Stones of all kinds were a feature of my family’s vacation this past month – a vacation that included two weeks on the West Coast. We spent time in and around Vancouver, and then up the coast into Alaska. Everywhere there were stones.
With the tide out, wandering on rocky beaches – more stones than could be counted.
On a Sea-to-Sky hike and climb near Squamish – scrambling across rock falls and around boulders.
Along the coast and inland, too, mountains and massive outcroppings of rock – Mount Baker, The Chief, Grouse Mountain.
Rocks define our world, the earth, so why would they not define a summer holiday, also?
Sometimes those rocks and stones even appeared to be, somehow, alive. With clouds racing by casting shadows of movement across mountains, those hills seemed to dance. Sometimes as pools of seawater lapped and swirled around beached boulders, those stones seemed almost to sashay. Pebbles set loose by climbing feet bounded down slopes toward some resting place. Stones seeming to be alive, and sometimes were certainly in movement.
The world is always on the move – even its oldest and most stalwart members (rocks, aged and ancient) cannot help but dance from time to time.
So a living stone is perhaps not as far from our imaginations as we might first have thought – a living stone – a rock that is part of the movement of creation – stones that are far from still and static and dead.
We come to a living stone – a stone alive in creation – a stone moving and seeking its place in the world – a living stone who is the risen Jesus. We come to this living stone – this one who is solidity and security without also been static and subdued. We come to Jesus who is alive and moving with grace and healing and forgiveness and new life in the world; for the world.
He was rejected. He was thrown aside. He was refused. (That’s not a good skipping stone – you can find a better one!) But he is, in Peter’s words, and using Barth’s phrase, the elect one. Chosen for the life of the world.
As we know him, we together become and are living stones – alive in creation and community – not as individual stones but as those who know him and serve him together. If we have any life together, it is only through him – if we have any life at all, it is only together as his people.
Peter again: “Like living stones, let yourselves (plural – all of you together) be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering service to God in the Spirit and through Jesus Christ.”
We should not let this domestic image (a house) imply domestication – of either the life of Jesus or of our life in him. Let this domesticated image do no more than remind us that he is the foundation of the community we build – and that it is precisely a community he is building.
We are living stones – pebbles skittering down a mountainside – boulders awash in the surf – mountains dancing in cloud light – alive together in the beauty and grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, the Living Stone – the one who makes all the difference for us and everything in creation.
More often than not, the gospel is not a call to action, or an invitation to righteous behaviour, or command toward holy living – more often than not, the gospel is a reminder of who Christ is, and of who we are.
He is the living stone.
In him we are living stones together.