Lent 2023 Day 35: Mon 3 Apr
1 Peter 2.4-9
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
“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.”
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter describes his listeners as living stones. He’d heard Jesus quoting Psalm 118 – the stone the builders rejected – to the authorities in the Temple, and Peter knew that it was a picture of Jesus. We should note that when Peter describes his listeners as coming together as a single edifice, a spiritual house, he also adds that they become a holy priesthood.
Priesthood was central to the faith of Judaism. Priests were born into the role, as God had set certain families aside for that purpose. Likewise the Levites, the workers in the place where the priests officiated. Priests administered the sacrifices and offerings made by people for their sins. The High Priest was required by God to come into his presence in an annual ceremony. This old practice was superseded by Jesus, who in his death on the cross became both the High Priest and the One Perfect Sacrifice for all sin. In an instant, the old roles ceased to exist before God.
Peter is not reinstating these roles into the Christian faith. We may be a royal priesthood but sacrifice on behalf of others is no longer necessary. and coming into God’s presence to atone for the people is no longer necessary.
Legend has it that the High Priest had a rope attached to his leg so that, if in the presence of God he was found of God not to be ritually clean in his presence and would therefore die, others could pull his dead body out!
While we might smile at this legend, the truth that no-one can see God and live still holds. Peter has declared that we are a royal priesthood. We do not need to perform rituals to become clean nor do we have to cover ourselves with a special tunic, nor are we restricted to entering the Holy Place just once a year because Jesus is our cleanliness, our clothing in righteousness and The Way to Father God.
Was Peter talking to all his scattered listeners as one body, or as individual churches?
Does Peter’s description of a royal priesthood still apply two thousand years later?
How does the structure that applies in Orthodox and Catholic denominations, and hung on to in Anglicanism, of separate priesthood and laity compare with St Peter’s declaration?
Would you describe your church fellowship as a holy nation?
What can we do to make our nation a holy nation?
Father God, I pray for my church fellowship, for the fellowship of churches to which I belong, and for Christ’s church worldwide. Help us all to apply your Apostle Peter’s words of declaration to our expressions of church today. Amen.