This week’s sermon reflects on the fifth Sunday of Easter and the coronation of King Charles III, discussing the significance of stability and permanence in a world where monarchs may live and die. They mention the crown jewels, particularly the Kulinan diamond, as symbols of the United Kingdom. Rev. Peg Bowman then connects this theme to the scripture readings, which talk about valuable stones and the concept of living stones. In these readings, David seeks refuge in God, Jesus comforts his disciples, and Peter discusses living stones in his letter.
Rev. Peg Bowman suggests that living stones represent God’s people, built together into a spiritual house with God as the foundation. They also discuss the idea of Jesus as the chief cornerstone, or rather, the capstone or keystone, holding the structure together. The coronation of King Charles, with people from different tribes and languages coming together to celebrate, serves as a glimpse of the unity that Jesus envisions for his followers. Christians are honored to be part of the eternal King’s living stones and a royal priesthood in the eternal kingdom.
Well, welcome to the fifth Sunday of Easter. We were just talking about that before the service. I might have more… We’re going to be in Easter for a little while longer yet, but this is Sunday. This is week five, and I am sure I am not the only person who was up yesterday at 5 p.m., watching the crowning of King Charles III. This coronation will hopefully be a once-in-a-lifetime experience if the king lives as long as his mother did, which of course we all hope for.
His mother, Queen Elizabeth, was already on the throne when I was born, so she is the only British monarch who has reigned during my lifetime until now. And even though we Americans aren’t British, the fact that she reigned so long gave me and a lot of other people a sense of stability, a sense that somewhere in the world there is something that lasts. And that’s what the coronation ceremony is designed to communicate, that even though monarchs may live and die, the kingdom itself is something that is lasting and is permanent, something that will still be here when our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are our age. One of the other things that the newscasters have been talking about a lot this past week has been the crown jewels, and particularly that world-famous diamond known as the Kulinan diamond, the largest diamond ever found on earth.
The stone is absolutely priceless, and it has been cut very carefully into nine famous stones plus some smaller jewels made out of the chips. And the largest of the diamonds, which is in the king’s scepter, is over 3,000 carats. The second largest piece is over 300 carats, and that’s in the imperial state crown. So you would have seen that in the front of his crown if you watch this, it was right there.
The other seven stones belong to the king and are held in trust for the nation and for future monarchs. And these stones, all these stones are usually kept very well guarded in the Tower of London, where sightseers for a price can view them, but from a distance.
In a very real way, these stones represent the nation of the United Kingdom, much in the same way that our Capitol building and our White House represent America.
And of course, these buildings are also made out of stones, different kinds of stones, but they’re stones. So the scripture readings for today talk a lot about stones, valuable stones. In fact, the readings say way too much to cover in one sermon, so I’m just going to touch on a few of the highlights today. And there actually is a fourth reading assigned to this Sunday, which I’m not going to read, but it doesn’t really fit in with the other three readings, but it also talks about stones.
It happens to be the story in Acts that talks about the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. And as he is dying, filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen prays for the forgiveness for the people who are stoning him. And I mention this because he also prays the same verse in Psalm 31 that we heard today, we read today, that Jesus prayed from the cross, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” He prays this. Now, this prayer that Jesus prayed was first prayed by King David.
And in Psalm 31, which we saw today, King David talks a lot about stones. And this Psalm, David has gotten himself into a tight spot, and we’re not sure quite what he has done or what’s going on, but it’s some kind of life changing trouble. And he says things like, “My life is spent with sorrow. My strength fails.
I have become like a broken vessel.” And I think most of us could probably relate to those feelings at one time or another in our lives. When we find ourselves in times of trouble, I hear it, we can pray as David prayed. “Oh Lord, in you I seek refuge.
Be to me a rock of refuge and be to me a strong fortress.” David understood the power and the protection and the security of a fortress built out of stone. And in the reading from the Gospel of John, we also come across buildings made with stones. Jesus says, “In my father’s house are many mansions,” which might be built out of stones, I imagine. And Jesus speaks these words to comfort his disciples, because Jesus has just told them that he’s about to die.
And he has told them that where I’m coming, you cannot come. And the disciples are heartbroken. And they don’t understand yet that Jesus must die, and they don’t understand yet that he will come back in three days. And they don’t understand yet that Jesus will ascend into heaven where they can’t come just yet.
But Jesus’ resurrection makes the ascension necessary, both for Jesus and for us. And so Jesus encourages and reassures the disciples by describing a place in the kingdom to come that Jesus is making ready for us. And this is not a fable. It is a reality as indestructible as the Kulinan diamond.
So when you and I get to God’s kingdom, each one of us will have a place, not so much a room as a role to fill, a purpose for being there. And we arrive the same way that David did, by trusting God and by trusting in the Messiah. We live in Jesus, and Jesus lives in us. Okay, we are being knitted together into God’s house.
We are, as one theologian said, a plurality of people with a single heart. In fact, Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled.” And the word heart is singular, not plural. We are being built together into one, let not our heart be troubled. The Holy Spirit-directed Church becomes a living part of God’s work in the world.
Wherever we pray or act, in Jesus’ name, we are declaring loyalty and allegiance to Jesus as our King and to God’s kingdom, and the Church becomes a fruitful community alive with the Spirit. The Apostle Peter, in that reading, picks up on the idea in this letter where he talks about living stones in his letter. And I love that our Sunday night dinners are called living stones because that’s exactly what we are, God’s people, living stones, being built together into a house. This idea of living stones, of course, is a metaphor, it’s kind of a parable.
But what does it refer to, what on earth is a living stone? Well, here’s one possibility, something that I’m sure Peter knew about back in the day that might have inspired the thought. Do you have those slides up there? Let me see the first one. Check that out. In Africa, this is where these things come from, there’s a plant that looks like stones.
They’re called lithops, which basically means stones. And before they bloom, they look like this and they could be mistaken for stones. But when they bloom, next one there, check that out. They produce, each stone produces one beautiful flower. And these flowers have no stems, and the part that looks like stones, as are actually the leaves.
But one of these things by itself probably wouldn’t be noticed, in fact, one of the things by itself probably wouldn’t survive. But you put a whole bunch together and they’re beautiful. And with the proper foundational materials, they could be built into something resembling a building of living stones. God is the proper foundation that we living stones need to thrive and to be built together.
God is also the artist who knows exactly where to place each stone in the building, how to place us in the building for maximum beauty and thriving. And we are then taken together, one of the outcomes of God’s creativity. And in a sense, resurrection for all of us can be thought of as repurposing a building, as we are built together into this spiritual house, into this living community. One other thing that’s worth noting about the readings that we had today, and that is that Jesus is referred to as the chief cornerstone.
Again, talking about stones here, a stone that the builders rejected, but a stone that God chose and honored. Now I found out this last week that the word cornerstone in this passage is not really quite the correct translation. A cornerstone is usually low in the building. I mean, we have one in this building, it’s like in the low corner of the building.
But the word in Scripture should actually be translated capstone or keystone. There you go, there it is. Describes the one stone at the top of an arch that holds the structure together. The weight of that stone pushes the others down like this, diffuses the gravity so that the arch doesn’t fall.
This is put together without mortar, and they built these things back in Jesus’ time. In fact, the Romans, I’m not sure the Romans invented it, but the Romans had them and used them a lot. So this again was very common in Peter’s time. So he’s talking about this keystone. Jesus is the keystone who holds the building of living stones together.
This living stone is this building is made up of every person on earth who believes in him, in every church, in every denomination, from every nation around the world. So looking at the congregation, at the coronation of King Charles, have you got a chance to see the people who were there? We saw a little bit of a foretaste of what this building is going to look like, because there’s people from all over the world. People from different tribes and languages coming together to celebrate the King. That is what Jesus has in mind for us.
We as Christians are honored to be among the eternal King’s living stones, a royal priesthood in the eternal kingdom. In Jesus’ name and to his glory.