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Easter 5A Sermon
Acts 7: 55-60, 1 Peter 2: 2-10, John 14: 1-14

May 14, 2017


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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of his son our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

(Pastor’s note: Before this sermon, I will have the children’s message where I talk about what it means to have a “living stone” as Peter writes in his letter. Living stones are those used by God to build a spiritual house, like us. Dead stones are like the ones thrown by the crowds to kill Stephen. I will give each child a small, polished stone to remind them that they are part of the spiritual house of God.)

I grew up in a pretty modest one-story ranch style house. Most of the outside walls were made of a light-brown stucco, and the bottom half of the front side was brick. It was nothing special, and I think that my parents bought it in 1972 for about $32,000. My bedroom was located in the front corner of the house at the far end of the hallway, right next to my parents’ bedroom. It wasn’t big – enough room for a single bed, a dresser and my record player, where I would either sing along with my favorite classic rock songs or listen to the comedy of Steve Martin until I had his act memorized.

It was one year ago that we were completing the sale of the house, and I don’t mind telling you that the process was a painful one. I think we were all ready to let the house go, but the most painful part was in finding out that the house was not as, “healthy” as we all thought it was. Truly believing that there was nothing major wrong with the place, we entered into the negotiations with the buyer and we were surprised at most every turn. There was a water problem in the crawl space end of the basement. The roof was in need of being replaced. And most surprising of all, there was mold in the attic. Our little home at 1267 W. Henderson, so full of family memories and joy, needed attention.

It was when I wrote a letter to the buyers of the house entitled, “The story of 1267 Old W. Henderson Road.” It was not just a story about the structure itself, but about the household that it became over the last 45 years. I found myself talking more about family than I did the house itself, and after recounting a few paragraphs of family history I said this, “Our house at 1267 Old Henderson Rd. was a place that many, many people called home; not just the people who lived there. Three kids finished being raised there, and most all of us moved back in over the years, sometimes due to difficult circumstances in life. All of us were welcomed back at least one time in our adult lives to live temporarily until we got back on our feet. Thirteen grandchildren knew “maw-maw and paw-paw’s house” as a place of welcome, where they could get food they usually weren’t allowed to eat at home, watch videos all day, and swim in the large swim spa on the back deck.”

Toward the end of the letter I shared these thoughts: “This is an emotional time for our family as the sale of 1267 Old Henderson Rd. reminds us of days gone by and of people who we have loved and lost – a brother, parents, grandparents and friends. We are people of faith, and this modest little house has been a blessing to us. We knew that it is not perfect, and it has grieved us every time we are told that one more thing is wrong with it. Call it at type of denial, but it is like a member of the family has been diagnosed with some new health issue each time we hear about the roof, the basement, mold and moisture.”

When I think about Peter’s words: “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 …” I think about the spiritual house of my family’s history. When I think of Jesus’ promise that in the Father’s house there are many dwelling places and that he goes to prepare a place for us, I think about the place where I grew in body, mind and spirit alongside so many family and friends. I think of my wife’s longtime family home which was sold not long after ours last year as her parents moved into a place more suitable for their needs now, and how she and her family felt the same way about that spiritual house. I am sure our kids think about our house in this way, even though we have only lived there 13 year … and I am sure you have the same feelings about a place special to you as well.

The difference between living stones and dead stones is that living stones are part of something bigger that stands for life and love in God’s sight. The bricks and mortar of my house were alive to me; the wood and nails, more than inanimate objects, they are things that literally held our family together through good times and bad. With a mother to run the household, I share a special joy and feeling about this Mother’s Day with many of you, knowing that these Christian women allowed themselves to be built into a spiritual house. Living stones, all of them … people who surrendered themselves to God so that their spouses, children, grandchildren and so many more people could know what it means to abide in God’s presence.

That is the importance of Jesus’ promise in our Gospel lesson today. Not that we look forward to this mansion in which we will all dwell – what it must be like, how it must be furnished and appointed, the grandeur of it all. No, the importance is that we will abide perfectly in the presence of Jesus in a way that we only can get a small experience of in this life. God uses people like our mothers to encourage us along the way in this abiding, knowing that the fullness of that presence will be something to behold.

This is the story to which Stephen was witnessing when people around him picked up stones and hurled them at him, using them as dead stones and not living stones. His death was much like Jesus’ – innocent in all aspects as he entrusted his spirit into God’s hands and forgave his executioners with his dying breaths. In his witness, those stones themselves are transformed into living stones as well, just as the one overseeing the whole scene, Saul, would eventually be transformed into the Apostle Paul.

As we continue to proclaim the resurrected Jesus alive and active in and among us, today we raise up God’s power to transform the dead and inanimate things like stones into the building blocks of the Church. Our own homes are small examples of the house of God in which we all reside – not the buildings but the people as the house of God. Living stones, like Stephen, our mothers, and so many other witnesses who loved us, forgave us, and sacrificed so much for us. Today we give thanks to God for them, knowing that we abide in this spiritual house today as we look forward to following Jesus – the way, the truth and the life – to the abiding place that we look forward to when we join all of God’s family there. Amen.