Sermon: Who Are We In Christ?

Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Listen to the Sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who are you? Imagine trying to assemble a puzzle without a picture of the completed image. You have all the pieces but don’t know how they fit together or what the final product should look like. You might get a distorted image if you force the pieces together. You can become frustrated without a clear vision and understanding of the bigger picture. You may give up before completing the puzzle. Similarly, if you don’t know who you are, you may feel like you’re missing essential pieces of the puzzle of life. Without a clear sense of our meaning, purpose, and place in it all, we might have a distorted view of ourselves or let the unbelieving world define us. So, who are you?

Peter talks about who we are in today’s epistle reading. We are living stones built into a spiritual temple, and we are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices. These are not mere words but a reflection of your true identity and place in the world.

We Are Living Stones

You are living stones. You probably never considered yourself a stone, let alone a living stone. Stubborn as a rock, maybe. Peter does not say: “Be living stones, be a spiritual house!” He declares that this is what you all are: You are living stones. Not dead rocks, but living stones. Alive because you have come to the Living Stone, the rejected Rock named Jesus. Jesus compared himself to the stone that the builders rejected, but that was being made into the chief cornerstone. He is the one living stone in whom and through whom we become living stones. Jesus is living, and he gives us life. Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we have been joined to Jesus, connected to Christ, and therefore also connected to one another.

When these living stones are put together, they create something extraordinary – a spiritual house, the Church of the Living God. “Spiritual” should sound quite different from the material. That’s precisely the point! This helps us understand that the temple we’re discussing here is not material. You see, Israel had a physical temple made of tangible materials. The Temple was the beating heart of Israel and Judaism. Why was the Temple so important? The temple was where heaven met earth. It was the place where God chose to dwell among his people. They belonged to him, and he to them. The Temple was important because that is where you found God. God is no longer living in a Temple in Jerusalem but in the ‘spiritual house’ made up of ‘living stones.’ Jesus is the chief cornerstone and connected to him, we are stones fitted and joined together, “built up as a spiritual house.” He brings us together in the Church.

Notice this. You are a stone in a temple and a priest in a priesthood. There are no loose boulders, no isolated priests. Stones have a building; priests have a priesthood. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian believing on his or her own. There are no lone-wolf Christians. Christians congregate. It goes with being baptized. The same Spirit who calls you also calls me and gathers us into congregations that manifest the whole gathered Church. Christians are meant to be united together in a community. The Church is always a group. We are the body of Christ, and it is only together as a whole that we can properly be what God has intended. God has shaped each of us to participate in his spiritual house. God has given us gifts and talents that contribute to the whole. We need one another. We need to be connected, joined, united to Christ through Word and Sacrament, built up in the faith, to remain strong and not crumble. We are God’s temple, his living stones.

When we gather, especially to worship, we are doing the natural thing for Christians to do. We are following the urging of the Spirit that calls us together. The gathered Church is where God dwells among his people today. The Church is the place where the active presence of God is celebrated. Our Lord promises to meet us in congregational worship. Where two or three are gathered in his Name, there He is. His true body and true blood are under the bread and wine for us to eat and drink. He arranges to have the Word spoken into our ears. Taste and see that the Lord is good! And nothing tastes better than forgiveness, life, and salvation in the Name of Jesus. This means that when we don’t gather for worship each week, we cannot truly be what God has intended us to be: his holy people, gathering around his Word and Sacrament, manifesting his presence in this world.

We Are A Holy Priesthood

Then Peter shifts the image slightly, moving from the temple building to the priests carrying out their duties at the temple. “Priests” makes us nervous, doesn’t it? That sounds too Catholic. But Peter says you are a holy priesthood. You are all priests in Christ’s priesthood. But don’t priests wear robes? You do. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ Jesus have been clothed with Christ.” You wear Christ like a robe. I wear a robe to remind you of the baptismal robe you wear. 

So, if we are all priests, what does that mean? This does not mean that “everyone is a minister.” There is a priesthood, and there is the office of the ministry. All are priests, but not all are ministers. They are not the same. The ministry is an office given to some qualified men in the Church. It’s the responsibility to preach the Gospel, forgive and retain sins, and administer the Sacraments. But don’t priests do religious things? What do we priests do, then? Think about the priests of the Old Testament. What did they do? They offered animal sacrifices. Peter says that you “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pe 2:5). We don’t earn forgiveness by these sacrifices. God accepts our sacrifices because we are already accepted by Jesus’ sacrifice for us. What are our spiritual sacrifices, then?

It begins in worship. Priests gather for worship to call upon God, pray, praise, and give thanks (He 13:15). These are sacrifices whereby we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pe 2:9). When we sing our hymns, when we pray for the people of this world, when we confess the faith to one another and bear witness to the world, we are offering up spiritual sacrifices as the holy priesthood. That’s what’s happening in the liturgy when you say your “amen.” You’re doing your priestly work, offering spiritual sacrifices, not to atone for your sins but because your sins are atoned for by Jesus’ sacrifice.

But it also extends through all your life. Priestly work doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning or whenever you come here. Priestly work happens where God has called you to be a priest –however humble that may be–father, mother, butcher, baker, candlestick maker. When we carry out our various callings with faith in God and in service to our neighbor, we do priestly, God-pleasing work. You offer up your work, your lives, and your bodies as living spiritual sacrifices (Ro 12:1). All that ordinary stuff of your day-to-day work is your sacrificial offering to God.

Once, you were not God’s people. At one time, you were outside of God’s mercy. That’s who we are in ourselves. But, you have had a change in identity. Your identity is fundamentally this: You have been shown mercy. God drew near in mercy to help you and save you. Jesus died a cruel and bloody death to forgive you and make you part of this family. He made you part of his people, the Church. How did we get this identity? God gave it to you in Baptism. We are not defined by who we are in and of ourselves. We are defined by what God has done for us. As a Christian, you cannot talk about who you are without talking about the love of God for you in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s why your sacrifices, your worship, are acceptable to God. All the everyday work of your callings is holy because you are holy on account of Christ.

Who are you? You know who you are. You are living stones in God’s temple and a royal priesthood. You are God’s prized possession. You are baptized into Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, and reigning Lord. He is the source of your identity. He is the center of the world. Built on Him, baptized into Him, believing in Him, nothing can knock you over.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

%d bloggers like this: