Lectionary Passages for May 18, 2014. Acts 7:55-60, Ps 31:1-5, 15-16, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14
Remember building forts as a child? I built them with blankets and couch cushions at home, sticks and rocks when we were camping, snow in the winter, straw bales when I was big enough to heft them around. My Dad built us kids a playhouse, also a kind of permanent fort. There was always something kind of magical about these play structures. It was fun, but now when I think about it, it was also an expression of a natural human desire for security. Kids play at building houses and forts at least partly because of that urge toward being safe.
Psalm 31 speaks of God as a strong fortress, built of rock, a place to be physically and spiritually safe. A child inside their fort and under the parent’s good care.
1 Peter refers to Jesus as a ‘living stone’, the cornerstone of the church, God’s home in the world. All of us are also living stones to be built around that cornerstone, leaning on it for support. Even when we crumble, the corner remains and can be built on again. It is a comforting and lasting image!
But then, there is a disturbing picture in Acts. The rocks here are not part of a protection, fortress, or house. Here they are weapons used to kill Stephen, a faithful and productive disciple of Jesus. Stephen had been preaching, teaching, and healing. The result of his work was that the church was growing. The powerful religious leaders in the synagogue were concerned with these “Jesus freaks”, worried that they were leading people astray and worried about their own hold on power. Stephen preaches to them, going through their own long history of faith-a faith shared by Stephen. Stephen accuses them of being stale in their beliefs and not open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. At this point it doesn’t matter that Stephen largely agrees with all the same faith tenets-they are just angry with his challenge of their authority. Rocks are weapons.
Finally, in John, Jesus refers to dwelling places and says that he goes to prepare them. These are safe places in the house of God where safety and care are assured. (Note, this is the only lectionary passage that doesn’t actually refer to rocks. God is building with something else!)
Reading all these passages, I wonder what we do with our “rocks”? Do we use our lives, talents, and abilities to build safety? Do we anchor ourselves against a firm cornerstone? Do we build each other up, or do we use our rocks as weapons when we disagree or challenge each other?
“…like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house…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.” (From the 1 Peter reading.)