Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday 28 May 2008 - God's Good Gifts

Today's Sermon is based on Matthew 6:24-34


I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the American children’s novel from 1910 named ‘Pollyanna’.

The central character, Pollyanna, is orphaned at a young age and is sent off to live with her dour spinster aunt who doesn’t seem to have a kind or cheerful bone in her body. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centres around what she calls ‘The Glad Game’. The Glad Game was taught to Pollyanna by her father and it consists of trying to find something to be glad about in every situation.

So, when her aunt gives her a stuffy attic room to live in without any carpets or pictures, Pollyanna is glad for the beautiful view over the town from the room’s window. When her aunt punishes her by forcing her to have only bread and milk for dinner in the kitchen with the servant Nancy, Pollyanna is glad because she likes bread and milk and she likes Nancy.

Slowly, Pollyanna’s cheery personality has a positive effect on her aunt’s New England town and even her dour aunt begins to lighten up a bit. But then tragedy strikes and Pollyanna is hit by a car and loses the use of her legs. For a long time, she can’t find anything to be glad about. But then all the people of the town come to visit and to tell her what a positive effect she had has on their lives.

And being a children’s story, of course there must be a happy ending. Improbably, the doctors discover a new miracle cure for Pollyanna’s legs and everyone lives happily ever after.

Despite many people questioning its literary merit, the novel was so popular that there were 13 sequels written by different authors, but there were also a number of children’s games produced, some of which were still being sold in the 1960s.

And the novel also had an effect on the English language, bringing us the terms ‘Pollyanna’, ‘pollyannaish’ and ‘pollyannaism’. These terms are now most often used pejoratively to refer to someone who is unrealistically and cheerfully optimistic – about a situation or a person – despite all evidence to the contrary. More positively, a ‘pollyannaish’ person is simply someone who is optimistic and generous in spirit.

Irresponsibility or Aestheticism?

This morning’s Gospel reading tells us about how the birds of the air and the lilies of the field do not toil for what they need. And, if we were going to take this reading as a straight-forward moral instruction from God, it would be easy enough to make a Pollyanaish interpretation in the negative sense of the word.

We could use this reading as a license for irresponsibility: ‘I’m not going to worry about anything. There is no need for me to make any provision for the future or to take responsibility for my own day-to-day needs. Let the other poor drones work hard, I’m going to take it easy and let other people provide for me.’ And that might have actually happened in the early Church. It might have been the reason that Paul was compelled to write to the church in Thessalonica saying that brothers and sisters in Christ were not allowed to free-load off other believers and that ‘Anyone unwilling to work should not eat’ (2 Thess 3:10)

Still another way to interpret this Gospel reading would be to understand it as an instruction to self-denial of all worldly possessions. Some early Christians – like the Desert Fathers and Mothers – took this second understanding and adopted lifestyles which rejected family, permanent housing, and all but the most basic food and clothing. Working with a different understanding of what we would now call ‘science’, they believed that when a person truly became united with God in this life, that he or she would no longer need to eat.

Trusting in the Goodness of God

However, I’m not convinced that this reading is recommending a totally aesthetic lifestyle on the one hand or that it is condoning irresponsibility and free-loading on the other. I think that this morning’s Gospel reading is recommending to us a different way – the ‘positive’ way of being Pollyannaish, if you like.

This text paints a beautiful picture of God’s good creation and, in so doing, I believe that it points us in a poetic manner to the goodness of God and to his good provision for us. However, this text is not simply calling us to a naïve and irresponsible lifestyle. Connected with trust in God is also our responsibility to use the resources that we have been blessed with in a Godly way.

This morning’s Gospel reading begins with the text: ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve god and wealth’.

So our enjoyment of God’s good creation is to be accepted in light of the knowledge that everything that we have comes from him. Our primary focus is not to be the accumulation of God’s blessings, it’s not to be the accumulation of wealth, but rather our primary focus is to be God and his will.

The Good News in this morning’s reading is that whether a person is poor in body or in spirit or rich in body and spirit, Jesus tells us that God cares about us and that all he has created is for our nourishment, our benefit and our enjoyment. For those who are poor in body, mind or spirit, trusting in God’s good provision requires faith – sometimes a great deal of faith. It requires a ‘Pollyannaish’ approach to life in the good sense of the word. It requires a person to focus on the eternal, enduring promise of the Gospel that ‘God is Good’ and to count their blessings in the midst of trouble. This is not an easy thing to do; but it is when we are poor in body, mind or spirit that we understand very clearly how trust in God brings us hope where trusting in worldly wealth and resources cannot.

Of course, disciples of Christ who are rich in body, mind or spirit are also invited to trust in God’s good provision and to celebrate all our blessings. But our discipleship and our commitment to God’s Kingdom also call us to share our blessings with others. Those of us who are rich need to guard against the prevailing values of society. Because these values are centered in the accumulation and the protection of individual wealth: the complete opposite of God’s values. We cannot serve both God and wealth.

But when we do share our riches - our money, our time and our other resources - we will receive the additional blessing that comes from sharing our good gifts with others. Because a celebration is only a celebration when it can be shared.


Jesus enjoyed God’s good gifts and he enjoyed sharing them with others. In a few minutes, we will celebrate at Lord’s Table. Some use the word ‘Eucharist’ which means ‘grateful’. And some use the word ‘mass’ which smeans ‘sending out’.

Whatever term you use for this celebration, I pray that this morning we will joyfully celebrate our communion with each other and with Christ. And my prayer is that we will be sent out from this place to be grateful witnesses to the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. Amen

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday 18 May 2008 - Trinity and Community

This is a sermon for Trinity Sunday as well as for a church anniversary. It is based on the Trinity Sunday reading Matthew 28:16-20.



There is an African saying that goes ‘I am because we are’. Today we’re celebrating both our church anniversary as well as Trinity Sunday and I thought that this saying was relevant to both of these celebrations.

Today’s Gospel reading comes from the very last verses of the very last chapter of Matthew. Matthew ends his Gospel with Jesus’ command to the disciples: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ So here we have the Trinitarian formula – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the only time this formula appears in the New Testament.

The formula makes this verse an obvious choice for Trinity Sunday but I think that Jesus’ commissioning of the eleven to make disciples of all nations also has a lot to say to us about the Kingdom of God and the important of fellowship and community in God’s Kingdom.

God is a Community

The first thing I want to think about this morning is the idea of God as community. I want to think about how the phrase ‘I am because we are’ might apply to God.

The bible tells us – in the 1st letter of John – that ‘God is love’. This was the belief and testimony of one of Jesus’ closest disciples as he came to reflect on the nature of Jesus and on his divinity: that God is love. We also know that Jesus showed God’s love to be something that was entirely selfless and dedicated to service of God’s good creation.

God’s love is not directed toward admiring himself and God’s holiness is not a self-obsessed focus on his own goodness and purity. God’s love goes outward. God’s love results in God’s good creation: universes and planets, nature and all living things. And God’s love results in our salvation: God’s love is a force for hope, a force for forgiveness and a force for reconciliation. God’s love points humanity toward his Kingdom, when heaven and earth will meet. God’s holiness is a force for goodness and justice, it is a force that brings good news to the poor and that sets the captives free.

In other words – God’s love and godly love – are focussed on the needs of the other. Godly love – in a Christian context – is not a sentiment. Godly love is an act and it is an act that can only be directed at another person.

So the argument goes that God could not be love, he could not be the essence of love, unless that love were directed outward. So, in this way of explaining the Trinity the Father is seen as loving the Son and the Spirit, the Son as loving the Father and the Spirit and Spirit as loving the Father and the Son. Therefore, even within God himself, God’s perfection means that his love is always directed outward. God’s love is never self-focussed or self-obsessed.

A well-known 20th century theologian has said that doctrine is the human attempt to explain a mystery and so we do need to keep in mind that this idea of God as a community is a metaphor and that it is just a feeble human attempt to explain something unexplainable.

But as metaphors go, I personally find this metaphor incredibly useful and inspiring. It tells me that God is a relationship and t hat the phrase ‘I am because we are’ is not something that applies just to human beings or to human society, but to God himself. It tells me that if, Christian discipleship is about ‘striving for holiness’ that there is something about the state of perfection that has to do with communities. With forgiving, healing, reconciling communities.

Holiness or Christian perfection is not something individualistic or lonely. Rather, it is about community. It is about ‘I am because we are’. And it is about ‘You are because we are’.

Human Beings and Community

So ‘God as a community’ is a useful metaphor for the Trinity. I just want to take an imaginative step for a moment and think what would happen if every single human being were three persons in one being.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m imagining one person saying: ‘I want to go out with my colleagues for a drink after work’ And another saying: ‘No, I need to stay late to get this report done.’ And a third saying: ‘No! I need to get home to make dinner for my husband and children!’ And then that would be when the trouble starts: ‘You’re no fun! You can’t ever relax, can you?’ ‘Why are you so irresponsible? Don’t know how hard it is to get a job at the moment?’ ‘Hold on! The job might be important, but isn’t it obvious that the children should come first?’

Let’s not even go to places where we’re imagining one person being jealous of the other or being competitive with the other.

It’s hard to imagine three people in one human being, but I imagine that the potential could be there for a three-in-one personality to work out something like that: jealously, competition, envy, competing priorities. Because these emotions are something that we have observed all throughout human history between people and nations. And this is exactly what God is calling us to stop.

God’s way, as we know, is based on forgiveness, reconciliation and self-giving love. At the core of the Gospel message is God’s forgiveness to us and his reconciliation with us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God calls us love others in the same way that he has loved us. Just as his concern is directed outward and toward others, so too should our concerns be directed outward and toward others. We will know that God’s Kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven when human beings are able to live peacefully and contentedly in communities where self-giving love, and forgiveness and reconciliation are of first importance.

And in this morning’s Gospel reading, we are being commanded along with the eleven disciples, to baptise ‘all nations’ into this kind of community. Earthly kingdoms often call upon their armies to conquer people who are different so that there might be peace through fear of a strong imperial power. But the Great Commission is actually commanding us to make all nations part of God’s community.

The Good News of the Kingdom of God is that peace does not come through the wielding of power, but through making common cause. Peace comes through forgiveness and reconciliation and by working for the welfare of the other. This is the Kingdom that Jesus is commanding us to proclaim and this is the Kingdom into which we are commanded baptise all nations.

This is ‘I am because we are’ writ large: not just at the level of an individual person or local community but also at a global level.

We love because God first loved us. The Kingdom of God is a forgiving, reconciling, outward-looking community because God himself is a forgiving, reconciling, outward-looking community. It’s God’s intention for all people to be baptised into this community.


In a few minutes, we will come to the table of the Lord. This is God’s celebration meal, to which all people are invited: those in the streets as well as the posh invited guests. As we come to the table, we’ll celebrate with our Lord that he is the God of reconciliation, forgiveness and community. I pray that, in this holy meal, we will also find the grace and strength to continue to be a congregation where God’s love and forgiveness are proclaimed. And I pray that we can be a community where the Gospel is preached in both word and deed. Amen

Sunday 11 May 2008 - Pentecost Mission

This is a sermon for Pentecost Sunday as well as a celebration of 'Christian Aid Sunday'. It is based on the Pentecost reading from Acts 2:1-21.


Pentecost is a celebration of a turning point in history. Fifty days after Jesus' resurrection, his followers are together in a house but Jesus is no longer with them – not even in his resurrection body. We can imagine that this group of individuals must have felt confused and possibly disheartened; where should they go from here?

Their confusion would have been made all the more poignant by the crowds and celebrations going on in the streets of Jerusalem. Fifty days after Jesus' resurrection was also about fifty days after Passover. It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost – the feast of Shavuot, a harvest festival when the Jewish people celebrated the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

I think that we can draw a connection between the Jewish festival of Pentecost and our own festival of Pentecost. Jewish Pentecost celebrates the giving of the law and God's covenant with Israel. You could say that this is the beginning of Israel's vocation as the people of God. Equally, Christian Pentecost celebrates the beginning of the Christian Church – the beginning of our vocation as the people of God.

A modern Jewish Rabbi commented that Pentecost is 'Asking God how we should be with our freedom'. And that's the idea that I would like to explore this morning – that Pentecost is in some way about asking God how we should be – as God's people - with our freedom.

God works through us

So, looking at today's reading from the book of Acts, I think one of the things we should be ready to be is: 'surprised by what God is able to do through us'. I note that although Paul refers in some of his Epistles about speaking in unintelligible tongues in prayer, the tongues that are given to the church in today's reading are real foreign languages. On the day that Jesus' rag-tag band of confused followers are born into his Church on earth, they are given the ability to communicate the Gospel to people of various nationalities.

This gift of the Spirit is not given to the Church for its own edification. It's not given so that we can have lively worship, it's not given so that we can feel ourselves to be filled with the power of God and I don't even think it's given to us for the purpose of assurance of our own salvation. It's a gift that is given to the Church for the benefit of others. As the saying goes, the Church is the one institution that exists for the benefit of those outside itself.

And the gift that God wants to bestow upon the whole world through us is – I believe – life in all its fullness: both physical and spiritual.

So one of the ways that I think we are called to be in our freedom with God is people who are ready to proclaim the Gospel in both word and deed. At the very least we want to be practiced in saying a few words about what it means to us to be a follower of Jesus. We don't have to impose on people and we don't have to try to convert them, but I think it's good to know the words we might use to speak about our own faith if the opportunity comes up.

And we also want to be people who proclaim the Gospel through our deeds – in our interactions with others and by supporting other Christians in their own particular gifts and callings. As Christian Aid says, an important part of the Gospel message is the proclamation of life before death.

Overcoming Barriers

Another thing that happened when Jesus' followers began to speak the language of other people is that barriers were broken down.

'Speaking someone's language' is a powerful metaphor. Anyone who has ever learned a foreign language knows that not only do you have to learn the French/German word for 'car' or 'house', but you have to learn a different way of expressing yourself and sometimes you have to learn a different word-order.

In short, you have to learn to think differently. To some extent, you have to learn a different world view.

Learning to speak another person's language says something about a person's willingness to step outside of his or her own culture and comfort zone. We were helped this morning/afternoon to 'step out' a bit by hearing the story of Rekha Biswas.
Through Christian Aid, we learned something of the challenges that she and her community face and we learned something of her life.

I think, though, that Christians need to keep challenging ourselves about stepping out and breaking down barriers.
As Christians we are called to be counter-cultural, but our counter-cultural calling is to set out a prophetic vision of the Kingdom of God. Our counter-cultural calling isn't to rant and rave and to keep repeating to ourselves that 'things aren't what they used to be'.

Because we are human, we always have to be on our guard that we don't raise barriers against others. 'They are not church people; they don't know how to dress and act properly in Sunday worship.' 'We have values and they don't.' Or...'They don't need as much as we do to live'.

Any barrier that we raise between us and another person is one step in the direction of distancing ourselves from his or her full God-given humanity. Although a small barrier may not mean that we are drawing categories of 'them and us', it can be a first step in that direction. Once we have raised large barriers, it is easy for us to justify to ourselves that we don't have to be concerned with the welfare of others.

And human history has proven that, in the worse-case scenario, we can raise barriers so high that we begin to justify hurting others. As Christians we are called to speak out peacefully against any kind of scapegoating. We need to exercise our vote and work against extremist political parties, we can boycott newspapers and other media that scapegoat minorities and we need to make sure that we ourselves don't fall into the trap of scapegoating Muslims.

'Pentecost is asking God how we should be with our freedom.'

I believe that the coming of the Holy Spirit reveals that we should use our freedom to break down the barriers and the walls that divide human beings from God as well as from each other.


As Christians, we are not in the business of hurting people and we are not in the business of ignoring people in their need. As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit took a bunch of confused individuals and turned them into people with a passion and people with a mission and the Church was born. The Holy Spirit empowers the Church of Christ; not to have power over others but so that we may empower others.

Jesus said to the disciples of John the Baptist: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

This is what the power of the Holy Spirit is all about. This is the mission of the Church. Our mission to be God's hands on earth for justice, restoration and inspiration. It is not so much about us having power as it is about us empowering others.


'Pentecost is asking God how we should be in our freedom.'

As Christians, we are told how we should be: we are called to be like Jesus. But we also know that without the constant help of God, without the power of the Spirit in our lives, that we cannot change ourselves or others.

The good news is that we don't have to. The good news is that Christ has conquered sin, death and the power of evil and that his Spirit remains with us to strengthen us and help us as we seek to love God and our neighbour.

My prayer this morning is that we will all be filled again with a renewed sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And I pray that we will each be strengthened in our proclamation of the Kingdom of God as we seek to love God and love one another. Amen

Sunday 27th April 2008 - Not a Private Kingdom

This sermon is based on Acts 17:22-31 and John 14:15-21



I don't know about you, but I'm very glad to see spring once again.

Where I come from in the US, – near the Canadian border - Spring is one of those 'blink and you'll miss it' seasons that happens for a few brief days in May. But here in the UK, Spring is definitely my favourite season, not the least because it is long languorous and it really gives you time to notice it and appreciate it. Sometimes if we're lucky we get snowdrops in early January and then, for what seems like weeks and weeks and weeks, we get one new sign of life after another as different flora and fauna begin to sprout and bloom. Even someone like me, who often fails to notice things, can't help but notice Spring.

The Wheel of Life

There really is a lot of beauty in nature and it's not surprising that many societies down through the ages have worshipped the creation rather than the creator. And within the understanding of many nature-based religious systems, there is the concept of 'The Wheel of Life.' It's easy to see where this concept comes from, especially if you consider that many of our distant ancestors were much closer to the land and to nature than we are today.

Spring, a time of renewed light and life when the earth bursts forth with new creation. Summer, life at its pinnacle when life reproduces. The climax of the year and of nature's beauty. Autumn, a season of fruitfulness, insight and wholeness. Winter, a season of death, but also a season where the land lies fallow, preparing itself for new work and new life in he coming season.

And so, the wheel of life was said to turn from generation to generation. Always changing, but always staying the same: it rotates not so much like a wagon wheel but more like a cog in clock. The sameness is being just as important as the change.

And herein lies the difference between popular ways of understanding the meaning of life and the Christian way. If the human way of seeing 'The Wheel of Life' is as a stationary cog, always changing and always staying the same, The Judeo-Christian way of seeing 'The Wheel of Life' is as a wagon-wheel, travelling on a path or a journey to a very specific destination. For Christians, history has an end-goal, a purpose: the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual but Not Religious

Consider for a moment the reading from Acts where Paul presents the Gospel message to the Athenians. Don't think for a minute that Paul was addressing a group of people with a strong belief in the ancient Greek gods and myths. Whether they were students or teachers, this was a group of people who undertook the study of sophisticated philosophies. It is very likely that they were as sceptical of their own ancient religion as they were of Paul's message. That's why Paul uses a number of concepts, phrases and buzz-words from the Greek philosophers to get his message across: 'In him we live and move and have our being' and 'For we too are his offspring'.

The people to whom Paul spoke on Mount Athos, like many people today, were spiritual seekers. They were not against religion, they were – as many people today claim to be - 'spiritual but not religious'. But their pursuits were private pursuits, dedicated to their own private spiritual understanding and to making their own private meaning. Their relationship with God was not so much 'personal' as it was 'private'.

The Kingdom is not Private

And one thing that the message of the gospel is not is 'private'. Our Gospel reading this morning begins and ends with Jesus' declaration that being his follower – loving him – is all about 'keeping his commandments' – which are, of course, the commandments to love God and love one's neighbour. In John's Gospel, this reading is part of the farewell discourses, a long section where Jesus teaches he disciples prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

If the disciples' relationship with Jesus had been a private thing, then the disciples would have mourned, they would have talked about their memories of Jesus and they would have had nostalgia for the good old days; but if Jesus' death had no more meaning than his private relationship with the disciples, it would hardly have changed the world. Equally, if his death had operated under the rules of nature-religion, it would simply have been one death in an on-going but unchanging cycle of death and new life. His memory would have lived on in his disciples but, again, it would hardly have had the power to change the world.

Behind today's Gospel reading is the implied understanding that the death and resurrection of Jesus have some kind of profound and real effect on creation that alters the very fabric of both creation and human history. Rather than The Wheel of Life rotating endlessly in one place, human history is on a journey to a destiny defined by God: the Kingdom of God, where our reality and our values are defined by hope rather than by despair and by resurrection rather than by death.

The Kingdom is not just a spiritual heaven. Although it will ultimately be brought about by God himself, it is a kingdom that began with the resurrection and for which we are called to work by keeping God's commandments. But we are not called to this task ourselves. God himself is responsible for bringing about the Kingdom, and as his followers we are invited to join in with God's tasks as well as with his celebrations. Just as Jesus joined in with the work of the Father, so we will join in with the work of Jesus and the Spirit will enable us and join in our tasks. This is a community effort, whose power comes from God and not from ourselves.

The Good News is that self-giving love is not a private thing. The Good News is that God has a plan to bring about his Kingdom and that The Wheel of Life has a wonderful destination determined by God. The Good News is that we are invited to join in with God's plan to bring about his Kingdom.


As we come to the Lord's Table this morning, we will join together as a community, with each other and with our Lord. I pray that we will each be inspired with a vision of the Kingdom and empowered by the Spirit of God to fulfil our calling as his disciples. Amen

Sunday 20th April 2008 - Cornerstone of the Temple

The readings for this sermon are based on 1 Peter 2:1-10



1 Peter 2:6 reads ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’

The first letter of Peter is a letter whose primary intent is to offer to its readers instruction in the Christian life and a vision of what it means to be part of the Church universal. So the image of Jesus as the cornerstone certainly sets out to say something about Jesus, but it also sets out to say something about Jesus in the context of the Church.

Jesus as the Cornerstone

The image of a cornerstone is something that would have been familiar to anyone who had been to Jerusalem in Jesus’ time.  The cornerstones that were used by King Herod to rebuild the Jerusalem temple were up to 39 feet long and weighed about 400 tons. So when the disciples exclaim in Mark 13:1, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ the description of these stones as ‘magnificent’ wasn’t an exaggeration. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble imagining what a stone that is 39 feet long could possibly look like. If you think how many stones had gone in to the building of the Temple itself, you begin to get an idea of the magnificence of Herod’s Temple.

And I suspect that the image of buildings and stones and cornerstones into today’s Epistle reading is meant to make its readers think about the Temple in Jerusalem. Because as most of the Gospels tell the story of Jesus, Jesus makes the claim to being the replacement of Temple. The Jerusalem Temple was, for pious Jews, the centre of all creation because God himself was present in the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the place where earth and heaven met. And it was the place where the high priest made atonement for the sins of the people of Israel on the Day of Atonement.

The Temple was holy, the Temple Mount was holy and the city of Jerusalem was holy. And Jesus, according to the Early Christians, was a ‘replacement’ for the Temple. Not only the one true and final sacrifice, but our great high priest and, indeed the person in whom heaven and earth met.

So, I’d like to suggest to you that although the metaphor of Jesus as the cornerstone might seem a bit – dare I say it? – wooden – at first glace, I think that if you chip just a little bit deeper, you will find some wonderful and glorious truths laying just below the façade. Truths that are fit for the celebration of the Easter season and which are not just about the basic idea that the person of Jesus is foundational to the Christian faith.

The New Creation

But as I said earlier, the first letter of Peter is a letter whose primary intent is to give instruction in the Christian life and a vision of what it means to be part of the Church universal. So, this vision of Jesus as the cornerstone of the house of God is not just a vision about who Jesus is, but it’s also a vision of who we are and what we are called to be as his disciples.

As the author puts it: as the church, we are ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God’  If Jesus is God’s chosen son, the church is his chosen people. If Jesus is the great and final high priest, the church is a royal priesthood. If Jerusalem is the holy city, the church is a holy nation.

All of the above are images of how the people of Israel saw themselves and now the author of the letter of Peter is extending these attributes to the Church.

Here I need to give the usual warnings against anti-Semitism. We should not see the church as a ‘new dispensation’ where Christians replace the people of Israel as God’s new chosen but exclusive people. Rather it is the revelation that God’s covenant with Noah and Moses and Abraham was never meant to be an exclusive covenant. The covenant was never meant to create categories of people whom God excluded because of who they were. God’s covenant was meant to be for all people of all tribes and nations and backgrounds.

Once we were not a people, but now we are a people. Once we had not received mercy but now we have received mercy.

God’s Good News turned out to be better than anyone could have imagined! His covenant is meant for everyone. His Kingdom, his Temple, his salvation is meant for everyone.

This is Good News for us – the church – and it’s good news for everyone. It’s a glorious picture of who Jesus is and why he came. Jesus is the cornerstone of the New Temple and the New Creation. And the good news is that everyone is invited to be a part of it. God’s purposes are for everyone. The New Creation that God is building is intended for all creation and for all of humankind.

So where does the Church come into all of this? The author of this letter tells us that we are to declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light.

It is the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News of God’s New Creation. It is the mission of the Church to proclaim that the old order has passed away and that the resurrection is the evidence that God is doing a new thing. We are to enlighten the world that God’s salvation is not offered just to a chosen few, but that it is offered to all of humankind – to all people. We are called to enlighten the world that death and destruction do not have the final word but that God is a God of life and creation. We are called to live in such a way that our lives reflect the love of Christ and serve to illuminate The Way in which we are to walk.


It’s my prayer that, as we come as a community to the Lord’s Table this morning [evening], that we may be filled with the love of Christ, our cornerstone and our great high priest. May we each be given a vision of the New Creation and be filled with the hope of the resurrection. Most of all I pray that, along with the rest of the Christian Church, that we will each look to the light of Christ and reflect that light back into the world. Amen