By Rev Sharon Jacobs

Quite a while ago I did a Pedology course. Not podiatry- that’s feet. This course was a lot more down to earth.Pedology is the study of soil. Soil science. I’d been studying botany – which involves plants and suddenly itwas decided that it was part of my degree to know about which plants grew on which soils. Hmm. Geology.

You could tell all the real geologists from us botanists as they had their little hammers for cracking the rocksopen and they were the ones who actually put the dirt in their mouths to tell the clay vs grit content. Not really to my taste.

While I was studying there, in the Geology department, I heard that we might have to put up with theProfessor showing us through his rock collection. I heard also of when a technician slipped a piece of concrete into his collection.

The Professor was not phased at all. I’m sure he spotted the fake rock a mileaway though. He would name each rock as he lifted it up. This is a piece of obsidian, this is a piece of marbleand – as he lifted the bit of concrete up he said – and this is a piece of impertinence and he just kept on going.

You might have noticed a few not so impertinent mentions of rock in the reading today. A Foundation of Rock; aprecious Cornerstone, living building-stones; stumbling stones.

Rocks are interesting things. Solid, dependable, the foundation of a good house that doesn’t wash away when the floods rise up.

The smaller stones get worse press especially when they get caught in a shoe.

Traditionally stones were used to execute people. Jesus had challenged his hometown traditions so they threw tradition at him by trying to throw him off the cliff at Nazareth.

This was another acceptable means of stoning people. Throw rocks at them or throw them at the rocks. Like that worked to get rid of Jesus! Not.

When they had handed over Jesus for crucifixion maybe now this this new-fangled religion might be silenced by eliminating Jesus.

Wrong again! Now his followers just wouldn’t shut up,

Stephen was stoned for challenging the ancient belief in and practice of worshipping God only in the Temple in Jerusalem.

And now Peter- one of the disciples -was teaching that Jesus was the cornerstone of a new temple, withliving rocks as the building blocks. And those living rocks are you and me! We are part of God’s house stillbeing built today. A long way from Jerusalem and much wider and vaster than any temple or church built byhuman hand!

Jesus was a real stumbling stone for those denying that he was the Messiah, and still is for many today. Power and control are important for many people.

Most people like to feel that they have some control over their lives, and plans for staying in power, for keeping on top and running our own lives. This may work for a while but it is an illusion.

What control do any of us really have over our lives? Even though we might think we have chosen to be Christians, that we have chosen to come here today, the reading today suggests that we “have been chosen by God – as priests of the King, holy and pure,”

And wait… there’s more… verse 10 says…

“Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness;now your very lives have been changed by it.

How does that work? Do you feel that you life has been changed by God’s kindness? Or is there some doubt and confusion over the pain and suffering in your life that’s part and parcel of being a human being?

When life gets truly tough. It’s hard. And it’s hard to always hold positive images of life, love and God.

I can’t explain why horrible things happen in our lives. I don’t see a plan or purpose in suffering.

In challenging times I hold on to special quotes like… “If you are going through hell- keep going.”

Yet from these painful experiences I have found that I am more resilient, I have more understanding, greaterpatience for others and, when I look back, my faith is strengthened and shines more. In the furnace ofaffliction, pressure makes this building block of God’s church into something more shiny and valuable. WhenI’m called out of the darkness of despair into God’s wonderful light I can shine and I see so many shining lightsin all of you gathered here and online.

There is a Maori word that I am very fond of. It’s turangawaewae. Turanga means a resting place. Wae is foot so waewae means feet. Turangawaewae is the resting place for your feet; but don’t think footstool. It’s more like a place where you can stand your feet on, and to stand there and be strong and be firm. Butthere’s another side of

it. . . that it is a place that stands for you, that supports you in your stance, that will keep you firm. Jesus is my turangawaewae, my cornerstone.

I know that, like each of you, I am a building block who is part of God’s house or holy temple. I know that, like each of you, I am a priest, God’s very own, set apart to be holy and pure. Yes, just like each one of you.

And each of the other building blocks that I rub shoulders with- here together today – you and me – giveme the support and encouragement to keep me standing firm even in the toughest of times. And that isGod’s kindness to me. And it changes my life daily.

Yet is this enough. There are two great messages in the New Testament. Go and Do. And Sufficient Grace.

Most rocks sit still, powerfully still.

We have pondered this today singing Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 18 acknowledges that God is my rock, my strong tower, my strength. And Psalm 19: God’s name will beproclaimed throughout the earth. God’s powerful name is proclaimed in every blooming flower andresplendent sunset. In a world where we connect with nature and see God written in all of creation we cantrust that the universe declares the glory of the Lord. Every rock and hill and valley.

Yet how many people do we know that have been so damaged in their lives that they are blind to this beauty? How many folk are so glued to their devices that they cannot be at peace, or be still to hear God speaking to them?

I know and love folk who believe that we are God’s only hands and feet and we should never stop sharing theGospel or proclaiming God at every possible moment. Being caught up so much in the doing and forgetting that they are human beings, not human doings.

I see my role as showing God’s welcoming love to all I meet but I don’t generate situations to share aboutJesus. I take the lighthouse approach. As Anne Lamott says- Lighthouses don’t go rushing all over an islandto save others from crashing. They just stand there and shine, offering guidance, hope and comfort.

Yet if you are a human doing, please don’t bum yourself out. Give yourself time to rest and recuperate, in prayer if you need to do something!

Please do not beat yourself up if you are not spending every minute of every day at work for God. Give God some time to get the work done through the rest of the team. Even Jesus went quietly away to pray.

For Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian Church.

I rest on Christ my cornerstone and I rock on with the best building blocks in town! Just keep in touch witheach other! Be gentle and don’t bump into each other too roughly. Stand strong together – That’s the challenge today.

Photo of Rev Sharon Jacobs

Written by Rev Sharon Jacobs

Sharon is Minister for Relationships and Growth with a focus on families and children and youth ministry generally. She also provides leadership to the Rainbow Christian Alliance. Sharon joined TUC during 2022 as a student minister while she finished off her training to be a Minister of the Word. She was ordained in February 2023 and Inducted in to her placement at Tuggeranong Uniting.

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