We are in the Easter season. And for me it is the most exciting and dynamic season of the Christian year. I love the stories we read during these first weeks of Easter, of the Risen Lord calling men and women to follow him. Gathered behind locked doors, walking on the road to Emmaus, having breakfast by the lake side, Jesus appears, and says, today, ‘Come, follow me.’ I am the way, the truth and the life. Come, follow me.’
But what I love is that Jesus chose each person to follow him in a different way. He seemed to delight in all the distinctive gifts which his disciples had, even though sometimes they must have infuriated him! They were a really mixed bunch. Each of them was very different, but Jesus loved every one of them, and loved them for their differences. For Jesus had called them for a purpose. He was building something very great. After the resurrection, he was building a Kingdom. St Peter, in a wonderful image, compares that Kingdom which Jesus came to build, with the building of a great spiritual house. And, Peter tells us, Jesus chooses each one of us, with our very different gifts, to be like living stones to be made part of the very fabric of this house.
I love this image, and it came back to me this year during the Easter Vigil. The vigil began in darkness of course, but slowly, as the sun rose, and shafts of light lit up the chapel, I was struck again by the beauty of this spiritual house. In particular I looked at the stones; how each one is different, different sizes and shapes. but skillfully chosen by Ralph Adams Cram to form this beautiful church. But then later in the Vigil we had the joy of baptizing Eva. During the baptism, the words which stood out for me were those lovely words spoken as her forehead was marked with the sign of the cross: ‘Eva, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever’. I remember thinking that Eva and I and you and all who have been baptized, have been marked by Christ and chosen by him, because of our distinctive gifts and shape, to be living stones in God’s spiritual house, God’s Kingdom.
When I was first ordained I went to be a curate in a place called the Isle of Portland, which is on the south coast of England. It’s a well-known island because it is made of a very special stone – Portland stone. And that stone has been used to build buildings all around the world – for example in New Delhi, and the United Nations building in New York City, and most famous of all, St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The stone is very special, because it is very hard, but also easy to cut. Centuries ago, when Sir Christopher Wren was building St Paul’s Cathedral, he came down to Portland, to the quarries, to find the stone for St Paul’s. He was the master- builder, and in his mind, he knew exactly what stones he was looking for, for all the different parts of the cathedral. And he walked around the quarry and he marked different stones for different places – different shapes and sizes for different parts of the cathedral, and had it all fit together into this wonderful building. Actually, you can still see marks on some of the stones to this day.
Peter writes in his First Letter: ‘Come to him, a living stone, rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight. And like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.’ Each one of us whom God has called, we are marked men and women! But marked with love. We are marked as Christ’s own in Baptism. And we are marked by the master builder, God himself, as living stones to be used by God to be built into a spiritual house. We’re not any old stone! Each one of us is incredibly precious, because each one of us is a different shape, and we have been marked and named for a purpose. The master builder has marked each one of us to take a unique place in God’s building – the Church. And your shape is just right!
I wonder what shape you are? What are your unique gifts to be used to build up Christ’s church? Of course, we tend to look at ourselves and think, ‘I don’t really like this shape. I wish I was more like her. More intelligent. Or him: He seems to have loads of gifts. I wish I wasn’t this shape. ‘But God says, ‘No! I chose you. I marked you in Baptism. I know exactly who you are, because I created you. And I love you. I didn’t make a mistake! I marked YOU, and you have a particular purpose in my building, a particular role to play. I have gifted you in a unique way, and shaped you for eternity – and no one else will do!’
Today, this day of Resurrection, is a day to say thank you. Thank you, Lord, for creating me, for so loving me that you died and rose for me. Thank you for calling me by name, for marking me as Christ’s own forever through Baptism, and for making me a living stone in God’s beautiful building, the church. Maybe God is calling you right now. ‘Come, follow me.’ You may have heard the call in the past and said, ‘No, I’m not the right shape Lord. Call someone else. I’m not the one you want. I’m not holy enough. I’m not bright enough. I’m too scared actually.’ But God is used to that. He’s heard it all before. Loads of times. Remember Moses when he was called. He said, ‘No God, I can’t speak. Send someone else.’ Jeremiah said, ‘No God, I’m too young. Send someone else.’ Isaiah said, ‘No. I’m a man of unclean lips. Send someone holy, not me.’ But God doesn’t want somebody else. He wants YOU. He wants you, Ann, Peter, Philip, Mary. And God doesn’t give up. Because he created and formed us in love, he chose us, and marked us by name. And no one else will do.
So here is a challenge for each one of us today. In your prayers, when you come to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Communion, remember that you have been marked – for life! Imagine Jesus looking at you with love, and gently speaking your name, and saying, ‘Come, follow me.’ And from the deepest place of your being, say yes.
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