Rough Draft of My Sermon on 1 Peter 2:2-10
2011-05-20 by David von Schlichten


The Bible is full of rock-imagery. Today’s readings are full of stone-imagery. Stones. In our psalm, Psalm 31, in verse three, we pray, “Be my strong rock . . . ” We pray for God to be our strong rock. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are told that God is indeed our strong rock, our mighty fortress. Indeed, repeatedly in Scripture, God is associated with rock-strength.

            In what ways is God our rock? It is tempting to think that God is not much of a rock for us. It is tempting for us to think that evil is stronger than God, that Satan is mightier than the Savior. After all, the world pelts us with violence. Satan loves to throw stones at us humans. The world is full of stones flying at the innocent. Sometimes people throw stones at us, the baptized, to try to stop us from being good Christians. With all those stones flying, we are quick to become depressed or to fill up with anxiety, even panic. “[sing] All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces . . . ”

            But we are never alone. No, never alone. God is our rock. “[sing] On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” God is the rock from whom the waters of baptism gush to wash us clean. Because of baptism, we are God’s adopted children, members of the Church. Throughout our lives, that baptism holds. We are ever the baptized, ever God’s children, rock-strong because of the Rock. At confirmation, we remember that baptism and say yes to it, and the Holy Spirit confirms our faith, makes it stronger, fortifies it. Yes! That’s what’ll happen to you in about ten minutes, Tyler. You will say yes to your baptism, and the Holy Spirit will confirm your faith. The Holy Spirit will strengthen your faith, and we shall declare you an adult in the Church.

            God our Rock fortifies us in other ways, too. When you ask God to forgive you, God strengthens you through forgivenss, no matter what you’ve done wrong. No matter what! When you pray, God strengthens you by answering your prayer. God may not answer your prayer the way you want him you to, but God always answers somehow in a way that’s good for you. When you attend worship, God strengthens you. When you receive holy communion, the real body and blood of the crucified and risen Christ, God strengthens you. In a boulder field of ways, God strengthens you, makes your soul rock-strong.

            You are a living stone with which God builds the Church. That’s part of the message we hear in our second reading, 1 Peter 2:2-10. Verse five says, “ . . . 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.” That’s you. A living stone, a priest. Yes, you are a priest, the passage declares. God has baptized you. As Luther says, your baptism is your ordination. You are sacred, part of the communion of saints, a living stone.

As a living stone, you are part of God’s holy building, the Church, and we need you. If you take a stone out, the building is incomplete. Yes? Take a brick out of the wall of a building, and you have a hole. The building is incomplete. Same with the stones. Without you, the Church is incomplete. Without you, a stone is missing, and we need all the stones to have a complete building. Your presence here is essential.

God is your strong rock who makes you into a rock-strong living stone. You are to respond by loving one another. You are not to respond by throwing stones but by being a living stone. We are not to throw stones. We are not insult each other, put each other down, backstab, hit, yell, slap, steal. We are not to be judgmental, self-righteous. We are not to throw stones but to be living stones. Indeed, we can be living stones because God gives us the power to be living stones. Christ is risen! He has rolled away the stone of the tomb. Christ is alive! We have power in this life, and we know the way to eternal life. Christ has won the way for us, even though we are undeserving. We shall live in heaven forever for free, thanks be to Christ our resurrection rock.

You know the way. It’s shaped like a cross.


God is the Rock, So Don't Throw Stones, Be a Stone
2011-05-17 by David von Schlichten

Here are more thoughts about the readings for this Sunday.


The stoning of Stephen prompts me to contemplate what stoning goes on today. If by stoning we mean condemning and killing a person in some sense, then what stoning occurs?

One form of stoning is bullying. Another is scapegoating. Racist and sexist comments that pummel someone's spirit can be a form of stoning.

Then there is the stoning we Christians receive for doing the right thing. For instance, how often do people hurl stones at members of the gay community who feel called to serve as pastors or at people who support gay clergy?

1 Peter 2:2-10: BEING STONES

This passage declares that, with Christ as the cornerstone, we Christians are living stones. What a peculiar image. What does a living stone look and act like? 

Here, being a stone means being like Christ, being a part of the building called the Church, and, of course, being strong, solid. Being a LIVING stone means not being passive but being organic, active, growing. 

We are to be strong but also growing and active. Stone-strong but not petrified.

John 14:1-14: GOD IS THE ROCK

Granted (or granite; ha, ha), this passage does not use stone imagery, but it does assure us that, even though he is leaving, Christ is still with us and thus we still have unassailable might. He is the way, truth, and life, and we are not alone or forsaken. Christ is rock-faithful.

So then, when Christ says, "Ask for anything in my name, and I'll grant it," he's not saying, "I'm your genie, and you have unlimited wishes." No, he is saying, in substance, "Even though I am leaving you to die on the cross, rise, and return to heaven, I will still be with you to help you do the work of the church, indeed to do even greater works than I have done."

(It would be fruitful to preach about how the Church has indeed done greater works than Christ did in his earthly ministry. Of course, this success has been possible only because of Christ's matchless death and resurrection.)

In short, Christ is our rock who calls us away from casting stones and makes us into living stones.

What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Sermon thoughts for May 22, 2011; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:14
2011-05-15 by David von Schlichten

1 Peter 2:2-10 speaks of us Christians as living stones, members of a royal priesthood, a holy nation. What profound language this is. One could devote a whole sermon to helping hearers contemplate what it means to be a living stone or a priest.

John 14:14 declares that, if we ask for anything in Christ's name, Christ will do it. This is clearly a statement that requires some elaboration. How do you interpret this promise?

How do these two passages connect? For instance, could we proclaim that part of being a priest is asking Christ for that which a true priest would ask for? That is, if we are asking Christ for things AS priests, then we will not ask for, for example, revenge or selfish riches, but for that which serves God and neighbor. Make sense?

I'll provide more thoughts later this week, and I welcome your input.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Psalm 23, Acts 2:42-47, Socialism, Our Stuff
2011-05-09 by David von Schlichten

This coming Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, on which we hear from biblical passages containing shepherd imagery. It's easy to trivialize and sentimentalize these passages.

We also have a tendency to preach about how stupid sheep are and how, well, we are, too. I'm not saying that it's wrong to point out human foolishness. I'm just saying that it gets done a lot when sheep show up in the lessons (I wonder if sheep really deserve such a bad reputation.).

I don't know what I'm preaching on this Sunday, but I find intriguing Acts 2:45, which tells us that at least some in the early church sold their possessions and then distributed the proceeds to all according to need. We capitalists tend to frown upon such an economic system, but Acts mentions it a few times (cf. chapters 4 and 5).

We Americans are possessive of our stuff. "It's my money. I'll decide who gets it. I'm not working hard only to have someone else receive a hand-out at my expense." Yet here is Acts, presenting a more communist or socialist economics. Marxist Christianity anyone?

Psalm 23 tells us that we shall not want because the Lord is our shepherd, yet many faithful followers around the world are starving, wanting. Perhaps the not-wantng arises at least in part from us following the shepherd's voice, and part of following the shepherd's voice is making sure that we take care of our fellow sheep. That is, part of following the shepherd is that we are to work together to free each other from want.

What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Osama bin Laden, Preaching, and Praying
2011-05-04 by David von Schlichten

How do we preach and pray about Osama bin Laden? Do we thank God for bin Laden's death? Do we celebrate the violent demise of a human being? What do you think?

What if we prayed/preached something like this: God of us all, we have mixed feelings. We are grateful that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat. We thank you that his death probably brings closure for at least some of the many people devastated by 9/11. We thank you for watching over our soldiers involved in the attack on bin Laden.

At the same time, God, we do not take delight in the death of one of your children. We find tragic that bin Laden lived by the sword and died by the sword. Guide us not to rejoice over someone's death even as we recognize the good that may come from such a death.

Lead all of us humans to work for the day on which there will be justice and mercy for all with violence and death for no one. In the name of our forgiving, crucified Lord we pray. Amen.

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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