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The Only Reliable Reference

July 27, 2014

6th Sunday after Holy Trinitypiedra angular

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,  now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”

 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

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

 and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  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”.

1 Peter 2:1-10

 

 

The traditional theme for this Sunday is ‘life after baptism’. Each of our lectionary texts wants to instil a word from the Bible in order to edify each of these important issues that concern our life of faith.

Today and every Sunday, the topic is precisely that: what kind of testimony are we giving as Christians, as children of God, as baptized individuals, that is, as active members of a church?

 

It is not enough to say that you have faith. Or to say, “I am a Christian” or “I’ve been baptized or confirmed.” Did you know that saying these things doesn’t save us?

What does save us is the faith we put in all these things. If you really believe that having gone through each of these experiences in your life, it ensures that you are a Christian and that you will inherit eternal life, I have to tell you honestly, you’re wrong.

What guarantees us eternal life and being part of God’s family is having a relationship with Jesus Christ based on our faith in Him and our desire to please Him through a life based on what the word of God calls us to do. We can sum it all up in two words that are often not well understood. These words are: faith and obedience to God.

 

We are used to setting goals in life, meeting targets and to achieving these goals. For example: graduate, get a job, get married, and raise a family. And the list goes on: get a good job, buy a house; get a promotion, get a good retirement life where one is able to enjoy a respectable, healthy and prosperous time in old age. Throughout life we set goals and we want to achieve them. It is something like the runner who is overcoming, jumping hurdles, one after the other because their objective is to reach the finish line or to even win the competition. Each of us strives for excellence in each of the goals that we choose.

And often, we put the church, or even worse, our life of faith, into one of these categories. It’s a shame to see when youth are confirmed and they do not return to the church until they need to get married, for example. It is a shame to see people come to church only for social events such as Christmas or Easter. It’s an even bigger shame that people come to church only out of practice or habit and not out of faith and wanting to come to obey God.

And this happens because we don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. When this happens, the church is transformed into a mere institution. But that is not what Jesus intended for his church.

To be baptized means that I belong to a church; I decided to be an active part of the church of Christ and to congregate regularly in a concrete place.

Being a Christian means that I accept Jesus Christ and confess that he is the Son of God, my Lord and my Savior. And when we say that he is our Lord, we want to say that we’re obeying him by fulfilling his word. We have no other option.

But too often people also forget the great rewards and benefits of being a “true” Christian.

One of those rewards is eternal life, which we also call salvation. That is why; Jesus is called ‘my savior’.

 

The message for this Sunday is aimed primarily at those who are already Christians that fully understand the meaning of baptism, or being a part of God’s family. But it is also addressed to each of those who don’t know this very well and that has a longing to follow Jesus Christ and truly be a part of his flock.

 

The apostle tells his community, and these words are also for us here and now, that we should get rid of things that are not from God entirely. We should rid ourselves of things that we find in abundance in the world, such as: “All malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” We don’t seem to have people living in our world that live according to these parameters. Rather, we approach the word of God, which gives us a different way of living. Hence, the root of the word “holy” (different) arises, which means to live a different life. As we confess our faith: “I believe in the communion of saints.” That is, we believe that God calls us to live a different life and we want to do this.

But we need to nourish ourselves with something other than what the world offers us. For this, we have an uncontaminated and nutritious food. In the same way that doctors say breast milk is one of the most complete foods for babies in their first 6 months, so also, the apostle tells us, it is to be fed with the word of God. It is one of the strongest foods in our lives as Christians.

 

Thus, the life of the baptized Christian should be characterized by reading and studying the word of God. It is impossible to say that you are a Christian if you don’t have the Bible as the main part of your spiritual food. Read, meditate and study the Bible regularly. It will help you grow spiritually. As in previous sermons, we said let’s not forget that the main part of our being is our spirit, which controls other parts of us and must be fed as well, but with spiritual food.

 

Secondly, we are told simply about Christ. Logically, we also get to him through the Bible, the word of God. We also come to him through our prayers and through our worship of God on Sundays when we go to our meeting place: the church.

Approaching Christ in this way the Apostle compares with the cornerstone, also known as the foundation stone. Formerly, it was the only and main reference for building levelled and squared. This stone should be perfect in human terms. That way one could pull strings and level and plumb the entire structure to be squared and levelled.

Jesus Christ is our cornerstone. If we take Christ as a reference for the construction of our life, then we will build successfully. All our goals in life that, by the way, also please God may materialize and succeed on God’s terms.

 

As I told you earlier, one of my hobbies is woodworking. After having started with a couple of projects and almost failed with them, I realized that the reason was not my lack of enforcement or ability, but one of the major faults had been I wasn’t measuring well enough. I hadn’t squared the lumber properly. As a result, what I had built broke! The wood could not withstand the stresses of other pieces that were not squared. I realized that 80% of success lay in measuring and squaring.

 

And so it is with our lives. Jesus Christ is the metric reference of our lives, so to speak. If we follow the laws of his reference, we will be able to successfully build anything we want in our lives and even beyond our life on earth.

 

Thus we are confirmed by the word today, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house … See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame…”

This is a wonderful promise. Especially for those who still don’t understand Christianity, those who feel it costs them to put Christ and his church first in their lives, or those who think that by coming to Christ they will lose their freedoms and not be able to enjoy life. That is not so, quite the opposite. Using the cornerstone of Christ as a reference for our lives will allow us to become “living stones” and we are able to build a spiritual life that doesn’t only overcome our own troubles but will also be able to serve as a reference, or witness, to many others that don’t know Christ or haven’t yet dared to throw themselves into his arms and surrender to him as true baptized Christians.

 

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

We believe this, and we will build our lives on this stone and we will have success in everything we do. And in the same way we will spread it out and tell it to others who still don’t know Christ, even if they might be baptized or confirmed or have even been attending church for their whole life.

 

And finally, if you are in the category of the baptized ones who understand this and your life is ruled with reference to Christ and His Word, then you have to know that you are chosen people. Not only you are a child of God, but it is also as if you are a noble member of God’s kingdom.

You are loved by God and he wants you to be able to live a life with that knowledge and certainty. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. You may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. If indeed this knowledge, this conviction, is present in our lives, it will be a blessing to all of us in our everyday mission. God invites us to take this step.

 

May God give us the courage to proclaim this to all those of our loved ones who still don’t know it.

And may God can give us the courage to trust our life in Christ and use His Word as a reference for our lives if we haven’t yet surrendered obediently to Him and his word. Amen

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