Yr A ~ Easter 4 ~ 1 Peter 2:1-10
Even though it’s true that these days I can’t always get what I want, and sometimes no satisfaction, and really just wanna pray that God might gimmie shelter, this sermon is not about what you think it is.
(And if you didn’t get that opening sentence, don’t worry, I was just using that to start me up.)
If you’re still not with me, those are a bunch of song references for a group called the Rolling Stones.
1 Peter 2:4 says that Jesus is a living stone. On the surface that’s an oxymoron, but I don’t think the metaphor is actually all that difficult to understand. Picture the giant stones of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. They were fixed, thought to be permanent.
But they crumbled!
Jesus taught his disciples that the temple is not the seat of God’s presence in the world – your heart is. It’s about a paradigm shift from a physical reliance on an external spiritual home to being personally built into an internal spiritual home.
Jesus didn’t start a church; he started a movement.
Movements move, they’re alive, they ‘roll’.
For those of us who have significant experience in bricks and mortar churches the idea of church being built on fixed stones is pretty (ahem) solid.
But look where we are right now.
This pandemic, and the resultant physical distancing, and the fact that you’re at home right now and not here with me in this physical, bricks and mortar, fixed stone church, is driving home Jesus’ teaching in jarringly vivid ways.
Whether we like it or not we’re rolling!
We’re learning something right now that we’ve never really had to contend with before.
We’re learning how to be the church without the church.
We’re realizing that even though we’re not here together, we’re still here together!
I keep saying this every Sunday – we are still the church, but different. (Thank God?)
Our paradigm for generation upon generation has been about bricks and mortar – about building a physical space for worship, prayer, mutuality, and outreach. Our fixed stones matter. This is a good place. Church buildings aren’t bad – they’re vital. God’s people need a place to gather, and to serve as a launching pad for loving one another and loving the world.
The challenge is that over time our buildings have, not always but far too often, become the point. Too often all our resources – human and financial – get used up just keeping the stones from rolling. (Yes, I mean that on multiple levels.)
I’m not going to sugar coat it – this pandemic is going to result in a great number of church buildings closing. All those places just hanging on will likely be pushed over the edge. It’s sad, and it’s hard.
We keep saying that the church isn’t about the building, it’s about the people. Well, we’re going to find out if we really mean it.
And I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, or that it doesn’t sound too harsh or flippant, but all in all, I’m ok with this.
If this pandemic breaks the stranglehold that fixed stones have on our communities of faith and compels us to reimagine ourselves as living stones, as rolling stones, then, well, I’d call that a blessing.
Church is a people, not a place.
Church is the refuelling station along The Way, not the destination.
Church is who you are, not where you go.
Through this challenging season we’ve discovered that we can do and be church in all kinds of new and creative ‘non-bricks-and-mortar’ ways.
Here we are live-streaming right now and you’re attending church at home, on your couch, in your jammies.
Tomorrow morning we’ll use a platform called Zoom to do our online bible discussion (we call it The Porch).
Wednesday evening I’ll offer praise music and prayer on YouTube.
Thursday morning we’ll have coffee together online.
Our choir can’t sing together, but they still gather for connection on Thursday evenings.
Last Wednesday our Church Work in Durham group started to share ideas for how we can participate in offering compassionate care and love in our community in this season. Our social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, plus our website – have all kinds of posts and links to materials and ideas and inspirations.
These are all ways to access religious, spiritual, faith-formative resources. It used to be you had to physically step inside a church to do all that stuff – now you have access to it on your phone 24/7 wherever you are – because, wherever you are the church is.
Our ancestors imagined that God needed a home on earth, so they built a temple for God.
But obviously, God cannot be contained in a structure. read on