In growing up, my parents did something most parents do over the years of raising children - they tried to teach me manners. In other words, when someone spoke to me, I was taught to answer them. When they gave me something, I was taught to thank them. Whenever someone thanked me, I was to tell them they were welcome. Simple manners - yet so much meaning behind them. First, when I was being spoken to, answering revealed just how well I had been listening. When someone gifted me with something, a simple thank you let the other person know I appreciated the gift. Whenever I let someone know they were welcome, I was showing I cared about meeting their needs.
Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. (1 Peter 2:4-5 The Message)
Our passage opens with the words, "Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life." The meaning of this "welcome" is just a little different from the one we use when we tell someone "you are welcome". In fact, it carries most of the same meaning with a little twist. The idea is of giving pleasure to the one who receives the one who has arrived - the arrival is accepted and enjoyed. Here we find Christ being the one doing the welcoming. We are the welcomed ones! We bring great delight and pleasure to Christ - by becoming "building stones" out of which he can construct a sanctuary of vibrant life!
Let's break this down a little more:
- We are welcomed to a living Stone - the source of life. Christ is not a lifeless god - he is the living Savior. As such, his "welcome" is into life and purpose - substance and hope. What others see as worthless, God views as unique in purpose. The world did not accept the purpose of Christ's arrival - in fact, they did much to reject his arrival. His purpose - the redemption of mankind. The world's view of his arrival ranged from "Hey, he's a nice guy!" to "Let's do him in - he's a threat to our way of existence!" Most did not recognize his purpose - but those who did heard a solid, "Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life!" When we value the worth of our Savior, we embrace him as bringing great delight and pleasure! More importantly, he embraces us in this manner, as well!
- To be welcomed, our part is to present ourselves. Much as when my parents were teaching me manners, we learn to be "presented" to Christ. In other words, when someone gave me something, I was to take it, thanking them for the gift. I was "presented" the gift - I "welcomed" it when I thanked them! In comparison, when we "present" ourselves to Christ, we are being "welcomed" into his presence. We must be "present" in the presentation. This is the tricky part of this passage. In terms of being "present", I am speaking of being "intentional" in our purpose as living stones.
I have some odds and ends of building supplies in the garage. A few scraps of lumber, some nails and screws, and even a bag of mortar. In total, there is really very little which can be built from these. Yet, when the guys fixed the leak in the wall a couple week's ago, they left a huge gaping hole! In terms of "fixing" the void, I needed a few things - most of which I had in my possession already! The items which really did not seem like much came in quite handy when I saw they could be put to purposeful use!
The difference between "building parts" and a "wall" is the purposeful use of the parts! When we present ourselves to be purposefully used by the Savior, we are really saying to him, "I am not sure how you will use this odd piece of lumber or this box of nails, but I know you know where they'll fit best!" We are giving ourselves for his use - and his enjoyment. In turn, he "fashions" us into something which no longer resembles the original, but is patterned after the "cornerstone". The wall behind the refrigerator looks nothing like it was left! In fact, it looks way better now! Why? The pieces formed a structure by which the wall became a thing of beauty. We are stones - purposed for his use. In his hands, what we see as "odd material" he sees as a thing of structure and purpose - a thing of beauty!
- We are welcomed into vibrant life. God's purpose is to take us from a place of "dormancy" to a place of "pulsation". In fact, when I took those parts and pieces of building supplies, I was taking them out of a place of dormancy and bringing them into a place of whereby their "activity" made them purposeful. God wants nothing more than to take us from a place of "dormancy" - rocks in a pile - into a place of vibrant life - pulsating with is presence and dedicated to his purpose. I used to think of "vibrant" as relating to color, but in actuality, it is a place of "pulsating life". God's purpose in redeeming us is to bring us into a place of life. When builders take a stone from a pile and place it into use in the creation of the structure, they are taking a lifeless object and giving it purpose! God takes lifeless "objects" and gives them purpose - through his grace, mercy, and healing touch.
You are not just a stone - you are a welcomed stone. In the hands of the Master, you are perfectly fit into the placement which gives you unique purpose and lasting use. Welcome to the "building" God built!