If it’s hard getting started with these non-Paul letters, join the live conversation today at the chapel, 12:30-2pm, or talk with me anytime. I already hear that some of you can’t hear this as ‘pastoral, liturgical’ discourse, without some legalistic, quasi-judicial voice from your past interrupting and using the same words to justify who belongs and is ‘saved’, and who is going to hell.
Perhaps it was ever thus, and why this letter moves from its introduction to acknowledging the risks of less worthy attitudes and feelings. Don’t come clinging to your self-justifying pride in this devotional study, as if you were academics or ecclesiastical bureaucrats! Come to nurse, taste and see, God is good. Grow like a baby, build like a bit of brick and mortar on a ‘living stone’ – part of a collective, a movement, not a superior elite individual star!
Collectively, as a people, we claim this promise, using the language of Hebrew scriptures. Did you catch the echoes from our recent reading of The Twelve: once you were no people, now you are God’s people? Imagine yourselves as resident aliens, landed immigrants or asylum seekers, trying to avoid harassment and earn your welcome by the powers-that-be. Living in Turkey, under Roman governors – don’t give our people a bad name as Christians!
The argument is launched halfway through today’s reading, and continues tomorrow, that sounds like a lot of law and order talk. Slaves, obey your masters even if they are jerks! Karl Marx blamed us Methodists of frustrating the possibility of revolution in industrial England, for piety like this. If we are in charge, with power, running the show, this submission talk is as bad as Romans 13 was when we read it last fall, in the echoes of Trump’s acolytes. But if we are resident aliens, wetback ‘illegals’ ourselves, this advice is shrewd.
Today’s teaching concludes by developing the Second Isaiah vision songs, of a Suffering Servant. This is not a hero, a gunslinger or a revolutionary, but one who, like us, does not get their ‘just deserts’, but suffers unjustly. Isaiah’s model is offered as the way to understand Jesus, and in turn the way that we should behave within any social order of this age. We who wandered astray, can claim the comforts of being part of a flock with a shepherd, even if that means individually that we in our turn may be led ‘like lambs to slaughter’.
Close to my word quota today – we’ll keep up the conversation tomorrow.
1 Peter 2
1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.
2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—
3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and
5like 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.
6For 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.’
7To 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’,
8and ‘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.
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 marvellous light.
10 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.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.
12Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
13 For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme,
14or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.
15For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.
16As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.
17Honour everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honour the emperor.
18 Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.
19For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.
20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.
21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22 ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.