5th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 912, 575, 645
Text – 1 Peter 2:5
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.
WHAT’S YOUR PURPOSE?
It’s not about you! That statement has become popular in the last 20 to 30 years. It’s used in the attempt to help someone see outside themselves. When we get so wrapped up in the details of our own lives, we lose sight of the context or the purpose for which you & I are here. Life truly is NOT about you! Of course, it’s not about me either!
You know it’s about Jesus, but that is seldom where your feelings or your heart lead you. That’s because “…out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19 ESV) It’s not a pretty list, but those are not my words. They come straight from the mouth of Jesus. Do you take them seriously?
Our slanderous hearts, so quick to un-lovingly highlight the ugly truth about others, despise having the truth of our sins pointed out even when done in love. My heart loves me & that is where it stops. The same holds true for you. We need a new heart. We need a new purpose. We need to be about anything but ourselves. Jesus steps in to give us that opportunity.
It is not about you. That’s how the book began, the book that took by storm Christian churches across the nation almost 20 years ago. You should have at least heard the title The Purpose Driven Life. At chapter one it begins with these words:
“It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams & ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose & for His purpose.” Those are painful words to listen to, for our sinful nature. “It’s not about you” is the Law at work on your heart. It hurts to hear because my sinful & self-centered nature does want my life to be all about me, my joy & my fulfillment. “It’s not about you” points out our core sin which is the idolatry of self, but that pointing out can be put to a good purpose by the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Nathan pointed to King David & said, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7 NLT) He was the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba & then had her husband murdered. You can bet those words hurt David like a stake driven into his heart, yet that pointing out was guided, & put to a good purpose, by God the Holy Spirit.
What is your purpose? It is to humble yourself before the Lord & then to accept His will for your life. For the Christians that St. Peter was writing to that meant suffering persecution. Christians were being scattered & battered across the Roman world. The aliens & exiles, the slaves & the wives that Peter addresses are marginal people, the ‘deplorables’ if you will.
They are easy & constant targets of ridicule & persecution. They are the people seemingly forgotten by their Creator & yet their very lives display the glory of Yahweh. To them, as well as to the marginal & persecuted of our day, Peter brings words of identity & mission in Christ. Their sole purpose is to remain in Him, in Jesus, in the Son of God.
As they remain in Him they will bear much fruit, but it is their heavenly Father who brings forth that fruit. No hard work, no wisdom, no skill or effort on our part can produce the fruits of God. We are merely His tools, like a shovel or rake. It is the power, wisdom & love of the Almighty God who condescends to work through sinners like you & me.
“All this He does out of fatherly, divine goodness & mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” (What does this mean? The First Article of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism) Like the throw away Christians of the early Roman era, Jesus was also a throw away in His culture. He was rejected by men & accepted by the Father in heaven. By virtue of your Baptism you have been accepted by the Father in heaven. He accepts you because in Baptism God unites you to His Son. We suffer here because Jesus suffered here. This life is not heaven, & is not meant to be. If you think this life should be heaven, you have placed your faith in the wrong Jesus.
When God brought Israel out of Egypt & set them down at Mt. Sinai, He called them a kingdom of priests & a holy nation. They – slaves & refugees – were to be intercessors for the world, teachers of the Torah.
Far from being a religious elite, this holy & royal priesthood consists of the marginalized & persecuted – aliens & exiles, wives & slaves, the broken & the helpless. Yet, their sacrifices to Yahweh are acceptable to God when they are given through Jesus. In the face of unrelenting persecution Christians can feel vulnerable & question the relevance of their faith.
Writing to exactly such Christians, Peter calls them to Christ Whom it is that makes them exactly what they truly are. The truth we stand upon, as children of God, is becoming less & less popular in our nation. As the United States drifts away from its Creator, more & more of what we teach & believe points to our people & to our government saying, “It’s not about you.”
Those words will be painful for them to hear as well, especially if they are not believers. “It’s not about you” is the Law at work on their heart too & it points out their core sin which is the idolatry of self. Since God’s children deal with the same struggle it is possible for us to empathize with them. We also were called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
As a church, we are still in the season of Easter, even though the corona virus lockdown has put a shroud over our celebration of it this year. This year, as much as ever, you & I, God’s children, need to be reminded that the resurrection of Jesus is the dawn of the new creation. Jesus has been described as the “hinge of history” because in Him the story of the world has made a decisive turn. The fate of our Lord’s creation was forever changed on that Sunday morning thousands of years ago. Unbelievers are also part of God’s creation. Even corrupt government officials have a new & glorious future awaiting them if they will only believe it.
In His mercy, God has placed us into the lives of people who are struggling with the reality that life is not about them, because we deal with the same struggle. We also, once were not a people, but now we are God’s people; once we had not received mercy, but now we have. (1 Peter 2:10) So God has placed us, His children, here to be a holy priesthood to the nations:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV) We are to proclaim the dawn of the new creation that occurred when Jesus destroyed the hold that death had upon the world.
Though we are still physically withering away like the grass, which is here today & gone tomorrow, we are already now living an eternal life. We just can’t see it, or feel it with the corrupted bodies in which we live. And in that, we share in the struggles of those who do not yet trust in Jesus as their Savior from sin & death.
We have been chosen & set apart from a world overshadowed by the virus & the doom of death. Now our purpose is tell them they can leave that behind. The Holy Spirit is directing us toward the world for the sake of God’s love. As a priesthood, God’s people live for the sake of the world in prayer & in sacrificial love.
As a living temple built upon Christ, we bear the presence of God into our world. The resurrection from the dead, of the Son of God, has changed the entire course of history, for those who trust in Jesus as Lord & Savior. In the text from 1 Peter the stones are living people, as opposed to the dead stones of whatever false gods the people around us are following. Each individual in the kingdom of God is called upon to perform the office of priest to the unbelievers around them. We are to sacrifice our wants & our desires for the good of those who only chase after the dreams of this life. Even though pastors perform this work professionally, on behalf of the congregation, all members of a church are to reflect the light of Jesus into the darkness of sin.
That is our purpose in a general way. Since God knows every detail of our personalities He has millions of differing ways to use each of us in specific ways. Yahweh Himself has prepared in advance each of the good works we are to do.
The only thing we need is to remain connected to Christ. He is the Rock & Cornerstone. We are the chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession. Proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light – that is simply what God’s children do. Amen.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness; no merit of my own I claim but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high & stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant & blood support me in the raging flood; when every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope & stay. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. Amen. LSB 575:1-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet