and observe it with my whole heart.
Rules for the reclaimed homeland: No more violence and oppression. Maintain honest business dealings. Make religious offerings. Take time for celebrations.
1 Peter 1:13-2:10
This letter is written to people who live far away from the true home, "Live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You're one of us now. You've been rescued from the futile ways that your ancestors lived. Christ has ransomed you."
How do we read the letter today? What does it say to our lives?
First, I'm struck by the term "exile." I hear people refer to America as a Christian country. Yet, I read polls that indicate that when asked what their religion is, the largest number report "none." Furthermore, as I read the morning paper or listen to conversations, I don't always hear Christian principles discussed. Have I, like these ancient people, inherited futile ways? Worse, am I passing on futile ways to the generations that follow me?
What do I have faith in? What are my hopes set on?
Peter is writing to the new converts: The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope. Rejoice because you are also included.
He outlines the appropriate response to the news of salvation:
Consider what's important.How much of Peter's instruction is palatable to us today? Do any congregations exhibit the kind of love that he is talking about?
Consider what lasts.
Peter says to them--and through them, to us, "Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house."
These words remind me today that the early Christians had little interest in building those big buildings on the corner that we now think of as defining church. We say "A church is not a building" a lot, but I'm not sure that we really get it. This passage helps me.
First, I'm struck by the metaphor of "stones" for individuals. A stone is strong and durable, but it takes a lot of stones to make anything useful. One stone looks different from another. To make something, we need to find stones that fit together, that fill in the gaps of the ones next to it. And, if a stone cracks or falls out, another stone can be inserted. Moreover, when the needs for that building exceed its current capacity, the builder can add on to it. And that add-on may look entirely different from the original structure.
After all, our spiritual houses are all founded on the same cornerstone.
Even though I am a Methodist, thus an Arminian, I can readily see how others could find instruction from passages like this that say "as they were destined to do" and "you are a chosen race."
Rather than argue the differences, today I am more interested in that spiritual building that we who are Arminian and we who are Calvinist comprise. We share a precious cornerstone.
We choose to believe or believe because we are chosen, but we share that cornerstone.
And chosen and believing, we share a function: to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness into the marvelous light.
Peter was telling his listeners that they are part of God's family. Extending his message to our time, we can recognize that Christianity is inclusive of people whose backgrounds, whose behavior, whose appearance may be very different from our current congregation. And the message is still that they, like us, have received mercy.
If you see any of these signs, please pay attention.
Warning signs are intended to help us. So, are God's statutes.
The rich is wise in self-esteem,
but an intelligent poor person sees through the pose.
Prayer for Today: O Lord, we give you thanks for including us in your family. Open us now to reach out to others, even those who look or act differently from what we are used to. Amen.