Midweek Lent 2
1 Peter 2:9–10
+ IN NOMINE IESU +
“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” (1 Pet 2:9–10).
You belong to God as His own special possession—a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. And thus you also belong to one another. We are His possession, gathered and knit together from out of the darkness and brought into His marvelous light. For we were bought with a price, the price of the holy precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, St. Peter wrote, “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.” It is this that I want to focus on tonight, and more specifically, what it means to be the people of God and what it means to receive mercy.
First, Mercy: For most of us, the word mercy means a feeling, a feeling of pity or compassion that we have when we see someone worse off than we are. It’s feeling in here, in the heart, or in here, in the gut. It’s where we get sayings like heart-breaking or gut-wrenching. So you see a homeless person or see a report about the victims of hurricanes or tornadoes or crime, you hear of a young child dying of cancer, and you feel it in your heart or your gut.
But mercy as it’s defined in the Bible entails more than that. It’s more than a feeling. In the Bible, mercy is also an act, concrete, hands-on acts of loving kindness that people do for each other when they are in a relationship. So when the Bible talks about God’s mercy, it doesn’t simply mean that God looks down from heaven and feels sorry for us poor, miserable sinners. It means that God sees our lot, feels compassion in His heart and gut, and then acts. He does something to help us, which is why it is often you’ll see it in the plural—the mercies of God or the loving kindnesses of God. You can’t have more than one feeling of mercy, but you can have more than one action, more than one pouring out of that mercy into deeds.
God entered into a relationship with you in Holy Baptism. He adopted you as His own child. He is your true Father, and you are His true children. And so it is that ever since then, He’s been doing mercies for you, doing specific acts of loving kindness. The chief of these acts is the forgiveness of sins, but there is so much more to His mercies than forgiveness. The health He gives you to work, the family that surrounds and supports you, the safety the government supplies in society, the Holy Communion, this sermon: These are specific, hands-on deeds that God does for you.
It’s a spiritually dangerous thing to think that Lent is only about the suffering of Jesus. In fact, the devil will tempt you to think that Lent is only about what happened so long ago. The truth is that you are baptized into Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, and God, your Father in heaven, is helping you on your way home with His mercies. For “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22–23).
These loving kindnesses from God make us His special possession, His special people—peculiar. For “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” And when we hear the word people, we tend to think of a group of individuals. People are those that you see at the county fair; people are those you see commuting to work; people are those you see going to vote. But in the Bible, the word people is loaded with much more meaning. Since God gives you His mercies, His acts of loving kindness, you are His people. You are a holy people, people who call the holy God, Father. Think about that for a moment: You are holy; you are recipients of God’s mercies in Christ, and that makes you His. You belong. And it goes back to your baptism in His name with the sign of the cross. And our life together as a congregation is a demonstration that we are God’s people amid the masses of people throughout the world. We belong to God and we belong to one another. What we have from God and with one another is special, it makes us a people, a race, a nation, and a priesthood all our own in God through Holy Baptism, making our bond through water and the Word thicker than blood.
We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, a special possession. As such we live so as to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Our Lord prepared for His passion by praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, by staying awake, keeping watch and remaining vigilant. He prepared by keeping vigil through prayer and meditation on the promises of His Father. The disciples, however, fell asleep. They fled in fear when He was betrayed. In that moment, they looked like everyone else, like normal people, not like God’s special people. After the resurrection and the ascension, they got it. They turned the world upside down as God’s chosen race, His holy nation, His royal priesthood, His peculiar people.
So when you leave church this evening and when you go back to school or to work tomorrow morning, when you do whatever it is you do out there in the world, remember that your lives are living, breathing, walking, and talking proclamations of “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” And what will that get us? Some people will think that we Christians, we followers of Christ, are strange, that we are out-of-step with our culture. But when the church looks, acts, and thinks like the world, then Satan has won. We are God’s people. We have received His mercies, which are new every morning. Our Father in heaven is leading us to our true home. Let us keep vigil along the way and proclaim the excellencies of Him who is calling us. Amen.