1 Peter Series Comments

As a Lutheran (or as a Protestant in general) our canon within the canon, the books we read to understand everything else the bible says, are Paul’s letters. That is a generalizing statement and not universal, but most Protestant churches could be said to be more Romans less Rome. That is actually somewhat funny as Peter will affirm those letters but also speak of them as being “hard to understand” and “the ignorant and unstable twist to their destruction”. (2 Peter 3:15-16).

When I saw 1 Peter coming up in the assigned readings, and I saw more of the Gospel of John which to me is more for study and less for preaching, I said that would be interesting or at least different. On the other side of that series, what Peter does is much like his character in the gospels – he lives. He confesses Christ, he denies Christ, he repents. He walks on water, he sinks and is rescued. He pulls a sword and then flees. Peter lives, no mater what happens, he keeps on knowing one big thing – “where would we go, you have the words of eternal life.” Paul thinks about stuff – he ponders the fate and purpose of Israel, he lays out instructions for dealing with authorities, he waxes poetic about love. Peter’s letter talks about living. Be who you are – a chosen people. Live like it – be holy. Live the faith – let it grow up in you to salvation, be living stones. Not all of it is applicable to the context of Christian life in the USA. A big portion of the letter is given over to suffering, and unless you extend that concept to mental anguish, ennui and spiritualizing interpretations, we don’t experience that directly. But if the fiery trial is not universal right now, we still undergo individual trials. We are still called to live the faith.

The rest of this summer on non-festival days (i.e. not Pentecost and Trinity) the assigned epistle readings are from Romans. We revert to form. But, I’ll miss Peter.

Sermon Posts on 1 Peter
Impudence – 1 Peter 1:3-9
Resident Aliens – 1 Peter 1:17-25
Chains of Being – 1 Peter 2:19-25
Paradox Maintained – 1 Peter 2:2-1-
Hope and Holiness – 1 Peter 3:13-22
Satan and Suffering – 1 Peter 4:12-19 , 1 Peter 5:6-11

We don’t believe in one, and turn our eyes from the other

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It struck me yesterday, if he would have been open to hearing, how applicable Peter’s final words would have be to Rep. Wiener. Peter, more than any other apostle, uses the life of Christ as our example. And he ends his instructions for Christian living with three imperatives (verbs in the command tense, i.e. go, do): be humble, be sober-minded, resist Satan.

Be humble – yes you are a congressman and powerful, but do you really think people want pictures of your privates? Be humble…

Be sober-minded, be watchful – You wouldn’t think that such a thing would be necessary, but NY has had two congressmen flame out in the last couple of years for essentially the same thing. You have a beautiful wife – go home and get off the system.

Resist Satan – Is there any world where x-rated pictures are really appropriate? Only one where you think more of yourself than you do and you aren’t paying attention. Right where that roaring lion can devour you.

The core message of the apostles is relevant day in and day out. Not the least of which is the hope it rests on. The God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore.

Hope and Holiness

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If I’m looking at this sermon critically – it is too much lecture and not enough preaching. Here is what I mean by that: a lecture conveys information while preaching reaches beyond that.

The core of the text (1 Pet 3:13-22) as I read it was a summary of Peter’s argument up to this point, and a reiteration of the purpose. The argument is be holy. The longer form of that is Be Holy because you are a child of God and that is what God’s children do. The purpose – to point the glory and all eyes toward Christ.

Peter’s words are “be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you.” For me the summary of the hope that is in me is creeds. The creeds themselves are intellectual things. The make statements of what I take to be facts. (Non-Christians would say that make claims that are probably not facts.) But it is not that intellectual content that is the basis of my or the church’s hope. The basis is the truth that the creeds speak about – the God, Father, Son and Spirit, reigns. Hope rests not in this suffering world, or hope rests not in this ill-at-ease contentment of safety and plenty and its continuation. Hope rests in the fact that God acts and has acted and continues to act. Hope rests in the fact that the God who has acted has revealed himself not to be a harsh judge, but one moved to compassion (I’m bringing back a greek work – splagnizomai), who has his guts torn out over his world.

Our proclamation of that Hope (the church’s proclamation of that hope) is displayed in our holiness. Being prepared is not just about knowing the creed, but also about living it. And living something is always messy.

Paradox Maintained

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There are a bunch of paradoxes that are part of how the church talks about reality, but one of the biggest is about the end times. Side one of the paradox is that the end has already come. Side two of the paradox is that we are still here. With the resurrection of Jesus, the last day has happened. The age to come has arrived. But the current age still roles on. And we live in that tension.

As we saw the past week, living in a Divine tension is not comfortable. We’d like to resolve it. We want the old age to be done with, now. Hence the rapture warning, but also the much larger number of apocalypses and Armageddons predicted from a wide variety of folks religious and secular. Or, we’d like to just say – same as it ever was, world without end. Hence the lukewarmness, the despising of church and sacrament, the lack of holiness. We collapse the paradox, on our terms, on our time, in our way.

But Peter calls us living stones, placed on The Living Stone. Think for a second about that juxtaposition living…stones… Can you come up with a stranger notion? And we are living stones for God’s purposes. Those purposes are: growing up to salvation, to take our place in being built up into a spiritual house on the cornerstone (i.e. the church is important, its a corporate image), to proclaim Jesus who has called us out of darkness into his light.

Chains of Being

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Text: 1 Peter 2:18-3:7

That title is a reference to what you might have heard as a medieval way of thinking – The great chain of being. Really it goes back to the Greeks and Romans and the ancient world. You might also have heard it referred to as the order of creation which I take as the Christian attempt to baptize the chain of being. There is a truth buried within it. God is sovereign. But natural man can’t understand that correctly. We think chain of being or order of creation and immediate jump to hierarchical org charts. We think dominion. Roman philosopher Seneca held we couldn’t make progress until “we conceived the right idea of god.” The right idea of God put forward by Peter is Jesus – the suffering servant. The one who submitted himself to our bad justice.

I preach within a denomination that holds to what the larger Christian world calls complementarian sexual roles. They hold this view largely on the basis of an order of creation. Here is the page with the various studies that have been done by the LCMS. The most recent one being the Creator’s Tapestry in 2009. Bluntly, any order of creation argument is missing the point. To derive dominion for the husband out of 1 Peter requires completely misreading and selectively quoting. (The CTCR report doesn’t look at the entire passage, nor does it put it in historical frame, it just quotes the wife/husband part.) The entire passage is a household code. That form is not an OT form but a Greek form. In the sermon I’ve quoted what some of those greek codes said from names like Aristotle, Plato and Seneca. Peter uses the form, but completely subverts it. He starts with slaves. Slaves who didn’t have any moral ability in those greek codes. Slaves would never have been addressed by a greek writer. In Christ the slave comes first because he/she is the closest model to Christ. Only then does Peter move on wives and husbands. The teaching is live holy lives of mutual submission reflecting Christ. Find that the other has more value than yourself. Uphold the society you live in where possible, Christian freedom is not to tear down society, but know that your dignity comes from God having chosen you. You are not chained in being or orders of creation instead you willfully submit to Christ, who submitted himself to the cross. Any theology or politics of dominion must meet its end at the cross.

Resident Aliens

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Our lectionary (the assigned readings for the week) is taking us through 1 Peter during the Easter Season. I can’t remember ever hearing a focus on 1 Peter. As I write this now 3.5 weeks into it, I understand that a little better. Peter is very short. You could condense the letter to two very short sentences. God chose you. Live like it.

In a world that is often plagued with doubt, Peter isn’t. He is bold enough to say compare your former life with your current life in Christ. Compare the status craving world running from one idol to the next to your status as God’s chosen. Yes you are resident aliens. You are exiles, but exiles from what? Something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Christ’s election is incorruptible and unfading. Christ has called you and given you an inheritance and has a job for you. Whatever that job is there is nobility in it, because God has placed it in your path. The world will say your odd. Make the comparison. Which is worth more?

As a preaching and denominational note. Even though Luther liked first Peter, the message is somewhat different. The Lutheran pattern is law and gospel. When you have been convicted of the law then the gospel restores. That was Luther’s personal experience. His anfechtung over sin followed by the recovery of the gospel to himself. Lutheran preaching can be caricatured – “make you feel really, really band and then make you feel really, really good.” Peter’s proclamation is Gospel (God chose you) followed by sanctification (live like it). It is a radical dependance upon the Holy Spirit to first call a wavering people to recognition of who they are and second to then live the faith.


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Text: 1 Peter 1:3-11; Baptism of Isobel and Michelle

One of those times in sermon prep reading you come across a story that is just perfect for the situation. Since it was used so early in setting the theme and it was such a powerful story, you hope and pray that the rest can live up to it.

One of the things I like to do is point our or remind people that the rites and rituals of the church has a purpose. They are not mindless actions or appeasements of a angry God. The baptisms, Lord’s suppers and confessions, the weddings and confirmations, are an enactment of what is being said. What we say is happening actual does happen – God has promised or explained it that way. Baptism now saves us. We are joined with Christ in baptism.

We are limited creatures. Unless the Lord comes again in our lifetimes, we will die, things will fade. In Baptism we can be impudent toward that fact and toward the Satanic powers of this world. Death itself will fade. In Baptism we are joined to Christ and to an inheritance: incorruptible, undefiled and unfading. As in the theme story, baptism puts us in an impudent position. We are placed and kept in faith until the last appointed time.