Easter 3, 2019
The Epistle – 1 Peter 2:11-17
The Gospel – St. John 16:16-22
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
We back up a little this morning with the Epistle lesson. Last week we heard from Peter’s letter but a bit further in.
Today we are back a few verses. So, to get the flow of things we should hear what Peter writes in the proper order.
Beginning in chapter 2, remembering Peter is writing to an audience…a Church…a group of people…who would read this letter and circulate it to other churches…
…who are trying to survive in the violent and hostile culture of paganism that is all around them.
Sounds similar to the Church today in many places. Even here, the Church is under attack daily from an ever increasingly angry and hateful and intolerant people.
So, we should be able to relate.
So now that this letter has circulated around the world many times over and has arrived even here, we should take it as written to us as well.
He says earlier on, that we are to put away malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. We are to act more like new born infants, who have done nothing.
They are newly born, and we consider babies innocent in the way they act.
We know of course that all men born …even when they are newly born have contracted the sinful nature and are in need of a savior.
But we have to also see them as innocent in that they at least appear and act quite innocent when compared to the behavior they will grow into as they get older.
Anyway, Peter goes on to say that we are living stones being built up as a spiritual house…to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ.
So, God is building us up to be a place where He dwells in us and we in Him.
Peter continues… he tells us we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession.
So, we have all of these titles bestowed upon us. We have all of these things said about us.
God has called us out of the world. We are now part of God’s chosen people. We are now a holy nation.
So, we are very much in reality separated out from the rest of the world of unbelievers.
But what happens between that and today’s lessons which is only a few verses later where we read what Peter says today?
Right after he has told us about our special “separated out” status in the eyes of God he says this….
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (ESV)
Now we are sojourners? Exiles? Keep our conduct honorable? Others will speak against us? Call us evildoers?
We shouldn’t expect others to understand this, but we should. We are both. To some this may sound contradictory. It may sound like Peter is talking out of both sides of his mouth.
He is not.
Both sets of descriptions of us are true.
We are set apart and holy and sanctified and living stones for God.
And we are also sojourners, exiles. We are even seen as evildoers to many.
So there has to be clarification of these terms.
We are still in the Easter season. We are still recalling the Resurrection of Christ and how we belong to Him and that as He rises, we too rise to newness of life when we place our faith and trust in Him.
So, we do get to enjoy these
titles like holy nation, royal priesthood, chosen race…and this is not because
we are special in and of ourselves. We have done nothing to earn these titles.
We have been brought into Christ. We have been born again to newness of life and so these titles come with the territory.
These titles, though we don’t feel very royal or chosen or holy, are nevertheless given to us by God in Christ so we cannot deny the reality.
The other titles given like exiles, sojourners. These are true as well…in that once we enter into a saving and trusting relationship with Christ, we become aliens to this world.
We live in it. We work in it. We grow up in it. But we are no longer “of it.”
Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (ESV)
The letter to the Hebrews says, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (ESV)
“In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2, ESV)
If Jesus has a place prepared for each of us, it’s not here in this world. He is clearly speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven.
So again, sojourners is accurate. We sojourn in this world. We are pilgrims in this world.
As to exiles, we should think of the Old Testament and the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness.
Exile is defined as being banished or separated from one’s home either by force or circumstances.
If we are to take what Peter and James and Jesus and Paul tell us….that our citizenship is really in heaven, then exiles we are.
We are separated from our true home. We haven’t yet reached our destination. But we will.
But Peter says, that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession…why?
He has not just done this for us to hide it and secretly enjoy it. Peter says, we are given these titles and this status, so “that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
So that we may proclaim the excellencies of God. The excellencies of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The excellency of Him freely giving us the gift of sonship…the gift of redemption…the gift of eternal life.
He says, remember this…. “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.” (ESV)
Those are the excellencies…among countless others that we are to proclaim…in deed…in action…in speech…in living.
In the Gospel today, we cut into Jesus’ last instructions to the Apostles before He is arrested and crucified.
He gets to this point and, knowing that they are quite sorrowful over these last instructions, He offers them something to comfort them.
In a short time, Jesus will be taken from them. He will be arrested and taken away.
But He reminded them on the night of the Last Supper that they would see Him not long after.
This, as we know did not really sink in at the time. They were confused about what all of this “little while” talk meant.
Even when He was taken away, crucified and buried they did not recall these words. In fact we read about them being distraught. They run away. Later they are hiding in the Upper Room in fear.
This is not at all to say that what Jesus said to them was useless. It meant that once they began to recall His last words, they became joyful.
And it was only a little while later, three days or so, that they did see Him again.
His prediction was in fact true.
They saw Him after He rose from the dead.
But His prediction about what they would do also came true. They would weep and lament. We read of some of that by some of His followers on the day He was crucified especially.
Moreover, the “world” did “rejoice.”
Those who were of the world were
the ones that crucified Jesus. This was not a job done by believers. This was
the world, the flesh, the devil, rejoicing at what they had accomplished.
They had gotten rid of the troublemaker…the blasphemer…the charlatan…the one who told people He was God….
They were quite pleased that they had finally gotten Him out of the way.
This is the same attitude with the world today. The world hates Him….and it continues to hate Him through hating us.
Any attack on righteousness is an attack ultimately on Christ.
In the Book of Acts, Chapter 5, we read about the Pharisees. Luke says the Pharisees were jealous of the Apostles…they had them arrested and thrown into prison for preaching Christ.
They are later released, beaten, let go and told not to speak in the name of Jesus again.
But here is what Luke says the Disciples of Jesus do.
“They leave the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (ESV)
They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus Christ.
There is what the Christian reaction is to be when we see the world rejoicing at our suffering. We are to consider ourselves blessed to be counted among the millions who have gone before us and have suffered persecution for the same reason.
For the name of Jesus.
Our sorrow will turn into joy. That is the kind of joy He is referring to. Not some giddy silly joy, but a true, deep meaningful experience where we are moved with awe and fulfilment at the fact that none of this is in vain.
Jesus gives an analogy to this being like childbirth. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a man has been born into the world.”
So, we too, will have sorrow now. But, He says, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (ESV)
This for us, is a hopeful reality for both now and for our future.
So, if that is what is in store for us, then nothing now should hinder us from having this hope and living as Peter says, as a holy nation, a people set aside as God’s own. Chosen and beloved.
…for those titles can only be fully realized and appreciated, if we keep in mind that the risen Christ did not rise before He first went through all of the same sorrows and suffering we go through here and now.
And upon His rising to life again, set in motion our path of following Him and being called to walk in the same world He walked in as well.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.