I appreciate very much all the positive response and encouragement from my writings and sermons over this past week or so, including last Sunday, the 40th anniversary of my mother’s passing. If you were unable to hear the sermons from Sunday or would just like to hear them again or pass them along, you can access them at our web site or give us a call or send a note to us in the office and we’ll make a CD for you.
Judging by the response, as one person put it, the message “struck a chord” with many. We’ve all experienced losses in one way or another, and many are struggling through difficulties right now. God is present in the midst of our difficulties. Perhaps that’s one of the great messages of the cross: though our Lord does not save those He loves from all suffering, yet He overcomes that suffering, and helps us to do the same. In many ways, He triumphs over the failings of this world through the suffering.
That brings us to our new sermon series, which begins this Sunday. I’ve wanted to do some teaching and preaching in 1 and 2 Peter for quite some time. Sunday begins discussions on the idea of us today as “resident immigrants” in the world, and the consequences of such status—or really the results of having low or no status in the world. Want to know how this applies to us, or why we should care? Consider these words, reflecting on Peter addressing his hearers as exiles, scattered to places not their homeland, strangers in a foreign land.
Scattered also implies they are in the minority wherever they live. That’s made clearer by Peter’s description of them as strangers. It may very well be that “strangers” is to be taken literally here. Peter’s readers may be…at the very bottom of the social ladder, with few rights and little legal protection from their neighbors. But it is not only their low social rank that makes them strangers. By becoming Christians they have further estranged themselves from their culture. Even if they fit in by the way they dressed and talked, they were marked as strange and different by their Christian lifestyles…That difference between Christians and the world is still with us today. Or at least it should be. Even if we are not literally displaced persons, even if we have responsible and respectable positions in society, we don’t quite fit into our culture. Even today to be a Christian is to be strange. We don’t quite feel at home. We stick out. We don’t play by the same rules as those around us. We don’t treasure what they do. We don’t think like they think. We are strange. Foreign. Homeless…Being a stranger means ridicule, discrimination, and even suffering. [Gary Holloway, Home Among Strangers: In the World with Christ, pp. 12-13]
Perhaps the most haunting statement from that paragraph is this: “That difference between Christians and the world is still with us today. Or at least it should be.”
How about with you? Is that difference still with you today? Are you transformed? Or have you conformed?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12:1-2]