â€œLivinâ€™ in the hoodâ€
Acts 7: 55-60, 1st Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14
1st Peter, chapter 2, verse 9: â€œYou 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.â€
â€œA chosen race and a royal priesthoodâ€-Goodness me, this reminds me of the parents who after hearing of much positive feedback during their parent teacher interview asked â€œare you sure weâ€™re talking about the same child.â€
I wonder what the responses to me would be after a night at the pub and walking down the street in my dirty gardening cloths carrying my fully imported light sabre and â€œevangelisingâ€ with the words of look at me â€œthe chosen oneâ€ might be.
I think the outcome may be similar to that as noted by a friend when after the Adelaide Crows had badly beaten Port Power and seeing a crows fan shoving it into the powers fans faces remarked â€œhe wonâ€™t make it to the end of the street.â€ And he didnâ€™t.
The thing is though, as Christians we are of those as described in that verse from 1st Peter. Martin Luther puts it like this: â€œEach and all areâ€¦equally spiritual priests before Godâ€¦(because)â€¦Faith alone is the true priestly officeâ€¦Therefore all Christian men are priests, all women are priestesses, be they young or old, master or servant, mistress or maid, learned or unlearned.â€
Havenâ€™t Luther and I said the same thing? Well sought of.
Ten or so years ago, after an Essendon player had been labelled by the media as selfish, doesnâ€™t do the hard things and worst of all, soft. His legendary coach Kevin Sheedy answered that if he continued how he was going, he just might send him to South Australia to play for the Port Adelaide magpies to learn what real football is about (in the real world).
In team sport while the difference between the words â€œIâ€ or â€œweâ€ seems subtle, the outcome is enormous. So too does the difference sound subtle, but is enormous in outcome between Lutherâ€™s and my expression of existing in the royal priesthood by way of my introduction of â€œlook at meâ€ verses his â€œFaith alone isâ€. Thereâ€™s no I in team, but most surely there is Christ in Christian.
As a playing coach of an adult football team my mantra was â€œone for all and all for oneâ€ and by extension, in-order to support your team mate against the opposition and indeed against their own frailties, no one was to show weakness of mind in dropping the head or figure pointing, like nor should anyone be so self-indulgent as to display to either opposition or team mate any physical weakness or hurt.
In one game after seeing of one our players stay down after a hit, foaming at the mouth I approached to let him know in the most clear terms to get up or get off. Fortunately for me the trainers arrived and had put him and his broken leg on the stretcher before I had arrived.
Imagine his any others feedback to my insensitivity: never mind the hurt and irreparable outcomes to the team and that player had I so foolishly carried through with my callous and unthinking judgements of the person and situation. Â The same hurt and anger, and I would say appropriate hurt and anger that may result if I walked down Macquarie Street pronouncing myself to be â€œthe chosen oneâ€ and of the royal priesthood. Appropriate because those titles that Peter gives to Christians of being â€œa chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possessionâ€ are not designed as a right to proudly lord it over others in power and tyranny-but quite the opposite: because for one, being in that group of people had nothing to do with us anyway. More so, we were the broken one lying on the field and instead of Him coming to us to say get our act together, He came to help us. To lift us up while we were still broken and as unable to walk ourselves, He carried us with Him and then, and only then did we truly see the answer to the question that Christ placed before His disciples in Matthew 16:15: of â€œBut who do you say I amâ€ and say like Peter â€œYou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.â€
It is not I or we, itâ€™s He and should it have been any other way we would still be standing in the crowd cheering Jesus to the cross instead of kneeling at its base in repentance and forgiveness.
Itâ€™s He and should it have not been so, we would not have been like the martyred Stephen seeing and trusting in Christ while under persecution, but be the oneâ€™s either throwing the rocks or standing by like that of Saul authorising such actions.
To be a Christian is too know who we are, and that is saved in Christ alone. But itâ€™s also to know what we were and where we came from, and in that we then see through the same eyes as Paul who after being rescued by Christ and speaking of his own ministry states in 2nd Corinthians 10:17 that â€œHe who boasts, is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.
Thereâ€™s a worldwide group of people that communicate and meet that are united in that they have all been sole survivors of tragedies such as plane crashes where hundreds have died. The members of this group donâ€™t meet to buy lottery tickets because of their luck; they meet because of their struggle to understand why them? Why they survived and why others didnâ€™t and try and make sense of it.
We of the royal priesthood of believers donâ€™t use our ticket of faith for tyranny and lording ourselves over others because we had no more control over coming to faith than that of a sole survivor of a plane crash to that of the corpse next to him.
We are saved in faith in Christ alone, not from good works or being better or less sinful than the next person, but only in faith in Christ alone. Faith that before having coming to know we did not want nor desire.
To be of the royal priesthood and saved in Christ is of as much humbling as it is as of joy and the only thing that makes any sense is that it shows the unjudging and unparalleled love of God the Father, the obedience and love of our Saviour Jesus Christ and the love and tireless efforts of the Holy Spirit towards all who walk this earth no matter how great or small.
The unjudging and unparalleled love and works of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit that we are more to get out the way of, rather than develop for ourselves and others.
To get out of the way for ourselves and hear the message of Jesus without second guessing it. To just believe it and know it to be true for ourselves and though through our human logic and tarnished souls we are tempted to be led and think otherwise, to be led only by Him and simply accept and place our lives upon His Words and the inspired Word of God.
â€œThat I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (and) no one comes to the Father except through me.â€ For â€œThere is no one who is righteous, for all have turned away from God, all have gone wrong.â€Â Yet â€œin belief and baptism we are saved because Christ suffered, died and rose from death for us, and in belief and trust in Him alone through faith, God has forgiven our sins and declared us not guilty and has accepted us into his eternal heavenly kingdom.â€
Scripture repeats these Words and themes over and over again and far from questioning them of ourselves, we need just get out of the way and trust and believe in them for ourselves and for others. Â While we are still a work in progress, the contract is not-the ink has dried and it is written with Christâ€™s blood and the deal is done.
So what of the commandments and good works when we are told that the â€œlaw has been fulfilled in Christâ€, as too that of â€œour Salvation is in Christ and not of good works.â€ And what of â€œthe Law kills but the Gospel savesâ€ up against yet Jesus still telling us â€œthat Â the law is good.â€ Are these not Words to both get us out of the way of our own salvation in Christ as they are of getting us out the way of His salvation for others?
To have no other Gods and trust in God above all things. To not use the Lordâ€™s name in vain but call upon Him, pray to Him, praise Him and give thanks. To keep the Sabbath Holy and gladly hear and learn His Word. To honour our father and mother and honour, obey, love and esteem them. To not kill but help and befriend. To not commit adultery but love and honour oneâ€™s partner. To not steal but help, improve and protect others income and property. To not bear false witness against our neighbour but apologise for them, speak well of them and interpret charitably all they do.
Do not these Words of God lead us to get out the way of His love and desire for others to know His love and salvation for themselves?
Words not of judgement and death for those in Christ, but Words of life that would see us get our judgements, ridicules and human made rules out the way and let God be God and shower His love upon to those that Â we may find hard to love and understand.
â€œA few years ago a Baptist minister was in Haiti checking on missionary work he supports. He went to the little Holiday Inn where he always stays the day before he boards the plane to come home. As he stepped out of the taxi to head for the entrance of the Holiday Inn, he was intercepted by three girls with the oldest being no older than 15. The first said â€˜Mister, for $10 Iâ€™ll do anything you want me to do all night long.â€™ He then turned to the next girl and said, â€˜What about you, could I have you for $10?â€™ She said yes as did the third girl and though her smile did not hide her contempt for him she had no option given her desperation and hunger. He said, â€˜Iâ€™m in room 210, be up there in 10 minutes. I have $30 and Iâ€™m going to pay for all three of you to be with me all night long.â€™
He rushed up to the room, called down to the front desk and said he wanted every Walt Disney video that they had. He called the restaurant and said, â€˜Do you have banana splits?â€™ â€˜I want banana splits with extra ice cream, extra everything. I want huge ones, and I want four of them!â€™
The little girls came and the ice cream and videos came and they sat up watching the videos and laughing until about one in the morning when the last girl fell asleep. As he looked at the three young girls stretched out asleep, he thought to himself, nothing has really changed. Tomorrow they will be back on the streets selling themselves to dirty, filthy men destroying their lives.
Though he wished he could, he was pained because he did not know enough of their language to tell them about Christ, and while so Godâ€™s Spirit came and said to him: â€˜For one night, for this night, let them be little girls again.â€™â€
John Lennon once said that â€œLife is what happens while weâ€™re busy making other plans.â€
So too did we come to faith and Salvation in Christ when we were busy making other plans. So too can the love of God be shown to others when we meet not the lifeless and ungodly, but meet the injured and afflicted and see that we are they, and they are we and bow before them that they too may stand with us before the Father.
Through the grace of God there we once went, that now we know of what we had not, and there but through the grace of God we would have remained had He not come to us and taken us with Him.
We do not lead the lifeless and ungodly to Christ, He leads injured and afflicted to us that we may be to them and He is to us, that He himself may heed His own Words that â€œWhatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.â€
And so we ask: God, our Father in heaven, in the name of your Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ that though â€œwe do not what we want, but do what we want notâ€ we beg your forgiveness and ask that our Words and actions be not ours but yours, that many will join us in our worship and in your kingdom, that not we be glorified, but your name be exalted and your love, peace and salvation be lifted up on high for all to see and know that their earthly walk need not be lonely and adrift, but see you near, Â your favour with them, and accept your peace. Amen.