Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
This week I take as my text a verse from St Peter’s first letter to one of the young churches: ‘like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ 1 Peter 2:5 NRSV
A stone must be the most inanimate object around! And yet we are called to be ‘living stones’. What is that all about? We don’t think of building houses with blocks of stone nowadays, although it was common in earlier times. The Temple at Jerusalem would have been constructed that way and you just need to look at the ruins of the old abbeys and churches around Europe today to see examples of the stonemason’s craft. I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures of them fashioning huge blocks of stone into a piece to fit exactly into the building. But the word stone covers a whole variety of pieces of rock so let’s explore further. It is a bright sunny morning so come take a walk with me in our local country park.
As we leave the car park we enter through a gate where we see much of the country park laid out before us. The ground slopes down to the lake before rising to woodlands and open fields on the other side. On our left is a path through the trees leading to St Peter’s Church at the top of the hill. However, we won’t take that path at present but will continue down to the lake for a stroll around it. There are a variety of waterfowl swimming and feeding on the lake, whilst at one point there is a small beach like area to assist small water-birds gain access to the shore, if they wish. The area is covered with shingle, small pebble like stones. Now, in my youth I always liked to skim stones across the surface of the water to see how many times I could make the stone bounce before sinking under the water. I was never very successful but it was interesting to see how far the ripples spread. Think for a moment just what effect throwing a large block of stone into the lake would have. It would cause a tidal wave whose ripples would reach the furthest shore, and maybe beyond!
In the same way, whilst your kind word or caring action will make someone feel better it will also have an effect on their mental wellbeing and their outlook. For example, you may be the only person they have spoken to today and it could affect how they speak to the next person who rings them, or even whether they bother to cook a meal for themselves today. Or maybe your act of compassion will enable a carer to get some rest before starting all over the following morning. Any number of small words and acts of compassion that will make a huge difference. Those ripples will spread out far beyond their original recipient. Now remember that those pebbles came from the same earth compacted over millennia as the blocks of stone used to build the abbeys, cathedrals and temples in past times. We, likewise are part of the Body of Christ, the spiritual house of which St Peter speaks, and God created us to be a holy priesthood, stewards of His Creation and created in His image:
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind[c] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ Genesis 1:26 NRSV
Being part of that priesthood, our task is to work towards the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth as Jesus promised it would and as we pray each day: ‘Thy Kingdom come…. On earth as it is in Heaven’
Whilst each individual action of kindness, each act of compassion is vital, and if we feel that is all we can offer, well and good. Nevertheless working together in unity we can, like the large block of stone dropped in the lake, make a much greater impact on the world; a tsunami effect really. Our joint action in standing together against social injustice, against the rape of the planet, the greed, the racial hatred that is so much in evidence today, will make a difference. Of course, lifting a large block of stone is not easy and we will need help to do so. But we have the help and support of the Holy Spirit working with us and within us, as Jesus promised.
So will you join me in making a difference to this world? It sorely needs it!
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years