no. 1" on his Walkman. His grandpa comes out and gets him so he can say goodbye to his mom, who is dying of cancer. At the time of her death a distraught young Peter runs outside and is abducted by a spaceship. Twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, an adult Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-lord (Chris Pratt) finds a mysterious Orb. Peter is soon joined by an assassin named Gamora (voice: Zoe Saldana), a mercenary named Rocket Raccoon (voice: Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voice: Vin Diesel). The rest of the story revolves around the misadventures of these cosmic misfits. Eventually they become something of a new family. Each is quite different from the other. They squabble. They make up. They fight off the bad guys and become known as…….

Anyone know this story?

Answer: The Guardians of the Galaxy.

You could say the Guardians are called to save the galaxy from extinction. Oddly, they sort of bumble along finding their way one step at a time. There is no grand scheme or map to point the way. There is one primary call – to keep the Orb out of the wrong hands and thus save the galaxy from destruction.

So, how in the world is this messed up bunch of characters going to pull it off?

Simple: they learn to count on each other’s unique strengths. Through thick and thin, through ambushes, trickery, and a dance-off, they ultimately survive because of costly personal sacrifices. Despite starting out selfish these broken individuals become loving interdependent friends.

1 Peter 2:1-10 (NRSV) The Living Stone and a Chosen People

2 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This is the Word of the LORD ~ thanks be to God.

Let’s pray: Holy God, when we were unholy, thoroughly messed up people, you claimed us as your own. You call us precious and you invite us to be built into a spiritual house filled with priestly activity. Help us to understand what this means. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Such a rich passage demonstrating our interconnectedness with Christ and with one another, focus on verse 5: like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter calls Christ followers living stones. We are those living stones. And our brothers and sisters around the world are too. Our lives and our witness are ‘stones’ being fitted together. Living stones may sound odd until you think of it this way – we live as people of faith on top of the shoulders of others who came before us. In our pews this morning we can see these generations. If you’ve been around awhile you know the impact of these storied lives. (Preaching idea: in some fashion illustrate the impact of generations by families standing up, coming forward, possibly interviewing one family with 3 or 4 generations present in the congregation).

At Hamblen we are wrapping up a project known as the Mission Study. At its heart the Mission Study asks and attempts to answer what it means for us today to be people being built into a spiritual house.

Among our findings:

  • Our spiritual household values hospitality – the warm heart of Hamblen extends welcome inside these doors and beyond.
  • This household of faith cherishes the sense of family built over these many years.
  • Members who are struggling can count on help and comfort showing up in visits, meals, babysitting, and other tangible means
  • Hamblen-ites value living out Christian faith in hands-on service

These are stable building blocks grounded in Biblical values.

Also in the Church Mission Study findings are areas for growth and imagination:

  • more evening opportunities for families
  • new forms of hospitality to encourage conversation among our diverse members
  • increased programs for youth and young adults fostering greater connection with the congregation

I dare not give away too much more as the Mission Study is in rough draft form but believe me it is exciting as pastors to see that Spirit is at work among us fashioning a vision for our future.

Living stone upon living stone we are being built up into a spiritual house as Peter imagined it. Living stone beside living stone we are meant to care about the well-fare of each other. Honoring our past and the shoulders we stand on while delighting as we link arms with those near to us.

A word about holy priesthood – in the Old Testament role of priests was to stand before God advocating for the needs of the people. But now we have a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, our cornerstone. He does this on our behalf before the Father. Illustration – on the darkest dark night in Peter’s life Jesus said, you will betray me Peter. Not I Lord!  Yes, you will but I have prayed for you. It will be hard as Satan will want to sift you, but you will turn to me.  (Luke chapter 22)

A word about being priests and a holy nation – Peter’s letter was written during a time of persecution to the ‘scattered’ churches. It must have been hard for them to feel like much of a nation or a people any longer. So Peter reminds them about the truth of being God’s people with imagery we might miss –

In Hebrew worship the high priest wore a breast shield-like vestment adorned with 12 precious stones on which the names of the of Israel’s tribes were inscribed. That means when Jesus serves as our high priest he stands before the Father with our names inscribed across his chest. When the Father looks at us he sees us as precious. Know this, let it sink in.

Priests pray for the people. We are holy priesthood. Therefore our prayers for people are impactful. Later on in the service Betsey/Katie will lead us in a time of prayer inviting our spoken responses. May we as priests lift up the prayers of the people with joy.

Associated Press headline Nov 13, 2008, Moscow: Church Disappears

Orthodox Church officials have discovered one of their church buildings has disappeared. Poof—gone! The 200-year-old building northeast of Moscow had gone unused for a decade. But recently the Orthodox Church was experiencing growth and was considering reopening the church building only to discover their building wasn't there.

They had to get to the bottom of this. After investigating the matter, the church officials did not blame aliens from outer space for the missing structure. Rather, they said the perpetrators were villagers from a nearby town. Brick by brick over the past decade these villagers had taken and sold bricks from the building to a businessman. For each brick, the thieves received one ruble (about 4 cents).

This two-story church facility did not go from being a building to not being a building in one bulldozing stroke. Rather, the bricks were apparently chiseled out one by one by lots of people. In the same way, some churches—built not of bricks but of "living stones," that is of Christians—are not reduced in one fatal stroke but rather by Christians one by one choosing not to be involved.

Each living stone separated from the church is like a brick chiseled away. Conversely, each person who gets involved helps to build a holy temple made up of living bricks, where Christ is glorified. Amen.

Stand and sing linked up with the living stones around you… Great is Thy Faithfulness #276

Sermon Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever felt as though you were part of a ‘misfits’ group akin to the Guardians of the Galaxy? If so, what happened as a result of your time together? (Note: this question may will be easier to answer if you have seen the movie. Feel free to insert the plot of similar book or movie)
  2. In what way do you function like a ‘living stone’ that is precious to God? Precious to your family? Precious to others?
  3. Considering your role as a royal priest think of someone near you who could use your prayers right now. How might you commit to stand before God on their behalf?
  4. Read Psalm 118:5-10, and 21-25. Consider in what way the image of the rejected cornerstone of Psalm 118 relates to 1 Peter 2:1-10. How might the early readers of Peter’s letter relate to this ‘hymn’ or psalm of the church? Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. 10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!  21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it 25 Save us; we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Reflection Questions for Interim Ministry:

  • Interim Ministry Task: Mission study/Appreciative inquiry - use findings in sermons. This illustrates the role of the congregation in imagining their future together and demonstrates progress being made toward the call of a new pastor.
  • Interim Ministry Task: Coming to Terms with the Past - sermon series on Philippians or another early church epistle lends itself to this important task.
  • Hint: See Pinterest Board  Interim By Design for ideas to engage congregations in celebrating their church history.