A Living Hope: An Exploration of 1 Peter – Week 4
I pray you enjoy this message and God speaks to you through it. To listen to this message you can hear it on the Beech Grove United Methodist Church Podcast (podcast releases Monday mornings), or by clicking here.
* Sermon audio does not match the manuscript…sometimes the Spirit moves
Like Living Stones
2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. — 1 Peter 2:1-10
I think metaphorically, Peter might have quite a knowledge of talking about stones (or rocks).
Many of us will remember that Peter’s name, Petros means “rock” (petra – being the Greek root for rock). We read Jesus speaking in Matthew 16,
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”1
We should not be surprised then to see when he is writing that he reaches for a metaphor that fits close to the role that he has been given and the understanding offered to him through it. Jesus, himself the rock, the cornerstone of faith, names Peter as the rock on which the church, the people of God will rest. However, Peter understands that he is not the only stone, but embodies this ideal of the “spiritual house” of God.
If Jesus is the cornerstone, Peter and the other disciples begin to build up from Jesus, and the foundation becomes stronger with every “rock” that is added.
Therefore, this terminology should be no surprise to us. Even if we argue the authorship of this letter, and say that Peter didn’t write and instead the writer used Peter’s name to gain traction, we cannot help but see similarities in Peter’s style and theology within this letter.
Passages like this one, make me think deeply, that even if Peter is not the actual author of this text, the true author has derived such an embedded theology from Peter’s nature that we can still look and see the lesson offered through the teaching.
In this series, we have been unpacking the main thesis of this letter, found in 1 Peter 1:3-5:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy, he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
The Living Hope – Jesus
This idea of “living hope” begins to lay the foundation of how we practice our faith. As we are now halfway through this season of Easter we begin to look towards Pentecost. We are reminded that it is in most of this time that the disciples have sequestered themselves, and are awaiting for the coming of the Spirit. I often try to organize these Eastertide series to help us contemplate who we are as “the church.” Playing into this idea would be the same process the disciples would have gone through as well. They would have contemplated in this liminal time what it meant to be a follower of Christ, knowing that when the Spirit came she would send them forth to live the lives they had been called to live.
So here is the thing with this line of thinking though, as we have explored it took an inward reflection of who we are and how we perceive God working within us, which then shapes how we interact with the world. The “Living hope” as we have talked about in connection to Christ, becomes the way we reflect the Spirit of Christ in the world. Living into our own promised resurrection every day. We are disciples!
How does Peter address this?2
By naming, and instilling the importance of our role in the greater Kin-Dom ideology.
When we take on our role as Christians, we become a part of the great narrative that God is writing through the church. Therefore, we build off of this manner and example of Christ. The way Christ exemplifies the grace of God is how we are called to do likewise. This “spiritual house” metaphor, like much Jewish insight Jesus and early disciples, utilize in their teachings, would be familiar in the ears of the hearers of this letter.
“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.”3
Jesus is the cornerstone, Peter was named a stone, a rock, and in this iteration, we are all attributed as a part of the living house of the Lord. We too are like living stones, we too are a living hope, but it doesn’t come without knowing and living as if our lives are transformed by what this means for us. We know our salvation is gained through our justification, but we also believe that our justification changes how we understand the world both within us and beyond us, and our role in it.
Our faith does and rightfully should, define a manner of morality to live by, and Peter gives us a foundation for this in this passage by doing two things.
Peter does this by talking about Naming and Claiming.
We have already reflected on the naming, and within it, Peter talks and uses language similar to the Hebrew scriptures of “a holy nation.” We are not seeking or interpreting this as our nation, that is America. No, Peter is instead using nation to broadly define a group of people, not in a geographical manner, but a spiritual one. The Holy Nation of God is a nation of the heart and spirit. One is driven not by self-interest or egotism, but by the inherent and never-ending love of God.
Peter also names this claim, by naming also the lostness we experience without God (or more accurately our experience away from God).
“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.”4
This continues the metaphor of stones, God has found us as an imperfect stone, sought to perfect us, and added us into the great spiritual house that is being built. Peter addresses that we are thereby claimed as a manner of gaining clarity of our sense of spiritual morality. We are like living stones because we are claimed by God, but what does this mean?
In Yoda-like fashion, we move our way back to the beginning of this passage and see Peter write,
“Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”5
So how does Peter name this faith and our nature as living stones?
In using this metaphor, Peter talks about the nature of how we live out our faith. It feels like a theme that we continue to come back towards, but we are presented with another manner of what this experience looks like. If we are a “living hope” then we cannot think that our faith can be passive as to just sit and receive what we think we should be receiving. Rather, our faith is LIVED and by that, we are called to be a part of something greater. To grow past the trivialities of the world and to transcend beyond the infancy that is often expressed in humanity.
The infancy metaphor stands for the explanation of growing in faith, we all start somewhere. Babies cannot eat solid food, they start with their mother’s breast milk or in our modern-day formula as that may mean for some families. In our faith this becomes the foundation of our faith, these lessons are so inherent to what we believe that it forms the rest of who we are called to be.
Peter labels many of these ideals we should “rid ourselves…” of, and in doing so, creates this nature of morality that we can define ourselves by. Look at what he lists; “malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander.”
The theme in these is the way we relate with one another in thought, speech, and even action. Over and over again in faith, we are presented with morality, not as what we are but instead by how we behave and carry ourselves towards others across creation. Attaching the inherent nature of God, to the manner we are called to act towards one another.
Love as God first loved us, and as God continues to love us.
God does not love us because of who we are or even what we have done. God’s love is based solely on our being. That is the very fact we are a part of creation, God loves us. When it comes to our interaction with the society and creation around us, Peter is naming that this manner should carry over. It is hard to love our neighbor if we harbor malice, guile, insincerity, envy, or slander. Any of these could be picked out as descriptors of the worst that humanity has to offer. None of which are within our wheelhouse.
If we are to be “Like living stones,” that is “like THE living stone,” then it befalls us to understand how we are molded and shaped to become part of the great spiritual household, We begin this process, inwardly reflecting on our nature as Christians, Followers of the Way. When we contemplate on this Peter invites us to consider how Christ and his Love separates us. It separates us because it does not look like who the world thinks we ought to be.
The love of Christ overcomes political differences, ideological differences, and even theological differences. Why? Because the love of Christ does not live by standards of malice, hatred, or judgmentalism that so often plague the human mind. Rather it is rejected because the love and grace of God can overcome those human feelings and transcend them by setting a new nature of a living hope meant for all.
There is hope in Christ and therefore hope in us.
What malice, guile, insincerity, envy, or even slander are you being called to move beyond, so that God can do the shaping work of you as like a living stone to contribute to their spiritual house?
*To be clear I use Peter as a placeholder for naming the author
1 Peter 2:4-5 NRSV
1 Peter 2:10
1 Peter 2:1-3