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Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael J. Moffitt, July 31, 2022

Knowing and Living Into Your Identity in Christ
Part 5

Text: 1 Peter 2:6–12

Several years ago our daughter Amy gave us a gift from Teresa and I were each sent a package with a kit for us to send a saliva sample for our DNA. I had no idea how my DNA would divulge my origins, but Amy paid for it so why not? Around six weeks later Teresa and I received a packet telling us all about our likely ethnicity, ancestor migrations, and DNA matches.

There were a few surprises for both of us, but for me it showed that my ancestors were primarily from the British Isles - England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales but I already suspected that. It also enabled me to start investigating my ancestors beginning with my parents, grandparents and many others down countless branches. A lot was already filled in from people in my line that had or were doing the same thing, probably second or third cousins.

It was fun for a week or two and then I pretty much stopped. I realized that knowing names or even personal information such as birth certificates or baptisms didn’t really tell me anything about the people. I didn’t feel that I had the time or the interest to delve deeper.

We have friends who are deeply involved in researching their lineage and it brings them great joy to find out about their ancestry. This week as I considered our scripture reading from 1 Peter 2:6–10 I reflected on this revelation of those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord being referred to as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession.” That’s quite a promise, isn’t it?

I was reminded of the fascination of some concerning their lineage when the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton was shown. I heard a few people talking about watching the ceremony, and some were very excited about it and notified everyone, family and friends, that Friday, April 29, 2011, they were off the grid. Someone close would have to be dying if they were to be disturbed. Other than that they would be deeply involved in all things British. The events for the Royal wedding would begin at 8 am Greenwich Mean Time which is 5 hours ahead of EST. That meant they must be up and planted in front of their television at 3 am likely surrounded by food and beverage that would last for the day. They wanted to be involved in everything happening, even though it was over 3,000 miles away.

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married at Westminster Abbey in April 2011, they followed a long line of 17 British royal weddings held there. Apparently it is a service that is a sight to behold. However, their wedding was seen by more people than any other. Although the Abbey was full to its 2,200 capacity, nearly a billion people worldwide tuned in to watch live coverage or news highlights of the wedding.

None would have been prouder than the Duke of Cambridge's grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN in the same Abby during post-war rebuilding in 1947.

On the Day of William and Kate’s ceremony the events before the wedding began at 8 am until 11 am when the marriage ceremony took place.

Listen to the write-up concerning the wedding.

The Abbey’s doors are opened and guests begin to arrive – from official guests including members of Foreign Royal Families and government and Commonwealth representatives, to friends of the couple and figures from the worlds of sport and entertainment including David Beckham and Sir Elton John. In all, around 2,000 specially invited guests fill the Abbey.

The service is conducted by the then Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, and the marriage solemnized by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Dr. Rowan Williams.

“Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” was sung by the congregation, a powerful and much-loved Welsh hymn often sung on State occasions. Then the liturgy of the wedding ceremony ended with the Archbishop saying,

“I pronounce that they be man and wife together, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

While it is certainly true that marriage should be a sacred, solemn and joyous event when a couple is making their solemn and holy vows before God and the church, I’m afraid that for many the ceremony has more to do with tradition than a holy covenant that is binding. Many things are said and promised that end up having no real weight to those who solemnly swear.

For the past 30 years, the press seems to have delighted in exposing the immorality and failures within the British Royalty, not to mention the royalty of other nations. Unfortunately, they have been given a great deal to report about. There is one person who seems to understand the role that she has been given, and that’s Queen Elizabeth II. The late Dr. J.I. Packer, himself British once wrote in his book, Finishing Our Course With Joy,

The Queen is a very remarkable person. Tirelessly, it seems, she goes on doing what she has been doing for six decades (almost seven now). It is more than sixty years since she publicly committed herself before God to serve Commonwealth citizens all her life. She is a Christian lady resolved to live out her vow till she drops. She merits unbounded admiration from us all.

Packer, a very godly theologian and teacher of God’s word, was willing to stand up to those who had turned against the clear teaching of God’s word even when it cost him. Though he was a very kind and gentle person he remained faithful to God to his dying breath. He is one of my cloud of witnesses. I believe that his evaluation of the Queen is as a credible witness.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not seeking to evaluate or make comment on any of the goings on within the British Royalty. With that being said I suspect that the reason Queen Elizabeth II has herself not been embroiled in public scandals is that she knows who she is. Certainly she is well aware of her title Queen of England and all that involves but I imagine that her greater identity has to do with her relationship with Jesus Christ the Lord and King of the Universe.

For the past four weeks we have been considering our Epistle reading from 1 Peter 2:1–12. The first week we saw this from the perspective of many of the founding fathers who believed that the laws of God’s word were the best foundation to build this nation upon. I pointed out that history reveals that they had seen that God’s word was not only instructive concerning the commands of God, but life-giving as it drew them closer to the intimacy to be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It also gave them the model of Jesus and the disciples that glorifying God and living for the benefit of others is the way of the cross. Those who knew Jesus saw that the promises of Christ had more value than anything the world has to offer.

The second week the sermon was entitled “Knowing Your True Identity.” This was not merely knowing who you are or where your genealogy says you came from but who you are as a child of God who is deeply loved by Him. We drew the comparison of the children of Israel who were led out of slavery in Egypt and promised a land of their own that was all ready for them to take possession as God’s inheritance to his chosen people.

We looked at select scriptures from Deuteronomy 6–7 exhorting the Children of Israel to not forget God’s blessings and his holy word, nor let their children and children’s children forget. They were to remember all that God had done for them both in Egypt and throughout the 40 years of their wilderness wandering. They were to teach the precepts of God’s laws and commandments to their children and to their children’s children. This was what set them apart from the other nations and would be the way that the nations could learn of the God of Israel, the creator of all things. This was how their children could remember who they were and what God was calling them into as well. From generation to generation they were to fulfill their calling as the people set apart for God’s own possession. We saw how Peter used this analogy in 1 Peter 2:1–3 when he equated teaching believers and their families the word of God with infants drinking the milk from their mother’s breast. 

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Like Moses, Peter encouraged the early Christians to find their identity in who they were in Christ and return to the tasks given to the people of God.

In week three, we considered what it meant to know who we are in Christ. Peter pointed to Jesus as the cornerstone, and this was not a new teaching but is throughout the words of our readings that week: Psalm 118, Matthew 21:42–44, and in 1 Peter 2:5–8.  We saw that the imagery was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as the foundation and cornerstone of what God is building in his kingdom. Our identity should be that as “living stones” who are together forming a temple for the praise and worship of God. Peter identified those who are joined with Christ as houses of the Spirit. Those who did not surrender themselves to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord were not those who would be the “living stones” or be a part of what was being built.

Last week, in week four, we drew a contrast between who Peter appeared to be to himself after he denied that he knew Jesus, with who Jesus knew that he would become as an apostle of Jesus Christ and one that Jesus would give the keys to the kingdom. I’m guessing that most of you are like me in that you gave a key to your house to your son or daughter but not to everybody else. Your children had the right to come into your house because of their relationship with you as their mother or father. Jesus knew the failures that Peter would be guilty of throughout his life, but he also knew that Peter would one day be a powerful man of God instrumental in building the kingdom of God here on earth.

We saw that in contrast with King Solomon who began as a godly king who built the temple of God in Jerusalem. He began in obedience to God and his law but towards the end of his reign-built altars to pagan gods to please his foreign pagan wives. His downfall was that he forgot that it was God who blessed his early reign as the king of God’s people but when Solomon turned to also worship pagan deities his house, the house of David his father became a divided kingdom. The result was that Israel and Judah both ended up in exile under the rule of pagan kings as slaves.

Solomon whom God gave wisdom and wealth like no other king before him or after ended up leading his people into God’s judgment. Peter who started out appearing to be a failure as a disciple ended up as a central figure in the building of the early church. In contrast to Solomon Peter had little or no security in possessing the things of this world that give the appearance of success, but it didn’t matter because he had understood what it meant to take up his cross and follow after Jesus. He now knew how the building of God’s kingdom was built one living stone at a time. He would be found faithful because Jesus had become his reason for living or dying.

Today we’ll finish the series by briefly considering 1 Peter 2:6–10. Let’s read 1 Peter 2:6–8,

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,  a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

In verse 6 Peter is referring to Isaiah 28:16 where the prophet refers to the promise of God to rebuild his people as a building that would be upon God’s foundation stone. The cornerstone was carefully chosen and came at a great cost, but it would be upon this precious and costly stone that the two corners would be joined together. This cornerstone guaranteed that there would be great stability to the rest of the building. This building would be built by God’s design not men.

God through the prophet Isaiah was exhorting his people to build upon the Lord himself who is immovable and unchanging. Peter was pointing out that Jesus is that cornerstone and it would be upon this foundation that God’s church would be built one living stone at a time. The foundation of the church would be built upon the prophets and the apostles who are held together by the chief cornerstone. Peter is drawing on the believers’ union with Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is honored by God, so will all those who are through repentance and faith united with Christ.

What about those who reject the teachings of Christ? In 1 Peter 2:7 the apostle writes that the joy and honor of this assurance to God’s people as the living stones built upon the foundation of Jesus is not extended to those who reject the cornerstone.

Peter gives two warnings from the Old Testament that refer to those who rejected the “cornerstone.” The first is from Psalm 118:22 that we spoke of several weeks ago.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

The promise here is that God will place the cornerstone in spite of the rejection from those who refuse to submit themselves to God’s plan. God is going to build the temple in his way in spite of their rejection. God does not need our approval to accomplish all his holy will.

The second warning is from our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 8:11–15,

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.  But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap, and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Those who reject the Chief Cornerstone and refuse to build on Him instead stumble over Him. Instead of being their salvation, Jesus becomes to them a rock of offense. Why would they turn away from this offer from God?

Two weeks ago we saw that Jesus quoted this passage from Psalm 118 in regard to Himself (Matthew 21:42). It’s Jesus who set out the course for both Jew and Gentile to be joined together into one glorious house for God. This in itself was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for the Jews, who thought that Gentiles should not have equal share with the Jews into God’s great house.

In Matthew 21:43–44 Jesus warned the Pharisees that their rejection of him as the cornerstone would mean their rejection by God.

”Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

As I considered the various titles that Peter lists for those who are now in Christ he was writing to those who needed encouragement because of persecution and trials that were very common in the early church and are still widespread in many places around the world today. He begins with “but you are a chosen race…” God is equating those who are in Christ with the blessing and honor spoken to Moses for Israel on Mount Sinai. Listen to Exodus 19:6,

“‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

The offer of God to Israel is profound but it would require that God be the center of their affections. Obedience should not be because they fear God’s judgment but because they were so grateful for his love and provision. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah in 43:20–21,

“The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”

God pointed out that even the wild beasts are grateful for their creator providing them water in the wilderness. How much more should the people of God, that had been chosen not because of their worthiness but because of God’s mercy and grace?

Peter wanted the Christians to whom he was writing to see themselves through the eyes of God instead of the situations they might find themselves in. Listen once more to 1 Peter 2:9–10,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 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.

The words “But you” is in sharp contrast to the words spoken concerning those who rejected Jesus as the cornerstone in verse 8b, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

The theme of God’s sovereign choice of both Christ and the church is prominent here. Not only are believers living stones in a temple for God, but they are also the priests that serve in that temple. Peter’s language points back to the same language used in Exodus 19:6 and Isaiah 43:20–21 where Moses referred to Israel in this way. Both the people of Israel and those who have come to faith in Christ have been given the same charge, that they might proclaim the excellencies and the praise of God.

The praise and glory of God is the purpose of the priesthood of believers. Believers both worship God and witness to the unbelieving world the hope found only in Christ.

One last comment concerning those who may appear to be royal priests or any kind of royalty. Outwardly they can look very impressive and convincing as to who they claim to be by title. Just wait a while and who they really are will be revealed. That seems like a great exhortation to us as well. Do we reflect the Lord in what we think and how we live?

I want to end with the second verse and refrain from the song “Only Jesus” by Casting Crowns:

All the kingdoms built, all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it's said and done
'Cause all that really matters
Did I live the truth to the ones I love
Was my life the proof that there is only
One Whose name will last forever

And I, I don't want to leave a legacy
I don't care if they remember me
Only Jesus
And I, I've only got one life to live
I'll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

Let’s pray.

©2022 The Rev. Michael J. Moffitt

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