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f you're a fan of Portland's hit TV show, The Simpson's, then you probably saw the movie and would recall the scene in which Homer uses a wrecking ball to free his family. In typical Simpson fashion, it backfires and Homer ends up on the ball bouncing off billboard and finally between a building and a large rock. When the camera moves back you see the name of the building is "Hard Place". An appropriate scene, considering this sermon for you see most of us have been stuck between a rock and a hard place at some time or another. Peter knows all about rocks. That's what the name means in Greek. Being a good Jewish boy, he'd know about the rock from which water came in the wanderings as well as those stones mentioned in the prophets and psalms. He'd have heard Jesus teach about the wise man who builds his house on the rock not sand.

For Peter, Jesus was the cornerstone and the capstone. These are two pieces which are critical to building, probably more so in ancient days than today but still critical. The cornerstone, like the one outside the sanctuary was the first stone placed and the stone off of which everything else took its measure. It had to be firm, square and secure. That's the meaning behind the term translated "capstone" as well. The passages Peter quotes are from Isaiah and the Psalms. They describe Christ as a "chosen and precious" and as the "chief" cornerstone. This is what those of us who believe Him come to realize.

But not everyone will trust in Him and discover eternal life. For those people Jesus is a rejected stone and a stone on which people will trip. They don't see anything special about Jesus because they are too busy doing their own thing. When we are wrapped up in our thing we aren't obeying God's Word and that leads us to be counted with those who are lost.

We're not like that. When we are caught between THE ROCK and anyplace we need to cling to the rock. We need to hold on tight to the cornerstone. We need to have Jesus anchoring us so that what grows out of us is God's work of building us into a spiritual house.

Verses 9 &10 are two of my personal favorite verses because they describe how God sees us and expects us to live. They are positive powerful and provocative words that describe us who follow Jesus. They are also reminders for us when our choices seem to be between Jesus and anything else.

"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…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"

In January of 1991 Dr. Fred White, from Abilene Texas, watched a story on the orphanages in Romania. With Caroline, his wife's, understanding, he flew to Romania, adopted 22-month old, Nadia, and headed home to the U.S. At that time there was no provision for such an adoption and the U.S. didn't recognize the Romanian documents. So at immigration in New York he was met with a lot of questions and a lack of "official" paper work. Dr. White simply handed the baby to the immigration official and said, "Ok. If I can't bring her in then here she is." He was told that an official would meet him at DFW International which was fine with Fred because his attorney would be there as well. NOROC (New Opportunities for Romanian Orphaned Children) was formed by Fred and Caroline to serve as an adoption and care agency for these children.[1]

Nadia was chosen. Nadia was adopted. Nadia graduated in 2007 from Cooper High School as one of the top 25 students. How much more wondrous is it that you and I are chosen people? We were worse off than Nadia because we were at war with the very person who chose us. We fought Him, we slapped Him in the face, we spit on Him, we even nailed Him to a cross but He still loved us and uses everything we did to Him as part of the means of His choosing us.  

We are holy, that is set apart for God and we're God's own people. His mark has been set on us, we call that the Holy Spirit. And in verse 10 we see the curse and blessing of the prophet Hosea becoming a reality in our lives. Before Christ we were known as "not a people" and "received no mercy" but because of Christ we have both received mercy and become the people of God.

As royal priests we enter new ground. This is one difference between us, as Protestants, and our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox and Catholic churches. We believe and teach that every follower of Christ is a priest. Each of us has the right and responsibility to approach God ourselves. We don’t "have prayers said for others" we ourselves pray for them. We don't need someone to stand between God and us as Aaron did for the Jews during the Exodus because we have Christ, standing before God on our behalf.

Most of you know all this but I want to challenge our thinking about our priesthood. We all know that a consumer mentality can infect some people. They are delighted when God does something for them. They are quick to seek God's blessings. They may even talk about all the answers to prayer that God has given. Nothing wrong with that but what is the mindset of a priest? Is their desire, blessings and answers at the center of their attention or is it God? Is the big question for a priest, 'What I want' or 'What God wants'?

I read part of verses 9-10, I left out the reason that we were chosen and made priests, and God's own people. It was so we "may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." We haven't been chosen so we can have a wonderful life, become middle-class Americans and have strong healthy bodies.

We were chosen to call attention to God. We were chosen to praise Him. One commentary I looked at asked an interesting question, "If your praise is primarily for God's benefit, not your own, how should you be offering praise?" Considering a priest offers sacrifices to God what does a sacrifice of praise look like. Is it a few songs in worship or while driving to work. Is it liking God when things go well but glowering about Him when we don't get our way?

I believe praise is more than a style of music or a part of the worship service. It is a lifestyle that, as verses 11-12 say we abstain from some things.  A life of praise is lived so that even when the unbelieving world accuses us the very life we live give them something to glorify God about.

You can hear this sermon at several places. Some people may just need a gentle nudge toward a sacrifice of praise and moving away from thinking that God is there to do our bidding. Others need to know they are valuable. They believe they aren't worth anything. They believe God couldn't love them. If you're in that camp remember the 1991 story of the guy who picked up a $4.00 garage sale picture cause he liked the frame. Behind the picture was one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence which sold for 2.42 million dollars[2]. God values us even more.

The most basic dividing line will be between those who have experienced Christ as their cornerstone and are in the process of being built upon Him and those who are still trying to build their lives around the various types of stones the world offers.  To such people all I can say is seek Christ and you'll discover the reality of which we speak. It's all around you in the lives here and elsewhere. Amen.


[1] The story is from what I remembered being told by a member of First Central Presbyterian c. 1994 or so. The website is the organization begun by Fred and Carolyn. More can be found on the First Central Presbyterian Website.


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