Living Stones

“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Being described as a “living stone” seems odd. After all, stones are hard, dead and cold, and not alive. Builders use stones, sure, but that connection to our spiritual lives is difficult to grasp.

Perhaps that’s because while we may have respect for our church buildings, our reverence pales in comparison to that of the Jewish Christians (Peter’s audience). They were driven out of Jerusalem and scattered through Asia Minor. So, his original readers understood this analogy at a deeper level since they were unable to even go to the temple because of persecution by the Roman Emperor Nero.

Peter’s words presented a paradigm shift for the Jewish Christians in AD 63. For them, the temple provided a place to offer sacrifices and make atonement. Then Christ came replaced this system.

Peter’s analogy helped the Jewish Christians make that shift in thinking. They could go from the system of sacrifice handed to them through their Jewish heritage to understanding how Christ fulfilled that system so completely that physical sacrifices became unnecessary.

Because of this heritage, they fully understood the significance of the stones creating the temple building. They held an immense reverence for the temple building itself as well as an understanding for what Peter’s analogy meant. (See Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 & 28:16.)

Barnes Notes on the Bible explains the Jewish Christian’s view in this way.

“The Jews prided themselves much on their temple. It was a most costly and splendid edifice. It was the place where God was worshipped, and where he was supposed to dwell. It had an imposing service, and there was acceptable worship rendered there.”

Regardless of the time in history, the application is no less significant or relevant. Consider the following 5 points in terms of applying the “living stone” analogy to our Christian walk.

  1. You are being built up in Christ. While individually every Christian represents Christ, Christians collectively – each “living stone” placed one upon another with Christ as the cornerstone – are being built up together in Christ. In other words “all true Christians are a chosen generation; they make one family, a people distinct from the world: of another spirit, principle, and practice.
  2. You are part of a spiritual house of God. The house of God is not built with stones or wood but with “living stones” that hold the breath of God. As such, these “living stones” (Christians throughout time) have an immensely greater value. They give His house significantly more value than any physical temple or church building built by man. Together, in unity and community, all Christians create the temple of the Lord.
  3. You are a holy priesthood. With Jesus’ final sacrifice on the cross, the old system of sacrifice for atonement of sin was abolished. Blood sacrifices through priests at the temple are no longer required. Christians exist now as a holy priesthood and offer sacrifices of a different kind.
  4. Spiritual sacrifices are the result. Since blood sacrifices are no longer required, what are we to sacrifice? “The sacrifice of prayer and praise.” (Hebrews 13:15)
  5. Our sacrifices must be acceptable in God’s eyes. Fortunately for us, God looks at our sacrifices through Jesus. Through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice, our prayers and praises become acceptable. They come through imperfect lips and hearts, but they go through Jesus as the “author and perfector of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Every Christian today exists as part of the temple of God. Prayer and praise exist as sacrifices when we offer our whole selves, holding nothing back. This happens as we realize that nothing we do or say is sufficient, but we instead offer what we have…

“…with pure hearts that with the intention to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8)

Note: This post was inspired by “The Building Project,” a sermon given by Rev. Steve Miller at New Hope Assembly of God.

Sunday Reflections – Family Reunions

2006 Reunion

About 80 strong, my husband’s family gathers the last Sunday in July every year for a reunion. My father-in-law is one of 12 children, and the 11 brothers and sisters still alive along with their families gather to reconnect with 4 generations coming together for this one afternoon.

Every year the group changes, some gone through death and divorce and some simply absent because of other commitments. New arrive through marriage and birth. The group has certainly changed, grown mostly, over the 25 years I’ve been attending.

My husband and boys love these reunions. They love seeing cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. They love playing the games and eating the food. My family history does not include that of reuniting much, yet I am intrigued by this tradition and want to understand its draw.

As I watch my husband’s family at reunions, the purposes behind reunions themselves becomes clear. Those purposes are to keep in touch, rekindle relationships, preserve heritage and create intergenerational relationships.

Most people at my husband’s reunion see each other only once a year and this is their way of keeping in touch. With busy lives, not coming together intentionally every year means losing that connection. Many of these relationships would completely cease to exist if not for this yearly reunion, so reconnecting and rekindling relationship is a major reason for attending.

Preserving heritage at my husband’s reunions comes in the form of a prominently displayed family tree and a trivia game about the growing-up years of my father-in-law’s family. In today’s culture, hearing about the life of 12 children on a farm in Michigan during the depression fascinates all ages. I am amazed at how much the “original” group remembers of their childhood. The trivia game provides a unique way for the heritage of each individual present to be preserved.

2007 Reunion

Intergenerational relationships exist too with younger and older connecting for conversations, games and some even further connecting outside of the reunion. This unique setting creates an atmosphere for age to at least somewhat be ignored while generations connect and play together for one afternoon.

These reunions have provided a terrific way for my kids to not only connect with their paternal heritage, but they are also able to connect with my husband’s and my heritage (our beginnings as a couple). As we drove home from the reunion, we showed them where we went to school and the town where we grew up, and they were truly interested.

These yearly reunions have created a longing in my kids and myself to continue the tradition of family reunions as my boys grow and start families of their own (not for a while yet though). This greatly encourages me as the years with my kids seem to be fleeting away.

The Final Reunion

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Paul talks about a reunion that is meant to encourage those who will get to attend. This will be an event when all Christians throughout time are united together. Even more significant is that they will also be united with Christ. This reunion will have no ending. Relationships will be permanently rekindled. The heritage we have as sons and daughters of the Most High King will exist as a reality we live out as we each receive our inheritance. Age will cease to matter and perhaps to even exist.

As I struggle with the fact that my own family does not reunite regularly, I am able to find joy in a family that still clings to what says only about 45% of families still do every year. My joy increases when my kids catch excitement for experiencing their heritage more fully and for wanting to continue that tradition themselves. Finally, when I realize the picture of eternity that family reunions provide, a great anticipation for the ultimate family reunion comes alive in me.

DISCUSSION: Does your family meet yearly? How does this affect your sense of connection in general? What thoughts do you have of the final reunion in Heaven?

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