Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Word For the Week

1 Peter 1:17-23

More on the resurrection, and its power to change the world. As the author* of I Peter notes, the resurrection affects not just our souls, not just our bodies, but our ways of being in the world.

How so? By giving us a second chance at life. Peter speaks in the opening of this letter about a "new birth," a profound shift in beliefs and behaviors.

In this part, he's ready to spell out what that means: "If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile," he tells his readers.

There's two parts to his statement. Those who claim the Jewish God as their own should be prepared to live by that god's rules, obviously.

But just as important is the flip side of the equation: Peter's readers chose God, and God chose them. No longer is there a distinction between Jew and Greek in the "economy of salvation". All will be judged according to their deeds, not the accident of their birth. This is no small message at a time when there was popular interest in Judaism, but many would-be converts felt held back by the burdens of Jewish law.

The resurrection has changed all that. God will be constrained by law no more. Which means the gentiles will be consigned to a meaningless death no more. You can take this salvation to the bank, says Peter:

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ...

Peter's readers have made an intentional choice to live with values different from those of the surrounding culture. If you weren't looking for something new, you wouldn't be here, he reminds them.

Which sets us up perfectly for the punchline:

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed...

Set aside the language of purification and obedience. The message here is simple exhortation: you have found the right way to live, and you've seen the results. So keep it up! Because what you've found is something that will last, if you're willing to keep with it...

In light of last weekend's mini-civil war, Peter has a lesson for this community, believers and skeptics alike. You and I and all the rest of us have chosen to be here because the values of the dominant culture don't work for us. Or would you rather live in a world where lying, economic oppression, unnecessary war and torture are the norm?

I didn't think so.

We're here because we want to be, and because this community offers something the larger world can't: genuine mutual love.

That love has as its foundation more-or-less shared political values, but we've all seen how much deeper it can go. Every year, Markos wishes his kid a happy birthday, and gets hundreds of responses chiming in. Look at the support that Meteor Blades, Drain Bamaged, Nephalim, Maryscott O'Connor--and yes, myself--have received from this community. And those are just a few of the more notable examples. Every day, there are countless examples of small blessings being given out around here, in ways that are not "virtual."

And we'd want to piss all that away over the Pope and ratings why?

Well, I said it was a simple message, so I'll climb down from my high horse and close with a simple reminder. We chose to be here, you and I, and the community has chosen us by not zeroing our asses out of existence. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to think I've tapped into something lasting in this community. I'd like to think I've found a place filled with genuine mutual love.

Put it to you this way: I love you all deeply from my heart. How about you? You willing to share the love around?

You willing to live like you've been given a second chance?

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