“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house…” 1 Pet 2:4-5
(image of a plants known as ‘Living Stones, ‘Living Pebbles or Lithops)
“Living Stones”! Why would Peter describe Jesus and his followers as ‘living stones’? When you try to think of a living stone, do you find it possible to conjure up an image? A stone moving, living and breathing is would be an odd sight, right? The metaphor is a term is an ‘oxymoron’ bringing together words that contradict each other, referring to material used for a building but alive - impossible within our frame of reference. However, what this could mean for us as believers?
It is thought that Peter had in mind the Temple of Jerusalem when directing his readers to consider themselves to be liken themselves, the Church as the Temple of God. To do so would make for Believers to imagine themselves replacing stones/bricks which when placed together make up a structure that will house the Spirit of God. The people of God, referred to as ‘Living stones’ as God’s Temple. Further consideration of this imagery calls for readers to hold two ideas together; firstly, a ‘living stone’ as an individual, “you are temples of the living God” “you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and secondly, as a community of living stones, “growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2: 20-22) Therefore, whether together or apart we are God’s Temple; His Church. Which will in practice mean that we are divinely resourced whether we are community or apart. When we alone, apart from the community of Believers, we are by default in community with the Father, Son and through the presence of the Holy Spirit with us and within us. “The Spirit of truth…you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.” And Jesus’ promise “I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in you.” (John 14: 17-20). The church is to understand itself as the Temple of God and as we quickly refer back to our Christmas Readings - the Church can understand itself as Immanuel in the earth.
More on why stones? As Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey the people hailed his as King, calling out in out in worship with shouts of praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The pharisees complained and called out to Jesus to silence his disciples. Jesus replied’ “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out...” Jesus as the Creator, the One in whom, “all things were made…and without Him nothing was made. In Him was life...” John 1:3-4”. We can refer to scripture, with confidence see and know that Jesus as the author of life can animate and bring life to dead, all non-living things. Like stones we as unbelievers were once considered dead, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… (were) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions Ephesians 2: 1,5. To be referred to as stones; living stones, first we see, the impossible aspect of Peter’s image as stones naturally lacking life before seeing that the stones can be alive in Christ … the dead appearance of the stone refers to our lives before Christ and our new state as ‘living stones’ speaks of our lives brought to life in Him.
The current Pandemic has thrown a great challenge to the Church at large which has required adaptation and new ways of functioning and being Church added challenges arise when as a pastorate, a church is without a Leader. Such circumstances raise the question of how are we functioning as a church outside of our building? Many churches have risen to the challenge and have made great strides corporately but for those who are still finding their way and for individuals who are finding it difficult to adapt it is good for us to remember that this is not new. Israel lived through a similar experience when in captivity and exile, found themselves scattered as a nation and separated from their main place of worship – the Temple in Jerusalem. The nation of Israel still had to find a way to worship and serve God in their respective places. We think for instance the challenges faced by Daniel, Esther and the influences of prophet Jeremiah whose words to Israel, challenged them to consider religion being a matter of the heart rather than that of rituals being routinely carried out within building as a necessary means to maintaining worship of God. Circumstances enforce change but the fact remains that God never changes, He will remain present for His people ensuring that ‘all things work together for the good…according to His purpose’.
The restrictions imposed during this pandemic has put many believers outside of their churches, their places of worship. Many are distressed even offended that churches have been closed. Offended? I find such offence strange, as this speaks more to the reliance of being gathered in a building. According to the scriptures and our considerations so far, whether we are gathered in or outside of a building our definition of being church doesn’t change. Yes, the church is a gathered people or community of God, but it is also a community built up of ‘living stones’ – the church is both corporate and individual all at the same time. So, when we cannot gather, we maintain the status of being a ‘temple of the living God’ a house or vessel of His Holy Spirit. It is our relationship, our association and continual connection with the ‘Chief Cornerstone’; Jesus who as the cornerstone aligns us, enlivens us, sustains our growth as human individual/s to form a Temple worthy to worship and serve Him. Through this relationship we also develop our resilience, ability and confidence to survive the challenges we face in challenging times. It is our human bodies rather than a motionless brick building that forms His Temple, bodies who make for a more fluid, flexible structure with the ability to change, grow and adapt in spite of external circumstances remaining open and welcoming new believers at every stage of its development.
As ‘living stones’ we understand ourselves as divinely resourced rather than looking only to external support of other living stones, we are to turn inwards and look for God within to seek within from Him; His Holy Spirit whatever we believe we need.
As ‘living stones’ we can lean into our spiritual makeup, our spiritual inheritance, our spiritual gifts that can be used to aid and support other ‘living stones’ who are alone, our neighbours and our communities. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…” (Romans 12:4-)
As ‘living stones’ whether together or apart we can as Paul suggests take on the responsibility of looking after each other pastorally through whatever means are available to us. A pastoral heart seeks to “Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.” (Romans 12: 9-13)
As ‘living stones’ we are church wherever we find ourselves together or apart we are Church enlivened in Christ by His Holy Spirit. We entrust ourselves to the ‘Great Shepherd and Overseer of our souls’ who we believe cares for us and as we place all our cares and concerns to Him, we do so in the knowledge that “the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in his eternal glory in Christ, will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, he will set you firmly in place and build you up. And he has all the power needed to do this—forever! Amen. (1 Pet 5:10)
Father, in the name of Jesus – May we, as your ‘living stones’ continue to thrive as we depend on You. May we find our way to live confidently as Your Temple though these challenging and difficult times … Amen
How Great Thou Art https://youtu.be/mHqgQjJrxI8
Jesus be the Centre https://youtu.be/EG-l1kK-BpU
You are my friends… (Posted 10th Jan)
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you…” John 15:15-16
I call you friends; the use of ‘friends’ here identifies the shift not only in that of the relationship for the disciples but also in their thinking about themselves. Jesus’ use of the term recognises His disciples affectionately as ‘favoured and beloved.’ Among Jesus’ many names, titles and ranks, revealed about Jesus in the Scriptures, here He opens the way to be known as ‘friend’. This He does, by first acknowledging His disciples as friends, which would the ongoing legacy for all who would go on to believe in Him. The power in this simple phrasing is that Jesus maintains His sovereignty and status without the haughty ego that distances, He seeks to come near, to close the distance and remove any sense or belief in any ‘unapproachability’ to be found in their thoughts of Him as Messiah and Saviour. He does so, by calling the disciples, friends, this is to be their experience of him from that moment on. Just as Jesus shares everything with them, they are to understand their relationship as one of reciprocity, understanding that He is equally interested in them sharing their lives with him too.
Jesus calls you and I friends, His words to his disciple’s repeats in some way the relationship God chose to have with Abraham under the same designation of friend in Genesis 15, ‘“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. [James 2:23] Jesus’ message is clear, if we believe, He will be the Person through which God’s desire for a close and personal relationship with humanity will happen. God as divine, holds Sovereignty might and power, a status which requires reverence and worship but not distance. Jesus offers humanity a friendship that can be counted on at any time and in any situation. Yes, in times of great stress and difficulty he would want for us to trust Him with our greatest concerns, our secrets and our fears so that He can offer relief, support, deliverance and more besides, He wishes to share more about Himself, the wisdom and the power of the Kingdom of God and truths about God the Father for our greater assistance.
Following another Government announcement, we as a nation have entered another national Lockdown 3. A new variant of Covid 19 poses greater risks of transmission, and hospitals are now at breaking point calling now for further tighter restrictions. People are weary, afraid and greatly concerned with good reason, after almost a year the threat to life has not shifted but has intensified. In addition to the virus is the impact of Lockdown on every aspect of life for all ages. What do we do with all this fear and concern? Who do we turn to for security and a sense of peace and calm? Yes, we often turn to our loved ones, supportive friends and whilst we are all facing these issues together, we know that everyone is trying to find a way to cope and adapt to the circumstances around us. We are in need of that strong, faithful objective friend. By definition a friend is ‘a person you know well and like a lot, but who is usually not a member of your family.’ And a ‘best friend’ is one who ‘you value above other friends in your life, someone you have fun with, someone you trust and someone in whom you are confident…’ one who keeps your secrets and the person who you turn to in times of trouble. We have a powerful friend in Jesus especially in times when good friends are needed and are in short supply. Today, we are personally reminded,” you’ve got a friend”, an unseen friend who makes His presence known through experience. He is One upon whom we can rely, upon whom you can call, receive companionship, comfort and support. As a friend He is faithful and loyal having no hidden agenda other than concern for your well-being.
Below I share with you the Lyrics and Youtube link of the song ‘My Friend’. I was introduced to this song in the 70’s when as a teenager I was part of our School’s yearly Christmas choir. We sung each year at a special service held in an Anglican Church in our local borough. This song has special meaning for me; not only can I say that as a Choir we sung it very well, (almost angelic J) the words have also remained with me all these years. Having searched for it online for many years without much luck, I was glad when I was finally found it and became reacquainted with it. I share with you below a YouTube link, a version of the song sung by Eddie Fischer. It sounds to me like an old Hollywood orchestral rendition, 1954. It is a cover of the song which elaborately elevates the words to the majesty it is so deserving of. According to your taste in music you may find recordings by Mahalia Jackson, Vera Lynn and Frankie Laine
My Friend – Eddie Fisher https://youtu.be/lc-C7t4HJIs
My Friend is the King of all Kings
And yet my friend
Walks beside me My Friend
Dear Father…For every person in need of a friend today, may it be granted to them according to your desire expressed in the words of Jesus. May their experiences of you comfort, heal, inspire and bring peace. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
I am a Friend of God - Israel Houghton https://youtu.be/UI0cgUKMqRs
Update Monday 28th December
We have taken the decision NOT to meet again in person till we feel it is sensible to do so
Meanwhile we say a fond farewell to our Pastor Joyce Grant
Sadly we cannot have a party or service for her at this time but look forward to honouring her service and wishing her well with all Gods Blessing in wherever she is led
Please see our Christmas message on our youtube channel here- https://youtu.be/ydPmgTL7rE8
You can also view our previous Pastors Posts here
Our Motto for 2020 Image- Fota Gardens, Cork, S.Ireland