Sermon: 3rd Sunday of Easter, 30 April 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bishop Ross Nicholson

Therefore- 1Peter 1:13-25

-Because it was the weekend before ANZAC Day,

-I heard a snippet of a radio story by a fellow who had written a book about the history of uniforms.

-The bit I caught was discussing the ubiquity of uniforms.

-They’re everywhere,

-But most people are often unaware,

-That the person across the counter,

-Or in the queue next to them is wearing a uniform.

-Soldiers, police and barristers in a court may have an obvious uniform,

-But what about the workers in Woolies and Coles?

-Or the chemist shop or maybe the building site?

-What looks to be just an ordinary business shirt or blouse can have a subtle colour or pattern,

-That in the right context screams out ‘uniform’.

 

-The gist of that radio interview was that uniforms help us identify the wearer.

-Just from a quick look,

-We can make a whole pile of assumptions of what we can expect from the wearer.

-Leonidas Polk was a general in the Confederate army during the civil war.

-On one occasion in late afternoon,

-His troops were being hit by cannon fire that he thought was coming from his own side.

-In some annoyance he rode up to the bombarding artillery,

-Confronted the officer in charge and demanded he identify himself.

-His reply was somewhat disconcerting.

-The artillery commander identified himself as a colonel in the Union Army,

-And then demanded Polk identify himself.

-Wearing a dark cape at dusk,

-Polk boldly rode right up into the colonel’s face,

-Shook his fist and said;

-‘I’ll soon show you who I am sir.

-‘Cease firing, sir, at once.’

-Turning his horse towards the cannon,

-He determinedly trotted down the line,

-Ordering the Union troops to lower their guns.

-And he just kept calmly going,

-Till a thicket of trees,

-Blocked the view of him breaking into a gallop!

-Back behind his own lines he told his men;

“I have reconnoitred those fellows pretty closely, and I find there is no mistake who they are; you may get up and go at them.” (1Samuel, Dale Ralph Davis p215)

 

-In the opening verses of his first letter Peter identifies his readers as;

“ . . . the exiles of the Dispersion . . . who have been 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

-Over the next ten verses he ‘reconnoitres pretty closely’,

-The significance and importance of who we are in Christ.

-No matter what we may have been in the past,

-What others may think of us now,

-Or what others may want us to be,

-We have a new identity,

-An identity rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ.

-Then Peter uses one of the most powerful words in the Bible,

-‘Therefore’

 

-There’s a helpful little aphorism of biblical exegesis that states,

-‘Whenever you see a ‘therefore’ you need to see what it’s there for!’

-Have you heard that before?

-‘Therefore’ is powerful because it focuses our attention on the implications of what’s gone before.

-A ‘therefore’ alerts the reader that the author has not just been passing on some helpful information,

-Or telling a story to hold your attention,

-It signals an imperative that calls the reader to action rooted firmly in what’s been previously stated.

-Because we now know God our heavenly Father,

-Because we’ve been sanctified by the Holy Spirit,

-Because we’ve been sprinkled by Jesus’ blood,

-Because we have a new identity as disciples of Jesus;

“Therefore prepare your minds for action.” 1Peter 1: 13

 

-When Peter says ‘prepare your minds’,

-He’s not just asking us to give intellectual assent to what will follow.

-To prepare your minds is to know something and then give your will over to it.

-This is body, heart and soul work.

-You can see that in the next two imperatives that follow;

“discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.” 1Peter 1:13

-That’s a pretty uninspiring exhortation to our instant gratification culture isn’t it?

-Discipline yourself!

-The New International Version says ‘be self-controlled’.

-Self-control and discipline involve the very same thing don’t they?

-Being determined and directed by your own inner compass,

-Rather than pushed and pulled by external pressures.

 

-But even that’s not quite what Peter has in mind.

-On your reading sheet or if you’ve got a bible handy,

-Look at vv14 and 17;

“Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.” 1Peter 1:14

“If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.” 1Peter 1:17

 

-If you’ve got an iPhone you may have seen the compass app.

-In January we were on a cruise around New Zealand,

-And I opened the compass app to see in which direction the ship was heading.

-My friends at the table did the same thing.

-We put our iPhones side by side,

-And every one of them was pointing in a slightly different direction,

-And by slightly I mean 15-20 degrees different.

-Being determined and directed by your own inner compass is fine,

-As long as that compass is pointing in the right direction.

-Those iPhones couldn’t give a correct heading because of all the steel of the ship,

-Distorting the data being sent to those different phones.

 

-Before we began following Jesus we followed our own hearts and desires,

-We conformed to the data of our ignorant and darkened desires.

-Our inner compass was pointing us in the wrong direction,

-Towards self-gratification and away from God.

-But as disciples of Jesus the Holy Spirit has given us a new direction,

-One that directs us to the good and righteous judgements of God.

-That compass points us away from the worldly behaviour we see as exiles or strangers in the world,

-As Peter puts it in v1,

-To the reverent awe of our loving heavenly Father.

-A compass points us away from something,

-At the exact same time it points us towards something,

-Our inner compass is pointing us to who we were created to be like,

-It’s pointing us to our true identity as the people of God.

 

-That’s why Peter’s ‘therefore’ points inexorably to holiness.

-Rather than being conformed to our old evil desires;

“Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1Peter 1:15-16

-Holy at its simplest means set apart or different.

-Why is God holy?

-Because he’s separate, different from creation.

-Why was Israel a ‘holy people’?

-Because they were set apart for God,

-They were to be ‘separate’ from the nations around them.

-Why were priests in the Old Testament ‘holy’?

-Because they were ‘set apart’ from the people to serve God.

-We are holy because we’ve been set apart from the rest of humanity to be God’s chosen people.

 

-Some people confuse the Ten Commandments as a list that had to be obeyed to be right with God.

-But it was no such thing.

-The Ten Commandments were given to distinguish between God’s people,

-Who he’d rescued from slavery in Egypt,

-From the pagans in the land he was leading them to.

-To obey demonstrated you belonged.

-You belonged first,

-Because you’d been rescued by God,

-And then you obeyed,

-To identify you as belonging to the God who rescues his people.

 

-You can see that by how Peter is arguing here.

-He tells his readers that they have a new identity as God’s people,

-Therefore they’re to live disciplined, holy lives consistent with that identity, v17;

“If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.” 1Peter 1:17

-And just so we get the point he says next;

“You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.” 1Peter 1:18-21

-The fact that Peter mentions his readers were ‘ransomed’,

-Would have taken their minds straight back to that great rescue storey of Exodus.

-Slaves got ransomed or redeemed.

-God’s people were in slavery and they were redeemed by God.

-You and I were enslaved to sin,

-But we were ransomed from our futile ways with the precious blood of Christ.

-So our status changed,

-We received a new identity,

-And we are now blessed with a faith and hope that is set on God.

 

-General Polk had to bluff his way from enemy lines,

-When he realised he was wearing a different uniform to all the men with cannons.

-He was on a different side,

-His identity lay elsewhere,

-He was a stranger in a foreign land.

-If that blue coat Colonel had of been able to see under that dark cape,

-He would have responded in an entirely different fashion to a grey uniform.

-Having identified the enemy and returned safely,

-Polk commanded his soldiers to take action.

 

-Peter reminds his readers they now wear a different uniform.

-Their identity lies in another place,

-Therefore they are to prepare their minds for action,

-Be self-controlled,

-And set their hope fully on the grace of Jesus Christ.

-No longer are they to live the old life,

-Because they’ve been set apart for God.

-Friends, because of that same word preached to us,

-We too are called to the same life.

-We have the same Spirit empowering us,

-And the same hope inspiring us,

-To be who God created us to be.