Throughout the bible we see repetition of metaphors and similes that transcend time, from shepherds and flocks, use of bread, salt, candles, light, wheat, harvests and treasure. One of them pops up in this weekend’s readings – use of stones and rocks. It links nicely to our weekly theme too as our focus is on inspirational role models, giving us an opportunity to reflect on who the rocks are in our lives, who do we see as strong, as integral to things going well?
In the Old Testament there is reference to stones in the book of Joshua, when the Lord delivers the people of Israel through Jordan they take 12 stones to represent the 12 tribes passing safely through as a memorial to God working wonders for them. “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you.” (Joshua 4:2-8). There are many references to rocks being used to give life through sustenance, Psalm 104 give God the credit for bringing “bread from the earth” and Numbers 19 show God bringing water from barren rock.
In the New Testament we see persistent references to the Church being built on stone, to people being the cornerstone of the kingdom of God, “Jesus said, ‘have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'” (Mark 12:10). Jesus uses the analogy of stones as one for which true followers of Christ can recognise themselves in. Why would builders reject a stone – maybe because it isn’t perfect, it doesn’t look shiny and impressive on the outside, but if that stone is a person then there is value in understanding that our imperfections make us stronger. The bits that have been chiselled away at, have taught us lessons, they have made us into wiser role models. Spending time getting to know the heart of a person, the values that make up their personality and motives. These things cannot be displayed through a perfect appearance.
Jesus also makes rock and stone what epitomise Peter. As we know, Simon Peter was called ‘Cephas’ by Jesus, the Aramaic for rock. The renaming of Simon occurred right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, could it be that Peter had already been identified as the rock which the Christian Church would be built upon, knowing full well his faults, knowing that Peter would reject him but learn from it? Later in the Gospels we hear Jesus say explicitly to Peter “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). In St Peter’s first letter, we hear Peter using the metaphor or stones to maximum effect. It is that reading which pops up in this weekends scripture. Read it below, and take some time to reflect on the questions that follow.
Second reading: 1 Peter 2:4-9
Christ is the living stone, chosen by God and precious to him
The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down. They stumble over it because they do not believe in the word; it was the fate in store for them.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
– Who are the cornerstones of your life? Are there rocks in your life who you’ve never even met?
– Is Jesus the ‘living stone’, the heartbeat of who you are?
– What are rocks that you stumble over, that trip you up?
-If there was one person who you could trust with every part of your life: secrets, safety and depend upon who would it be?
Mr M Robinson