This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Peter 2:1-10
2Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 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.
10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
I sometimes think, when I’m reading this letter that the author-who is certainly not the disciple Peter- is not quite expert in using a “Christian” language which has been forged by others, perhaps especially by St. Paul and the gospel writers. His/her mind is packed with phrases from the Jewish Bible which are pressed into service-perhaps in the expectation that they’ll be recognised by the readers, some of whom are however, Gentiles. For example in verse 2 will the readers be familiar with the allusion to Psalm 34”O taste and see that the Lord is good/ blessed is the man who trusts in Him”?
The language of Exodus chapter 19 and Isaiah chapters 28 and 43 is used to present Jesus as the cornerstone of God’s new temple which is not a building but a people. If the builders who have rejected Jesus are the Jewish leaders, who are the chosen race now? It’s tempting to say “Gentiles” but the better term would be “sinners”, those Jews who are looked upon as outside the Torah, together with Gentiles who were never included in it. This new people is dignified, in words from Hosea, as new Israel, a people who will fulfil God’s Covenant by representing God’s saving justice to the world in action and word.
This patchwork rhetoric is transformed if we remember that it comes to us under the name of the disciple Peter, Kephas, the “Rock”, who was found to be pretty rocky in time of testing but found forgiveness and stability in the risen Jesus. “Peter” knows that Jesus is the true rock and that he and all disciples only have value as they are built into Him. When I enter into the language of this chapter through the experience of Peter (rocky as I am that’s not hard!) it speaks to me more meaningfully.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 26But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’
27 Then Peter said in reply, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ 28Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Jesus is utterly real about wealth. Rich people are always in danger of hell, simply because they are rich and as long as they’re rich.
His attitude astounded disciples whose faith told them that material possessions indicated God’s blessing. If people with the leisure to study Torah and give to charity can’t be saved, who can, they ask. Jesus reminds them that salvation is an act of God not an achievement of human beings.
When Peter protests that the disciples have abandoned their possessions to follow him Jesus promises that in that in the great renewal they will be the leaders of the people and will enjoy the “life of the ages”. Jesus is talking here about the life of his believing community in the world. In such a community, those who have despised worldly wealth come first.
As we approach Advent and Christmas, Jesus’ truth about wealth and poverty should take priority over the evil display of money and power which uses the name of Christ.