Prepare the Way

Sermon, 3rd Sunday in Advent, December 16 AD 2012

Luke 3:1-20:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize youwith the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

Introduction- Advent, Repentance and its Fruits

What do you think of when you hear the word “repentance?” Many people think that repenting is the same as saying “sorry.” Often, growing up, when I was disciplined for disobeying my parents, I would apologize, only to go back and repeat the offense later. I would hear “If you were really repenting, you would stop doing it.” I may have been sorry, but I was not truly repenting. A drunk can feel bad about his drunkenness, but still keep getting drunk. Repentance, however, changes people.

The Christian life is a life of repentance.  This doesn’t mean we are expected to go around feeling bad about ourselves all the time; it means we are called to recognize our sin and God’s wrath, turn to Christ, and live faithfully to Him. As we observe this season of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, repentance is one of the means by which we prepare for Christ’s coming.  The mission of John the Baptist was to prepare the people of God for the coming of the Lord through “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” But when John calls people to repentance, he is calling for more than a one-time event; repentance is to set a new course for our entire lives. True repentance bears fruit.

Faith Rooted in History

Luke opens this section on the ministry of John the Baptist by establishing that this story is an event which took place in real history.  He carefully records rulers of Rome and the high priests of Israel not only to demonstrate the historicity of the faith, though; he is establishing for us the idea that John’s message is for all people, for Gentiles as well as Jews.   It’s in this time that “the Word of God came to John,” an Old Covenant prophet with a New Covenant message.

Preparation through Repentance

John the Baptist was sent as the herald of the Messiah; his mission was to prepare the way for Christ (Lk. 1.17).  Luke quotes Isaiah to show that John is the one prophesied to be the forerunner to the Messiah, preparing the people for the coming of the Lord. The setting of John’s ministry is important: Luke tells us three times that John is preaching “in the wilderness,” and specifically near the Jordan. This would have evoked vivid historical connections in the minds of the Jewish audience of God leading His people through the wilderness and across the Jordan. God is bringing a New Exodus to His people, meeting them in the wilderness. He is again bringing them to the Jordan for baptism.

John’s call is to “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” For Jews to come to John for a repentance-baptism meant that they were leaving their old way of life and believing that the day of salvation was coming. John’s baptism brought people into a new life of preparation for the climax of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. It cleansed the people of sin and set in motion their new life towards Christ. They still awaited, though, the baptism of Christ that John tells them is greater than his: He would baptize them “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” But we have the greater baptism of Christ. This same message is picked up by Peter after Pentecost in Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

We see then that preparation for the Lord means repentance. As sinful and defiled people, we need to be cleansed to be in God’s presence. When people encounter the Holy One, cleansing is required: think of Isaiah, and of John the Evangelist in Revelation. This is why we confess our sins and receive God’s pardon each week as we come into His throne room in the liturgy of the Lord’s Service.

Repentance is a turning from sin towards the Lord; from a wicked life to a righteous life (Lk. 1.16-17). As we have received Christ, we are to be turning from sin and pursuing righteousness. From the text quoted from Isaiah, we see that preparing the way takes the form of making straight paths for the Lord- bringing the high low, the crooked straight, and the rough smooth. The Kingdom of God disrupts the ebb-and-flow of the world and rearranges it according to Gospel ethics. When Jesus comes, He brings the proud down and raises the meek; He crushes the powerful and unjust and strengthens the weak and oppressed (Matt. 5).

The Fruits of Repentance

As we continue in this text, we find that when John calls people to repentance, he means more than simply a one-time event. He is talking about a turn-around, a change in the direction of one’s life from sin to God. It’s a way of life that, if genuine, will bear fruit.

The crowds around John were counting on their “Jewishness”, their physical descent from Abraham, for their salvation. John, however, says they are in reality not Abraham’s descendants but descendants of the Serpent: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John is saying that they are in the wrong line: there is an offspring of the woman who would bless and save the world, and there is the offspring of the Serpent who would be crushed by the woman’s offspring (Gen. 3.15.) In this new era being announced by John, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” that is, salvation is extended to the Gentiles.

The crowds presumed that they were true Israel because of their physical lineage, but John says that they are known by their fruits: “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Someone who is truly repentant will not remain unchanged. Repentance is an inward change that necessarily bears outward results; it is the root that grows and bears fruit, and for everyone who claims Christ but does not bear the fruit of repentance, the coming of the Lord is a day of fearful judgment (v. 9.)

John’s audience was in danger of presuming that they were safe because of their Jewish lineage (v. 8.) But what they did not know was that what shows that they are a good tree or bad tree is their fruit, not their family tree. God was at work pruning the olive tree of His people; the Gentiles were now being grafted in, and dead branches removed. We, too, must beware of presuming on God’s grace. Our place in God’s people is not shown by our church affiliation or our family, but by the fruit borne out of our lives.

When we hear that repentance must bear fruit in our lives, we automatically want specifics: what does that fruit look like? Fortunately, the crowds around John wondered the same thing. “What then shall we do,”  they asked. John answers with the basics of Kingdom ethics: be generous, be just, and be content. The fruit that befits repentance is borne out in our daily lives. It is carried out through mercy and justice, through loving God and loving our neighbors. We are called, then, to exercise justice and integrity in our business, family life, and community. And we are called to radical generosity, sharing with others what God has given to us.

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, the repentance we are called to is more than simply saying we are sorry for are sin. If we are truly repentant, our lives will bear fruit that matches that repentance, the fruit of the Gospel. We have in this text the Gospel preached to us: baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (v.3, 18.) We are baptized into a life of repentance. So let us live lives that bear fruit; not simply “feeling bad” about our sin, but really changing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Be generous, be just, be merciful, and be content.

The Cosmic Gospel: Col. 1.15-23

Sermon, Christ the King Sunday, November 25, AD 2012

Introduction

People today tend to find their identity in what they call their story. Our postmodern culture is fascinated by personal narratives, or the “story” of one’s life that makes that person who they are. In this culture, everyone has their own story, and that story defines their “truth.”

But, if our lives are simply a bunch of individual and unrelated narratives, what meaning do our lives have? If that’s true, then what’s important in your story might not be important in mine; what’s true in my story might not be true in yours. However, there is an over-arching story, a meta-narrative, that binds all of our stories together. It is a story that gives each one of our stories meaning. That story is God’s story.

In this text, St. Paul tells this story. The plot moves from creation to new creation, the reconciled cosmos. It centers on one figure: Jesus, the “Beloved Son” of God. It is in this story about Jesus as the Cosmic Lord who reconciles the broken universe that we find our place. We are Christ’s body, objects of His grace, and agents of His reconciliation.

This story reshapes our idea of the gospel. The gospel is more than simply how Jesus saves you, or how Jesus saves people in general. It is that, but it is far greater than that. The gospel is the story of how Jesus saves the universe. This gospel is a cosmic gospel. Paul gives us the big-picture gospel.

Summary of the Text

Colossians 1:15-20 is often considered a hymn or poem, and Paul gives the poem a two-fold structure. The first, vv. 15-17, describe the lordship of Jesus of the created order; the second, vv. 18-20, describe His lordship over the new creation. Paul’s main message is that Jesus, the revelation of God and the Captain of the universe, is the creator and sustainer of all things. Through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, He is reconciling the fallen universe to Himself through His body, the Church. As reconciled people, we are called to live holy lives and persevere in the hope of the gospel.

 Main Body

Jesus is Captain of Creation: In this first section Paul establishes Jesus’ lordship over the created order. He identifies Him as “the image of the invisible God,” and “the firstborn of all creation.”

Jesus is, Paul tells us, is the revelation of the Father. No one has seen the Father at any time, St. John says (Jn. 1:18.) God’s face was veiled from view in the times of the Old Covenant. In the tabernacle, the Holy Place and the Most Holy place were sectioned off with veils. But in the incarnation, God has revealed Himself in His Son. When Phillip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus answered “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9.) Jesus came to make the Father known (Jn. 1:18.) He is the image and reflection of God. In Jesus we see who God is. If we want to know what God is like, we have simply to look at the life of Jesus.  He is God-with-Man, the Word Incarnate. He is the New Tabernacle, where God and Man meet. To see Him is to see the Father; to know Him is to know the Father.

Being the “image… of God” also reckons back to Adam, made in God’s image. Jesus is the Image of God and  thus the Second Adam.

Jesus, the God-man, is called by Paul the “firstborn of all creation.” This does not mean that Jesus Himself is a created being and simply was created first, but rather that He ranks above all of the created order. In Psalm 89, a psalm about Christ, the offspring of David, God says of Him “I will make Him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Ps. 89:27) So, Jesus is the highest in rank over all creation. He is the King, or the Captain, of creation. All things are under His authority.

Why? Because, “in Him all things were created.” As the Captain of the created order, all that is was created in Jesus, that is, in His domain or under His headship. This includes “things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” The entire cosmos was created in Jesus. Paul especially highlights authority structures: “… whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities…” Every earthly and heavenly authority is under Christ, whether political rulers or the angelic realm. Kings and nations are called to submit to Jesus as Lord. Psalm 2 counsels kings to “Serve Yahweh with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.”

This applies to the angelic realm as well. Both the righteous and the rebellious spiritual rulers are under Christ’s authority. They owe their very existence to Him. The way that Satan to God is demonstrated in the story of Job: he cannot touch God’s servant without God’s permission, and he can do no more than God allows. The same is true of the demonic host: Jesus demonstrates His authority over the demons in His earthly ministry as “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” (Mk. 1:27) This reality should be a great comfort to us. Though Satan and his host are powerful and wicked, they cannot lay a finger on us outside of God’s sovereign will.

So, Jesus is the head of creation, and He is also the means and the goal of creation. “…all things were created through Him and for Him,” Paul says. He in whom and by whom all things were created is the end, or goal, of creation. The universe is, in fact, sustained in Him as well (v. 17). All things hold together in Jesus. All of history is to be summed up in Christ, for He is governing all things for His eternal purpose. Jesus is the center of the cosmos.

Jesus is Captain of New Creation: Paul moves now to the reconciled world. The created order was disrupted and under curse because of Man’s rebellion and covenant-breaking, but in God’s grace He re-creates and puts the world to rights through His Son.

Jesus, the image of God, “is the head of the body, the Church.” (v.18) Thus, the Church, in union with Jesus, is the image of God in the New Creation. The Church is also a microcosm of the universe. The future of the universe is bound up with the Church. As the Church is reconciled, we become the agent of reconciliation in the world. As head, he gives life to the body. He is the source of our life, he sets our course, and our actions are to serve His will.

So, the body of Christ, the Church, is the center of the New Creation. The Church is the central and most important institution in our lives. Our families, communities, and state are important, but none are more important than the Church. This is the primary institution through which God works His reconciliation. It then flows to our family life, communities, state, and the whole world.

Jesus is not only the “firstborn” of creation; He is “the firstborn from the dead.” (v. 18) He is “declared the Son of God in power… by His resurrection from the dead.” (Rom. 1:4)

Jesus is the Inaugurator of the New Birth, and He is leading a great host to follow in resurrection.  Paul elsewhere says Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers.” (Rom. 8:29) We as His body share in His resurrected life, and will one day be a part of that great resurrection of His people. Once again, the term “firstborn” also implies rank. Paul says that the result of Jesus being “firstborn from the dead” is that He is preeminent in all things. He is the Captain of the New Creation.

Jesus is the Temple of the New Creation, for “in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (v. 19) Whereas God once dwelt in the physical Temple, that Temple has now been destroyed and Jesus is the meeting place for God and Man. Thus the Church, as Jesus’ body, is the Temple in the world. In Jesus, the New Temple, all things are being reconciled to God, and the means by which they are being reconciled is “the blood of His cross.” In Jesus death on the cross, He made peace by becoming the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and He also made peace by reversing the curse over the universe. His death purchased our salvation and the salvation of the universe.

The very same things Christ exercised authority in the created order are now being reconciled in the New Creation: “whether on earth or in heaven.” Rulers and authorities and dominions are being reconciled to the Son. We may wonder how that can be when we look at the present state of rulers of the earth. Most of them are certainly not bowing the knee to King Jesus. Does that mean this reconciliation will never be manifest in this age? No, Paul says that reconciliation is a reality, but one that will be worked out progressively through Christ’s agents of reconciliation, the Church. As Jesus works through His Church, the state may begin to function under the ethics of the Gospel.

Application and Conclusion

This text brings us all the way through the story of the Son of God ruling over history. He is the Captain of creation, and the Captain of New Creation. He is reconciling all things- us, the world, the whole universe- to Himself.

In this story we find our place.

  • We, Christ’s Church, are His body and the agents of reconciliation. We are to herald the news that Jesus is King over all, calling all men to repent and bow to Him.
  • We are to work this reconciliation into every sphere of our lives, because Jesus is Lord over all of it. Our family, our vocation, our friendships, our communities, and our state are all arenas in which we can bring the reality of the gospel of reconciliation.
  • Finally, Paul exhorts us on the basis of our personal reconciliation to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” (v. 23) The goal of our reconciliation is to be presented holy and blameless by Jesus, but only the ones who persevere to the end will be saved.

So, let us live in the reality of reconciliation. Bring the gospel to every creature. Acknowledge Jesus as Lord over all of your life. Press on in the hope of the gospel.

Amen.

The House Yahweh is Building

[This sermon preached at Providence Church of Caro, MI (CREC) on July 15, 2012. I am indebted to friend and former professor, Jeremy Farmer, for my interpretation of this psalm.]

Our sermon text this morning is the 127th Psalm, a psalm written by King Solomon. Let’s look to the Word of the Lord:

Unless Yahweh builds the house,

Those who build it labor in vain.

Unless Yahweh watches over the city,

The watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early

And go late to rest,

Eating the bread of anxious toil;

For He gives to His beloved sleep.

 

Behold, children are a heritage from Yahweh,

The fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

Are the children of one’s youth.

Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

He shall not be put to shame

When he speaks with his enemies in the gate. 

Introduction

As we look to this psalm, we will be seeking to hear all that is being said by the psalmist. We will be looking at the greater biblical themes that come out in Solomon’s writing as well as the way that those themes and this psalm are fulfilled in Christ and His people. In so doing, we will find that this psalm speaks of the mission of God to build His kingdom, and how He uses us in His kingdom-building.

Contextual Themes

This psalm finds its place in the context of two particular (and interwoven) themes that run throughout the Bible. To understand the full meaning of the psalm, we must understand these big-picture themes. They are the themes of the promised offspring who would save the world and the house of David.

God has set Himself to carrying out a certain agenda in redeeming His fallen world. He has committed Himself to, as we see described in this psalm, a building project; the house that He is building is the house, or dynasty, of David, the house over which His Son rules eternally.

In 2 Samuel 7, we find the story of how God established His covenant with David and promised to build the house and line of David forever. In fact, during this interaction, God has turned the tables on David; David expressed his desire to build a house for the Lord, but God told Him that He would instead build a house for David, “a house for my name.” This house is not simply a dwelling, but a dynasty. God is establishing not only David himself, but His line. He tells Him that one of David’s offspring will rule on the throne forever, and He will be to God a son.

(Already, we can see that this son of David is no normal son. He will rule over His kingdom forever; God is His father, and He is God’s son.)

This covenant God has made with David finds its place in a string of promises of a coming offspring who would be the hope and deliverance of the world. The first promise is given immediately after the fall of man; in Genesis 3:15, Yahweh God promises that the offspring of the woman will crush and defeat the serpent, thus restoring God’s creation and bringing the world to rights. The promise is narrowed, and our eyes are on Abraham’s line, as God has promised him that his offspring will mediate blessing to the nations. Now, David’s line has become the hope of the world; David’s son will rule, save, and bless the earth. God’s intention is to bring salvation to the Gentiles, to the nations, through the line of David.

Thus, when Solomon writes a psalm about building a house and about the Lord giving children, it is clear that he is speaking of more (although not less) than simply any house and simply an children. (I say “not less” because Psalm 127 does teach us how to build our households, and it does teach us about the blessing of children.) Psalm 127, then, is about the household of David, and about the offspring of David who will be the hope of the world. Ultimately, Psalm 127 is about Christ and His body.

Exposition

Solomon organized this psalm into two main sections; one speaking of the attitude of builders and watchmen, and the other speaking of God’s gift of children. The psalm is about establishing a house for Yahweh, and a family who seeks after God’s glory. It is about God’s driving mission to build a house where God and man may dwell together.

Part One (vv. 1,2) –Make God’s Agenda Your Agenda.

“Unless Yahweh builds the house,

Those who build it labor in vain.

Unless Yahweh watches over the city,

The watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early

And go late to rest,

Eating the bread of anxious toil;

For He gives to His beloved sleep.” 

This text teaches us that all of our working and striving, however much effort we give, is in vain unless we are working within God’s will and by His might. As we build up and guard our households, as we set to our life work, we may give our best efforts, but if we are not seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, our efforts are in vain.

“Unless Yahweh builds the house…” (v.1)

Solomon first addresses the agenda of workers in the kingdom of God.

The psalmist uses language of building and guarding to describe the agenda to which our lives are set. “Unless Yahweh builds the house,” or “Unless your goals are aligned with Yahweh’s goals,” your work will be in vain. The work depends on God, and our goals must be aligned with His. This psalm speaks to the goals of God’s people. Through this psalm we are called to check our goals with the goals of God.

            God’s agenda, as we have seen from the background of the psalm, is establishing the kingdom of Christ, the Son of David, and building His house. Solomon would naturally have in mind the house and city of David as he penned this psalm.

God is incorporating into His house people from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation (Gen. 12:3; Is. 66:18; Rev. 15:4, 21:24), and He has commissioned us to make this our agenda to, as we go making “disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19) The goal of bringing glory to Himself through the growth of His kingdom; the goal of the salvation of all nations is what drives God’s mission; this same goal must be the driving force of our lives, as well.

God has committed Himself to the building of the house of David and that commitment has implication for us and for the whole world. So, we must check our priorities with God’s agenda. How are we doing? What is the agenda of our church? What is the agenda of your household; of you, personally and vocationally? Does this mean that we all must leave our careers and go to the mission field? Perhaps that is what God is calling some of us to do. That certainly is not what God has for all of us to do. However, whatever our vocation may be, whether plumber or career missionary or mother or pastor or computer technician, it must be a means to an end; namely, the end of bringing glory to God by spreading His kingdom, by spreading the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to our community and to all nations. As we engage in our labor, if our goals are in line with God’s goals, we can be assured that God is with us in our efforts. We are assured of ultimate (though not always temporal) success.

“…He gives to His beloved sleep…” (v.2)

In v. 2, Solomon warns us against a certain mindset that is inappropriate on the part of the builders and watchmen of the city of God: the mindset of anxious toil.

Worry and anxiety will accomplish nothing; if Yahweh is in our work, our anxious toil is in vain. If our goals are aligned with God’s, we can rest assured of His blessing and presence; we know that He will accomplish what He has set out to do. We have no need for worry.

The mindset of worry and anxiety creeps in when we come to believe that accomplishing God’s will is up to us and within our power. However, in ourselves we are wholly unable to carry out God’s commands; He is the one who works in us, “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) Knowing that God is carrying out His purposes in and through us, when we are doing what He has told us in obedience, we can rest in the knowledge that He gives to us even in our sleep.

Part Two (vv.3-5) God gives the means for accomplishing His agenda.

“Behold, children are a heritage from Yahweh,

The fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

Are the children of one’s youth.

Blessed is the man

Who fills his quiver with them!

He shall not be put to shame

When he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” 

If David is going to have a dynasty and an offspring that will bless the earth, the most fundamental thing he needs is obvious: he needs sons. In this text, we see that God, who has committed to establishing David’s dynasty, is the one who gives children; they are a heritage and a reward.

This second part of the psalm lays out to us the truth that giving children is in God’s hands alone. In His sovereignty He opens and closes the womb. Children are a gift that He chooses to give or withhold according to His wisdom.

For David, children were the building blocks of the promise of God: if God’s promise of a house and dynasty of David is to come true, then children will be the means by which that promise comes to fulfillment. Children are described here as “arrows in the hand of a warrior” because children, especially in Old Testament culture, provided security to the future of their families.

God provided offspring for David so that he would always have a son on the throne, ultimately providing Jesus, the Son of David who is the Son of God. So He provides for us the means to accomplishing the ends of building His kingdom. We can rest assured that He will provide all we need as we pursue His agenda.

 Christological Application

Each one of the major biblical themes mentioned that inform our understanding of Psalm 127 are, of course, fulfilled in Jesus. He is the promised offspring of the woman who crushes the head of the serpent. He is the son of David who rules from his throne over His people, and is the head of the household of David.

The promise of the coming offspring who would bring to rights God’s good world that had fallen is a major focus of the whole Old Testament; but, is this offspring a group of people, or an individual? We find now that the answer is “both.” Throughout the Old Testament, it looks like Israel as a nation is this offspring who will bring blessing to the world; the prophets and the life of Christ, however, teach us that Jesus Himself is the true Israel, the real promised offspring. Yet, we become a part of this offspring as we are united with Christ, born of water and the Spirit. The Christ who fulfills these themes of Scripture is the whole Christ: it is not just Christ Himself, but the whole body. He is the head, and we, His people, are His body.

St. Peter tells us that that the house God is building is built with living stones:

“As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:4-5)

We are a bricks in this building; God is building a house made of people. And our call, as living stones, is to go and bring in more people to become disciples and be incorporated into this spiritual building. The Lord has told us “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18)

In Christ, we are brought into the mission that God is working out through His Son. As we have been baptized into union with Christ, we become, in our new birth, offspring of the Spirit. Christ is the promised offspring through which the world is blessed, and so we, in our new life in Christ, mediate His blessing to the nations. His mission has become our mission, to do battle with the forces of sin and death and to bring the gospel of peace and salvation to the nations.

Conclusion

We are to embrace God’s agenda of building the kingdom of God, trusting that He will accomplish the work and provide the means to do His will. May God grant us grace to lay down all to join in His work of bringing salvation to all nations.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.