Friday, 16 May 2014

Living Stones

This week I am using the lectionary readings 1 Peter 2:2-10,  John 14:1-14 at an induction service (and at Sunday worship - but I haven't written that one yet)
You may think the words of Jesus from John’s gospel an odd choice for a happy occasion like an induction, given that for many of us probably the last time we heard the first part of the reading was at a funeral.
Jesus promises “In my father’s house are many dwelling places”, or in some versions there’s an even grander promise “many mansions”.

But the word that Jesus actually uses is not the word for a grand mansion or for what they call on the property programmes on TV a “forever home”. It is for a resting places – a stopping off point – a layby, if you like. God has prepared many places for you to rest and stay awhile, promises Jesus.

So welcome, Rosemary, to your latest dwelling place.

God has brought you to this place for a time – for this time. And Jesus promises that he comes ahead of you, preparing a place. Mind you, others have helped with those preparations too, with the decorating and the carpet-laying ! But Jesus promises God’s presence here – and wherever we rest & stay.

The danger of an induction like this is that it can feel like we’re saying you’ve arrived – we can all heave a sigh of relief – the waiting and uncertainty is over, the manse is all spick and span, the furniture has arrived, the boxes are (starting to be) unpacked. You are here – so we can all sit back and enjoy where we’ve got to.

But Jesus hints at the fact that our journey is not yet over – this is only a stopping off point. And then to make it even clearer, he says to his followers “I am the way”. Not the destination or the end-point or the goal.
If we have given our lives to following Jesus we are committed to the journey, the following, the way. So today is not the end of wondering and waiting but the beginning of the next part of the adventure – for Rosemary and for all of us.

The first letter of Peter picks up something of this restlessness and movement, too.
The letter invites those who seek to follow Christ to grow into salvation; to be built up, like living stones; to proclaim the mighty acts of God; and to answer the call out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
It’s all go, this life of faith, it’s growth and change and movement and activity.

And God has called Rosemary to this place to grow and change and move and be active, and through all that she does here to help us all to grow and change and move too.

If that all sounds a bit exhausting, then take heart in what Jesus says about the relationship between him and the Father. “Whoever has seen me has seen the father”. There is in Jesus something of the unchanging, everlasting, ever-flowing grace of God.

That is why the first letter of Peter describes Jesus as the cornerstone: the most stable part of the structure, the part that holds everything else together, the part that will withstand everything the weather can throw at it, all the passage of time, every change that happens around it. The Psalms tell us God is our Rock – and Jesus shows us that same stability of God’s presence in our lives. Jesus is the cornerstone.

Think of the last ruined building that you saw, perhaps a tumble-down barn or deserted cottage. The roof was almost certainly caved in, the windows long gone, the walls beginning to crumble.
But the last thing standing is often the corners of the building. The cornerstone is the most reliable part of the whole thing.

So Rosemary will promise to undertake this ministry relying on the strength of Christ, and trusting in the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Be prepared to change, be prepared to be change, and be prepared to change us, Rosemary.

But build all that you do on Jesus Christ, who will hold you firm and sure.
And may God bless you & others through you. Amen.

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