1 Pet 2:2-10
by Revd. Elizabeth Bussmann, Environment Officer for the Church of England Diocese in Europe
I am writing this just as Switzerland starts to relax its Corona crisis lock-down a little, with more shops and businesses opening. Recently at a zoom conference with Bishop Robert, it was said that after the Corona Pandemic the Church will need to seriously re-think what it means to be Church. The crisis has highlighted anew that ‘the church’ is the people – the Body of Christ. We desperately need to reflect primarily on how we live out our Christian discipleship, especially those of us in the Western world. We can’t just return to the way of doing things before the Pandemic began.
Take, for example, the amazing photos, taken of the Himalayas by people who had never seen those mountain ranges from their windows before but are now able to because air pollution has decreased so much. We cannot just forget this and other positive effects on our planet brought about because of the change in lifestyle enforced upon us by the Virus.
It shows that IF WE REALLY WANTED TO, we could indeed change some of the effects of emissions. Governments are spending millions in combatting the effects of the lock-down both on the economy and health. What if that money were made available to combat the issues of climate change etc. Should pay-outs to firms responsible for huge emissions be given the money on condition that they take definite steps to reduce those emissions in future? There are many such questions which need to be asked.
Section one: Notes on the readings (an * denotes the text is from the Amplified Bible)
In John 14.1-14 we hear Jesus talking to his disciples just before his arrest. He says to Philip, ‘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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’
See Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
1 Peter 2.2-10 written by the Apostle Peter to the churches in the northern part of Asia Minor. The letter reflects the fact that the believers were facing suffering and persecution. Christians living in this hostile world are to suffer as Christ suffered and allow the grace of God to be amplified in their lives.
Vs. 1, for some reason isn’t included in today’s reading but is an excellent starting point for the rest of the text! “So be done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretence, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.”
Why is this important for our reflections today? Because Peter goes on to say that God calls us to be living stones being built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that will be well pleasing to God through Jesus the Messiah.
The Living Bible puts it like this: “you have been chosen by God himself – you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own – all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
Peter’s words remind his listeners of several passages in the ‘Old Testament’ for example Isaiah 43:16-21. After Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God planned to do a new thing, to build a new kingdom, initially it was to be with the people Israel. The passage recalls how water was once used as a barrier to protect God’s people escaping from slavery in Egypt. Now God explains how, for the sake of all creation, he will make water to be a bringer of life. But we also hear in the text that those who should be listening and responding, are not doing so. Vs. 19 ‘do you not perceive it and know it, and will you not give heed to it?’ *
What about us today, ‘do we perceive what God is doing?’ Are we listening and responding?
Vs. 20-21 The rivers of water in 20 are not intended for humans alone, but for the jackals and the ostriches as well. These are not common creatures, so we are led to understand that these streams of waters are intended for even the most dangerous and outlandish of God’s creatures. We are even told that these wild creatures will honour God for the water that is provided to preserve their lives. Isaiah emphasises that we humans, could learn from such beasts.
The chosen people of God are offered this way – and this source of life for the same reason as the wild beasts. The goal of freedom and new life is to offer PRAISE TO THE GOD who provided them in the first place.
The exiles were to be restored ‘SO THAT THEY MIGHT DECLARE MY PRAISE’ v.21
The coming restoration will encompass the entire creation. Even the obscure and shy animals will join the universal chorus. Liberation and a new beginning are guaranteed for the chosen people, SO THAT THEY CAN BE FAITHFUL WITNESSES TO THE LIVING GOD WHO ACTS WITHIN HISTORY AND IS CONSTANTLY IN MOTION.
This prophecy now concerns the Body of Christ – all those who give their lives, ‘as a living sacrifice’ and follow in Christ’s footsteps.
And so 4 Sundays on, our reading from I Peter acts as a reminder of the events of Easter.
Peter recalls connections between past and present
The living stone of Is. 28:16 predicts the cornerstone that the new Christians believe has become Christ. 1 Peter 2.4
A ‘Cornerstone’ is not only the stone set at the corner of two intersecting walls (as the name implies) but is also one prepared and chosen for its exact 90o angle, as such, it is the basis for the construction of the whole building. Choosing the right stone is also the basic to the buildings stability and longevity. Peter develops the identity of his audience in terms of imitation of Christ. The parallel between Christ and the readers of 1 Peter 9-10 is significant:
|A living stone
|Rejected by humans
|(Implicit: rejected by humans)
|In God’s perspective, elect
|In God’s perspective, elect
|In God’s perspective, honoured
|In God’s perspective, honoured
Vs.9 A Holy priesthood, royal priesthood and holy nation – two of several historic associations with Israel which also give Christ’s disciples an identity.
Royal priesthood and a holy nation, allude to the narrative of Gods’ mighty deliverance of his people from slavery. Exodus 19.6. Then as now, God hears the cries of his people in distress, acts to rescue them and enters into covenant with them.
The purpose of holy priesthood is to offer ‘spiritual sacrifices’ i.e. ‘for it is God’s will and intention that by doing right, (your good and honest lives should silence foolish and ignorant people.)’* (1:15) and mutual love: ‘love the Christian fraternity of which Christ is the Head’* Peter is thereby emphasising the priestly identity and role of the community of believers in the world at large…..
Vs. 9 Our response: The community is to ‘proclaim the might acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ Vs9 and Isa. 43.20-21
Vs. 10 reminds us that ‘Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people;
Once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.
An extra-ordinary claim: Christ is Risen! Risen indeed. It is enough to sustain us. It is enough to support us. It is enough to EMPOWER us for the days ahead. Alleluia! Amen.
SECTION TWO: DRAFT SERMON, SERMON OUTLINE
4 Sundays after Easter Sunday, we are reminded once again, not just of God’s goodness to us but also of the role God has given us in His Kingdom, launched through the death and resurrection of Jesus and we are also reminded of what that death and resurrection secured for the WHOLE of creation – reconciliation. Reconciliation between God, humans and the whole of creation.
Priests and rulers – are two sides of the same coin of our God given role in his creation.
ALL life is God given and precious – from the unborn baby to the aged
from the simple daisies to the soaring eagles
from the plankton to the whales
from the deserts to the rain forests
We humans are part of creation – and entrusted by God with a specific role:
that of being priests and rulers in HIS creation.
Priests and rulers go together – can’t be separated. The ‘ruler’ is the practical part – creative Carers of God’s kingdom.
But this can’t be done without the priestly role – the priestly role defines HOW we are to rule.
Just as Christ’s ministry was one of servanthood ‘The Servant King!’ so too, is ours.
As priests we share in the suffering and pain of the world – not just the human suffering but also that of nature. We also share in the sheer joy and exuberance of nature, particularly noticeable at this time of year. Watching the sparrows ‘playing’, enjoying the warmer sunnier days, the leaves on the trees bursting into green, the flowers in the fields and the buzzing of the bees. The red Kites soaring, not just on the lookout for food but often, it seems, just for sheer pleasure soaring with the wind currents.
As priests we are called to bring praise to God our Creator, to bring our gratitude for all he gives us, we are called to pray for creation, not just for humans throughout the world but for the whole of God’s creation ‘groaning’ under the weight of suffering inflicted upon it by humans. We are also to bring our prayers of intercession for the whole of creation!
We don’t just become priests overnight. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1-2 what is expected of us. ‘And so, my dear friends, this is my appeal to you by the mercies of God: offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and appropriate worship. What’s more, don’t let yourselves be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out and approve what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete.”
Echoes of Jesus’ words in Mark 8.34 ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny(forget) themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” NIV
This transformation of our character is hard work and needs to be re-begun morning for morning.
Why? Because… “we have been chosen by God himself – we are priests of the King, we are to be holy and pure, we are God’s very own – all this so that we may share with others how God called us out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once we were less than nothing, now we are God’s own. Once we knew very little of God’s kindness; now our very lives have been changed by it.” (1 Peter 2. 9-10) God allows ‘Wake up calls’ to happen because he wants everyone to turn or return to him. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The NRSV translation uses ‘proclaim’ instead of show. But both ‘proclaim’, and ‘show’ do not mean just use words! We recall the words of Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”
To care for the world is to fulfil our calling – or at least a fairly central part of it. It’s preparation for and an anticipation of our future! We are part of creation and in relationship with it. God’s plan isn’t to rescue us from it one day, his plan is to save the whole of his beloved creation and us with it and in so doing, to bring heaven and earth – us and Himself – together in perfect unity here on this planet earth.
Many Christians have often assumed that God’s plan of salvation is just about human beings. We should look after creation, because God made it and He asked us to, but not that it is really a central part of our faith. But fact is, it is the other way round. God created the whole of creation (including humans) and originally it was ‘Good! Very Good!’ We humans messed it up and continue to. God’s plan was to save the whole of creation and He amazingly made us part of His plan to do just that!
So, what are we here for? The fundamental answer…is that what we’re “here for” is to become genuine human beings, reflecting the God in whose image we’re made, and doing so in worship on the one hand and in mission, in its full and large sense, on the other; and that we do this not least by “following Jesus.”
The Corona Crisis is one of many ‘Wake up’ calls around us at this time! Everywhere, but particularly in the West, leaders are needed in all walks of life, whose characters are being transformed in God’s wisdom and ways, not in greed for money or power.
Matthew 6:24 NLV “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
SECTION THREE: ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
The kingdom of God is justice and peace
And joy in the Holy Spirit
Come, Lord and open in us the gates of your kingdom
Collect for this week:
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 31 1-5, 15-16
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
A Prayer by Jill Duffield:
The earth is yours, Lord, and everything in it.
You make us stewards, entrusted to care for creation,
ready always to give you an accounting of how we nurtured and tended
that which belongs to you.
In your generosity and compassion, you give us sunsets awash in color,
rivers gurgling over rocks, fireflies that glow in formation
and crows that recognize human faces.
The diversity, complexity and beauty of the earth stuns and sustains us.
While we shelter in place, the blooming dogwood provides relief from hopelessness
and the returning pair of cardinals reminds us to give thanks for the present moment.
As the skies clear and the dolphins return and the wildlife reclaim the woods,
we lament the ways we damage the good you made,
defy your command to be caretakers and abuse your beloved world.
May we learn well the lessons this quarantine has taught us,
so that when we return to our travel, our work places, our schools,
our unencumbered comings and goings,
our capitalism and consumption,
we will do so mindful of their impact on creation
and ready to change our ways
so that all your earth can flourish. Amen.
by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe (Church of England)