Straws, Sticks, and Stones
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, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)
Do you remember the story the Three Little Pigs? Usually the story is understood as a commentary about the wisdom of the pigs, some being foolish, others being wise. That is perhaps helpful, but I would like to consider the material of the houses. One built of straw, another of sticks, and the third pig built of stone, or bricks. All are legitimate building materials, and can be found in houses around the world even today.
What if we take the story as a spiritual metaphor? What if the wolf represents Evil? The prophet Jeremiah describes invading foreign armies as a lion, a wolf, and a leopard (Jer. 5:6). And of course, Jesus speaks of the wolf who scatters and snatches the sheep when he identifies himself as the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:12). What if each house represents individual congregations? The image of the Church as a building is found in numerous places in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul says, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). It is written further in Ephesians (2:19-22):
You are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Returning to the story of the Three Little Pigs, it says nothing about the beauty or architecture of the houses, their size or their color. In most illustrated storybooks the straw house and the stick house are small, rickety, and poorly constructed. But, one could easily imagine a three story mansion, held together in ideal conditions, awesome and impressive in appearance, but still made of straw. When the wolf comes, what will happen, even to that most beautiful of straw houses? The story talks about the houses’ materials, their strength. The house is only as strong as the material of which it is built.
So, speaking of congregations, and more specifically of our congregation, how will our house withstand the wolf? How do we build a strong place against evil in the world? Evil in the world is real. We experience it individually in sin, disease, and violence. We experience it in our community when we share one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:15). So, considering the congregation of which we are a part, are you a straw, a stick, or a stone? And how do we strengthen our congregation?
In the Three Little Pigs story, two of the three houses are blown down, but the wonder and the grace in our Story is that we can be changed by God. The straw can become a stick, and the stick can become a stone. Through disciplines such as prayer, Scripture study, worship, and service, we can grow in faith, hope, and love. God can strengthen us, as we are reminded by the Apostle’s prayer in Ephesians (3:16-17):
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, the Father may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
Paul’s prayer is my prayer for you, too. Be a stone, chosen by the grace of the Father, formed by Christ to be precious, and placed next to others as the Temple of Holy Spirit.
Yours in Christ,