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.
Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!
A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent. Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”
It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.
Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent. Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.
The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.
The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.
The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.
But how does that happen? How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?
Your sin is nothing new…
Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.
Hebrews 12 tells, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (Heb 12:1)
That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside. Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.
As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind. And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam. That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning. Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.
For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.
Christ’s Act, and your right relationship
But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.
They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin. To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent. Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives. To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way. Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.
To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.
The Continuation of the thought..
At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life. I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,
1 Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)
This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.
To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.
This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished. It is accomplished. We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!
Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.
For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God. We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus. AMEN!