Sermon from Sunday, May 7, 2023
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:2-10

Sermon Transcript

“Our lesson this morning comes from the second chapter of First Peter, verses two through ten. Hear these words: ‘Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 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.’ For it stands in Scripture, ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’ To you then who believe, He is precious. But for those who do not believe, ‘the stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,’ and ‘a stone that makes them stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 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. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’ The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.”

“At the Aurora Church, we are right across the street from Hart Elementary School. In the fall and spring of the year, I used to love to throw my window open so I could listen to the kids playing on the playground. And if you’re depressed and blue, I invite you to listen to kids playing on the playground because their joy and laughter will lift you up. During the after-school hour, I confess that I used to like to go stand out in front of the office building and watch the parents jockeying for car line. I quickly realized I would never quite have that skill. It was something like demolition derby and fighting for a parking place at Walmart during the Christmas season. But it was interesting to watch.”

“I was standing there one afternoon, and I could see him. It was little Bo Powers. Bo was in kindergarten at Hart Elementary. His mother was on staff at the church, and Bo Powers is the singular reason I absolutely refuse to do children’s sermons. He was that child, he said more and more worship than I have done in 40 years. But I could see Bo tugging on Cathy, tugging on her purse, tugging on her sleeve. He was pointing at the church, and I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he was yakking away because that’s what he did during children’s sermons. Bo was talking to Mom, and Mom was walking at a kind of dragon boat, and they got to the crosswalk. I could hear it. He was tugging on Mama, ‘Mama, Mama, that’s my church. That’s my church.’ I thought, ‘Oh, he’s got it. I want Methodists to be excited about that again. That’s my church. That’s my church.’ Because we’ve gone through this season where, ‘Oh, that’s my church.’ And we need to get past that and we need to get a little bit of Bo Powers in our life. We need to get excited about being the Church of Jesus Christ.”

“I think about Bo because Bo and the month of May sort of coincide for me. I’ve now been doing this for 47 years. I preached my first sermon as a senior in high school, and I remember walking out to the podium that morning to preach, thinking, ‘Why in the world would anybody want to do this?’ And I think I felt the lightning bolt at that moment and the snicker in heaven going, ‘Oh, we’ll show you, Bubba. Hang on.’ The Thursday before the service or the Tuesday before the service, I had gone in and met with the pastor because our church was actually on television. We’d been on television since the late 1960s, and we had the big cameras with people sitting behind them on headsets. There were two of them, one up in the balcony and one down on the main floor. And we were just used to it, the lights in the front and all that. Everybody’s church was on TV. The pastor walked me in and I stood behind the pulpit, and he pointed to the most important object in that room. It wasn’t the cross of Jesus, it wasn’t the open Bible on the communion table. It was in the back of the room, on the face of the balcony. It was the clock. He said, ‘Can you see the clock?’ I replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ Then he pointed to the man upstairs, and I turned on all the television lights. He asked, ‘Can you still see the clock?’ I said, ‘Barely, but yes, sir.’ Sam, I’ll tell you something about that clock. Our worship service started at 10:50, and we had about 10 minutes of what churches do—announcements and some of that other stuff. And so when the television feed started, we were all standing, singing a big hymn. The pastor said, ‘They switch the feed into our church, and from 11:00 until 12:00, there’s nobody at the television station because we are the broadcast.’ He said, ‘I don’t care what you do, but you have to do something until 12:00.’ No problem.”

“The next day, after my senior prom, I arrived at church for Sunday morning service. It wasn’t the best way to prepare to preach. I learned that. We started the service at 10:50 and did our youth thing—youth announcements, youth-called worship, youth invocation. We sang a couple of youth songs. We did everything we could until it looked like it was 11:00. We had the TV feed; I knew that because the red lights were on some of the cameras. We did everything we could, and I walked up to the pulpit for my first sermon ever. I stood there and looked up. Ten minutes after 11, I preached until 12:05. I still have that sermon, by the way. I’ll take requests if you ever want to hear it. It’s a long one. I went from generations to revolutions and all the way back again. But I did it and got us through that worship service.”

“As I think about all these years of church, there are some holy moments where I want to say, ‘That’s my church.’ I think about the people I’ve known, and I want to brag about the folks and say, ‘Those are members of my church, the big body of Christ.’ So all I’m going to do is change our pronoun for this message, and I want to say that our church, our church has Christ as the cornerstone. Peter is talking a lot about this cornerstone rock. When we hear Cornerstone or Chief Stone, we usually think about it architecturally—a marble stone on the side of a church building or a brass stone attached to a church building. We have one that says ‘Trinity United Methodist Church, 1972, Merill Pastor,’ with the listing of the bishop, district superintendent, building committee, architect, and contractor. Trinity has several of those because we’ve had several different iterations, and we’ve been places where we built several buildings. But that’s not what the Bible means when it says Cornerstone.”

“The Bible is talking about an arch and the stone right at the top of the arch—the stone that exerts downward pressure on the arch and keeps the other stones in place. It’s the stone of testing. Jesus is the stone of testing. He puts pressure on us and keeps us together as His people. Sometimes, we need a little pressure to stay together.”

“Paul wrote it like this: ‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews and Greeks, slaves and free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot were to say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were hearing, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God has arranged the members of the body, each one of them as He chose. We are different as night and day. We think differently, we act differently, we behave differently. We respond differently to music, to spiritual disciplines, to the sacraments of the church. And that’s part of the beauty of being the body of Christ—we are all different.”

“We uniquely respond to the good news that Christ has given us. My faith is not your faith, and your faith will not be my faith. I do things that may bore you, and you do things that may puzzle me. We are all different and unique. As you discover a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, may you discover how He has uniquely created you to respond to the Gospel. But it’s Christ as the cornerstone, as the stone of testing at the top of the arch, who puts pressure on us, binds us together, and holds us together. Our church has Christ as its cornerstone, and our church has transformed people as its parts—all of us responding to Christ, all of us living for Christ.”

“Let me share a story about the Abbey in Bath, England. The Abbey had a foundation problem. In medieval Catholic theology, it was believed that one way to make prayers more effective was to pray through the saints. They would bury saints under the church so that they would be close by and people could ask them to intercede with God. Protestants, however, believed that all believers are priests before God and can go directly to Him. The Abbey in Bath had a foundation problem because over its history, around 6,000 saints were buried under the church. They started digging under the church and discovered that it was sitting on absolutely nothing. Our church is not built on that kind of sainthood. Our church is built on the saints of God, which includes each one of you sitting right where you are. You are the saints of God, calling out to Him. You are the priesthood of all believers. If I need someone to confess to or pray with, I’ll come to you because that’s the role you carry out in our church.”

“Our church has Christ as its cornerstone. Our church has transformed people as its parts. We are all part of the children of God, part of the family of God. We belong here, and our uniqueness is one of our strengths. It is our individuality that is one of our strengths. Our church has a purpose, and that purpose is to proclaim God’s mighty acts of salvation. As Paul said, ‘To proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ You have a story to tell, and guess what? It’s your story. It belongs to you. No one can argue with your experience of Jesus Christ. They may want to debate theology or the finer points of the incarnation, but no one can argue with your personal experience. So don’t tell them my experience or your parents’ experience. Share what’s going on in your own heart.”

“I want us to experience that joy and life that the early church had. I want people to drive by and be amazed at Trinity. Have you seen Trinity at night? Have you seen what we’ve done with the bell tower? You can see it all the way from tomorrow. It’s certainly lit up. We did that because one of our church members said, ‘Even if someone is driving in darkness, I want them to know our church is here, and I want them to know that there’s hope.’ So let’s all be like Bo. That’s my church.”

“There was an Episcopal priest who went shopping for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Yes, an Episcopal priest. The salesman was talking about speed, acceleration, and the thrill of riding with a passenger. But when he realized the customer was a priest, he changed his approach and talked about practical features like good mileage and visibility. Reflecting on the experience, the priest asked, ‘Have we told the world that being a Christian is more like riding a lawnmower than a motorcycle? Is the life of faith safe and sound or dangerous and exciting? The common image of the church is pure lawnmower—slow, deliberate, and plodding. But our task, yours and mine, is to take the church out on the open road, give it gas, and see what this baby can do. That’s my church. That’s my church.'”

“As we come to the altar this morning, you will experience the church in front of you, behind you, beside you, jostling with you. And you will experience Christ in His body broken for you, His blood shed for you. Amen. Becky, would you come? And if you’ve been asked to help us, please come forward. I want to remind you, as I always do, that this is the Lord’s table, and you are all invited and welcomed here. We serve communion by intention, where you receive a piece of bread and dip it in the chalice. You are invited to spend time at the altar and pray if you’d like to. There are two stations, and we’re going to be ‘Free Range Methodist,’ so you just come as you will.”