Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Last month I wrote about “headlines” and “church.” This month I will continue the theme and speak about membership. What is membership at St. Peter all about? Is membership about having your name in a directory?
Peter, in beautiful picturesque language describes membership in the Church, the Body of Christ. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10
Was Peter describing a church directory? What does it mean to be a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” The answer is rich in depth and is in the pages of the great revelation of God’s salvation history.
Generations later, at the time of Jesus, the twelve tribes of Israel still bore the name Israel, but much had changed. Some believed that having their name in a book was what “being chosen”and membership was all about. Others believed membership was about having their needs nurtured. Still others held to the hope that Israel was a people through
whom God would reveal who God was and what God has done and would do for the world. Overall, though, Israel had grown into a people who chose their own way over God’s way. They had become a nation, like any other nation of the world. Little wonder that Jesus was a threat.
Long before Jesus was a threat to be handled through crucifixion, Jesus was, without pompous fanfare, baptized at the Jordan. A voice came from the heavens declaring, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” This is the One who will show forth who I am, and what I have done for the world. This is the One who will draw all people unto Himself. In this One – Jesus – Israel is reduced to one. Jesus comes up out of the waters and attends to the orders of the day by reviling Satan in the wilderness and calling 12 disciples to Himself. In these 12 disciples Jesus, the new Israel, has called from the ashes of old Israel a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”
In Christian Baptism, we have been adopted into Israel. The church – the Body of Christ – is the new Israel. Out of the ashes of sin and death the church has been called by grace through faith, and assembled together in the midst of God’s dwelling. Each Sunday, the trumpets sound, and we are assembled by God through Christ. We are encamped around Jesus’ presence in Word and Sacrament and are fed, nourished and equipped for service to God and neighbor. We go forth from the Sunday gathering into the world of our daily lives, much like ancient Israel. We find ourselves surrounded by a culture that often does not know who God is or what God has done. The nations that surround us take form in our everyday life through work, play, study leisure, and expenditures.
We are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” Note the plural – a people, a priesthood, a nation. We are not one, but many. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Faith is a corporate concern even as it is individual concern. In the second chapter of Acts, Paul describes a post-Pentecost community that “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… all the believers were together…” The writer of the Hebrews warns the individual in going it alone saying, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another _ and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
St. Peter has many members – about 260 baptized in all. Yet, what does membership mean? Membership leaves some feeling secure. Was membership in Israel at the time of Christ secure? Christ has called us into something more than having our names written on a piece of paper. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” God gathers us together TO declare the praises of God.
As a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” who seek to “declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” we have an opportunity to join together in outreach, witness, and spiritual growth.
Fiscally, St. Peter has had some struggles the past few years. However, St. Peter continues to be poised to be a “chosen people” who are ready to serve God and neighbor in word and deed. No one is an island. No one can go it alone. We are in ministry together. We are not mere individuals charting our own personal spiritual course, we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”
Moses’ ministry can be divided into three parts. The first third of his life was spent in the world of the Egyptians (Birth to Forty); the second third of His life was spent learning at the feet of the Lord in Midian (Forty -One to Eighty); and the last third was engaged in ministry in the wilderness wanderings (81-Death). Moses did the most important ministry in the last third of His life. Divide your life into thirds and ask yourself where you are in physical age and in ministry age. Now ask yourself where God is calling you for worship, study, and service.
All that from 1 Peter 2:9-10? Perhaps not, but our context at St. Peter does provide much of the meaning and application we receive from this passage. Together with God firmly encamped in our midst we are important tools for His kingdom work.
Gathered for Service in His name,
Pastor Bryan Borger