by Rev. Randy Brown
Today, we’re going to be talking about another stone, and it’s what the Scripture calls a living stone. Notice the description, a living stone. Now, dead stones get in the way. If you were upstairs last week during Sunday school time, there was a rock there. It was a big old stone and I call that a dead stone, because it got in the way and a couple people may have even tripped over it and some of you stood guard so nobody else would trip over it. That was a dead stone. It would just get in the way and cause people to stumble and fall, but we’re not talking about dead stones, we’re talking about a living stone.
You know, the Scripture calls Jesus, the living stone, and then he calls us the living stone. That wasn’t the first time in Scripture where Jesus compares himself to something, and then turns right around and compares you and I to something. Because in the Gospels it talks about where Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Then the next Gospel, he turns right around and he points to his disciples – and even to you and me – and says, “You are the light of the world.” So, Jesus’ claim is made, in that what he is and then that’s what we’re to become. And it’s what we’re to be.
Today, we are to be living stones, built into a spiritual house, a chosen people: God’s special possession for his purpose. I’m intrigued by the word living stones. That means that we are in a process of becoming all that we can become. We haven’t arrived yet, but we’re in the process of becoming. If something is living, then it’s growing. It’s changing. It’s becoming. It’s living. If something’s dead, it’s stagnant and stale, but we’re to be living stones. We’re to be continually being in process to be made more like Jesus and less like ourselves. We are to become like him.
A dead stone gets in the way, causes people to stumble. Living stones is what we’re to be. If you look on the front of your bulletin, and if you don’t have one, look at your neighbor’s. There you see stones and you see pictures of people. Those are living stones. I wonder, would our picture be there and would it be appropriate for us to be on that wall of living stones? I’m looking at a whole lot of living stones this morning. That’s what God calls us to be.
What does it look like? Well, a living stone looks like back in October, when there was an event held here in the county and there were 22 churches that became one church. It was the one-day event. We became living stones for the building up of the Kingdom of God. That’s what it looks like, because around the fairgrounds that day, we were the hands and feet and walls and fortress of God. That’s what it looks like when we’re living stones.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the old Spartan king who was bragging to one of the visiting monarchs who came to visit. He was bragging about the walls of the city, and the visiting king looked and looked and looked and he didn’t see any walls to the city. And finally he questioned the Spartan king, and said, “You talk about this wall, but where is it?” And, he looked at the troops out there and the troops were the walls of the city: every man a brick, every person a vital part of that wall that would protect the fortress.
Every one of us is a brick. Together, we can accomplish great things. By our self, we may useless, we may not be of much value, but together we form a mighty, mighty wall. We have to do it together. Every soldier has an army, every athlete has a team: every brick has a purpose. There are no solo Christians; we don’t do it by ourselves. We do it with one another, and we are part of that, that God wants to build. We’re a part of that mighty fortress. Sometimes, we don’t realize what we are a part of. Sometimes, we just think, well it’s just: we go to the church, and it’s that building on the corner of Church and 4th Street, and we meet there for an hour on Sunday morning, that’s all there is to it. Don’t short-change it like that.
Read a story this week: you know when you go – when you get on an airplane to fly somewhere there’s always those moments that when you sit down by somebody, or somebody sits down by you that you don’t know, and there’s always a little bit of uncomfortable meet and greet kind of thing. You’re not real sure what’s going to happen.
Well, it’s especially true of preachers, because you can turn a conversation off real quick. A friend of mine was on a plane a while back, and he was prepared for that moment. And the lady came by and sat by him and he asked her, “What do you do?” Well, she told him. “What do you do?” she asked. This is what he said, he said, “I work for a global enterprise.” “Really?” “Yes.” “Well, tell me about the global enterprise.” “Well, we have outlets in almost every country of the world. We have hospitals and hospices. We care for the homeless.” “Really? You all do that?” “Yes, we do that. We even do marriage work, we do feeding programs; we have orphanages and educational programs.” “Wow, she said. That is something.” He said, “Yeah, but that’s not all.” He said, “We deal a lot with peace and justice issues, we look after people from birth to death and our primary focus is behavior alteration.” She said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He said, “No.” She said, “What’s it called?” He said, “The church.” You see we’re a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are stone, living stones, and together we can accomplish great things and meet the needs of the world.
Every day, I walk out of my office and I look at those pictures on the wall of the pastors who have been at this church before me. And every day, I realize how indebted I am to them. Because they have laid the stones, and the next one that came along would build on one that was before him, and so on and so forth. It’s my turn to do that now. It’s our turn. In the history of this church, over 200 years, there have been many living stones that made the difference for this congregation.
Friends, it’s our turn now. It’s our turn to take it to the next level. In order to do that, we’ve got to realize that it’s a process and here is what the Scripture says, “Rid yourself of all malice and all deceit, all hypocrisy, and envy and slander and grow into your salvation.” It’s a process.
I’ve got a friend by the last name of “Kohl” and he loves to say, “I’m just a lump of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond someday.” That’s what we’re all about. We’re just lumps of coal, but God will smooth us and take off the edges, and one day, we’ll be a diamond.
I told you this before, but if you seriously look at following Christ and if you become a living stone for him, I’ll make you one promise, you will never be bored. He won’t allow it, because he’ll always be stretching you, always be calling you to the next thing that you can do. You may be surprised, but you’ll never be bored, because every day you will meet somebody who also was made in his image, made into his likeness. They may be totally different from you, but you can learn from them and they can learn from you and together God will build this spiritual house that he wants to build in you.
What does it look like? It looks like what happens in October in Coffee County at the one-day event. It looked like yesterday when our youth went to the rescue mission in Nashville. It looked like yesterday downstairs in the fellowship hall when volunteers from this church were working with the Awana ministry. That’s what living stones look like. And you and I have the opportunity to be living stones.
Let me tell you another thing that it looks like. There’s a man in California by the name of Bill White. Bill White went to a small town, I think it was Compton, California. And that particular day, the residents of Compton were doing a beautification project, sort of like what we did at the one day, but they were working in people’s yards and homes to spruce them up in the springtime. As Bill was walking down the road about lunchtime, he saw a particular house down on the other end of the street. And the people were through working and they were just fleeing that place. There were about 50 of them left, and they all had on their yellow volunteer shirts. Bill had on his yellow volunteer shirt and he was walking towards them. About half way between where he started his walk and where they were, a husband and wife and they were working in their yard. And they noticed all these people around and they had on their yellow shirts that said volunteer. When he passed the house where this husband and wife were working, they had just a very short conversation. The husband had the weed-eater, and he was out weed eating. He saw Bill talking to his wife, and he walked over to him. And Bill said, “I’ll never forget what he said.” He looked at the people with yellow shirts and he said, “I like their hearts. I like your heart. Mister, where can I get a heart like that?” Bill said, “Only with Jesus.” Living stones. That’s what he calls us to be. Living stones: People who draw Jesus near.
Well, what do you do with stones? You build something. And, the word of God says that he wants to build us into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood; offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God for Christ Jesus. God wants to use you and me to build something, so that we can be living stones. Not so we can get our face on the front of a bulletin, but so we can make a difference to a world that so desperately needs a difference. We sang it a few moments ago Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary. I think you meant it. You sang it like you did. I hope you meant it, because if we’re sincere about it, that’s a prayer; that God will answer and he will use you to build something spiritual.
Father, we thank you that you take ordinary people like us, stones and rocks of all shapes and sizes and textures. And you want to just take us, and work on us, and build us into something beautiful. Lord, as we come to your table this day, we surrender ourselves to you, and we ask that you would just accomplish your purpose in us for the glory of Jesus. Amen.