Monday, May 25, 2015

This is who we are and why we are

Imagine: The ground has been leveled and hardened. On one corner of the foundation sits a large stone, dark gray with specks of green shimmering like emeralds. The cornerstone begins to move and grow. Green tendrils like those of a plant shoot forth. There are leaves and buds. The buds grow rapidly into other stones that take their places as a temple grows toward heaven, one living building, filled with light and life.

"You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple."

Human forms emerge from the stones, shimmering with the same emerald green as the stones and connected by tendrils that move with them. They offer sacrifices and worship God in the midst of the temple. 

"What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. "

I get the impression that Peter did a word study. Perhaps since Jesus declared that he would no longer be called "small stone" but "large rock" he was drawn to passages in scripture that talked about and prophesied about the "cornerstone." Maybe at first he even thought he might find something out about his own identity and future. He may have, but mostly what he discovered was about Jesus, our cornerstone. He says that "anyone who trusts in him will not be disgraced." 

That encourages me. I have done shameful things in my life, things that I regret and that would bring me disgrace and dishonor. Rightly so. But in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no dis - grace, only grace. For those who trust him, who follow him there will be no dis-grace, only grace. Jesus bore our disgrace on the cross.

"As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. "

I am not one of those who rejects the cornerstone, but rather I have obeyed God's Word. Can't really say that with a straight face now can I? I have trusted Christ. I do trust Christ but my obedience is imperfect, and I hope growing. Peter here is not talking about a life of perfect obedience, but of the obedience of faith, trusting Jesus and deciding to be his follower. For those who do so our joint identity is:
- a chosen people
- royal priests
- a holy nation
- God's very own possession.
- those called out of darkness into light
- God's very own people
- those who have received mercy

Our function is:
- show others the goodness of God

I think I can do this!

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” 

Showing others the goodness of God requires careful living. I need to, we need to "keep away from worldly desires". For me that would include lust, impure thoughts, a desire to be admired and sought after, a desire to impress. We're called to live upstanding lives, lives that bring honor to the name of Jesus. This is not pretend piety or conservative political beliefs, but a genuine testimony filled with love, humility and service of others. Pride has no place here, because we totally did not deserve mercy BUT now we have received the mercy of God. I am special because God says so and because he gives me grace. In and of myself, I am a messed up failure, "not his people" - a nobody, without mercy, outside of his love. Now I have received his love and he calls me to show his goodness to others. 

"Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world."

Father, you have shown us such wonderful kindness. You accepted us as your people, you showed us mercy, made us priests, called US out of darkness into light. We are now your people. Help us today to show others the goodness of God that you have shown us. Help us today to live well among our not yet believing neighbours. Amen