Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/22/11 Sermon

1 Peter 2:2-12
 
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen
 
The last few weeks I’ve been watching the NBA playoffs on TV. And as I’ve watched them I’ve been struck by how the home team crowds have all been wearing the same color t-shirts at the game.  The stands have been filled with a sea of white or a sea of blue depending on the home team’s colors.  And it made me think of how great an advantage the home team can have because of its home crowd. (Miracle on Ice) The crowd almost willed them to victory.  It’s a scientific fact that a home team has a better chance to win a game than a visiting team.
 
There are a few factors that contribute to this but none as important as what a rowdy home crowd can do.
 
Case in point has to do with a fact I ran across as I was preparing today’s message. I was reading an illustration shared by Pastor Tony Grant about something called the Bislett Effect.  And he was referring to an article in a track and field magazine that was talking about a stadium in Oslo Norway, called the Bislett Stadium. And what’s so special about this stadium is that there have been more than 60 world records set in this one stadium.  And the reason for the great number of world records set has to do with the crowds.  The noise that occurs in this building is deafening. The layout of the stadium puts the crowd right on top of you and gives the participants an unbelievable shot of adrenaline. Runners as well as speed skaters all talk about the personal records they set because they are inspired by the community of fans cheering them on.
 
Now you might be wondering what this talk about the effect of a home crowd has to do with today’s scripture.
 
Well as we see in the scripture, Peter is talking about living stones. He is making a contrast between a physical building, the beautiful Jewish Temple that was nothing more than a bunch of lifeless rocks and the living stones, disciples who are connected to the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
 
On the one hand you have an institutional building, and an institutional religion of legalistic rules and the other hand you have living stones; faithful people who are mortared to Jesus and Jesus’ ways.  More than just a building, living stones are inspired and enthusiastic followers of Christ. They aren’t just following a routine or falling into some lifeless rituals.  Instead they are alive because they have an active purpose. And that purpose is to lead others to Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  Peter makes this point in verse 5 and verse 9 when he calls these living stones a royal priesthood.
 
Now a priest is a person who has the mission of leading others to Christ.  That’s what priests do. Priests are people who guide other people to God.
 
Last week we talked about the Great Commission and this is what Peter is referring to as well. He’s talking about how the living stones are to declare the praises of Christ who has led us out of darkness and into his wonderful light; which is the kingdom of God.  Thru Christ we are a part of the royal priesthood, the royal family of God. We are connected together mortared to Jesus the cornerstone of the kingdom.  And our purpose is to guide more people into a relationship with Christ that they may be mortared too.  And so we see, this purpose is not the same thing as trying to build up and grow up a lifeless institution. Churches are to be focused on guiding people to God which leads to the growing of God’s kingdom not growing a church.
 
So how do we go about leading people to God and growing His Kingdom? 
 
Well first of all it takes unity:
Christianity is not an individual “sport”. We all make up the body of Christ. Peter is using this metaphor of us being connected together to emphasize how we need to work together.  We need to be like the home crowd in a sporting event. All of us unified together in our priestly purpose of leading others to Christ.  And it takes us all. Too often in the institutional model you have a few people doing all the work.  There is an old saying in church that the average congregation is like a basketball game where there are 10 players badly in need of rest and 1000 spectators badly in need of exercise.
 
Living stones are all involved; they are a unified team working together with the same purpose.
 
Now another way we go about leading people to God is thru our acts of selflessness.
Living stones again are about reaching others. Too often in the institutional church we are concerned about what we get out of church.  Church is a place where we come to get fed like a consumer so that we can make it thru the week to come get fed again.  But Peter is reminding us today that like the Great Commission our call is to go and lead others to God so as to build up the kingdom of God. That requires us to be outward focused; to be purposeful in seeking to serve others instead of ourselves.   And that’s what people long for in our world today…We live in such an individualistic “me” culture. But deep down people really want what Christ offers. They want his sincerity and authenticity. They want his selfless, unconditional love.  And as living stones connected to Christ we can lead others to Christ when we manifest his selflessness to others.
 
In a Charlie Brown comic strip Lucy asks, "Why do you think we're put on earth, Charlie Brown?"  Charlie replies, "To make others happy." Lucy says, "I don't think I'm making anyone very happy .... Of course, nobody's making me very happy either."  Then in the final panel, we see Lucy screaming at the top of her lungs ... "SOMEBODY'S NOT DOING HIS JOB!"
 
So many in our world are looking for someone who really cares; who will take the time to listen.  As living stones, our priestly calling is to selflessly give ourselves to others. And as we do we are in a place to lead others to Christ.
 
Now along with unity and selflessness, the other way we lead people to God and build God’s kingdom is when we share God’s grace with others.  Peter says in verse 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  Living stones are those who share God’s mercy with others. Because of God’s grace toward us we also become people of mercy and grace toward others.  And we show it in our actions.  Peter says in verse 12 that we are to live such good lives AMONG the pagans that they may see our good deeds and therefore glorify God when he returns.
 
I’m reminded of the story about a group of kids who were playing baseball in a park in Brooklyn, New York. And as they were playing a man with his developmentally disabled son came upon the boys and he asked if his son could play with them.  At first there was no response but then finally one of the boys stepped up and said, “Sure he can play with us”.  Well they put him in right field and had him batting last in the lineup. But as luck would have it, the game came down to the last inning with 2 outs when the boy with the disabilities came to the plate. His team was tied.  But suddenly something amazing happened. The pitcher of the opposing team walked up closer to the plate and instead of throwing fast balls past him he lobbed the ball up for the boy to hit it.  At first the other kids weren’t sure what was happening but then they all understood. Well even with the pitcher lobbing the ball, the disabled boy had swung and missed twice.  There was only one more strike to go.  The pitcher lobbed the ball right across the plate and the boy who struggled just to hold and swing the bat somehow made contact. And it was a weak ground ball right back to the pitcher.  The boy hobbled down first base line running as fast as he could.  The pitcher had all day to throw him out and win the game.  But instead of throwing the ball to the first baseman he chose to throw it 10 feet above the first baseman’s head.  The boy made it to first and headed to second.  The right fielder ran to the ball and easily arrived at it with plenty of time to throw the boy out at second. But he too understood what was going on and so he threw it wildly over the 2nd baseman’s head.  The boy continued running on his way to third. Now everyone was cheering loudly, even the boys on the other team were cheering for the boy as he ran. As he rounded third and headed home the left fielder got to the ball and he also made a wild throw to home plate.  The disabled boy stumbled on top of home plate where he was greeted by all of the boys on both teams.  They lifted him up on their shoulders and they cheered his name. He had won the game!
 
Living stones are people filled with grace and mercy. They look to bless others.
 
Can you imagine what will happen as we grow in unity and selflessness looking to share God’s grace and mercy to the community in which we live?
 
Can you see us baking cookies for the police station and the ambulance crew? Can you see us making shawls for cancer patients?
 
Can you see us painting dugouts at the elementary school and cleaning up cemeteries?
 
Can you see us hauling wood to those in need?
 
Can you see us offering to volunteer for community events?
 
How might non-Christians see us as we fully embrace being a living stone church?
 
What might happen as we embrace being cheerleaders to people offering grace and mercy and hope to everyone?
 
Is it possible that they might set records themselves in their own life because we’re cheering and blessing them on?
 
Is it possible that those who are broken down in life might find hope and joy?
 
Is it possible that they might be led to a relationship with Christ?
 
And what might happen to us as a people as we’re unified to selflessly act in this way of grace?  Might we become even more enthusiastic living stones filled with passion and energy because we are fulfilling our priestly call?
 
Today we are being reminded that a church is much more than vinyl siding and stain glass windows and a steeple.  Church is a people; Living people, unified in their calling as priests.   
 
Peter’s message to us today is a message of renewal to the church. It’s a call to a revival of recapturing our mission and purpose.
 
I want to close this morning with a poem that speaks to the renewal and revival of the church-----It’s attributed to Richard Cardinal Cushing:
     If all the sleeping folks
          will wake up,
     And all the lukewarm folks
          will fire up,
     And all the dishonest folks
          will confess up,
     And all the disgruntled folks
          will sweeten up,
     And all the discouraged folks
          will cheer up,
     And all the depressed folks
          will look up,
     And all the estranged folks
          will make up,
     And all the gossipers
          will shut up,
     And all the dry bones
          will shake up,
     And all the true soldiers
          will stand up,
     And all the church members
          will pray up _
     And the Savior for all
          is lifted up _
     THEN
          You can have
               the world's greatest renewal.
 
Attributed to Richard Cardinal Cushing
 
The community and the world in which we live are waiting for God’s true church to have this renewal. People are living in darkness, looking to become more than what they are right now.
 
We as God’s people are God’s home crowd. And God is calling us to go into the world to cheer his people on that they might come to know him.
 
Today let us embrace our purpose to lead others to Christ. May we be the living stones that make up the Kingdom of God.
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen