Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 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.
1 Peter 2:2-4; excerpt from 1 Peter 2:2-10, lectionary epistle for Sunday May 10, 2020
I was wrong: we do not have baked beans in the pantry. Black beans, kidney beans, Chick Peas, a couple cans of green beans (bought specifically as pandemic pantry stock). No baked beans. They would have been good with our sausages. No matter. We have fresh salad stuff and some flatbreads besides. (Put them on the grill for a couple minutes when the sausages are done, till they are warm and soft and smoky). We have plenty of food, overall. It’s just that the limited visits to the store and the persistent gaps on the grocery shelves have required both greater discipline and a certain improvisation. Rationing as jazz? I buy what is available and compose from what I buy, and the meals that result are enough to keep us humming. And sometimes, those unexpected compositions sing.
I read this passage from 1 Peter and realize it is composed from a similarly disciplined store — the pantry being the Hebrew Bible. After all, this imperishable and enduring word is the ‘pure milk’ on which we — new born ‘into a living hope’ — grow into salvation. Trusting that already we have tasted that the Lord is ‘good’ (in the Greek ‘chrestus’ — a near-pun with ‘Christ,’ clearly Dad-worthy), Peter sets a table for our further eating, composing a meal rich with quotes and allusions in order to nourish us in faith. You are a ‘priestly kingdom and holy nation,’ he quotes. Once no-people but now ‘God’s own people,’ newborn through a stumbling-stone that became ‘a precious cornerstone,’ ‘the chief cornerstone,’ Christ, a living stone.
Be living stones, Peter exhorts, ‘built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.’ Not like those who follow after idols of wood or stone, which do not ‘hear nor see nor eat nor smell,’ which cannot move or answer or save. Not like those who have walked after these dead stones and become dead as stone themselves. Come to the Lord, a living stone. Be living stones.
‘Living stone’ — Peter repeats the phrase without defining it. It’s stone for some sort of building, although not necessarily architectural. If it was just a tower at issue, then the order of assembly matters, stones of certain size or shape must be laid as a foundation before any others can be raised above. But the metaphor shifts as the verse proceeds, from house-as-building to house-as-household, as people, as priesthood. Living stones building lives. So — taking a cue from that beginning, commanded longing for ‘pure, spiritual milk’ — imagine the built spiritual house as soup, with living stones as ingredients added in whatever order they (we) come to hand, stirred and simmered together, changing the flavor of the whole — and being themselves infused with new flavors imparted by all the other ingredients, transformed by being part of the whole.
Build more playfully yet! Think of the old folk tale: the proffering of one single stone is what led the rest of the townsfolk to bring out of their own stores foodstuffs that were not stones at all. So is the living stone in this metaphorical stone soup Christ alone calling all of us into the pot? Or are we, too, called to be — transformed into — those living stones so that the offering of ourselves invites others to offer their own, themselves? Maybe don’t choose. Maybe claim both. Be like Christ, the living stone, who sees and hears and answers and saves, the living stone who eats and who feeds!