Strangers and Pilgrims

Statue of St. Peter and the Bascilica's facade

Our Autumn sermon is studying the first of the great Epistles to the global church from St Peter. Written from the heart of the Roman Empire it calls Christians to live faithfully in the midst of an alien culture, and what it looks like to build lives and communities that invest in eternity.

The story so far

In AD64 Peter wrote from the church in Rome to communities of Christians scattered across the empire. And he speaks to them as Exiles; as those who are far from home, inhabiting an alien culture. He reminds them that just like Daniel and his friends taken into captivity in Babylon, if they are to hold onto their identity as the people of God against the cultural and economic pressure of their society, they are going have to live in a deliberate fashion. To prepare their minds for action, to choose holiness.

Living in an great city gives us this strange privilege of being anonymous, not defined by our past, but the danger is we gradually lose sense of who we actually are. If we are only defined by how people see us, we are ironically answerable to everyone. And anonymity generates anxiety. Peter’s antidote to that is that as we learn to call God Father we live in ‘reverent fear’. Not a fear that paralyses us, but a respectful awe. If the God of the Universe has called you to be his child I must live like it matters. Fear God and you need fear no-one else.

And that step of accepting God as your Father, means that something changes in the essential you. Your soul – your psyche in Greek – is a like a child that needs to be nurtured with pure spiritual milk. That is obviously the word of God – but it is more than that. It is ‘tasting and seeing that the Lord is good’ – that day to day experience of the love and kindness of God so that like a child in a loving family you grow up into the person that you were created to be.

And that is not just an individual project – you are part of something eternally significant. Just like the Old Testament people of God rebuilding the Temple, so we are part of building a holy temple –  a community that is open to all and that is all that Israel was intended to be. Of course much building work looks quite ordinary, and it is easy to forget its significance. When you help out with youth work, or sing Christmas Carols in a care home or any number of other ordinary parts of the life of church you are part of building something that will last into eternity.

Almighty God,
who built your Church upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets,
with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone:
so join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine,
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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