4th Sunday of Easter

May 11, 2014

Summary

When cricket and baseball meet

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
and
“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 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. (1 Peter 2:1-10 ESV)

Our cricket match at camp was a lot of fun. For many folk, it was a pretty new experience as you learnt the finer points of the game of which, it seemed to me, there were four for the batsmen and one for the bowler.

Keep your bat down – you’re protecting your stumps.
Remember to move your feet so you can better hit the ball.
Remember that you’ve got 360 degrees to hit it in – yes, you can hit the ball behind you.
Don’t throw the bat down when you run.
And for the bowler – keep your arm straight, don’t bend your elbow.

Why did I mention these thing in particular? Well, I think it is because in baseball you have no stumps to protect, you’ve got to stand in a specific spot and not move, the ball has to be hit in front of you – too much to the side makes it a foul, and you run without the baseball bat. And as for the pitcher? Well, the whole action there requires a bent arm as you wind up to throw the ball. All bat and ball sports are not the same!

No matter the similarities to other sports, playing cricket is unique and while it is about picking up new skills and techniques for those who have played baseball or softball, there was also an intentional putting aside, putting away of past things. Going to the crease was both about doing things and specifically not doing things – and that can be hard if those things are almost ingrained.

Peter isn’t talking about cricket in his letter to the diaspora but about living in this world as a follower of Jesus. The decades have rolled on since Jesus’ resurrection and if there was any thought that following the man who can defeat death was going to be one of power, victory, and adulation, it was well and truly dispelled. My guess is that this wasn’t life as they expected. When we have a power or an edge over others we generally make the most of it – use it – and often we’re ok if others benefit as well because we get the increasing accolade and good name. But life with this Jesus – this risen man who is God – doesn’t follow this way – but instead there is hardship and struggles, not least because we find ourselves slipping back or into our ‘de fault’ ways of behaving – selfish, fearful, controlling.

So having reminded Christians that they are protected by God with a secure inheritance and that they are called to be holy because Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, has made them so, Peter now calls on them to put away either their former lives – if they’ve come to faith as adults – patterns can be hard to break – or put away their responses that want to get back at the world which makes their lives difficult because they follow Jesus.

Of course there can be malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander among the people of God – we’re still human – sin still clings – but this is not the way to play the game of life as disciples of Jesus.

And then rather, than take up a warrior image or a lion perhaps or another strong, victorious picture, Peter then describes Christians as newborn babies – infants – helpless, dependent, having to be held by our mothers as they feed us. The goal of this feeding however isn’t maturity but salvation. David wrote in Psalm 34 after God had helped him ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is he who takes refuge in him’ (Ps 34:8). Whether with manna and quail or the meat of the peace offering or even the annual Passover meal, let alone seed time and harvest, God provided for his people and he still was – only now everything from the Old Testament – sacrifice, temple, offerings, priest, prophet, king – was all found in the one man, Jesus.

Whatever categories we might use to describe or distinguish people – gender, nationality, religion, skills, whether they’re good at cricket – Peter is telling his Christian readers, it all comes down to one man – a living stone and his followers are living stones being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood – that is people touched by God with words and water and words and bread and wine – to offer acceptable sacrifices because of and through Jesus.

For those finding faith hard, Peter’s words encourage Christians to see that sin and the world rejected Jesus, why should it not get tough for us? However this stone rejected by the world is the key stone and the world will fall and be crushed by him. There was a reckoning of sins on the cross and for those who reject that reckoning another is coming.

But for those who are linked to Jesus – remember we’re dealing with struggling people here – having hard times – ups and downs of various sorts – by the way, does that describe anyone you know? – these followers of Jesus, these living stones, these holy priests live in this world with this new identity.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 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. (1 Peter 2:9,10 ESV)

For those with ears to hear, this echoes the description of the people of God, freed from slavery, rescued through the Red Sea and now standing at Mount Sinai in the presence of God. For Peter, Christians are Israel – not bound to the law and the prophets as such but to the one who fulfilled the law and the prophets – chosen by God (he has called you by your name in baptism); a royal priesthood whereby you act as a go-between the world and God – and this you do firstly by your prayers, your intercessions – and then by your blessing – your words of life that speak or are built on Jesus. You are a holy nation – that applies as you link yourself to the font – he or she we meet there is family – and at the table too.

And we live in the light – in the sure hope that this life isn’t all that there is – wonderful as it can be and woeful as it can be – death is not the final act, the bringing down the curtains for God’s people will pass through the curtain of what we call reality into God’s marvellous light. Until then we live by faith using God’s Word as a guide – your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Each Sunday, each Holy Communion, each time we receive forgiveness for our sins, God is merciful and doesn’t hold our sins against us – even as others might.

The life with Jesus – hidden – by faith – seemingly ordinary – struggling to put aside old ways and trust Jesus – while all the time attending to our jobs and marriages and health and homework and family and the next crisis around the corner – begins with knowing who you are in Christ and then living who we are in Christ as best we can. These are not perfect lives – but our lives. We’re not plaster cast saints – they don’t really exist – but we do as people always learning and growing in the faith, learning what Jesus wants us to do each day. And as we focus on him through his Word, remembering our baptism, and eating at his table so we grow into our salvation in a world that is heading into darkness and death.

We leave here not to ignore the world but to engage it, live in it, be Christ-like in it, and it begins with prayer – intercession especially for those who won’t pray for themselves – as we roll up our sleeves and serve.

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Bible References

  • 1 Peter 2:1 - 10