In my reading this week, I have been pondering these familiar lines penned by Peter, the Apostle, in 1 Peter 2.4-5:
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.
I marvel at the imagery Peter uses to describe the Church – to describe us. Peter speaks of us “coming to” Jesus, the Living Stone, who Peter will go on to point out is the “Cornerstone”, and the foundation of the Church. I think most Christians understand that part. But Peter also shows that we are “like living stones being built up” together. Another word for being built up is “edified”. God is building us “up” and “together” into an “edifice” – a “spiritual house”. It is a reminder to me that we need one another; that God did not design us to be an assortment of individuals who have come to Jesus, rather he designed us to be “built together”, like stones that make a building. He designed us for community. As Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson has written: “Christ wants to create ‘a People’, not merely isolated individuals who believe in him.”
The sad irony of this imagery, during a time when many of us, out of wisdom and precaution, still find ourselves scattered because of the threat of the coronavirus, is not lost on me. But I am heartened when I realize Peter says we are “being built up”. It is passive language, reminding us that it is God who is at work; it is not us who edify. We are like the stones – albeit “living stones” – in the hands of the master chief mason. But it also reminded me of the importance for us to reflect that edification, as much as it is for us to understand it. It is a reminder of the importance of continuing to connect with one another, via phone, or Zoom, or whatever means. Many of us probably thought we would all – or mostly – be back together by now. I certainly did. But with so much still unknown, and with questions arising due to renewed outbreaks in different parts of the country, it may be some time before we all meet together again.
I find Peter’s purpose statement for the Church to be significant. We are “a royal priesthood”. That means, in part, that we stand in the gap between God and man. That’s what Old Testament priests did. They prayed, offered godly counsel (the good priests, anyway), and they offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. For us it means we pray, for one another, for our neighbors and our community, and for the World; we speak God’s Word, in season, to encourage, counsel, and to build one another up in God’s grace – and to bring good news to our neighbors who do not yet really know Jesus (see Proverbs 15.23); and we point one another to the sacrifice made once for all, by Jesus, on the Cross. (See Hebrews 10.10)
Practically speaking, this means please continue to use the church directory to call others, and as a guide to praying for one another. If you do not have a directory, please contact the church office and we’ll get a list out to you. I am thankful for the way we have been connected by doing this through the early stages of social distancing. I am thankful that it is still occurring. But I suspect it might be a bit naive to assume some of the connecting has not waned, at least a little bit, as this pandemic has dragged out longer than many of us could have imagined.
As part of our connecting, we rejoice with those who rejoice, and we mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12.15) This week we rejoice with Jason & Jen Lemons, and family, on the birth of their son, Caleb Justice Lemons, in the early hours of Wednesday June 24. (For those who do not yet know this family, the Lemons were relatively new to Grace Covenant when we suspended worship gatherings in March. We are delighted to include them as part of our church family!) But we also mourn with Charley & Rachel Bartelmay. As many are aware, Charley and Rachel are in Pennsylvania, where Charley’s father is in his final days. A text from Charley this morning said that they did not expect it to be much longer. It is quite possible Charley’s dad will have passed by the time many of you read this note. So we pray for God to comfort Charley, Rachel, and Charley’s family with his love and with his grace.
For the women of Grace Covenant, there are a couple of opportunities to note. First, you are invited to join a Virtual Coffee Fellowship on Thursday July 9 @ 10 am. This is open to all women for the purpose of fellowship. Bring your own coffee for this ZOOM chat. Gwen Martin, who is leads our Women’s Ministry says there is “no agenda” and that she hopes to make this a regular fellowship opportunity, at least until in-person gatherings can resume. Email Gwen Martin to receive the ZOOM link for July 9th. Second, for any woman who needs an ear, a team of lay counselors have been trained to provide confidential listening, Christ-centered care, and biblical guidance. If you would want to talk and/or pray with one of these women, contact: Gwen Martin or Kathy Buhl.
Finally, as part of our plan to continue discussion of Race, Justice, and Racial Reconciliation, I want to invite everyone connected to Grace Covenant – whether you are new to the church, or you’ve been here for years – to participate in a short survey to help us get a clearer sense of how to frame our discussions. The survey will take only 3-4 minute of your time, and your answers will be completely confidential, unless you choose to provide your personal info after the completion of the survey. By “completely confidential” I mean completely confidential. Not even Camper or I, who are administrators of the survey site, will know how anyone answered. This survey, as was the survey we did several weeks ago regarding COVID-19, is designed by Barna Research. All survey data is collected by Barna Group. Results of surveys completed by those connected with Grace Covenant will be complied and provided to us; all survey results from Grace Covenant will also be included in Barna’s national survey results. To partake in the survey, click GCPC Faith & Race Check-in. For those who prefer texting, Text ZARS to 90888 to start the assessment.
I look forward to seeing those who are able together on Sunday; and I look forward to seeing those who are not able to gather sometime very soon. Please know we continue to work on improving our LiveStream for those who participate in worship from home. I continue to be thankful for Tim Nargi & Jeff Field for all the work they are putting in; and for those who have volunteered to be trained in the the tech work necessary to make our services available. Our services can be accesssed on the GCPC web page. Also available:
- June 28 Digital Worship Outline (w/ link to the .pdf worship outline at top of the page)
- GCPC Worship – June 28, 2020 (.pdf)
Have a wonderful week!
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor