Sunday, May 22, 2011
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:2-10
One afternoon I was walking with a group of women from the sanctuary building of the church to the education building. I was walking a little ahead of the 3 women but walking with me was Lindsey, the 4th grade daughter of one of the women. I don’t remember what Lindsey and I were talking about but in the course of the conversation Lindsey turned to me and said, “You’re weird.” I took that as a compliment and congratulated her for knowing me only a few months but already seeing that I was weird. Lindsey’s mother must have heard that word, weird, and asked what we were talking about. So I explained that normally it took a year or more before someone thought I was weird and here Lindsey had already zeroed in on it.
The Bible particularly the New Testament wants us to be weird. I read our Scripture for today from the NRSV. But if you read that famous line in verse 9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. That phrase, God’s own people, in the King James Version, is, a peculiar people. I guess since I’m weird already, I like that idea of being a peculiar people.
Chris Andrews has written that there is a town in central Missouri that is named, Peculiar. What kind of reactions do people get when they say they come from a town called, Peculiar. They truly are peculiar people.
Now I understand that most people don’t want to be called weird, or peculiar. But that is what this part of the text of the Bible wants us to call ourselves. Two weeks ago the sermon was about Christians having a different perspective. Last week we took from lessons from an ant. Now we call ourselves peculiar and even a little weird. And we truly are. We love our enemies. We do good for those who persecute us. And we believe the last shall be first. It is truly a different kind of community that arises out of the pages of the New Testament.
Christians are different. We show grace because of what God has shown us. We want to cooperate rather than compete with our neighbors. We have tasted that pure, spiritual milk that Peter talks about and that Jesus offers. That spiritual milk makes us a different people, a peculiar, weird people, who dare to live a life of love in a world that often doesn’t see things in the same way.
I heard that at some baseball games on that Sunday night two weeks ago, there was cheering when the news was announced that Osama Ben Laden had been killed. There was no such cheering when I heard the news for the first time. For a long time I had been doing what Jesus said I should do, pray for those who persecute you. It is hard for me to cheer for anyone’s death for whom I have prayed. If God loves them then I’m going to try to love them too. So yes I am definitely weird and peculiar.
But it’s not just me. Did you know that Sylvester Stallone’s faith in Jesus Christ influenced his writing the script for Rocky back in 1975. The success of that movie brought him fame and new temptations that separated him from his family and friends. The bad choices he made left him with an empty feeling. He had been raised in a Catholic home and had gone to Catholic schools so he had faith up to that time. The Hollywood world drained him of his faith. But not all of it. Sylvester knew the key was the church so he started going again. In his words, “The more I go to church, the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his Word and having him guide my hand. The church is the gym of the soul.” He knew that the church is composed of all those peculiar people who are living according to a divine plan.
I know that Peter calls us Christians, a peculiar people, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell the whole story. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the famous doctor who first articulated the stages of dying. She was Swiss and after World War II ended, she went into Germany to help the sick and injured among the Germans. Helping her was a nurse whom Dr. Kubler-Ross find out was Jewish. She was amazed that this nurse could minister to the very people who had in gruesome and cruel ways murdered so many Jews. When the doctor asked about this, the nurse said that in fact she hated the German people. But she knew if she was ever going to get over that hatred and truly forgive them, she would have to be in contact with the very people she abhorred. Eventually she said, that hatred will turn to love. Is that weird or what? So God’s weirdness and peculiarity is evident in more that just the royal priesthood.
I guess God’s spirit is active in ways we can not believe. The world looks at us and says, “You’re weird, you’re crazy.” But we know better, for our weirdness is born of love and grace. It points us to a new way and invites others to come share in the peculiarity. If you continue to yearn for the pure, spiritual milk of Jesus Christ, you had better be prepared to live a different way, and to be called all sorts of wonderful names like weird, strange, and peculiar.
Almighty and Loving God, you sent your Son to bring us life and forgiveness. Even though we don’t know for sure, I suspect that Jesus was considered a little weird when he lived two thousand years ago. When he ascended you did not desert us, but rather were with us in a new way. You have empowered us with your Holy Spirit. You have made us a royal priesthood, to do the work of your kingdom. And so like Jesus, we may expect to be called weird. Give us the courage to see that that is a good thing, that our hands and feet are doing things that others will not do. Give us the courage to see your power at work in us. Help us to believe in ourselves as much you believe in us.
Hear our petitions as we lift up others for prayer and for your blessing. This we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.