Easter 5 · 1 Peter 2:2-10 · April 20, 2008

By Erik Herrmann,

Easter is the start of something new: the resurrection of Jesus is the dawn of new creation. As Carl Michaelson puts it, Jesus is the “hinge of history.” In Him the story of the world has made a decisive turn; indeed, He is the fulcrum upon which history turns. The First Epistle of Peter puts it in this way: Christ is the cornerstone. He is the foundation upon which is built the spiritual house of God’s people. The laying of the cornerstone is decisive—there is no taking it back. One is either built upon it or stumbles over it. “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” But to those who do not believe, Christ is “the stone that the builders rejected…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

This decisive moment in salvation history is reflected in the transition experienced among God’s people. There is a before and an after. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Central to this text is Peter’s description of this new status as God’s people. At first is seems ironic that the description of God’s people as “newborn babes” whose birth is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3) is steeped in the language and images of the Old Testament: a priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation, a temple. But this only reinforces that what preceded Christ was only there because of Christ, foreshadowing Him and the salvation He would bring. Thus, the prophets were said to have the “Spirit of Christ in them” as they prophesied about the grace that is now ours. Previously, to be a temple and a priesthood, a chosen race, and a holy nation could only approximate the true meaning of these terms, which have now been fully realized by the coming of this grace. In a way that surpasses the former experience of God’s people, these images describe our relationship to God as well as to the world. The sermon could then develop these along the following lines:

If we are born into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ, then we truly are elect exiles (1:1), for we have been chosen and set apart from a world overshadowed by the doom of death. No particular race created by God has a privileged status. In reality, there are only two races that have any theological import: that which is born of Adam and consequently born into sin and death, and that which is newborn in Christ and his resurrection. Yet we are also related to the world as a priesthood and a temple. That is to say, as “priests” and a “spiritual house” we are mediators, directed 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 and in sacrificial love. As a living temple built upon Christ, we bear the presence of God to the world. This happens precisely when we “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

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