1 Peter 2: 2-10; 05142017; 5 Easter
I was looking at my backyard flower garden this past week, and noticed that someone had been knawing on some flowers. I also saw that new holes had appeared in my garden. Since we have a reasonably secure wooden fence, the suspect list quickly dwindled down to our three sorry looking Chihuahuas. I was able to rule Paco out, because he’s too old and lazy to be interested in digging. And so the spotlight quickly fell on BB and Shelley.
My eyes, of course, went immediately to Shelley. She is, what we used to call, a juvenile delinquent. If there’s a dog problem, she’s usually in the midst of it. And she’s known to be into thievery, since she often steals Cookie’s ice cream-laced morning coffee. You might say Shelley has got an allergy to boundaries. And though I didn’t appreciate her thinning out my flowers, she’s just too darn cute to stay angry with for long.
And, I have to admit that Shelley has learned from me the fine art of gardening. Every Spring, she watches with great interest as I prepare the garden. She carefully studies how I turn the dirt over with my shovel, and she looks on with interest as I gather up each springtime’s crop of rocks. I can almost hear her dog brain processing as she watches, thinking, “Hey, I can help my Dad with that.” What can I say, other than my loss is Home Depot’s gain. I wonder just how many extra flowers and bushes they sell, as replacements for dog shenanigans!
In some respects, dogs are much like humans, aren’t they? Don’t we all want to cross those boundaries and jump the fences, just because we’re not supposed to? Isn’t that what our moms were so good at, making sure we didn’t overstep our boundaries and get ourselves in hot water? Those signs that read “stay out” and “off limits” and “no trespassing” are surely meant for others, aren’t they? I wish I had a dollar for every person I arrested back in the day, who said, “But officer, I didn’t see the sign.”
I didn’t see the sign. For us as Christians, Jesus is the sign. He kind of lets us know where we shouldn’t go. And when we decide, for whatever reason, to ignore what Christ is saying, what is it that he always does? Why, he forgives us our trespasses! Of course, there’s an addendum to his forgiving us; we are also called to forgive those who trespass against us. We sometimes ignore that second part, for whatever reason.
It takes some work to be a Christian. We can say we are a Christian, but as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. It’s in the doing, that we find ourselves most challenged. It was just as true in the First Century, as it is today. We hear that in our lesson from the words of Peter’s Letter.
Most scholars agree that this letter was actually written by the St. Peter. Yes, the same crusty old St Peter, for whom the cock crowed those three times. His letter was written well after the death of Jesus and it addressed the situation that Peter then was facing. Basically, he was dealing with a lot of baby Christians. What could he tell them so that they might grow deeper in their faith?
Within the first two chapters of Peter’s Letter are what scholars refer to as the “Five Imperatives.”[i] Or more simply put, the five things that Peter felt a Christian must learn to grow strong into their faith. It was not an easy time to be a Christian. They weren’t the Romans favorite people, nor were they favorites of the Jews.
Peter began his Imperatives with a call to action: “Prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.” Or to paraphrase, in faith, look forward to Christ’s coming again in glory.[ii]
But how should they live, as Christians amongst the many pagans that surrounded them? That was Peter’s second message. “As he who has called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” In other words, learn to live your life as God’s servant.[iii]
The third message was even harder. Peter told them, “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.” Or perhaps, serve God with your soul, heart and mind, rather than fearing the dominant culture around you.[iv]
The fourth Imperative was directed at the Christians’ relationship with one another. “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.” Another tough one; Love one another unselfishly, as you care for your brothers and sisters in Christ.[v]
And the fifth imperative, leading to spiritual growth: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you grow into salvation.” Or perhaps, find nourishment in Christ’s spirit, so that may grow as Christians.[vi]
As you think about these words, they are just as relevant today as they were in Peter’s Day. They are, in a sense, a catechism of the faith. Peter was building to a higher plane, as he would explain in detail in his letter, and as he did he was speaking to all Christians, in all times and places: “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.”
Magnificent words from brash old Peter, once a man of many doubts. What was it that turned this extroverted fisherman into such a well-spoken prophet? Perhaps it was to walk within the boundaries, and to drink the spiritual milk, and to gives one’s life, as best one can, to the service of Jesus Christ and to his church.
[i] M. Eugene Boring, “The First Letter of Peter”, The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, College Edition, Michael D Coogan, Editor, (New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 210), pgs. 2127-2128.
[ii] Ibid, pgs. 2127-2128.
[iii] Ibid, pg. 2128.
[iv] Ibid, pg. 2128.
[v] Ibid, pg. 2138.
[vi] Ibid, pg. 2138.