May 14, 2017

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Historical Lesson; Acts 17:1-12

Gospel Lesson; John 14:1-12

Sermon Text; 1 Peter 2:4-10

1 Peter 2:4-10

As you come to Him, the Living Stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious, you also, like living stones, are being built as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, in order to bring spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will certainly not be put to shame. Therefore, for you who believe, this is an honor. But for those who do not believe: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and, a stone over which they stumble and a rock over which they fall. Because they continue to disobey the Word, they stumble over it. And that is the consequence appointed for them. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the people who are God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. At one time you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. At one time you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy.

These are your Words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


We say, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Holy Christian Church...” So today, I want to talk about The Holy Christian Church.

If you looked in a dictionary, under the word 'church', you would actually find a number of different definitions.

       -For example, the word 'church' can mean, 'a building'. There is a beautiful 'church building' in Germany. It is made of all stone. If you walked by that, you would say, “That is a beautiful 'church'.” There, you are referring to 'a building'.

       -Sometimes, we use the word 'church', when we are referring to 'what happens in the building'. For example, 'Church' lasted an hour, and four minutes today.” Or, “We sang four of my favorite hymns during 'church', today.” There, we are talking about a service, a worship service. So, church can be a building. It can be a worship service.

       -'Church' can be 'the people' who meet in that building for the worship service, 'a congregation'. “I belong to Holy Cross Lutheran 'Church'.”

So, when we say, “I believe in the Holy Christian 'Church', which of those three definitions are we using? The answer is, “None”.

       -The Holy Christian Church is not a building.

       -The Holy Christian Church is not a particular worship service.

       -The Holy Christian Church is not a particular local congregation.

The Holy Christian Church is believers.

Anyone who believes in Jesus, as their Savior from sin, is a member of what we call, 'The Holy Christian Church'. In today's scripture reading, Scripture does something very interesting. It is going to talk about 'The Holy Christian Church, the body of believers'. And, it is going to do it by comparing us, first of all, to a church building. Then, it is going to do it by comparing us to what happens to us in the church building.

So, let's first of all consider how 'The Holy Christian Church' is like a church building.

This is pretty appropriate, because here at Holy Cross we are about to build a 'church building'. And, as we speak, tomorrow night we are going to have a meeting with The Worship Design Center Committee, and are going to be picking out the materials, some of the materials, we are actually going to be using to build that building. So, we are going to be talking about how much glass is going to be in it, how much siding, and how much stone. We are going to talk about what kind of carpet, and where the carpet goes, and where the hard floors go. We are going to talk about what species of wood, and what color of wood to use in it. So, we will be picking out all of the different parts of what goes into that building. Whenever I do a building project, and I go to my favorite lumberyard, (which happens to be Menards, because my son works there). I am pretty picky about selecting building materials. I drive in the back. And then, I pick up each two by four, looking down it, to make sure it is not curved, or crooked. If it is going to be exposed, I will make sure it is the right color. I will make sure there are not knots in it that are going to be a problem. I am pretty picky about what I am going to use in the building.

In Bible times, if there were a builder, or a contractor, who was going to go to the local Menards, they would be picking out things like wood. And, they would also be picking out one of the primary building materials, which in Bible times was stone.

They would spend a lot of time, if you were a contractor, figuring out a couple of things. Number one, you would figure what am I going to use for the Corner Stone. The Corner Stone was a big deal. Today we just use them decoratively. But, not in Bible times. The Corner Stone was the foundational stone of that building. Everything else depended upon that Corner Stone. It had be solid. It had to be the kind of Corner Stone with the right angles, and the right shape, because the entire building would stand, or fall, and be built on that entire Corner Stone. So, a contractor would be very careful about picking out which Corner Stone to use.

Then, the contractor would pick out all of the other stones. “What stones am I going to build on top of that particular foundation?”

So, in today's scripture reading, the Bible, in a way, talks about two different contractors who are walking through, as it were, 'the lumberyard of life', trying to pick the foundation, the Corner Stone, on which to build their lives.

       -The first contractor is somebody who walks through, as it were, 'the lumberyard of life', looking for Corner Stones, looking for a solid foundation, to build their life on, something that has the right angles, and the right shape. Amongst the Corner Stones, they see Jesus. Our scripture reading says,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone...”

Our scripture reading started by saying,

“As you come to Him, the

Living Stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God...”

So there are plenty of people who see Jesus, and in their hearts say, “I would not want Him to be the foundation, the Corner Stone, in my life.”

In Jesus' day, it was the religious leaders. They saw Jesus. They didn't want Him to be the Corner Stone in their lives. They were looking for someone different. They were looking for somebody who could give them economic, and political power. They didn't think Jesus could do that, so why would they want Him to be the foundation they would build on?

Our scripture reading talks about people who reject Jesus, as the foundation, because they think Jesus has come to condemn us. Some people look at Jesus and say, “Well, if I don't believe in Jesus, I am going to go to Hell. Jesus is someone who condemns me, and points out all of the wrong things I am doing. I don't want to build on Him.”

The Bible says it is because they are afraid of Jesus. The Light is going to expose their sin.

And so, there are plenty of people, who, as our scripture reading says, stumble over that cornerstone, and they are offended by Him. We live in a world that is offended at Jesus.

But, then there is another contractor who walks through, as it were, 'the lumberyard of life'. He chooses Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone. That contractor, who is walking through 'the lumberyard of life', is God.

“As you come to Him, the Living Stone,

rejected by men but chosen by

 by who?

by God

and precious...”

As God, the Father, looks out over our lives, and He says, “If there were one cornerstone I could pick for you, one foundation that you could be built on, that one precious Cornerstone is my own Son, Jesus.” Jesus is so precious to God, the Father. God, the Father has chosen Jesus, and laid Him, as the Cornerstone. Jesus is the only One. If you want a Cornerstone that is perfect, right, and true, Jesus is the only One who is absolutely sinless, holy, perfect, and right. Jesus is the only One who is absolutely true, and knows all of the truth. God the Father says, “I want Him to be the Foundation of your life.”

Not only that, but Jesus is the One who is unshakeable, the One undefeatable Foundation, and Cornerstone to build on. God, the Father sent His own Son, and Jesus did something nobody else, and nothing else can do. He bore the wrath of God's anger against your sin, and all of God's anger has been set aside. He is not angry anymore, because Jesus paid for every one of our sins. They are gone. That is the Foundation He wants us to built on.

Jesus is the only One.

The Bible says, He is “the Living Stone.” He came alive. He came alive, and defeated death. Jesus is the only Foundation you can be built on, that could enable you to defeat death for eternity. So, Jesus is this precious Cornerstone that God, the Father has laid for the Holy Christian Church. Anybody who is a member of the Holy Christian Church is built on that one Foundation – Jesus, as Savior. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

Then, the contractor goes through, and picks the other stones that are going to go on the building. Again, I said when I go to Menards, I am pretty picky about what I chose to build stuff in my own home. What if God were walking through 'the lumberyard of life', saw you sitting on a shelf, and He wondered, “Would that be a good stone to put on my church I am building?” If God looked at me, examined me, and took me in His hands, it would be terrifying what He would see. He would see all of my faults. He would see all of my sins. He would see all of my inadequacies. He would see all of the ways I have gone against Him. He could look at me, and ask, “Why would I ever, ever, want somebody like that to be part of this building I am building?”

Here is the amazing thing. God in His mercy, in His great mercy has chosen me. I am totally unqualified. And yet, He has chosen you to be built on that solid foundation of Jesus.

We are having a 'Card Shower', here at Holy Cross, and I was actually reading about a different 'Card Shower' where some young people had been writing cards to a teacher they had, long ago. There was this one guy who wrote a letter to his teacher. He was explaining to her something she had made him do, a number of years ago. At the time, he was in Middle School. In the letter he said,

“I remember very clearly, her name was Mrs. Owens. I was kind of an all American, middle school guy. Everybody looked up to me, because I was really cool.

“We would have a dance class. Mrs Owens, I remember very clearly, you would have us, all of the boys, stand up in front of class. And, the girls would sit in their chairs. One by one, you would ask a boy to pick a dance partner.

“There was this one girl who never got picked. Her name was Mary. Mary was not very smart. She was not good looking. She was kind of over-weight. She had been born with a birth defect, so one of her arms was crippled. And, she limped. Mary never got picked, until the very end, to be a dance partner.

“Mrs. Owens, I remember one day you came up to me, and you told me, 'Today, when I ask you to pick partners for dancing, I want you to pick Mary.'”

He said,

“Mrs. Owens, I thought that was the end of the world! What are people going to think about me? What are they going to say? All of my friends are going to laugh at me.

“When it came time for dance class, and you were about to have the boys pick, I was hoping you would call on me kind of toward the end, but you called on me first. Reluctantly, I said, 'I choose Mary.'

I want you to hear what happened. This is part of the actual letter he wrote.

“Never has reluctant virtue been so rewarded. I still see her face undimmed in my memory. She lifted her head, and on her face, red with pleasure, and surprise, and embarrassment all at the same time, was the most genuine look of delight, and even pride I had ever seen before, or after. It was so pure that I had to look away, because I knew I didn't deserve it.”
You know, God has chosen you. And, compared to how I described Mary, there is no reason God would ever choose you, and me, to be members of His Church, except by sheer mercy. The Bible says we are “a chosen people”, chosen by God! Then, it says we are “a holy nation”.

In the Bible there was “a nation”, and everyone else was “the nations”, plural. The “one nation”, singular, was “the people of Israel”. They came from the blood line of Abraham. The same DNA. That was “a nation”. They were considered the chosen people of God. Everybody else was lumped together as plural, “the nations”. That was all of the Gentiles, all of the unbelievers. But, here it says we are now “living stones”. We are chosen people. We are “a holy nation”.

The Christian Church transcends. Does it transcend blood lines? The Christian Church is made up of Hebrews. It is made up of Norwegians, Germans, Africans, and Hispanics. But, you know what? We all have the same blood line. The blood line is

we are all purchased by the blood of Jesus.

We are all purchased by the blood of Jesus.

We are His family. We are His holy nation, one nation, built on Christ the solid foundation.

Having described, as it were, 'the building' we are part of, the Holy Christian Church, our text goes on, and explains what happens inside that church. The Holy Christian Church is what happens inside the church. It says you are “a royal priesthood”.

It used to be, back before Jesus came, the priests had a special job inside the church. Their job was to take animals, and sacrifice the animals. Usually, it was a lamb, or a goat, or a bull. They would slit its throat. That animal would die.

But, when Jesus came,

       -He was the ultimate sacrifice.

       -He was the ultimate High Priest.

And, He gave His life.

Since then, in The Holy Christian Church, we don't offer animal sacrifices, anymore. And yet, our scripture reading says you are “a royal priesthood”. What does that mean? Back in Old Testament times, when a sacrifice was offered, you would take that lamb, and that lamb was killed. That lamb was totally, totally dedicated to, (not 5%, not 10%, not 20%, not 98%) it was 100% dedicated to God. It wasn't going to be used for anything else. That was it. It was sacrificed to God, and there was not going to be any other use for it.

You are “a royal priesthood”. We offer living sacrifices. The living sacrifice we offer is our self to God. That means, as part of The Holy Christian Church, and we are there by mercy, and grace. It is our privilege to say, “Jesus I want to be dedicated, not 5%, not 15%, not 20%, not 98%, but 100% to nothing but service to you.” That is what it means to be part of The Holy Christian Church. Sacrifice ourselves, as it were, give ourselves totally to the foundation we are built on.

So, how does that happen? Do you have to join a monastery somewhere, and devote yourself totally to nothing but being in a monastery? It does not mean that.

It means, wherever God has placed you, wherever He has placed you, you say,

“I want to be used 100% to God's purpose”.

Since it is Mother's Day, it is a great example. That means if God has placed you as a mom, part of living sacrifice is to say, “I want to, as a mom, dedicate myself totally to living for Jesus. As Jesus said, 'Whatever you do in the least of one of these, brothers, you do it for me.' So, I am going to see that child God has placed in my life, as if he or she were Jesus, Himself. I am going to care for that child, love that child, and feed that child, as if he or she was Jesus, Himself.”

We are totally, totally giving our self in service, wherever we are called.

Then, it says this, and this is the last thing I want to consider. What else happens in a church building? It says we have been made part of this living building of living stones in order we may

“proclaim the praises of Him

who called you out of darkness

into His marvelous light.”

What happens in this picture of a church building on our bulletin cover? I don't know. I wonder if that building is even used for a church, anymore. I see there is a sign on the front, and it almost looks like a Do not enter sign. I don't know if anything happens in that building anymore. Can you imagine being a stone in that building, but for no purpose? God has placed you as a living stone in His building. This building has a purpose, and that is that God's praises may be declared in that building. You have a purpose. You have a purpose in life, as part of the Holy Christian Church. That is to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. I am going to challenge all of us to ask, “Am I serving that purpose? That is why I am here. Are there people I can pray for? Are there people I can reach out to? Are there people I can tell about Jesus? Are there people I can invite to church, and hear about Jesus?”

Thank God we are, by His mercy, built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ our Lord. There are still 'stones' out there who have not been placed on the Church Building, yet. Our goal is to reach out to them, as the Holy Spirit uses us, to place them in the Holy Christian Church.