a 36,000 ft view of 2 Peter

The Community of Faith: 1 Peter 5

What is the church supposed to look like? 1 Peter 3:17 through 4:19

church

Several years ago, I took a virtual course from Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota from two of their pastors – Paul Eddy and Kevin Callahan. They came up with one of the best definitions of church I’ve come across. I’m not quoting exactly, but it went something like this: 

We who follow Jesus are:

  1. Specially chosen
  2. To join a Holy Spirit-led covenant community
  3. With an urgent message, mission, & calling;
  4. To give up “normal” life and comforts,
  5. To become trained to live in submission
  6. To the power & purposes of GOD
  7. At the risk of our own lives
  8. For the wellbeing of all of creation.

Every phrase is a sermon series.

We are chosen by God. God loves us. God drew us with bands of lovingkindness to Jesus. Our essential identity is Beloved of God.

We were chosen and drawn to community – genuine, authentic, connectedness with other humans, a tribe with whom to do life.

This community is multicultural, multigenerational, interracial, inclusive, welcoming, and nonjudgmental.

This community is led by the Holy Spirit.

This community is a covenant community. We are bonded together by commitment to love, serve, and care for one another.

This community has an urgent message: God is love. God created you in God’s own image. God adores you. God invites you into vitality, inner freedom, actualization, and wholeness. God will never hurt you.

This community has an urgent mission: Take God’s love to others. All others.

This community has an urgent calling: to shine with the love of Jesus.

We are called to give up “normal” life and comforts. “Normal” in our context is consumerist, materialist, militaristic, triumphalist, narcissistic, individualistic, and racist.

We are called to become trained to live in submission to the power and purposes of God – to be fully, unconditionally, yielded to God.

We are called to obey God even at the risk of our own lives.

And we are called to do so for the betterment of all of creation, in harmony with all people, and all the natural world.

a community of faith

Biblically, we are saved, we are transformed, we serve, not as individuals, but in community. 

That runs contrary to the American ideal of individualism and contrary to the American perception of individual salvation. We have invented a Christianity that is all about us. Jesus died for me. I pray a prayer. I am saved. I hang out with others as I see fit. I go to church if I want. Not if I don’t. 

Those who have a financial interest in having people attend churches seek in various ways to entice me to their campuses. They use everything from the latest marketing techniques to extravagant showmanship to condemnation and guilt to get me (or at least my money) in the door. 

If I am a successful and wealthy businessperson who gives a lot of money, they will put me on their board, the pastor will greet and visit me with enthusiasm, I will be honored in various ways, and everyone will careful not to offend me. They will likely appoint a staff person whose primary job is keep me happy. Together, we will build multi-million-dollar facilities with top-of-the-line lighting, sound, visual, and special effects systems that can compete with the Strasbourg Opera House.

We will hire excellent musicians and licensed child care workers. We will put on amazing shows weekly. People will “walk the aisle” as the congregation applauds. We will produce programs of all sorts. We will promote help for the addicted, the divorced, the bereaved, the cancer survivors. We will fund missionaries who will go across the globe spreading the good news of white American culture. We’ll have youth groups filled with the “in” crowd from the local schools, and children’s ministry to rival Sesame Street. Our staff will have a C-Suite with a CEO, CFO, CXO, CIO, and COO, but of course we won’t call them that. We’ll call them pastors and ministers. They will be compensated handsomely. Mid-six-figures handsomely.

Ostensively, we will do all this for the glory of God. In reality, we will do all this to feed our individualistic, capitalistic, success-driven egos. “And what has the wheat to do with the chaff?” asks YHWH.

Emphatically landing on the personal pronouns, Jesus declared, “I will build my church.” “Church” is ecclesia (Greek: ἐκκλησία). It has nothing whatsoever to do with either an institution or a building. The word was used both in the Greek and Jewish worlds. In the Graeco-Roman world, the ecclesia was a kind of town council. Free citizens met to determine what was best for their community. Kind of like a homeowner’s association. In ancient Judaism, the ecclesia was a group of people specially chosen by God. By virtue of birth, they were God’s ecclesia. In both cases ecclesia was a gathering of people. Combining the Greek and Jewish meanings, ecclesia is a group of people specially chosen, set aside, to positively influence society. Salt penetrating to preserve the good. Light penetrating darkness. Fire penetrating chaff. Love penetrating hate. 

For three centuries the followers of Jesus formed communities in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. They owned no buildings. They met in koinonia groups in houses. They did life together. They ate, worked, prayed, worshipped, studied, and celebrated Eucharist. They understood the importance of solitude. They had a common purse. No one owned anything. The community owned everything. Everybody’s needs were met. They were mostly poor folks, ostracized by family and society. Their leaders were servants appointed by the Holy Spirit. They waited expectantly to hear God’s inner voice of love. They recognized that the satan’s power was behind empires with their militarism and greed, so they refused to work for the government. They followed Jesus’ command to love enemies and turn the other cheek, so they refused military service. They were denounced as traitors and cowards. Theirs was the community of faith. It was peaceful, communal, and focused on service. They went out and gathered in unwanted babies. They tended the sick. They were joyful. 

Then, around 400 AD, the intended Bride of Christ married the Empire instead.

Why Do We Have to Go Through Hard Times? 1 Peter 2:11 – 4:11

A River of Kindness Flows from the Heart of God: 1 Peter 1:1 to 2:10

A Strange Wonderful Gift: An Overview of 1 Peter

3 Tools to Get Closer to Jesus: 2 Corinthians chapters 10-13

An Outpouring of the Spirit

Only the most skilled

Clamp on their ice-spikes and

Venture to the inaccessible heights of

The Himalayans, but even they are

Unaware that far beneath the ice and

Snow on which they climb lie

Granite fissures that slowly sip the

Pure snow being gently warmed by

Molten fires miles below.

Just a trickle of pristine water,

Clearer than the clearest crystal,

Finds it’s kind deep inside the 

Towering peaks and forms a

Rivulet that bubbles to the

Surface thousands of feet

Below the crest to form a

Perfect untainted mountain spring.

Millions of years, glaciers, snows, rains, and winds

Carved the crevice that separates the

Singular spring into two.

One falls violently. The other with grace.

Religion

One becomes angry as it absorbs

Man’s pollutants from soil and air.

It fights and rages against the 

Injustice, ripping trees and boulders,

Stirring sands, campsites, and trash

Until the dam.

But it is not placid, nor will it surrender

To the dullness of the choking reservoir.

The bitterness stirs deep within until,

Aided by torrential rains sent by

Furious gods, it rips and explodes the

Concrete wall and ferociously takes

Revenge on downstream towns

Inhabited by the species that

Polluted its ancestors. 

It is at war.

The Way

High above, its sister took a different path.

Unobtrusive, it winds its unsullied water

Along gentle paths dotted with

Kindly sprays of quiet falls

Through alpine flowers where

Fawns and lambs quench their 

Thirst, bulbul and monal dance,

Home to mahseer, baby rabbits, 

Red panda, tahr, snow leopard and 

Snow partridge. Warmed by thermal

Features below and summer sun above,

It softly cascades into a transparent

Pool where naked lovers play.

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