Read Today’s Reading »
This can’t be talking about us! I have to admit that whenever I hear this passage from 1 Peter, that’s exactly what I think. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Every time I hear this passage, I think: This can’t possibly be talking about me, about us! This just doesn’t fit who I am, who we are!
You are extraordinary! You are a shining beacon! You are chosen and set apart to be God’s light to the world! That’s what it means when it says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
I hear this and I think, “This just doesn’t fit who I am! What do I have to offer to the world? What do we have to offer to the world?”
I mean, maybe this applies to people who have their lives together. You know, people who volunteer whenever they have the opportunity. Or people who consistently make good decisions in life, who have successful marriages and perfect children. Or people who are doing a better and better job of beating the sin in their lives. But when I look at myself, when I look at us, we’re not always loving to the people in our lives. We don’t always make good decisions. We don’t always have the model marriages or model families. We wrestle with sin—pride, anger, un-chastity, you name it. Our good works aren’t exactly a shining beacon to the world.
Or maybe this applies to people who are strong and talented. You know, people with outgoing personalities who always know the right thing to say. Or people who are creative and attractive, people who naturally draw others to themselves. Or people who have energy and ambition to go out and get the job done. But when I look at myself, when I look at us, we’re often tired and worn out, we’re dogged by illness and pain; we’re weak and run ragged, working hard just to get through the day, let alone be shining lights to the world around us.
Or maybe this applies to people who have a strong faith. You know, people who are always confident in God no matter what happens in their lives. People who always seem to be happy no matter what the circumstance. People who are never discouraged at life, crushed, uncertain or afraid. But when I look at myself, when I look at us, I’m not always sure what God is up to, I worry about my sin and what God thinks of me, we’re afraid and discouraged by life’s twists and turns, life’s tragedies and sorrows.
Maybe this applies to those people, but not to me. Not to us! And I can only hear this passage as a burden. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” It sounds like an unrealistic expectation always telling me what I should be, but something I will never live up to.
But this passage is speaking about us! We are extraordinary! We are a shining beacon! We are chosen and set apart to be God’s light to the world! Not because of what we can do, but because of what God does for us.
Here’s what sets us apart. It’s not our greatness, our personality, our strength and ambition, or our good works. What sets us apart is God’s mercy.
We struggle with sin, we fail to serve our neighbor, we fail to make good decisions in life, and we come here and we bring our sins to God, and God says, “I forgive you.” And with that word, God washes us clean. He takes people who are dirty, and stained, and unclean and he washes us with his Word: I forgive you all of your sins.
We bring our illnesses and weaknesses, we bring our pains—even our dying and death—we bring our weakness here, and God clothes us in his strength. He speaks his Word, and promises us that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead will be our resurrection from the dead. And even though we may be weak, sick, and dying, God will be our strength and our power.
We bring our fear and uncertainty, we bring our sorrow and our despair, and Jesus says, “Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you. Take and drink, this cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” And even though our faith is weak, Jesus promises us his faithfulness. Even though we are uncertain and despairing, Jesus promises us that he loves us, has given his life for us, and will never let us go.
That is what sets us apart! Not that we are awesome and strong. But that in our sin, our weaknesses, our helplessness, God comes to us. And God glorifies his name by lifting up the weak, binding the broken, washing the unclean. That is how God’s name is glorified among us! Not that we are strong and wonderful. But that in our weakness and our wretchedness, God rescues us and saves us.
The apostle Paul puts all of this so well. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he speaks about a time he was afflicted with what he calls a thorn in the flesh. You see, Paul started the church in Corinth. He was the first to come and preach the gospel about Jesus to them. But after he left, other teachers came. And they wowed the Corinthians. They performed miracles, they claimed to have visions, they spoke in tongues. They seemed to be exactly the strong and talented people that we would expect God to use to his glory. And compared to them, Paul seemed like a weak and pitiful failure. And Paul agrees. He too wished to boast of his strength and his talents and his power. But God gave him this thorn in the flesh. Maybe it was a speech impediment, maybe it had something to do with his eyes. We’re not sure and Paul doesn’t say. But he does say this: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul’s strength was not his power, his personality, or his good works. Paul’s strength was Christ. And that’s all Paul had to boast in. But that was everything.
You see, God’s gift to the world is not our personality, our strength, our faithfulness, or our good works. God’s gift to the world is Jesus Christ. And God is at work in our lowliness, in our humility, and our weakness to magnify his Son, Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins, promises us his resurrection, and gives us his body and blood as a sign and promise of his faithfulness.
Peter says, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” That is what God is doing among us here in this place. He is building a temple of living stones, by bringing people who are weak and sinners and giving them Christ and his forgiveness and his strength. And it’s easy to think that we, as a group, are nobody. It’s easy to think that we as a group are nothing but a flawed bunch of people who come to an imperfect church and live mediocre lives. But you are extraordinary, you are a shining beacon to the world. Not because of your good works, your strength, or your personality. But because Christ is at work here to make the weak strong and the sinners righteous. That is a gift we have to share with our children, with our friends, with our neighbors, even with the whole world! Yes! The whole world needs exactly what you have! The strength and the forgiveness and the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
1 Peter 2.2-10
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 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.