A sermon based on 1 Peter 2:1-10 preached on May 18, 2014 upon the graduation of 2 of the church’s high school seniors. During the service, we gave them gifts: a book of wisdom for graduates, a bible, and a hammer.
Today we get to celebrate a couple significant milestones in the lives of two members of our church family.
Mack and Derek, even though you haven’t technically graduated yet, at this point it’s only a formality, and sooner than you or your folks know it or wish it, you’ll be off to start a brand new part of your life.
And it’s at times like these, where one chapter comes to an end and the next chapter begins, that you’re going to get a lot of unsolicited advice from people. You’re going to hear other people’s opinions about life at your graduation ceremony. And you’re going to hear some from me this morning. But it’s not my fault, because our passage from 1 Peter is full of advice. Advice really isn’t the word for it, though. What we hear from Peter is a whole lot more than advice—these aren’t soggy Hallmarky statements, this is the kind of solid material that we can build something out of. These words are like a blueprint for our lives. They’re the kind of ideas we can build our entire selves around.
God has a project for you—for all of us—to take up. It’s a building project. That’s why you have your hammers. And every project needs a name, so let’s call this “Project Identity”.
These words are all about becoming a people and building our identity around God. And there’s a few things you need to know before you start swinging your hammer.
First off, you need to know that you don’t build your identity on your own. Your family and this church and the ways that God has worked and spoken to you through both, have helped you lay a sure foundation on which everything you do and everything you are will be built. Verse 5 says, “You yourselves are being built like living stones in a spiritual temple.” We are being built. We don’t build ourselves, we are being built by God. We fool ourselves if we think that we can shape ourselves into something that will last and stand the test of time. No, we are being shaped. And God is the one who’s shaping us. But there’s a few things we can do to make God’s job easier.
So, Mack and Derek, my 1st piece of advice is this. Surround yourselves with people who God can use to shape you well. Choose to spend your time doing the sorts of things and being with the sorts of people who build you up, give you strength, and want the very best for you. Spend time with those who’d much rather hold your hand than twist your arm.
And that leads to my 2nd piece of advice: Wherever it is that you find yourself, get yourself into a strong faith community where you can be in relationship with others. The idea that we are self-made people is one of the biggest lies out there.
It’s a little early yet to talk about college, but here I go anyway. Find the Presbyterian Campus ministry. There is one, and I know the people who lead them. They’re great, and they will care for you, nurture you, and help you through your college years.
Also, find a local church to be a part of on Sunday mornings. If the nearest church is too far to walk to, there’s somebody at that church who will be more than excited to pick you up and take you.
My 3rd piece of advice, since you asked: Read your bible. Rest yourselves in and be nourished by its words. Get to know what it says, and you will get to know what sort of life God wants for you. Build yourself up by its promises—rather, let God build you up by its promises. Find a couple of new friends and study passages together. Dive into it. Immerse yourself in its stories and let those stories shape you. Wrap yourself around the God you meet within its pages.
And my last piece of advice—it’s really not advice, it’s more like the truth of the matter: this building project, Project Identity? It’s never completed. It’s never done because you’re not the real builder and neither is anyone else. God is the builder, and God is never done with any of us. We are all unfinished projects.
So, if you stumble, if you make bad choices, if you entirely screw up and need to start building from scratch all over again, then you can do that, because God will be patient with you and will offer you the chance to start over again anytime you need. That’s what the other side of the hammer is for. And that’s what grace is.
Here’s the thing about faith that’s also true about Project Identity: it will never be completed. We need an entire lifetime to let God work, but as long as we let God be the project manager, God will complete something in us.
So, Mack and Derek, my advice to you, and my prayer for you, is really only this: Let yourself be built by God.