Now You Are God’s People
1 Peter 2:1-10
Rev. Loren McGrail
Irondequoit United Church of Christ
May 10, 2020
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people.
1 Peter 2: 10
So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. (I Peter: 2-3).
Jesus like us, came into the world by a womb. “The God who made heaven and earth came as one of the least of these, harbored in the body of a woman who became God’s mother… Mary’s hospitable yes, drew the uncontaminated God into the world,” says theologian Natalie Carnes.
Happy Mothering Sunday! So fortuitous to be able to preach on one of our Epistles this morning that begins with reminding us to start at home and clean our own glass house and then reminds us that we have already tasted the milk of compassion, have tasted God. We have nursed and been weaned on this precious nourishment. It is part of us now, incarnated into our very bones. In our Opening Prayer we hear these words with longing, “May the milk or your goodness be sweet upon our tongues.”
If we can remember this taste, we might be able to become God’s living vessels of God’s sweet, sweet spirit. Lord, prepare us to be your sanctuaries tried and true especially now that we are not able to physically enter our own church’s sanctuary, or even worship together as an assembled congregation.
Our Epistle reading from the author identified as Peter the apostle, was addressed to various churches in Asia Minor who were suffering religious persecution for declaring themselves to be followers of Jesus.
The letter is to remind them that before they were followers, they were all weaned on God’s love and that Jesus now is their living stone, their source of life. He was rejected by the builders, us, when he was crucified but God, the Master builder who has now set him in the place of honor, the cornerstone. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have regret. If we are not able to trust, to believe, the stone that the workmen threw out will then become something we trip over or which blocks our way.
In our Bible Study this week, we talked about the many rocks we have stumbled over when we have felt lost or forgotten who our rock is, where our salvation comes from, as the Psalmist says.
Once we accept Jesus as the cornerstone, we become living stones which can be built into a spiritual home (I Peter 2:5). Dear Ones, this is the origins of what it means to become God’s people, to become a spiritual home for God’s Spirit. It is an old story and begins with our sacred texts about God’s call to become God’s people. It includes Abraham and Moses, Elijah, and now us. We too are God’s chosen for this high calling to do priestly work, to do God’s work, to speak for her, by standing for her beautiful creation and all her creatures. We too are called to lead and stand up for justice and mercy.
Dear Ones, our building made of stone and brick is closed but our spirit is busy at work doing God’s work in the world. We are sending Outreach money to those in need in our communities; we are making masks; we are working on the frontlines with and without proper PPE; we are staying in our homes to save lives; we are covering our beautiful faces to protect others; we are reaching out to family and friends even sharing zoom dinners; we are learning new technologies to stay connected to each other; we are learning how to worship online.
Finally, because we have the time, we are experiencing life like we have never before. We are smelling and tasting the coming of Spring everywhere beginning with our own backyards, on our neighborhood walks, in our city parks. We are finding our whole world renewed with God’s greening power and holy light, especially our loved ones---family and friends. We are learning to celebrate each moment even while grieving our losses.
Dearest Ones, in the midst of these challenging times, we who are being called to be a priesthood of believers, to Be the Church not just go to church, find comfort and strength here in Christ, our living stone, our foundation. Allow yourselves then to be rebuilt into a new people, maybe even a new congregation, that knows how to conserve our core values while seeking new ways to share God’s call for liberation. Allow yourselves to become living sanctuaries for God’s indwelling and your bodies to become an extension of God’s compassion, mercy, and love.
I would like to leave you with this prayer, this charge. It is often called the Romero Prayer but was actually written by Cardinal Dearden on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests in 1979 in El Salvador.
As you listen, I invite you to pay attention to what phrase, image, or word stands out for you. I invite you also to ponder what it means to be workers, not master builders, to know that nothing we do will be complete.
Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.