Holy Work: Holy Priests
Sermon, Easter 5A, Sunday May 14, 2017, St Petri (Pastor Adrian Kitson)
1 Peter 2:2-102 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”[b]7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”[c] 8 and,“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”[d]They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/20170514_message.mp3
Christians often seem to think that their job is less holy, useful or needed than that of the priest or pastor. People often seem to downplay the role of a stay at home mum too, as if doing this is somehow less important than working in paid employment. Not today! For two reasons.
Mums are crucial to life. We recognise the foundational role mums contribute. Today we simply give thanks for our mums who gave us birth and fed us pure milk whether breast fed or formula!
And the second reason we uplift not downplay the role of mums is because a mum’s role like all other roles, is today raised up in what hear from Peter. We are all enrolled in God’s priesthood of all believers in Jesus.
Still, I have noticed that Christians already members of this special group still believe that their work, their study, their family care, their retirement, their skills and story are somehow not as valuable or holy or usable by God as that of a priest/pastor.
I hear that somehow, a visit from the Pastor is worth more than a visit from pastoral carer from the same church! Or, I hear that what the Pastor does is truly holy and what I do is not as holy!
But at the same time I see people, searching for meaning in their work and study and life in general. I hear people say they want their life to really count. People want to make a difference for the good. But how, and where and who?
Today there is good words for anyone who is either searching for direction or undervaluing their direction.
This whole undervaluing of our work and life as compared to that of the priest or pastor has been around a long time. Peter dealt with it by affirming his people in their baptism. He sets them straight on who they are, and what their serving really means under Jesus, the Great High Priest who prays for them and with them in all of their work, rest ad play.
Five hundred years ago, two callings were considered truly “spiritual”, “truly useful and holy to God – being a monk or a priest. Every other occupation and calling were a distant second to these truly “Godly vocations”.
Eventually, Martin Luther was led to see that this attitude was untrue and very unhelpful for the mission of God in his world.
The truth in Scripture is that by virtue of their baptism all believers in Jesus are engaged in truly holy work that is useful, and essential for Jesus’ mission to bring the world back to his peace.
In other words, all Christian are priests! All who are baptised into Jesus are automatically enlisted and consecrated as members of God’s holy priesthood.
Don’t worry. This does not mean that everyone has to be the Pastor! God calls certain people into this specific role for his people. But every other Christian in a local church is an ‘under pastor’ or ‘under-priest’ under Jesus too.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession……
So, how are you hearing this?
I am hearing that our work, our skills, our changing of nappies, breast feeding, tending children, mentoring teenagers, serving our spouse; using all our gifts and making our contribution really counts to our God.
I am hearing that all of us and all our various callings and contributions are holy before God because we are holy before God by faith in Jesus’ promises.
I am hearing that everyone’s work, skills and possessions are be used above all for one big purpose and one big purpose only;
“…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
You and I are priests whose life goal is to speak words of high praise about our Great High Priest and by our witness brings these words out of others.
This is a high acceptance and affirmation from God.
If I am a priest in the priesthood of all believers in Jesus, the Great High Priest, then who I am and whatever I do is important and full of the Holy Spirit. My mothering, my fathering, my gran-parenting, my study and work and life are spiritual to the very core – as spiritual, necessary, useful and valid as any pastor’s work and life.
This is a challenging calling.
My membership in the priesthood of Jesus means I can’t just do whatever I want. As I offer my very self as a living sacrifice to the gospel of Jesus I can’t just live my life under my own rules, for my own purposes which may be totally unrelated and without reference to Jesus’ call to follow him.
So, friend, you are priest. You don’t have to be the Pastor. You have what you need: You are baptised in the Holy Spirit with Water and Word, and you are connected to Jesus the High Priest and Shepherd of our lives.
So, what is a priest meant to do? Two things which mean a few more things.
A priest is a two way bridge; a person called to both represent God to people and people to God. A priest is an intermediary between the Lord of the church and his church; between the church of Jesus and his world. You are the person in the middle between a God seeking sinners and sinners needing God.
You are a priest: You do your best to represent the Word of God to the people and represent that needs of the people to the Lord. That is the two things.
But how do I represent my Saviour to my family, my spouse, my enemies and strangers and represent their needs and concerns to him?
The good news is that you do not have to be s super-spiritual giant, a pastor, a great sage that lives in a cave in the desert, a monk in a Tibetan monastery or any other kind of special person to be who God has created and commissioned you to be as his priest. You just need God – actually, the Great High Priest, Jesus, the Saviour.
Jesus is familiar with all your ways and has paid the price for your sin and self-glory against God in full, once and for all – who now prays for you, and goes behind you and before you and has enlisted you in his great priesthood of bridge builders.
But preaching, teaching and proclaiming God’s word? Surely that is reserved for the pastor to do! Not totally.
“…the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, is nothing else than to preach the Word of God” (AE 40:22), says Luther.“…the ministry of the Word is the highest office in the church, that is unique and belongs to all who are Christians“(AE 40:22). NB. All Luther quotes from Martin Luther wrote a treatise to the Bohemian Christians titled Concerning the Ministry of 1523,
But what about declaring or withholding Jesus’ forgiveness? Surely this is the Pastor’s job alone? Not all together. Luther again,
“Christ gives both the power and the use of the keys [of God’s kingdom] to each Christian” (AE 40:26);
“The keys belong to the whole church and to each of its members, as regards their authority and their various uses” (AE 40:27) and “to bind and to loose clearly is nothing else than to proclaim and to apply the Gospel.” (AE 40:27-28).
Friend, you are ‘It’ where you work, where you study, among your acquaintances. We are “it” in this town, with all other Christians.
And prayer? Yep. You too – a priest:
“For Christ gave the Lord’s Prayer to all His Christians…[and] to pray for others is to go between and make intercessions of God, …..[but since] we are commanded to pray for all, certainly all are equally commanded to function as priests” (AE 40:30).
What about offering acceptable sacrifices to Jesus – following him, giving back to him in love and faith? This is your calling too.
“…in the New Testament there is no sacrifice except the one which is common to all, namely the one prescribed in Romans 12:1, where Paul teaches us to present our bodies as a sacrifice, just as Christ sacrificed His body for us on the cross…
Friends, in this very word from Peter (1 Peter 2:5), God calls us to
“offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, that is, ourselves, not gold or animals” (AE 40:28-29).
Found at <http://www.njdistrict.org/presidents-blog/luther-on-the-priesthood-of-all-believers>
Friend, you are on the hook! You are Jesus’ priest; Jesus’ bridge.
As you search for direction, know that you are God’s priest.
As you tend to undervalue your contribution; know that you are God’s priest.
Speak, pray, forgive, serve and sacrifice your live in his priestly service.
We sacrifice our own needs, our buildings, our comfort, our money, our time, our very selves in this grand adventure and this noble task of living in God’s priesthood of all God’s people.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Often in the New Testament letters the actual teaching or foundation of the letter is at the beginning and then the practical direction and encouragement on living out the faith comes second. This is the case with 1 Peter.
So read chapter 1 up to verse 12 to get the teaching content and then read the text (1Peter 2:1-12) and note down the questions that comer to your mind and the things you find yourself focussing on…. Share these.
Describe your ‘dream’ house.
Describe you ‘perfect church’ (not building but the people and how they should be…..
How is Jesus the cornerstone of your life? How is he a stone other people in your life seem to trip over? What are their reasons for ‘throwing him away”?
What are you reasons for trusting him as the foundation of your life and work?
How does it make you feel to read verses 9-10 about being especially chosen by God to be a part of his priesthood of all believers?
I said a priest’s job is to represent God to people and people to God; to be a bridge between a holy and loving God seeking sinners to make holy in love. This might mean speaking words of high praise about our Great High Priest and by our witness bring these words out of others.
How have you gone about this in your journey? Share or reflect on moments when you have done either or both…
How has another person done this for you in your faith journey?
In your family or in your group, if God is building us into his spiritual house, what do you think each person is in this house – what gifts and contributions to they bring and make?
What are your gifts and what contribution are you making in our church community of priests? How is the Lord calling you to serve in his priesthood at this time?
Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest who knows us very well, inspire and challenge us to continue to represent you well as we speak and do your word and bring the many needs of friends and foes alike before your throne of grace. Amen.