Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord
When I made my first journey to Liverpool to go to an open day for my theological college, I had no idea what Liverpool cathedral looked like. I got off at Liverpool lime street and started to walk the route towards the cathedral. On the way I saw a church with a tallish tower and I though that I had reached the cathedral.. It was a similar size to Manchester cathedral but as I got closer I realised it had no roof, it was the bombed out church, damaged in during the May Blitz in 1941 during the Second World War.
I tutted and continued to walk wondering if I would recognise the cathedral. I turned a corner and suddenly I saw the huge burnt orange stone tower that is the majestic Liverpool cathedral. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I felt like the disciples in the Gospel today as they said to Jesus, what large stones and what large buildings! As I got to know the cathedral building more and more I began to realise that there were much more precious stones inside, the living stones of the faithful who came to worship there.
In his letters Peter describes us, the faithful as living stones, precious and chosen, that if this very building, or even something as huge as Liverpool cathedral were to collapse all would be well because the true building blocks of the church would be still be visible. The living stones, you and I.
We are the living stones that build up the church, built on the foundations of Apostolic leadership, Jesus describes Peter as the rock on which he would build his church, Jesus himself the cornerstone the one on whom we depend on in the living, breathing Christian church.
In the Gospel today we hear Jesus foretelling the destruction of the stones that have been built up without His kingship, without His authority. As we draw ever closer to Advent we start to think about Jesus as King, and how we welcome Jesus to be king over us, and not just over us as people but of the things that we do and say. It is a challenging thought to wonder if we can actually let Jesus be king over everything, such as our relationships, our shopping habits, our homes. Can we start to think about how Jesus as king can shape us to be living stones to once again build up His church?
It’s not an easy thing to say yes to Jesus as King, as we know in Easter story people lined up down the streets of Jerusalem to welcome Jesus, waving palms and shouting out His mission His calling, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest! Yet in no time at all the same crowd stood and screamed and shouted crucify Him crucify Him.
Yet through this Jesus says if the faithful were silent, even the stones would cry out, this wonderful description of the stones being alive, the living stones who continue to cry out and proclaim that Jesus is King, that is Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the way the truth and the life.
But what next? We get a glimpse in the readings today of the second coming of Christ, in Daniel we hear of a great prince arising and delivering us from all anguish, in the Gospel we hear Jesus warning of the trials of the faithful, the cosmic struggle to see God’s kingdom here on Earth. Jesus describes this struggle as birth pangs, of pain during labour, a productive pain that has a glorious outcome, a new life bursting into the world through water and blood, as Jesus gave His life outpouring through His blood and water.
Every week we affirm that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. We do not know when, but we must keep awake and be the living stones, building each other up in love and hope, encouraging each other as Paul writes in the Hebrews reading, holding fast to the assurance of faith with clean hearts washed through by the blood of Christ.
News around us telling us about declining numbers in the church should not worry us and silence us, because in the silence the living stones cry out, there is no stopping the mission of God or His relentless love and His desire for us to be reconciled to Him for ever.
No stone will be left upon another that is built up without acknowledging that Jesus is king, without Jesus as the cornerstone, without us knowing that we cannot do church without Him, or in fact anything without Him.
We are the living stones here in Rochdale, let us keep building, let us do everything in Jesus name.