Like a Rolling Stone

Heritage Presbyterian Church

May 17, 2020
6th Sunday of Easter
Scripture reading – 1st Peter 2: 4-10

From the Epistle to Diognetus, written around 130 AD, listen to the following description of early Christians:

“For the Christians are distinguished from others neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.  They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not sacrifice their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and blessed; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. 

To sum it all up — what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.”

To me, this is an incredible document.  Yet it should not surprise any Christian at all.  The writer has accurately described Christians of his day in a way that demonstrates how to fully live a Christian life amid a world that does not believe the same things.

It is a good and accurate description, and it mirrors what Peter said in his first letter that I read a minute ago.  In it, Peter cleverly refers to the Lord and his true believers as “stones.”

As I think of this description, the very first thing that pops into my head is the line in that great old hymn that says,

“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.”

I am positive that phrase would have a little more meaning if you heard our choir sing it, but you get what I mean.  Christ is the solid rock.  It is Jesus who earned the right to be absolutely trusted and obeyed as the Son of God, the Messiah, and our Savior.  Peter refers to the Lord as the “living stone.”  I love this phrase too because virtually no one believes that stones are living things.  Yet this rock who is our Lord is fully alive and fully active in our daily lives today, just as he was in Peter’s time.

Continuing this rock metaphor, Peter also reminds us that Jesus was rejected by many.  Believing in him is not an automatic thing – and should never be taken for granted by believers.  There will always be people who reject the Lord, our rock.  Peter quotes the saying from Psalm 118, verse 22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  Jesus himself quoted the same passage from Psalms in the Gospel of Matthew when the Gospel writer described Jesus teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem just before his arrest and death on the cross.  This was not a time Jesus would waste any words on unclear or vague ideas or teachings.  He was trying to be as direct as he possibly could.  In using this phrase, which occurs three times in the Bible, we hear that the stone is not for everyone.  Yet Peter takes it a step farther; he also said that this stone can make unbelievers stumble and fall – because they do not listen, because they reject the Lord, and because they were disobedient.  Standing on the rock of Jesus means you get it right and others will be taken down by it.

But Peter takes the whole stone analogy a step further.  He proclaims that not only is Jesus our rock upon whom we can stand and believe, we are also called to be “living stones” that the Lord can use to build us into spiritual houses.  

That is quite an honor!  The Lord is our solid rock, but we are to be rocks in his world too.

It makes sense.  Alone, we can do little.  But gathered together, imagine what a while pile of rocks could become.  There is no such thing as disembodied Christianity, in which we can be believers without being Christians.  Living rocks must gather together and stand together and support one another, so that we can be as strong as possible in a world looking for something solid they can believe it.

Another point that is possible in this whole rock talk is to consider the power of one living rock.  Now I know I just said that one rock can’t accomplish much alone.  But stop and think of those rocks in your family, in your life, whom you could count on.  Who are your rocks?  Who made you feel safe when your foundation was crumbling?  Who picked you up when you had fallen?  Who brought you to Christ and turned you into a living stone?  Who was that solitary rock?  Chances are that rock didn’t really stand alone; it just might have seemed that way at the time.  Living stones, solid rocks usually have a community of their own for support.  They rarely live alone in a cabin in the woods or on a mountaintop.  If that were true, then they wouldn’t be much good to the rest of the community of the Lord.

One final point in this message, and it refers to the title: “Like a Rolling Stone.”  Usually it takes quite a force to move rocks from where they are.  They don’t just get up and walk.  They are only moved by forces that can push them or dig them out or destroy their surroundings.  All those decorative rocks that you see out in town were moved by something, discovered by someone, and then strategically placed by someone.  They usually look great, but consider how they got there.

The Lord does not ask us to become part of his foundation to build his church upon so that we can just stay in that temple and worship him.  The early church was moved out of Jerusalem by violent, wicked forces, but it caused the rapid spread of Christianity to virtually every corner of our world.  Christians were scattered and separated by circumstances.  Throughout history, the living stones of Jesus Christ have moved and moved.  We have been like rolling stones since his church began!  Right now, we may all feel like stationary rocks as we stay home and avoid crowds for our own safety.  We all yearn to be rejoined with our church family members right now.  But we also have tools at our disposal that the living stones of the early church never dreamed of – tools that enable one living stone to communicate the love and solid rock who is Jesus Christ to the whole world.  

Peter said, “Let yourselves be built.”

  • Christ does the work; believers are the stones that he uses to build his church.
  • We say, “We could do that!  We believe!”

Peter said, “Come to Him, a living stone.”

  • Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
  • We say, “We are tired of all the trouble of this world.  We believe!”

Peter said, “To you then who believe, He is precious.”

  • Jesus said, “You are my precious in my sight.”
  • We say, “We believe!  You are precious to us!”

The Lord continues to build his church upon solid living rocks.  Believe and let him use you to help.