1 Peter 2:1-10: What Kind of Stone and What Kind of House
1So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies 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.
There is a man that I’ll call Ben. He’s one of the people I regularly see on the street, at the soup kitchens. When he speaks it's because he feels, suddenly, inspired. Like a firework has gone off in his head, a sudden burst of illumination, clarity. He has been given a clue to the mystery of himself. He turns to me, eyes wide. Earnest. And says,
“I got the Holy Spirit, now I don’t know what to do.”
“I wish I knew how to pray.”
“I feel like I’m supposed to read the Bible.”
He says this, bright eyed. And then, almost as fast, loses interest in what he has just said. The inspiration dies out, the clarity fades. He has lost interest in his own epiphany. He looks confused by everything again. No matter whether he’s getting coffee, stopping to talk, or walking down the street, has the look, almost always, of a man steadily looking for something only to have it suddenly disappear. Who then shrugs his shoulders and remembers that it doesn’t matter.
I wonder, since he loses the thread of his thoughts, what his spiritual life must be like.
Earlier in First Peter we read: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him.” Christ had done his own vanishing, his own disappearing. And yet our confession of faith is clear. Though we cannot see him, there is a Christ who is there to be loved. Though he cannot be seen there is Christ who is there to be trusted. Though we may have lost the thread, the thread is not lost.
The one who cannot be seen--who has vanished before the eyes of the apostles—is the cornerstone of a house that can be seen. A body of people who are visible and depend, entirely, on the one who isn’t. Because the one who can’t be seen is, somehow, an immovable stone. A cornerstone.
How do we depend on the one who isn’t there? And how does a man who’s thoughts vanish depend on the one who’s body vanished?
Today Ben goes back to his apartment to get his big King James Bible. He’d asked if I wanted to see it and made the half hour trek there and back to show me. It’s one of those glossy family bibles with golden lettering and a picture of blonde haired, blue eyed Christ on the front. He sits there as I sift through. When I ask if he enjoys reading even if he can’t understand, he shrugs. I ask if he likes doing morning prayer with us (He’s faithful to join when he sees us starting). He shrugs.
“Wherever two or three are gathered,” he gives me a sustained look. Then, again,
“Whenever two or three are gathered.”
Today, sitting on the stoop where he lives, I asked Ben to not only read the first passage but to do the first portions of evening prayer. I pointed out the various choices he would have to make, and in what order we would go in, not sure if he would follow along or find his way through on his own. I wasn’t sure he could do it. But when he did, when he spoke loudly and assuredly, I wanted to cry. He’d followed the thread. When he did, he looked at me and smiled. He’d surprised himself.
His eyes brightened.
“That’s pretty good stuff in there,” he said. And I smiled again. Because for the first time since we’d started doing prayer together, I was sure that some part of what he'd read he understood in his heart.
I thanked him for leading our worship.
I remembered, then, what kind of cornerstone Jesus is, the cornerstone to a house of worship. Through worship, we depend on a Christ who is able to be depended on. Through worship, the One Who Isn’t There can be completely depended on by Those Who Are. Worship is the thread from us to him. Worship is how Ben depends on Christ.