Gracious God, you are the rock of our lives, Your strength sustains us.
Your power delivers us and your mercy brings forgiveness to us.
Stf 296: Christ is alive let Christians sing
Reading 1 Peter 2: 2-10
Stf 608: All praise to our redeeming Lord
Peter builds a picture based on stones and buildings. The letter was written to a young in faith church threatened with or undergoing a time of persecution. The reading speaks of the way are connected together. It is an ironic reading when we are not allowed in our buildings and we are physically separated. But the reading reminds us of our connection that goes beyond the physical.
Peter quotes Psalm 118:22. This psalm of thanksgiving was sung in the temple at Jerusalem as the people remembered God's goodness to the nation of Israel. The verse probably refers to a massive squared stone that ensured the stability of adjoining walls. It may be that this stone was not originally intended for use in the building but was now of supreme importance. Jesus quoted this verse about himself in Matthew 21:42 in the parable of the landlord and the tenants. The first readers of 1 Peter faced the real possibility of persecution and rejection themselves.
The picture is of a spiritual building founded on Jesus and we his people as stones in that building. It is Jesus who died for us and rose again for our salvation. Our faith is based on Jesus. He is the cornerstone that underpins the building. In the temple at Jerusalem worship centred on priests offering the sacrifices in line with Old Testament law - a picture that is strange to us but would be familiar to the people of the time from both Jewish temple worship and the temples of various Greek religions. Peter draws on this picture and describes Christian people as a holy priesthood offering sacrifices to God. But sacrifices are not dead animals anymore but the committed lives of Christians who love and serve the Lord. We are all different and serve in different ways. The picture in my mind is a dry stone wall of different shaped stones built with skill and fitting perfectly together - held by our common need of God's grace and our love for God and each other. We are not called to serve alone but are to be together to help and support each other.
Yet at the moment the doors of our physical building are closed and we are physically separated from each other. But we can support each other by prayer, by phone calls and e mails and helping each other as we can. In all the ways we can we seek to worship together through the shared materials we distribute including this service. We can we express our love in the help and support to each other and our neighbours.
Our connections go beyond our own fellowship. We can see ourselves as part of a spiritual temple that embraces Christian believers across the world and down the ages. The spiritual sacrifices are not only our works but those of all God's people through time. We are part of the worldwide church called to love our neighbours. This brings us to the other focus for today as we are at the start of Christian Aid week.
Even before the lockdown we started to miss some things we often take for granted. We faced a temporary shortage of basic necessities including toilet rolls. Staple foods including rice, tinned tomatoes and pasta almost disappeared from the supermarket shelves. Now the position does seem to be improving if not fully resolved. I have to queue to enter shops at times. It is unusual me to be concerned that I will not be able to buy basic foods. I can only speak for myself but in this time I have had only a glimpse of the challenges that many people in this country and across the world including our sisters and brothers in Christ face on a daily basis.
Many people face uncertain harvests made worse by the ravages of war, drought, climate change and debt. We also need to remember the many countries across the world where health care is not as advanced as ours and lack PPE and ventilators. They will suffer greatly as COVID-19 spreads. How can you 'socially distance' in a crowed refugee camp? In our own country we must remember those who rely on foodbanks and people who are homeless. I can think of the lady who sold me The Big Issue' for a few weeks before the lockdown. No doubt you can think of others.
We hear talk of a return to normal but what are we hoping for. Does God want a new normal? Do we want a society where so many are reliant on foodbanks? There are so many questions raised about world trade, housing, welfare systems and climate change.
I can't pretend there are simple solutions. What we can do this week is to remember, support and pray for the work of Christian Aid across the world in camps, in health care, in developing agriculture, in campaigning for justice and in many other ways. We can also support various agencies and charities in our own country.
Christian Aid is under increased pressure at this time but continue to show God's love in it's work. This is part of the sacrifice offered in the spiritual temple.
Stf 409 : Let us build a house where love can dwell
StF 693 : Beauty for brokenness
These are the Worship at Home Services, led by our Ministers :-