Once Upon A Time
1 Peter 2:2-10
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm your heart with the knowledge you belong to Him, for you have received mercy!
A struggle to belong
I’m going to list a group of television shows and movies and I want you to think about them as I do. You may not know them all, but think about what they have in common,
The Breakfast Club, MASH, Friends, Force 10 from Nazarene, the Power Rangers, Stripes, Grey’s Anatomy, Seinfeld, Gilligan’s Island, Cheers, the Dick Van Dyke show, Lost.
You might know some of those movies and shows, a few of you might know all of them. Some of those are comedies, some dramas, some tragedies. They span five decades, and include diverse casts, playing diverse people. People who will get on each other’s nerves, that won’t understand each other at first. They will grow to depend on each other and find a place in each other’s lives.
Which is why we resonate to such shows.
It gives us a hope that we might find a group of people we belong with, that we can depend upon, a group that belonging to will give us something to identify ourselves by. A chance to stop being the outsider but to belong.
But they are only television shows, they are only movies. No matter how much they resonate with us, they are simply stories that strike a chord in our soul. These things help us identify a need that the Apostle Peter identified for us nearly 2000 years ago. He described the need this way,
Once you had no identity as a people…
Once upon a time, you didn’t belong, you had no place in life, you were broken off, lost, helpless.
But all that has changed now.
how we got there
There has been a great concern for a couple of decades regarding how we see ourselves, our self-esteem, how we see ourselves, how each one of us identifies themselves.
We, as a culture, and as individuals struggle with this, and because of that, we often fell left out, not part of the in-group. Most of the characters in the movies and shows I mentioned had that problem. And they dealt with if differently.
Some very aggressively, trying to lead and dominate the group
Others tried to impress, or make themselves valuable and needed.
A few kept back, afraid to trust others, afraid for people to see who they really were.
And many tried all of those tactics at one time or another.
We do this today as well, as we try to figure out our roles, to figure out the meaning in our life. We want a reason to belong, a valid reason that gives us value.
The problem with this is that our creating our identity usually backfires, for what happens is we separate ourselves from those not like us, who we think cannot understand us, and the further we separate, the harder it is to let the others be part of our life.
We just go on our own way and assume no one else knows or even cares. We realize we aren’t like others and we won’t fit it with them. Hurt by this, and even angry about it, we eventually will make the decision that they aren’t worth it.
Which is why the following
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven
Jesus goes on…
46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT)
Anyone struggling with this standard? Anybody else got a group of people they don’t understand, don’t like, are afraid of, and can’t imagine being part of that you find it hard to love?
Yeah? Well, Jesus calls you to love them.
That is what following Jesus, results in, that is your identity, what it means to receive mercy…when you can’t imagine someone showing you mercy.
The key is found in Peter’s words about acting like babies. Seriously!
Hear Peter’s words again,
2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. 4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple.
Where I to have several hours to preach, I would explain the cornerstone illustration more completely. But realize this – God has given us an identity, a part in those who are called to be His people. Each one of connected to Jesus the cornerstone,
We find our identity in how we relate to Him, we find our place in life based on His place in our life. We find out who we are in God’s eyes, and we find the mercy, the welcome, the hospitality in the eyes of Jesus who died and is risen, that we would know life.
But this is just a little taste of His love, of His desire to make us His own. Peter says to crave experience this love, now that you know about it, drink deeply of His love, desire it, make experiencing it the major priority of your life.
For knowing His love, with not just your mind but your heart, your soul, that is what helps you realize you fit in, that we all do, for we find our place in our relationship to God.
Our identity as well, and the reason we can love those we formerly didn’t fit in with, for they two are coming to Jesus, and being made part of His chosen people, called out of the darkness into His glorious light.
For once upon a time you had no identity, but now you are identified as His people.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” John 10:1-5 TEV
782 How can you dare use that spark of the divine intelligence—your mind—in any way other than in giving glory to your Lord?
The boys didn’t need to climb over the 10-foot fence or risk getting caught on the barbed wire that topped it. The old delivery gate chain was so loose, you could just push the gate open and walk through. The old dirt road, rumored once to have tracks on it was long abandoned, deliveries were taken a different way into the amusement park for decades.
But it was a right of passage in the neighborhood, and the guy that ran the park’s roller rink would wink at us, as he handed us skates and told us to make sure everyone had a good time. Even he let the boys in for free, though he would ask them to sweep the rink occasionally. He knew we snuck in, and he knew that many of us didn’t have the 2 bucks to get in, then pay for skating and skate rental. So he turned a blind eye to our entrance, and made us “work” the rink, doing odd jobs around the place.
The first five or six times someone snuck in, you could see it in their hesitation, in their movement to the other side of the skating rink when the park’s security walked through. But eventually the excitement and fear would diminish, the guilt would fade, and the sin just became a normal part of life.
As adults, as believers in Christ, sin has a similar effect on us. It may seem exciting at even unsettling at first. But over time we realize we haven’t gotten caught, and others turn a blind eye to our actions.
Even as the friends hung out, even as they pretended they were the tough guys, we saw those who came into the park the right way, paying the price, and riding the cannonball rollercoaster, and went through the haunted house. They had a different joy, they belonged there. Their fun was legitimate, they came with their families, or their girls, they had money and ride tickets.
We had some fun, and we had our gang. We had the rink. But we knew we didn’t have it all.
In the gospel reading above, we were the guys who snuck in, who didn’t belong. We could have been brought in by the front, but we liked our way better. Many of us still do that, as we expect that our peace and comfort can be achieved through ways scripture calls sin. As we hide them, rather than letting the price be paid, the illusion holds up, and others might even encourage it. What is your choice to find your joy and peace? Greed? Desire for fame? Lust and illicit sex? Gossip? All these sins do is try to create the illusion of pleasure, or peace, contentment and joy. If we pause long enough to consider it… we know they do not. We don’t belong and we are lieing to ourselves if we think we do.
Sin is still sin? Of course. And if you take a moment to think it over, you know it.
As I hear St Josemaria talk, I think about the things we could do with our time, our money, our intelligence and talents, the blessings God has given us, to bring God glory. TO know the joy of seeing God rejoice as we do what He had planned for us. As we hear Him saying “well done.”
Then I realize that we aren’t just robbing God of His glory. For Jesus died to bring us into that glory, to share that love. What we’ve done, is chosen not to live in it, and to live in the shadows, moving toward the darkness.
It’s not too late… it never is.
Cry out to Him, ask for forgiveness, ask to see His mercy, ask for Jesus to reconcile you to the Father, and find that He paid your way in, and you are counted as an honored guest. Indeed, that has been His desire from the beginning. No more sneaking in.. not more justifying our existence, no more hiding from security. It wasn’t necessary int he first place.
true peace, true comfort, true belonging.
with others, of every tribe and language and nation. All who belong, none who have to come over the fence…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1807-1808). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.