Sermon: 6th Sunday of Easter, 21 May 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Bishop Ross Nicholson

What You Do- 1Peter 3:8-25

-Have you ever thought about how different you are?

-You may never have reflected on this before,

-But you are a part of a tiny minority who are doing something,

-Which probably around 96% of the rest of the population would think is decidedly odd.

-You’ve taken a perfectly good Sunday morning,

-And chosen to be with a group of people for an hour or so,

-With whom you have no particular familial, demographic, occupational or cultural connection.

-Furthermore,

-The common connection you do have with these other people,

-Is not rooted in the materialistic, rationalist child of the Enlightenment,

-But in the belief that life in this world is undergirded by a spiritual reality,

-That there is a God,

-And that he has revealed himself to a world that has wandered far from him.

-Is it any wonder that Peter opens his letter with the words;

“To the exiles of the Dispersion . . .” 1Peter 1:1

-The New International Version is even more descriptive;

“To God’s elect, strangers in the world . . .” 1Peter 1:1

 

-As we’ve been reading through Peter’s first letter we’ve seen how identity is a big issue for him.

-Repeatedly he makes assertions about our identity.

-Who are you?

“God’s elect, strangers in the world . . . chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:’ 1Peter 1:1-2

-We’re the followers of Jesus;

“who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1Peter 1:5

-We’re believers.

 

-But Peter is also interested in our purpose,

-The ‘what are you?’ question.

-And what are you?

“(But) you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1Peter 2: 9

-Our purpose in this world is to proclaim the mighty acts of God.

-Because we have both identity and purpose then our lives will be different to the world.

-And what we do,

-Will be just as important as who and what we are.

-In fact, what we do will be confirmation to a darkened world of who we are.

-As Peter’s letter unfolds we see how he keeps repeating that idea of the connection between identity and behaviour,

-Of behaviour and purpose.

 

-Listen to how he ties identity and behaviour together in ch1:13ff;

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1Peter 1:15

-Who are you?

-Obedient children of God.

-What do you?

-Not conform to our previous evil desires,

-Be holy in all we do.

 

-Look again at 1Peter 2:9,

-Who are you?

-You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.

-What do you do?

-Proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

-And just in case you think that Peter is exhorting us all to get a soapbox and stand outside Epping Station,

-Listen to how he describes this proclamation a few verses down;

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1Peter 2:11-12

 

-I recently read this story of a Romanian Christian named Nicu Toader.

-He was summoned one day into the office of the secret police.

-In that totalitarian state he thought this was the end of his life or at the very least his freedom.

-However when he arrived,

-He was sent up to the private apartment of the local chief of police to fix his home appliances.

-The chief said to a bemused Nicu;

“Here are the keys to my apartment. I know- you know that we have spies everywhere- that you are engaged in illegal religious activities. But you are a serious Repenter, I know that when you go to my apartment you will not go through my personal papers, take my food, or steal my valuables. And I also know that you are absolutely the best mechanic in the entire city of Timisoara. When you fix things they stay fixed. Your silly faith and your work skills bring you to my office this afternoon.” ‘Doing God’s Business’, Paul Stevens, p.54-55

-In a society of distrust,

-Of informants doing and saying anything to survive,

-Of crushing poverty and opportunistic disloyalty,

-Nicu Toader was noticed to be different to those around him.

-He was a stranger and alien of light in that darkened world.

-His ‘silly faith’ was noticed because he lived such a good life,

-A life different to the culture around him,

-And his good deeds were recognised as being directly linked to his relationship with Jesus.

-After the Christmas Revolution in 1989 it was revealed that Nicu Toader’s name was on a list to be arrested in order to crush the underground church.

-That police chief permanently deferred that order.

 

-I’m sure you’ve heard hundreds of stories just like that,

-Of ordinary followers of Jesus who’s lives have shone so brightly,

-That their behaviour had profound impact upon those who saw it.

-At the beginning of ch3 Peter brings that message even closer to home,

-By saying that an unbelieving husband;

“. . . may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” 1Peter 3:1-2

-Through chs 1-2 Peter has been stressing our identity and purpose,

-And it’s here in ch3 that he focuses in on the day to day life of the follower of Jesus.

-On the readings sheet you can see the practical outworkings of who we are in Christ;

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

-Can you see how other worldy this exhortation is?

-Just turn on your TV,

-Read a newspaper,

-Scan through a Facebook feed,

-From world leaders right down to people who could be our neighbours,

-I’m sure you can see how alien is a life style which strives for harmony with others,

-Is sympathetic,

-Loving,

-Compassionate,

-And humble.

-Evil for evil and insult for insult is the currency of our world.

 

-That whole idea of being a contrarian in an evil world is underscored dramatically in the quote Peter uses from Psalm 34.

-This is just a little reading tip before we press on,

-But whenever you come across a quote in the bible,

-Always look down the bottom of the page or in a note somewhere which tells you where the quote comes from.

-In modern literature writers use quotes that stand for themselves,

-The quote fully embodies what the writer wants you to understand.

-But that’s not how Bible writers use them.

-A quote in the bible is a directive to go back to where the quote comes from and see the point of the whole text around it.

 

-So back to Peter who quotes;

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1Peter 3:10-12

-Now the other thing you would have noticed about this letter of Peter’s,

-Is how often he refers to the troubles that are going to come the way of the faithful follower of Jesus.

-And if you think about it even for a short moment you can understand why.

-The world hates people who don’t think the way they do.

-The whole lack of civility we see in public discourse today is a symptom of that deeper malaise within the moral compass of our materialistic, narcissistic culture.

-Whereas once upon a time our politicians would listen politely to a dissenting argument even if they disagreed with it,

-Nowadays the person is attacked not the idea.

-Whether it’s in the public sphere or private realm,

-Mere dissent is seen as a rejection of the individual and a personal affront to be avenged.

-In ch2 Peter has described what happened to Jesus because he confronted the world with a truth it did not want to hear.

-So his warning to us is expect nothing different.

 

-But here’s the sting.

-Peter quotes Psalm 34 where David says;

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” 1Peter 3:10

-If you go back to Psalm 34 and read it in it’s entirety you can see how counter cultural David’s and Peter’s exhortation is.

-David wrote that Psalm when he was on the run from Saul who saw him as a threat to his kingdom.

-David was running for his life and he finds himself in the Philistine kingdom of Achish in Gath,

-The hometown of Goliath,

-And David is carrying Goliath’s sword!!!

-Talk about out of the frying pan.

-David has to feign madness in order to escape with his life.

 

-David is in desperate circumstances,

-On a number of occasions he could have killed Saul and solved his problems.

-But he would not raise his hands against the authority of God’s appointed ruler.

-Remember Peter’s command in 2:13 to submit yourself to every authority?

-David is completely counter-cultural.

-When he commands ‘seek paece and pursue it,

-This is no academic nicety,

-He really had to wrestle with what it meant to be an obedient follower of his God.

-He could resolve his problems with violence and murder,

-But he chose the harder way.

-He chose to do what his identity and purpose called for.

-Our choices may be different,

-But the same principle applies,

-What we do,

-Will be a compelling witness to who we are and our purpose in God’s world.