Growth in Exile
Over the next 4 nights together we are going to spend some time talking about 1 Peter, so I thought that I’d begin with a little introduction about 1 Peter.
To Whom: the various churches in Asia Minor that are listed in v. 1 (Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia)
We should note that these are all Roman provinces. None of them are what we might think of as the “homeland” of either the Jewish people or of Christians
However, there are many churches in these areas, many of whom we are familiar with from Paul’s letters.
When: In the early 60s, almost assuredly prior to 64 and the beginning of the persecution of the church under Nero.
Why (For them): Peter is writing to a group of folks that are increasingly finding themselves in a hostile culture. Nero has come to power in 54 and while the full blown persecution that was to come after the fire in Rome hasn’t started, he certainly isn’t friendly to the Christians. They are finding themselves on the outside looking in
Why (for us): and this is why for us. After all, the culture around us is changing rapidly.
Difference between my youth and my experience in high school and college is pronounced.
This is why Peter addresses the letter “To God’s elect (chosen), exiles scattered throughout”
It is not that these folks are actual exiles, but that they feel as exiles feel.
Exile is a central theme in the Old Testament.
The exile, of sorts, into Egypt and of course the Babylonian Exile. Much of the OT texts deal and are centered on one of these two stories.
The believers that Peter is writing to would be familiar with these stories. After all, the OT was the only bible that they had. These were central stories of their faith, and Peter is using an image they are familiar with to tell them something about who they are, their relationship with the culture around them, and how they are to respond.
I think that if we listen, Peter is telling us the same thing.
But there is a difference between those of us in the church, whether it be these folks gathered in this room tonight, or those believers that Peter was writing to 1,950 some odd years ago and those Judeans that were carried off into exile in Babylon. To some extent you and I and every believer since the very beginning have chosen exile. After all, we worship a God that was killed. We proclaim good news that is, as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to everyone else!
Yes, we chose this life of residential exile, a life that puts us ever so slightly out of sync with the world and culture around us. And as the culture here in the US becomes more and more secular, we will find ourselves more and more out of sync. And that is ok.
It is not our place, our role, to enforce God’s will on the rest of the world.
short circuit God’s plan for salvation and sanctification.
No our role is not to force the culture around us to conform to us, but for us to respond faithfully to God
One of my favorite poems is “The Second Coming” by the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. He wrote the poem in 1919. To say that there was massive upheval in Europe at the time would be the under-statement of a life time.
WWI had just ended
the Irish war for Independence was just beginning
And so Yeats begins his poem with the stanza
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.”
I will admit, it is a deeply pessimistic poem, but I love it. I think because I understand Yeats. THe world that he had known, the world that he had been born into was ending. Things were changing and it felt like the center would not hold.
I think that maybe we can relate to this.
Mother - born in time to see the last glimpse of the 19th century.
I remember a time before cell phones and omni-present Google and big data
So how are we to respond?
Deeply pessimistic poem, with out hope
Whither our hope?
Our hope is built on nothing less than jesus blood and righteousness.
This is our hope, our Grace. Jesus.
Story of boy with boat.
Twice over we are God’s.
And God calls us to be holy.
How are we to be holy? (2:1-3)