2 Peter 2-3

At the risk of rushing the reading, and gagging you with too much today, let’s finish the book and the week. You’ll hear echoes in another week, as we read Jude (aka Judas) at the back of our bibles, just before Revelation, and find it a repeat, or more likeliy, an earlier draft tract, for much of today’s talk.

It’s evident today that the text addresses a community that has known division and competing voices claiming leadership which the writer calls ‘false teachers’. We can accuse others of promoting ‘heresies’, even before we get ‘orthodoxy’.

The specific complaint seems to be ‘licentiousness’, a sort of ‘amorality’ or permissiveness and self-indulgence or greed. That may imply a more austere, simple and concrete norm preferred by the writer.

There’s a rabbinic midrashic spin on the stories of Noah and of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot, and of Balaam and his ass. These are preaching notes from a voice used to preaching and elaborating on these tales from Genesis and Numbers, beyond the 1 Peter reference to Noah. The homiletical themes are for a minority community resisting a dominant culture of indulgence.

The opponents of this writer are indulging in a bit of compromise with the culture, indulging their own appetites, and becoming ‘blots and blemishes’ in the communitarian fellowship. Behavioural economists in our generation call this the ‘free rider’ effect, parasiting off collective goods, backsliding from initial rigourous mutual disciplines.

The references to transpersonal entities (bigger than an individual, smaller than God) like angels, the mediating constructs which authorize alternatives, confuse us in our modern disenchanted worldview. Alternatively, the language of ‘fallen angels cast into hell’ evokes a cascade of later Christian allegories culminating for us as Puritans in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’.

The persuasive framework is still all about ‘not yet’, and ‘all in good time’, which need not be a threatening millenarian apocalyptic. I claim and confess the risks of a ‘dog returning to its vomit, a washed sow wallowing in mud’. I’ll close the week with an oft-repeated cartoon of a character talking to God:

Is it true that to you a thousand years is like a moment?

Yes.

Is it true that to you a thousand dollars is like a penny?

Yes.

Can I have a penny?

Sure. Just a second!

2 Peter 2

Text: NRSV

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves.

2Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned.

3And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

4 For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgement;

5and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly;

6and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly;

7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless

8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard),

9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement

10—especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority. Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones,

11whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgement from the Lord.

12These people, however, are like irrational animals, mere creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed. They slander what they do not understand, and when those creatures are destroyed, they also will be destroyed,

13suffering*the penalty for doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their dissipation while they feast with you.

14They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!

15They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong,

16but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved.

18For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error.

19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them.

20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them.

22It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘The dog turns back to its own vomit’, and, ‘The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.’

2 Peter 3

Text: NRSV

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you

2that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles.

3First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts

4and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!’

5They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water,

6through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished.

7But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless.

8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.

9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness,

12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?

13But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish;

15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him,

16speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

17You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability.

18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.*