1 Peter 2:19-25

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 7, 2017.

We live in a society that questions authority figures. We consider it a badge of honor when someone successfully challenges “the powers that be.” Although 1 Peter would not encourage us to ignore unethical behavior in organizations, the writer values endurance through difficulty over retaliation toward oppressors. To endure pain is to resist it. First Peter challenges exiles to behave like sheep in a flock under the authority of a shepherd. The book instructs them to maintain respect for human authority figures, especially those with whom they disagree and to endure opposition as a form of Christian mission.

Verses 19-25 are included as part of the instructions for persons who work together in a family business where the authority figure is not a follower of Jesus. Most ancient households were businesses in miniature. In 1 Peter 2-3, there are instructions for all persons (2:13-17; 3:8-22), slaves (2:18), wives (3:1-6), and husbands (3:7), depending on their position in the home workplace. Presumably, Christians will work for someone who does not share a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Just as we learned in chapter 1 that Christians are not to live segregated lives, so in chapters 2 and 3 believers are encouraged to work in environments where they will encounter nonbelievers.

Continue reading

1 Peter 1:17-23

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 30, 2017.

Rhetorically, 1 Peter can be organized around seven “Therefores.” They function like hinges that open a door for people discovering their identity as those reborn by the resurrection of Christ (see my previous post).

1:13- Therefore prepare to be educated like children.
2:1- Therefore rid yourselves of your habits before you were exiles.
4:1- Therefore imitate Christ’s model of suffering.
4:17- Therefore live as if you are at the end of time.
5:6- Therefore let your conduct with others in God’s flock match your conduct in society.

First Peter also redefines faith for the follower of Jesus. Six concepts are worth reintroducing (and explaining) to the church, many of which are used in the first chapter:

Exile– a person on a journey with Jesus, imitating him in life.
Resurrection– the cause of a Christian’s birth into the new age of Jesus.
Reborn or born again– the status of a believer in Christ.
Ransom– the transaction made by the blood of Jesus through Christ’s resurrection to liberate people from their indentured servitude to the old sinful ways of living.
Holiness– the condition of our lives as newborn babies in Christ, the choices we make to grow as converts, and the way God transforms us into his people.
Flock of God– the church as the pilgrim exiled community.

Continue reading

1 Peter 1:3-9

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 23, 2017.

Van Gogh

First Peter addresses people changed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are newborn children in communities of holy believers on a journey of discipleship with him. Even though they are scattered among society, they are easily recognized because of their allegiance to Jesus as Lord. They are known for their fidelity to Jesus’ teachings, their love for one another and their enemies, their hopeful attitudes, their respect and obedience to authority figures, their gentleness in the face of mistreatment from authority figures, and their ability to speak extemporaneously when challenged about their faith.

Ironically, this lifestyle evokes greater resistance from those who do not follow Jesus (1 Peter 1:15). They suffer not because God is testing their faith or punishing them for wrongdoing. They are not facing the challenges of aging or disease. Their suffering comes as a result of their holy conduct (1 Peter 1:6). People push back on a believer because a Christian’s loyalty is to the resurrected Lord. For the converts, however, their trials are a source of joy (1 Peter 1:6; 3:13), a path of discipleship that Jesus demonstrated for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21), and an opportunity to bear witness to others (1 Peter 3:16-17).

In light of these circumstances, the opening passage from 1 Peter addresses a theme that believers facing similar conditions need. They find hope in their identity as newborn believers and heirs of an eternal inheritance.

Continue reading

Colossians 3:1-4

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on Easter, April 16, 2017.

In Colossians 3, Paul gives us a way of thinking and preaching that makes Easter a present day reality for the church. He treats Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return as participatory events. Jesus is not the only one experiencing Good Friday and Easter. Paul invites us to imagine that we too are part of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Jesus takes us with him on the journey to Golgotha, into the tomb, and now out of the grave. When Jesus dies, we die with him and our lives are hidden with him (vs. 3). When Jesus rises from the grave, we too are also raised with Christ (vs. 1). When Jesus returns, we will also appear with him (vs. 4). When we gather on Easter Sunday to say that “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” we are also saying as a church, “We are risen! We are risen because of Christ indeed!”

Our lives are typically not lived in the way Paul describes. When we watch television, go to a sporting event, or attend a play, we are consumers and spectators. We pay to be entertained and enjoy watching other people play. Paul says that the events of Good Friday and Easter do something unexpected for us. Jesus takes us off the sidelines of life and puts us on the stage with him. We are transformed from spectator to participant through the power of the resurrection.

This news can be very strange for the average duty-bound Christian who assumes that because Christ died, our responsibility is to show up on Easter Sunday, attend a Bible study class, sing, and go to lunch. We come to church to watch someone else tell us the good news, and we go on with our lives. Treating Easter this way is more comfortable and much easier to manage for the average person than imagining that the resurrection still occurs. Paul, however, refuses to leave the cross on a hill far away. To enliven the present day and prepare us for Christ’s return, Paul presents Christ’s ascension as a mental model for our lives. Christ’s reign as ascended Lord pulls Easter off the pages of storybooks and into the actions of believers today. Jesus is Lord, and the church will show you how.

Continue reading