1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
1 Peter 2:2-10
2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your into salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
2:4 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.
2:6 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.”
2:7 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.
2:9 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.
14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
A Jewish businessman in America decided to send his son to Israel to absorb some of the culture of the homeland. When the son returned, the father asked him to tell him about his trip. The son said, “Pop, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity.” “Oy vey,” said the father. “What have I done?” He decided to go ask his friend Jacob what to do. Jacob said, “Funny you should ask. I too sent my son to Israel, and he also came back a Christian. Perhaps we should go see the rabbi and ask him what we should do.” So they went to see the Rabbi. The Rabbi said, “Funny you should ask.I too sent my son to Israel. He also came back a Christian. What is happening to our young people? Perhaps we should go talk to God and ask him what to do.” The three of them prayed and explained what had happened to their sons and asked God what to do. Suddenly a voice came loud and clear from Heaven. The Voice said, “funny you should ask, I too sent my son to Israel…”
May 7th 2023
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
The building we now occupy is the second structure for Methodist worship in Harwich, MA. The cornerstone of this church building was laid in 1811 and the building was dedicated January 1st 1812 as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Harwich. In 1797 a class was started in Harwich- The cornerstone is always representative of much visioning, work and planning. The scriptures tell us that Jesus is the cornerstone. Jesus was God’s plan for salvation and on him was built the vision of the Kingdom of God.
When God laid the cornerstone of the Kingdom, when God poured himself into the person of Jesus and became human, it was an event, that stands at the center of history – marking the end of the planning stage and the beginning of the building stage.
Buildings come in various configurations and are made of various materials. The First Methodist structure “faced south and there was no paint or plastering about the building. A broad “isle” [sic] extended from the front door to a roughly finished pulpit. The men sat on the west side of the aisle and the women on the east. The seats were arranged in the same manner as schoolhouses of the day.”
Some are brick, others wooden… some are painted outstanding colors and others opt for clean white. A lengthy description of the church is included in a “Manual of the M.E. Church, East Harwich, with a Historical Sketch” written collaboratively by Pastor J.D.Phelps (1878-1879), Jonathan Buck and James Smalley for a Conference report in 1878-79. The Sketch states the church was painted yellow outside, the sides each contained seven windows in upper and lower levels, the front had a spacious central door and six windows – four above and two below. I lived in a house with pink shutters.
Peter begins with the concept of the cornerstone that was rejected as found in Psalm 118 and speaks of the church – those who follow Jesus – as LIVING STONES
God chose Jesus and all believers choose Jesus, but many reject Jesus. Decisions about how we intend to build our lives are made every day. The first step is to set the cornerstone as a sign of what is to come and a commitment to a particular plan. Infant baptisms are the setting of a cornerstone in the lives of children and adult baptisms are a personal statement of building on Jesus’ life and teachings.
We can be classic, traditional, colonial, modern or innovative but we are something in our life plans. People who graduate this year from the technical schools, high schools, colleges and certificate programs have completed the preparation and anticipate beginning the project they will call their life work. People who will marry these years have completed the preparation and anticipate beginning the project they will call their family life. And in a few weeks, we will have one adult profess her faith as a completion of preparation.
Choices in work, in relationships and in faith may be traditional or innovative but we must choose to be something in our life plans. These plans may unfold before us and change dramatically as we mature and age. Centuries represent millions of decisions but the most fundamental decision any one can make is still: Will we choose to serve the Lord our God as shown to us in Jesus Christ, or not.
God’s plan, built on the cornerstone of Jesus the Christ is one that respects persons- living stones. Jesus showed us that Samaritans and tax collectors, women and children, were all equally to be respected. Jesus came proclaiming liberation of the captives, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked as a work of God. Sending money and goods away to the people who are hungry, in prison and in need of clothing is well established in our churches. Social justice has been very important to the Methodist church – social ethics as taught by Jesus is the basis of social justice in America.
In this day when we know more about the human mind and emotions, the encouragement of emotional health, counseling, consoling and uplifting – person to person- is as mandatory in God’s building plan as the work of soup kitchens, relief teams and support of the less fortunate. In fact, pastoral counseling goes hand in hand with social justice. People are living stones built up into societies.
Jesus is the cornerstone of a plan in which we are concerned for the whole person. One of the greatest challenges as a pastor is to see each person as someone who needs God’s love and sometimes to make decisions about how to advise people in their search for the joy which God wants in their lives. God makes victors out of victims, but not without a great deal of soul searching and courage. Every Christian is a pastor – a caretaker — the minister is the pastor to you lay pastors.
So God challenges all of us together to make health care, both physical and emotional available to young and old so they can be victorious over bodily handicaps, victorious over loneliness, victorious over things we do not like to face, like the effects of private victimization – rape, incest, marital abuse, harassment.
God challenges us to make welfare available to victims of floods, of poverty and of racial discrimination. God calls us to help in bringing victory out of defeat. God calls us to participation in the Kingdom which was laid from the beginning.
The cornerstone of Christ Jesus sends us into the world to offer people the opportunity to stop worshiping social idols and begin a meaningful relationship with one another that reflects God’s relationship to the world for which Jesus sacrificially taught and ultimately died.
When we help persons see themselves as God sees them, precious and loved… when we advocate for them in the marketplace of work and law… when we walk with them thru hopelessness and despair, thru loss and overcoming addictions, then we are living stones built on the cornerstone of Christ Jesus the Lord. Moreover, when you are part of the building upon the cornerstone of Christ, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” as we heard the priest mention at the coronation service of Charles III yesterday.
Jesus’ words are “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father.’
Christ buildings are held together by healthy faith lives. Faith is nurtured by study of the scriptures, a constant conversation with God – which we call prayer and attendance on worship and sacrament. These building blocks for the kingdom allow us to continue until God’s blueprint is realized and God’s will for the world is crowned by a cross lifted high for all to find.
Jesus the respecter of persons
Jesus the teacher for whom we are disciples and disciplined to conform to his will.
Leads to Jesus the peace maker….
People focus on the end time as a time heralded by terrible and frightening disasters. The focus is come to God for fear that you will be “left behind”. Jesus’ call is “follow me” for my yoke is easy and my burden light” Jesus calls us to the Kingdom built on him. We all lose a little when anyone is left behind… Jesus the prince of Peace invites us to victory over fear and death. Peace will be complete at the end time because the Kingdom project will have been completed and God will occupy the seat at the Head of the Table.
Peace will not be complete until the end of time but the Peace that passes understanding is available to individuals every day. It is breaking into the world as a sign of the Kingdom. At Easter people celebrate the opportunity to have resurrections during disappointment and suffering. Christ is the cornerstone of Peace. A peace that living stones adopt as a conscious plan, each of us every day until God’s Kingdom come.
Finally, Just as people choose the materials for their buildings beginning with the cornerstone – the choice of a cornerstone for our lives means the rejection of other options. Many people will reject Jesus as the cornerstone… and all he stands for. Reserving judgment is to place something else at the foundation and run the risk of a shaky construct … built on sand or passing fads. It is imperative to choose … God chooses the materials for his Kingdom that are participatory in his plan for peace and justice.
The prophet’s statement can be yours and mine:
As for me and my family we will serve the Lord our God and his plan for the Kingdom.
“On this Rock I will build my Church.” We know that this is the response of Jesus to Simon’s declaration: You [Jesus] are the Messiah, the Son of the living God