Aloha Friday Message – May 8, 2020 – Your Place or Mine?

2019AFC050820 – Your Place or Mine?

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     Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.

1 Peter 2:4-5 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Grace and Peace to each of you from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the Christ, in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin with a little story that circulates around the Internet from time to time. I think I’ll ask forgiveness for this one before you read it! Here we go:

In a particular small country, there was a king. He was much beloved of the people, and so they built for him a castle. But they were poor people and could only afford to build it out of grass. So they worked for weeks, and finally completed a lovely woven-grass castle for him. And the king was pleased.

Another country, significantly richer than the first, presented a peace offering of an ornate throne. The king accepted this gift graciously and was most pleased. The only trouble was, the throne was very uncomfortable. So the king got himself a more comfortable chair and stowed the massive throne in the attic. Naturally, it fell through the attic floor and killed him.

The moral of this story: People who live in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.

Building a house is an essential part of being an earthling. We require a few very basic needs for survival – shelter, air, food and water, sleep, and safety in community. If we are deprived of any of these basic needs, our chances of survival are small to nil. Our ancestors in prehistoric times sought shelter in caves. Even there, in those primitive shelters, there were additions made that personalized the space used by an individual or group; rows of stones to mark off territory, hides or cuttings of brush for privacy, specific locations for excretory functions, and even decorations. We need a place that will be home – a place where we know safety and comfort.

Our homes are built of materials we have at hand and those materials are adapted to our use. For the king in the story above, grasses were the norm. For the cave-dwellers, eventually they built higher walls, deeper pits, safer rooms, and places for worship. Worship is part of a life lived in community. Individually we recognize that Life “has a life of its own;” there are things beyond our control. Together as community, we share our recognitions and find ways to interact with what we do not understand so it becomes less frightening. There is a place in our lives – and in our hearts – for Mystery, and we learned early on to make accommodation for that Mystery in our residential places.

Building houses of stone is one of the most permanent, and most demanding, forms of home-building. Done well, it lasts for centuries, even eons. Done poorly, the dwelling can end a life instead of protecting it. The permanence of stone depends on the kind of stone used and how well it is cut and dressed to fit together. We might look at Inca stone masonry (← Check it out!) as an example of incredible skill in working with stone. Today, however, we are going to reflect on a kind of stone that is at once rare but plentiful – Living Stone. You doubtless remember this familiar passage from the Psalms: Psalm 118:22 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  Jesus quoted this in Matthew 21:42, Peter quotes it again in Acts 4:11, and we’ve already looked at 1 Peter 2:4-5. What does this mean? It means we are “a chip off the old block.” The Building Block (↔ Music Link)

We see that Jesus is the Living Stone rejected by the builders. In Ephesians 2:17-20, Paul concludes we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. As Peter told us, he makes a connection between Christ, “the stone which the builders rejected,” and believers who have become “living stones,” that is to say like Christ in that they are to be Holy, submissive to God, and to build a holy dwelling which will be a Holy Nation serving God. The word for “living” used here is zaonta {dzah’-on-tah} from zao {dzah’-o}. Zao is the verb “to live,” and zaonta is “living.” But it carries a much deeper connotation that being “merely alive.” One example is in the term “living water.”

This is water that has “vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul.” It is living that is fresh, strong, efficient, active, powerful, and efficacious. We come to Christ as Living Stones animated with the same capacity for holiness found in the Apostles because that holiness comes from, in, and through Christ. What a mighty image that brings to mind! We are stone-upon-Stone. Stones thrown up are weapons for destruction. Stones laid down are tools for construction. We are stone like the Corner Stone – cut from the same quarry and shaped by the Master Builder. The Holy Temple we are part of is the House of the Living God built with Living Stone that has Life Everlasting. It’s a great place to stow thrones, because every occupant is Priest, Prophet, and King. These are the characteristics El Shaddai-Olam assigned to his Chosen People – they are HIS FAMILY – the House of God. As adopted members of HIS FAMILY, we, too, are Priest, Prophet, and King.

Jesus is certainly a Priest in that he served God above all others and has Perfect Access to God in his own right. (See Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 7:17)He made the ultimate offering to God for our sin – himself. He is a Prophet because everything he told us was from his Father. (See John 5:19 and John 12:48-49). Jesus is the King of kings; as God, he alone has the ultimate authority to rule the universe he created. He is leader, prime mover, law-giver, and judge.

As believers in the Christ of God, we have a Priestly access to God our Creator through the One Mediator (See 1 Timothy 2:5-6). We, too, can offer ourselves as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (See Romans 12:1) We are called apart, sanctified by the Blood of the Lamb, to serve God in our service and example to others. (See Matthew 5:16) We are participants in that priestly kingdom and a holy nation.

As Prophets, we are graced with the opportunity to speak The Word of the Lord in our hearts and minds as well as in the hearts and minds of others – our families, communities, churches, and workplaces – through example and testimony. In Numbers 11:29, Moses scolds the Israelites, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” Later the prophet Joel speaks in God’s way and says, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.” (See Joel 2:28-29) We are the recipients of that Spirit of the Living God. In the Spirit of Prophecy, we teach our children and each other as witnesses to “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (See John 14:6) The Old Testament word for prophet is nabiy’ {nah-bee’}. There are some disagreements among scholars about the origin of that word, but one that is well-accepted is that this noun comes from the verb noba` meaning to “bubble up,” “boil over” as in “to pour forth an abundance of words,” such as those who speak within divine inspiration. It is by and through the power and inspiration of God that a prophet speaks, and a prophet can’t help but speak when and what God commands any more than a boiling pot can stop bubbling. And that is the key. Those who have Divine Inspiration are True Prophets. The converse is that those whose “inspiration” is self-generated are the False Prophets. By and through Christ, we can teach what God inspires in us, and are truly Prophets. (See more here) But are we also Kings?

Are we given the responsibilities of leadership, judgment, rule-makers, and progenitors in our families and communities? Consider these passages:

Ephesians 2:4-7 , Acts 6:1-6, 2 Chronicles 19:6, Matthew 4:17, and especially these – Revelation 1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:15-16 15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. We are anointed – consecrated, sanctified, set aside – to serve God by serving others. How can we fulfill these three roles? What is it in us that makes these roles even remotely possible? The answer is indeed “set in stone.” Our Rock and our Refuge, our Shelter, Shade, Stronghold, Saviour, and Salvation – all these are aspects of The Living God of Mercy. And he has a place for us a Dwelling not built by human hands, but prepared for us before the foundation of time.

John 14:1-3 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. My place is His place, the place prepared for me. This World Is NOT my Home! (↔ Music Link) I am, you are, WE will always be Living Stones in the House of God, built upon the Corner Stone and laid on the foundation of Eternity. Is it your place, is it my place, is it our place? Yes, all of those, because it is His place – Home. I was born a long way from Home, but I’m on my way back, and I expect to meet Jesus on the way. I thank God that you are walking there with me, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. Blesséd be God Forever.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —

at your service, Belovéd!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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