This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 14, 2017.
It was an ordinary day. I was talking with my four-year-old daughter who was riding in the back of my car. Even at her young age, she was spiritually sensitive, so we were talking about God. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, she began to cry almost uncontrollably. She cried, “Daddy I can’t see God anymore.” I had no idea what she meant. Reasoning that humans cannot see God, I wondered if she had mistaken God for an object in nature like a cloud or something else. As much as I tried, I could not make sense of what she was seeing and feeling. As I looked at her tear stained cheeks, I did my best to explain that God was everywhere and that while we cannot see God, God is with us. I found my attempt to comfort her feeble. Although she was only 4, my daughter had expressed a common human ailment. She had lost sight of God. In a culture where the number of persons opting out of faith is growing, and others are desperate for the presence of God, helping people who have lost sight of God is an important part of the task of the Church.
So what does one do when one loses sight of God? Where can God be found? 1 Peter 2:2-10 serves as an answer to these and similar questions, although not in an obvious way. Verse 4 reads, “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….” (NRSV). The word “house” was frequently used for the temple in the Old Testament; so the text is claiming that believers are the new temple of God.
The temple had a long history in the Old Testament. Its predecessor was the Tabernacle, which was built during the Exodus and remained the location of the Ark of the Covenant for generations. If one were to ask David, the great king of Israel, where God could be found, he would say God could be found at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. In David’s zeal for the Lord, he wanted to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and to build God a house, the Temple. While David did move the Ark, God did not allow David to build the Temple. His son, Solomon, had that honor. From the time of Solomon until the time of the Exile, when people needed to know where God was, the answer would always be, God is in the Temple. The temple was the House of the Lord.
The purpose of the Temple was not only to be the house of the Lord; it was to serve as a connection point. When people wanted to inquire of God, wanted to worship, or needed to pray, they could go to the temple with the assurance that God could be found.
What if instead of asking David where God could be found someone asked you? How would you respond? You might say that God is in heaven, and you would be right. You might say that God is in eternity and that there is an infinite difference between time and eternity, and you could be right. You might say that God is everywhere that there is no place where God is not, and you would be right. These answers, however, true as they are, would not satisfy the thirsty soul.
The text, through the use of the Temple metaphor, tells the reader where God can be found. God can be found in God’s people. They are the new Temple. Believers are the new connection point between God and humanity. One might say this text is reminding us that God is with us. God is with God’s people and is making them into the kind of people that can serve as a connection between God and humanity. When people inquire where God is, the answer should be obvious. God is in the hearts of God’s people.
The Lectionary is an effective tool for preaching, but it is not infallible. In this case, the lectionary has made a curious choice. By not including 2:1, the lectionary has removed the text’s ethical instruction on how to be the people of God. The text is arguing that since the people of God are being built into a house for God, certain behaviors are beyond the pale. “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.” Simply put, these behaviors and attitudes are inconsistent with the presence of God. If an individual or group exhibits these behaviors and attitudes, the claim that God is among them would ring hollow.
Because these behaviors are common in the human condition, they are not easily eliminated. What the author does in verse two is give a way to remove these behaviors. The author states that believers are to long for “pure spiritual milk.” While it is easy to think that the author is referring to milk as the sustenance of the young believer and that solid food is for the mature, that is not what the author has in view. The argument is that just as babies crave milk, believers are to crave God’s sustenance. Craving what God has to offer is placed in opposition to the vice list in verse one. Implicitly the passage argues that craving the pure milk of God is a solution to those behaviors.
The promise that God is with us is more than just a promise for us; it is a promise to the world. It is a promise that whenever one looks to find God, one can see God in the life of the people of God. One can see God in God’s people as they worship, as they pray, as they do works of mercy, and as they live lives radiating with God’s love.
Dr. Layne Wallace
Senior Pastor Rosemary Baptist Church
Tags: God, invisible, tabernacle, house of god, milk