In case you missed the May devotions Pastor Thomas posted daily on Facebook and Instagram, we have collected them here for you.
1 May 2022
See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).
The sixth and final of C.S. Lewis’s closing observations on the problem of pain contrasts pain with sin. Sin, he writes, has a way of “spreading.” Whether we err unintentionally or act with malice, when we sin, it is bound to have a negative effect upon others, however small.
Pain, by contrast, does not “spread.” Instead, it invites the spread of good responses from others: pity in the face of mourning, support and treatment in the face of illness, righteous outrage in the face of injustice and oppression.
These invitations may not be accepted, of course. Mourning may be met with indifference, illness with abandonment, injustice and oppression with complicancy. And yet, Lewis argues, the fact that pain can prompt positive action is a testament to what he has been arguing these past two chapters: that God can put even such an evil as pain to work for good.
What finally emerges, then, from Lewis’s exploration of the problem of pain is a proclamation of startling simplicity: pain is real, and a frightful thing to bear; yet, through Christ, it can be borne in hope.
Awaken our hope, O God, so that we may bear the sufferings of our present time. Amen.
2 May 2022
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 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: May grace and peace be yours in abundance (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Sometimes, a thing can have two meanings. That might be the case from the moment that thing comes into being, or else it acquires a second meaning over time.
The “thing” to which I am referring here is the list of towns that the author of the First Epistle of Peter names in the opening verse. Each town harbors a community of Christ followers.
The first meaning of this list is obvious: the author is writing a letter, and a letter needs to be addressed. How else is it supposed to reach its intended recipients?
Over time, however, this list has acquired a second meaning. Reading it today, we may or may not know much about Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, or Bithynia, but we are reminded that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a general proclamation, nor is it a fairy tale addressed to an imagined reader. When we share the Gospel, we share it with particular people, which means that who they are, particularly, matters.
Help us, O God, to love you and others by attending to the details. Amen.
3 May 2022
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:3-4).
What brings hope to life? Is hope not, in and of itself, a sign of life? The author of 1 Peter does not seem to think so. In making explicit reference to a living hope, they imply that there is also such a thing as a dead or dying hope.
Perhaps we embody the latter when we bid someone farewell by saying, “I hope to see you again someday,” when we doubt that we ever will, or watch some far-off atrocity unfold on our television screens and think, “I hope justice will be done,” when we are privately convinced that it will not be. Such “hopes” amount only to good wishes, and so are bound to die when those wishes do not come true.
But then there is this living hope, which is found not in a particular event and its desired outcome, but in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event that was particular to one, yet is applicable to all. In that sense, hope is, in fact, a sign of life: Christ’s life, giving life to each of us.
Awaken in us a living hope, O God, so that we may pursue fellowship and justice. Amen.
4 May 2022
Rejoice in this, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).
What does it mean to rejoice in the midst of suffering? Proclamations such as the one offered above, exhorting us to rejoice in the Lord even when we are suffering acutely, run through the length and breadth of Scripture, and they can seem like a bitter pill to swallow.
They are, if we take them to mean that God wants us to simply grin and bear it, to mask our pain, anxiety, and anger by putting on a brave face, to feign joy when we have none.
I do not think that is what this passage and others like it mean, though. I think that when we are called to rejoice in the Lord while our world seems to be coming unglued around us, we are called to remember that although our pain is real, and may define us in many ways, it does not own us. I think we are called to remember that, through Christ, the sufferings of this present age will not have the last word.
Help us, O God, to remember that we belong to nobody but you. Amen.
5 May 2022
Although you have not seen [Christ], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 8-9).
Can we love someone who we have not seen? The author of the First Epistle of Peter seems to think so, and with good reason. The faith communities to whom the author is writing, though scattered across the Mediterranean world, are united by their love for Jesus Christ, a person who never ventured beyond Judea during his earthly life.
And yet, can it really be said that they have not seen him? Yes, if by “see,” we merely mean “observe.” The members of these communities did not see Jesus of Nazareth preach his Sermon on the Mount, nor did they see him ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
But “see” can also mean “realize,” and in that sense, the folks to whom the author of this epistle is writing have seen perfectly well. The God revealed in Jesus Christ has been revealed to them, too, by the grace and power of God’s Holy Spirit. They have seen who Jesus is, seen what his life, death, and resurrection means, and having seen, they cannot help but respond with love.
Reveal yourself to us, O God, so that we may see who you are, and who we may yet be. Amen.
6 May 2022
Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy (1 Peter 14-16).”
“Be holy yourselves in all your conduct,” the author of the First Epistle of Peter proclaims. So far, so good, provided that one knows what it means to “be holy.” “Holiness” is the quintessential Christian pursuit, but it is such a particular word that its meaning can sometimes seem opaque.
I think that this passage can bring some clarity. These three verses, you see, come with a “footnote” of sorts. The phrase “it is written” is the tip-off. It means that what follows is quoting or paraphrasing another piece of Scripture. In this case, “You shall be Holy, for I am Holy” harkens back to Leviticus 19:2.
What does Leviticus have to say about Holiness? Quite a bit. Chapter 19 alone has lots of ideas. Holiness there is defined as, among other things, worshiping God and nothing else, being responsible stewards of creation, caring for all–even those outside our own communities–and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Jesus could quote Scripture with the best of ‘em). Not a bad place to start, eh?
Increase in us, O God, a desire for holy living, so that our lives may be a witness to your Kingdom. Amen.
7 May 2022
You know that you were ransomed from the futile conduct inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish (1 Peter 18-19).
If one has money, it can be a very useful thing indeed. There is no shortage of challenges which can be overcome–or at the very least lessened–by the application of wealth. With it, travel becomes a matter of mere logistics. Living situations grow stable and pleasant. The word “need” is applied more readily to others. “Silver or gold,” it seems, can get us very far indeed.
And yet, the author of the First Epistle of Peter reminds us, such luxuries are not a sign of superiority. In and of themselves, they only serve to insulate us from others, allowing us, in turn, to think what we like about them and about ourselves. All the while, we are free to reenact the “futile conduct inherited from our ancestors,” but on a much larger budget.
The application of Christ’s saving act, however, is different. It does not promise to make our problems go away. Indeed, it may create some. What it does promise, however, is to better us, not by insulating us from the world, but by drawing us closer to God’s Kingdom, in which love of neighbor is the currency of the realm.
Raise us up, O God, into lives which give life to the world. Amen.
8 May 2022
Come to the Lord, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like 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 (1 Peter 2:4-5).
There are few acts that I would more readily consign to oblivion than rejection, and I suspect I am not alone.
Sometimes, when it seems to be helping our broken world to function, rejection is almost tolerable. We do not enjoy it, of course, when we fail to land that job, get that part, or make that team. Still, we console ourselves by acknowledging that spots were limited, that at the end of the day somebody was going to be disappointed.
Other times, when it is completely arbitrary or, worse, malicious, rejection can be an evil of the highest (or is that lowest?) order. To be rejected because of our looks, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or because somebody has decided that they simply do not like us is the stuff of nightmares–or would be, were it not such a constant reality.
The good news of this passage is that the God we worship, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, is no fan of rejection, either. With God, there is always more room on the team, and prejudice is given no quarter.
Help us, O God, to accept you, knowing that you will not reject us. Amen.
9 May 2022
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
Maybe it is simply because I am writing this devotion on a Sunday, but it seems to me that this verse from the First Epistle of Peter suggests two important ways that intentional, gathered worship reminds us who we are as children of God.
First, worship reminds us that we are, in fact, royalty, beloved children of God, “and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” as the Apostle Paul puts it. If–as is too often the case–circumstances have caused us to think any less of ourselves, this reminder would be good news indeed.
Second, worship reminds us who calls us into this “royal priesthood,” the one whose love sustains us and helps us, by grace, to flourish. If–as is too often the case–circumstances have caused us to think that we are the authors of our respective destinies, then this reminder, too, would be good news, though it may not always feel that way.
Help us, O God, to accept your call to royal priesthood, so that we may claim and worship you. Amen.
10 May 2022
Conduct yourselves honorably among the gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge (1 Peter 2:12).
When reading Scripture, it is useful to consider how many points of view are present in a given passage. Each of them has something to teach us.
Take this verse, for instance. How many points of view are presented? Offhand, I can name two. The first belongs to the recipients of this Epistle, who are being encouraged to treat even their persecutors, the gentiles, according to the standards set by their faith. If we cast ourselves in the role of these early Christians, we might learn that God’s call to love others does not stop simply because others do not love us in return.
But what if we were to cast ourselves as the gentiles instead? From that point of view, we would be inclined to “malign” people that we do not understand “as evildoers,” yet the author of the epistle holds out hope that our hearts may yet be turned by the “honorable deeds” of those we persecute. From this, we might learn that God loves even those who we malign, and calls us to do the same.
Both learnings are true.
Help us, O God, to see ourselves as a part of your story, in ways that both affirm us and lead us to acknowledge our need for you. Amen.
11 May 2022
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil (1 Peter 2:16).
What do we mean when we talk about freedom? This question is very close to the author of First Peter’s heart, and to the heart of the Gospel. Scripture acknowledges our longing to be free, but also makes the claim that freedom means more than we think it does.
We often long to be free from something. Free from want. Free from fear. Free from obligation. Free from illness. Free from injustice. Free from regret. The good news here is that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection does indeed free us from something: subjection to sin and death. In Christ, we “live as free people” because we know death will not have the last word.
And yet, there is more. The Gospel promises not only that we are free from, but that we are free to. Free to give where want is felt. Free to comfort those who are afraid. Free to go about the messy business of depending on others. Free to heal and pray for healing. Free to work for justice. Free to repent and reconcile ourselves to God and others.
As this verse notes, “free from” can be used as a “pretext for evil” because it is only half the story.
Help us, O God, to embrace true freedom, so that we may live not only for ourselves, but for you, and for others. Amen.
12 May 2022
If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do good and suffer for it, this is a commendable thing before God (1 Peter 2:20).
Question for you: how much does your sense of self-worth depend on how others treat you? Different folks will give different answers on this one, but to some extent, we all look to others to help determine how we should understand ourselves, whether that is a helpful thing to do or not.
The author of the First Epistle of Peter knows this, and knows that it must be addressed. The early Christians to whom he is writing are being persecuted and punished as criminals by a Roman state suspicious of novel religions and large gatherings. If those folks are labeled as “wrongdoers” often enough, they may begin to believe it.
Though the insights of others can often be helpful, this Epistle reminds us that our sense of self-worth should be founded in God, and that by God’s grace we can in fact come to know ever more fully what it means to “do good.” Others can help us with that, of course, but they do not have the last word, and neither do we.
Help us, O God, to live for you, as your Son Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for us. Amen.
13 May 2022
[Christ] entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:23-24).
Trust is hard-won but easily lost, as the people to whom the First Epistle of Peter was addressed would have known all too well. Faced with the constant threat of persecution, they did not know who to trust. Yet in the face of such uncertainty, the epistle’s author offers two words of hope.
The first is that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is someone wholly worthy of our trust. Where we may fail and let one another down, God’s commitment to us remains steadfast. We know this because Christ entrusted his life to the will of God, and found God to be as good as God’s word.
The second is that Christ’s act of trust has invited and empowered each of us to give trust a try, to trust in God, and to entrust ourselves to one another. We will still fail and let one another down. Yet grace abounds, healing us, giving us the courage to reach out, to try again.
Help us O God, to trust you, and to be builders of trust in the world. Amen.
14 May 2022
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse, but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).
Love your enemies. Were I a gambling man, I would wager that there is no proclamation of Christian ethics that is preached or taught more than this one. That is just as well, because it will probably always be the most difficult one to follow.
Love people you do not like. Pray for people who see you as something that must be gotten rid of. Where is the satisfaction in that? Triumphing over our foes would be much better fun. Surely, if there is to be any justice in this world, somebody must pay the price.
The price of justice can often be very steep indeed, and yet the witness of today’s verse is that for justice to truly prevail, the cycle “repaying evil for evil” must be broken. The road from retaliation to restitution to reconciliation is a long and difficult one, but it is the only one that leads to life.
You, O God, meet hostility with a grace that redeems and transforms. Help us to, by that grace, to follow your example. Amen.
15 May 2022
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3:13-15).
“You fear the world too much,” a disheartened Belle tells Ebeneezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, after she has watched him turn from an ambitious but kind-hearted man into an unscrupulous miser.
We know that Belle is right in Scrooge’s case. He does fear the world too much. But then, there is so much in the world to fear. If she were to say that to you or me instead of one of literature’s nastiest misanthropes, we might be as inclined as Scrooge to dismiss her charge as naive. Surely, one can never fear the world too much. If anything, people do not fear it enough.
One of the proclamations of the First Epistle of Peter, however, is that although we are bound to be afraid from time to time, we cannot allow our lives to be directed by fear. As Scrooge’s example illustrates, fear poisons the soul. It turns people into persecutors of people. It makes Romans of us all.
Help us, O Lord, not to be led by fear, so that we may be conduits of blessing rather than suffering. Amen.
16 May 2022
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).
You may or may not use the word “deserve” on a regular basis, but I am willing to bet that the question of what is and is not deserved is seldom far from your mind. We all want the world in which we live to be fair, and so we are constantly checking to make sure that it is. Does the punishment fit the crime? Does hard work get rewarded? Are people where they deserve to be?
A world that is fairer and more just is certainly a world worth working for. At the same time, though, there is a danger that comes with supposing that the question “is this deserved?” is the only question worth asking. To do so is to presume that we always know what people deserve; not the most humble mindset, and one that encourages us to draw lines between the “deserving” and the “undeserving.”
This verse from the First Epistle of Peter reminds us that there is, in fact, only one person “righteous” enough to know who deserves what, and he decided to bother with such questions. Instead, he lived, died, and rose again “for all.” No fair. Thank God.
Help us, O God, to love as you love, so that none may be dismissed as “undeserving.” Amen.
17 May 2022
Baptism…now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him (1 Peter 3:21-22).
When Christians talk of baptism, we often make use of bath time metaphors. We speak of being washed clean, scrubbed down, relieved of accumulated dirt and grime so that we may more fully embrace the life to which God calls us.
This metaphor is a good one as far as it goes, but it also illustrates the limits of metaphorical talk of God. After all, is it not also God’s will that we get our hands dirty, that we get ourselves to work for the sake of God’s Kingdom? From that perspective, keeping things spotless can actually inhibit our ability to live as God calls us to live.
In this passage, the author of First Peter reminds us that while metaphors are all well and good, when we talk of baptism–or indeed of any other aspect of the Christian life–we are talking of Jesus, who is not a metaphor, but a person who also happens to be God. We are talking of the life he offers us, which is real, abundant, and eternal.
Help us, O God, to remember our baptism, and to remember you. Amen.
18 May 2022
Live for the rest of your time in the flesh no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time doing what the gentiles like to do, living in debauchery, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry (1 Peter 4:2-3).
It is passages like this that give the Bible its reputation as the most popular written work of the fun police. In more unapologetically worldly circles, Christianity has long been caricatured as an unsmiling purveyor of an unsmiling morality, and it must be said that the shoe sometimes fits. I am reminded of 20th century humorist H.L. Mencken, who once defined Puritanism–the strain of straight-faced faith most particular to New England–as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Our deep dive into First Peter, however, affords us some useful perspective on verses like this, and suggests that their aim is not to eliminate happiness and fun from the face of the earth, but to encourage us to think twice about the particular ways in which we enjoy ourselves. Are they actually good for us, or do they keep us from being fully alive? Are they good for others, or do they buy us pleasure at the expense of others? Do they honor God, or do they encourage us to worship other things?
Help us, O God, to seek out true happiness, the sort that helps us–and others–to flourish. Amen.
19 May 2022
The gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does (1 Peter 4:6).
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways,” God declares elsewhere in Scripture (Isaiah 55:8, if you are curious).
Few subjects highlight the ways in which God is altogether different from God’s creation more vividly than death. From creation’s perspective, what lies on the other side of death is a mystery impervious to preemptive exploration. Prince Hamlet’s definition, “the undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveler returns,” will always be the best one we can muster.
From the Creator’s perspective, however, death is no obstacle.
No obstacle? The idea is so far removed from our experience that it borders on offensive, and that is exactly why the author of First Peter brings it up. Even the dead have heard the proclamation of the Gospel, such is God’s uncontainable, unquantifiable power. Far from our ways indeed.
And yet the truly incredible thing is this: in proclaiming the Gospel, God is using that power to make us more like God, to bring our respective “ways” into greater alignment, to help us live, and die, and live again, in a way that is Spirit-led and God-breathed.
Help us, O God, to live in the Spirit, so that our lives may proclaim the Gospel. Amen.
20 May 2022
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received (1 Peter 4:8-10).
“Love covers a multitude of sins” is one of those bits of Scripture that seems ready-made to be snipped out and pasted to a greeting card or sewn onto a needlepoint pillow. But what does it mean?
If I had to guess, I would say the most common explanation goes something like this: we had better make sure that our relationship partners know how much we love them, knowing full well that we will make mistakes.
This is a perfectly serviceable definition, but let me invite you to consider a different one. In the world of video production, it is very important to have “coverage” of a subject and scene. Multiple sources of footage. Lots of camera angles. That way, in the editing room, you can assemble a terrific scene even if you made some mistakes on the day.
In a similar way, we can love others well by making sure we have them “covered”–always looking for new angles, never counting on one “money shot” to deliver it all. That way, when we make mistakes–and we will–our loved ones will still have coverage.
Help us, O God, to love you and your creation in ever more abundant variety. Amen.
21 May 2022
Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11).
One of the central guiding principles of Christian theology is the notion that all right talk of God ultimately comes from God. After all, since God is the creator, redeemer, and sustainer of all things, where else would it come from?
The simplicity of this principle, though, has always been complicated by God’s stubborn insistence on speaking through others. We look back longingly at Bible stories of God speaking from a pillar of cloud or a great whirlwind, wishing that we, too, could hear the unfiltered voice of the Almighty. Middle men make things so confusing.
Even in Scripture, though, we find God speaking through messengers: angels, prophets, the apostolic writers, and that most specially appointed bearer of the Gospel, Jesus Christ. This pattern suggests that God communicates indirectly not out of necessity, but because God wants to.
And why might God want others to do the talking? Because when we speak God’s Word, we are empowered. When we serve God, we are strengthened. When we glorify God, we take part in God’s glory.
Help us, O God, to listen to you, so that when we speak, our words will also be yours. Amen.
22 May 2022
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).
I would like to start this morning by asking you to think back to an occasion so emotionally potent that it actually made you laugh and cry in equal measure. These kinds of moments are rare, which should come as no surprise. It is not every day that the fullness of life is revealed with such clarity and concision that we have no choice but to respond with both guffaws and tears.
It is not every day, in other words, that we experience something so true. As a result, it does feel like “something strange” is happening to us. The witness of this passage from First Peter, though, is that these moments are the opposite of strange–or should be.
Instead, those exceptional moments are but especially showy instances of what is always true. We are always rejoicing and grieving at the same time because every day brings new things to enjoy and new things to grieve. And so it shall always be, until…well, we shall get to that on Wednesday.
Help us, O God, to rejoice and mourn faithfully, so that you might work with–and through–all that we are and all that we have. Amen.
23 May 2022
Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it, not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2-3).
“Lead by example” is one of those oft-spoken pearls of wisdom that may have become too ubiquitous for its own good. It benefits from being contrasted with other, more flawed approaches to leadership, like the ones mentioned in this verse.
One is “lead by force,” the old might-makes-right approach. Despite ourselves, we have never really let this approach to “leadership” go. The combination of social conformity, fealty from others, and consolidated power that it brings–at least at first–is often too appealing to resist, even though we know how that story ends.
Another is “lead by greed.” This approach to “leadership” is less showy than “lead by force,” but it is no less damaging. While the former involves imposing an order of things on others, the latter involves working within–and manipulating–the established order of things for maximum personal gain.
By contrast, “lead by example” involves neither carving a community up nor sucking it dry. In First Peter, God calls us to lead by tending to others, and by entrusting them with the imperfect example of our lives.
Help us, O God, to lead by our service, just as you would have us to do it. Amen.
24 May 2022
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).
People sometimes ask me why God does not speak up more often. I ask that question, too. During seasons of crisis–and we seem to be living through a particularly unrelenting one of those–what could be more reassuring than an undeniable Word from the Lord?
This is an age-old question, and there are many answers. The one I usually go with is that more often than not, God has not gone radio silent. We have simply tuned God out. Recently, though, another answer occurred to me: could it be that God is a good listener?
Silence is a good listener’s secret weapon. They know that when somebody is working through difficulties, giving them the chance to fully express their feelings is half the battle. When we open up to somebody who tries to skip that step and move on to finding solutions, we rarely feel well cared for.
If God cares for us–and I believe that God does, to a degree that is beyond our wildest imaginings–then God’s silence could be an invitation to “cast all our anxiety” on the One who is always willing to listen.
Make listeners of us all, O God, so that all may feel cared for, just as you would have it be. Amen.
25 May 2022
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:10-11).
I teased this verse a few days ago, back when we were talking about how joy and grief are both ever-present parts of how we see ourselves and the world around us. These opposites co-mingle freely within our lived experience. Part of living wisely is acknowledging this reality and figuring out how we can flourish inside of it.
That “how” varies from person to person, but the author of First Peter reminds us that for those of us who follow Christ, part of that “how” lies in our conviction that this state of affairs will not always be so. We believe this because we worship a God who is good, who is redeeming the world for good, and who has nothing to fear from the evil powers of this world.
Relief and suffering will not always coexist. The latter is living on borrowed time, and it is upon this knowledge that our hope is founded. Through the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ, our destiny is to be restored, to be, as the old hymn puts it, “dressed in [Christ’s] righteousness alone/faultless to stand before the throne.”
Hope of the world, renew our hope for the world. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
26 May 2022
Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ (1 Peter 5:12-14).
And so the First Epistle of Peter ends as it began: with particulars. The particular people who have aided the author’s ministry and made the transmission of this letter possible. A particular church community which, though far away, reminds those to whom this letter is addressed that they are not alone, that they are connected to others through Christ and the desire to follow him.
This feeling of connection is why the particularity of the Gospel matters so much. It is one thing to proclaim that Christ lived, died, and rose again for all. It is another to proclaim that Christ lived, died, and rose again for you. And me. And your best friend. And mine. And your worst enemy. And mine.
John Wesley would say that to recognize this is to have one’s heart “strangely warmed” by the most wonderful kind of paradox: a realization within ourselves that, through Christ, draws us closer to one another in love.
Show us, O God, what it means for each of us, particularly, to follow you. Amen.
27 May 2022
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as equally honorable as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:1-2).
And so begins the Second Epistle of Peter. If, as seems likely, this letter is meant to be read as a direct follow-up to the first, addressed to the same collection of churches, it begs the question: what new thing is the author looking to say?
Part of the answer can already be found in this opening verse. The author of this letter is using the name of Simeon Peter, the disciple. Whether or not Peter himself actually wrote it is a matter of some dispute, but the author was certainly a leading authority figure in the early church, a person of considerable importance and, presumably, faithfulness.
And yet, in this greeting, the author makes a point of saying that the faith of those who will receive this letter are as “honorable” as the faith of the author’s own community. The folks in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia have much to learn, but they clearly know the God revealed in Jesus Christ. They are at once students and peers.
Help us, O God, to see ourselves–and you–in others, so that we may avoid both arrogance and self-deprecation. Amen.
28 May 2022
God’s divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).
When you go camping, one helpful question to ask yourself is “do I have everything I need?” Perhaps this question leads you to unpack and repack your backpack for the seventh time, running through a checklist that may or may not only exist in your head.
As anyone who has ever been camping can tell you, though, forgetfulness and unexpected surprises will surely befall even the most prepared and diligent among us. We will never be able to say with complete certainty that we have everything we need, which is why it is so important to have company when we cast off into the outdoors. Once we have prepared to the best of our ability, having somebody with us is the best way to ensure that we will be ready for whatever surprises lie ahead.
This is what the author of Second Peter means when they say that “God’s divine power has given us everything we need” to live as children of God. Preparation is certainly essential–worship, study, community connection–but what gives the author of this letter the confidence to say that God’s power has given us everything we need is the conviction that God will also be keeping us company all along the way, whatever lies ahead.
Thank you, O God, for being with us every step of the way. Amen.
29 May 2022
Thus God has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and may become participants of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
“Escape” is a potent word. It conjures up images of plucky, crafty heroes finding their way out of sticky situations just in the nick of time. Indiana Jones outrunning that boulder. John McClane walking out of Nakatomi Plaza. Marlin and Dory outwitting Bruce the shark.
Exciting stuff. It is important to remember, though, that when the author of Second Peter talks of “escape,” they mean something a bit different. When the world seems to be collapsing all around us, it can be tempting–royally tempting–to think about our faith in God as an escape from the world, a feeling of personal assurance that insulates us from realities that we would rather not face.
Look at this verse again, though. The author is not talking about escape from the world, but “escape from the corruption that is in the world.” As Christians, we are all going about the business of “escaping” from our own sinful natures, but that does not entail an escape from the reality of our lives. By God’s grace, we can “participate in the divine nature” here and now. Indeed, we are meant to.
Help us, O God, to “escape” for the sake of participation. Amen.
30 May 2022
For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love (2 Peter 5:6-7).
I love a good chain of connected virtues. This one recalls a couple of the Apostle Paul’s more famous lists: his insistence in Galatians the Fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control,” and his unpacking of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13.
Scripture passages like this remind us that although there are a number of distinct virtues, they are too connected for one to exist without another. The pursuit of knowledge is doomed without sufficient self-control, just as endurance can only take us so far without the aid of a God who can endure all things.
Even so, there is a singular virtue–a singular active orientation of the soul–which stands above the rest. In each of these lists, “love” is the terminus. It is at once the origin point of all the other virtues and their culmination. All this cannot be reduced to love, but without its animating force, there would be little in even these great virtues to celebrate.
Increase in us, O God, a love which, by your grace, finds a great variety of virtuous expressions. Amen.
31 May 2022
I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory (2 Peter 1:12-13).
“Refresh your memory” is one of those phrases that leaps off the page for me when I am reading Scripture. It is a figure of speech–one that I still say and hear regularly–and such sudden blasts of contemporary speechifying often cause me to perk up and take notice.
It is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the original Greek–the NRSV, which is our go-to at Jesse Lee, is an excellent translation–-but there is one that I like even better. What is here can also be translated as “refresh” can also be translated as “stir up.” I love that image. It calls to mind an artisanal coffee concoction whose ingredients are all chemically programmed to separate. Every so often, you have to use your straw to reincorporate what has sunk to the bottom.
Memory is like that, too. Even if we have all the mental ingredients floating around in our heads, sooner or later they are bound to seperate, and we need something to stir it all back up again. Thankfully, we worship a God who is always stirring.
Stir up our hearts and minds, O God, so that we may serve you with consistency. Amen.