Genesis 1:1First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. (The Message Bible)
Peterson in his Message Bible translation may have been indicating “First” in time or he may have been thinking “First” in importance. The issue of what we are doing here is connected to how we got here. If we are just the random combination of chemical reactions that grew more sophisticated over eons, if there is no intent behind the power that pushes things forward, then there is no overarching right way to be or wrong way to be. We can try to create our own meaning but whatever we come up with ends with the dispersion of our atoms at death. But if there is a mind behind the power, God, then it is possible to find our fulfillment in being what that mind created us to be. The Bible chooses this second option. If God made all of this, including us, then we can find our reason for being in living connected to that eternal power. From this all else follows, but “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see.”
1 Corinthians 12:4 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. (The Message Bible)
We sometimes hear children ask “where is God?” There are several correct answers to that question. Jesus taught his followers to pray to their Father “who art in heaven.” Certainly God the creator of the world is far beyond us, above our understanding, in a heavenly realm. We might tell the child that Jesus was God come to us as a human that we may understand God in special ways. But we might also say that God is in our hearts. Christ died that we might have God’s spirit abide in the very sinews of our souls. God is as close as our breath, as the air we breathe. It is God’s abiding in us that enables us to be fully the people we were always intended to be, each with the special personality and gifts God has designed for us. We enjoy employing the gifts we are given and are able to appreciate those in others. Imagine that, happy with ourselves and happy with those around us. Sounds like quite a gift!
1 Peter 5:6 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. (The Message)
Remember Goldilocks? One porridge was too hot. The other was too cold. But the one in the middle was just right. One bed was too soft. The other was too hard. But the third one was just right. The above verse is about humility and I think it is a Goldilocks quality. Other translations render this verse “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” It’s not thinking poorly about yourself- “I’m such a loser, a screw up, too fat, too stupid. But it is not pretending you are at the top of some list you have created to feel good about yourself- I’ve got it together, making the grade, more attractive than. Humility isn’t about finding your right place among the rankings you or society create. It’s about getting off the list all together, knowing you were made by God and worth saving so that “God’s strong hand is on you.” You are not too this or too that. You are in your essence just right; the way God made you. “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs.
1 Peter 3:19, 20 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
This is a bit of a strange verse. In the Apostle’s Creed it is stated that Jesus “descended into hell.” I know some churches that have deleted that statement from the creed. But here in 1 Peter is an indication that after his resurrection Jesus encountered those long dead. This reference above seems to be directed at those “in the days of Noah,” a time when, according to Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” The point in 1 Peter seems to be that what Jesus did through his death and resurrection affected not only those in his time but everyone in all time, including you and me. It may be hard to grasp the mechanics of all that but it is a pretty important theme, don’t you think?
It always amazes me that we are still talking about Jesus 2,000 years after he lived and half the world away from the place he taught. We have lovely churches now that folks can come to if they want to hear about him. Of course, in the first century they didn’t. They met in homes and other public places. There were no tweets or Facebook posts or snap chats to appeal to people about Jesus. All they had was one person telling another individual or group. And that was enough because those folks found Jesus to be “the night-and-day difference he made for you.” Their faith in him gave their life meaning and together it made them family. That is something worth talking about. That is something worth sharing. Has it been that for you?
1 Peter 2:19 “What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason.” (The Message Bible)
This is addressed to household slaves in the first century. Should the Biblical writers have spoken out against slavery? In other parts of the New Testament the writers tell masters they should treat their slaves fairly and justly but they seem to accept slavery as a part of society. Perhaps they were anticipating the return of Christ in short order that would put an end to all injustices. Perhaps they believed that God had not put them in a position to change these things at that time and so were focusing on how to instruct and encourage these particular folks. As far as I know the Bible never calls slavery good or suggests it is the way things ought to be. If we are in a position now to deal with such injustices, we should do so. “What counts” is that we do what we do “for God’s sake.” Even when such inequalities are part of our personal situations, God is still present and can use even the worst of circumstances for good. That is the message of the cross. It can be a hard reality, but it is the example of Jesus. What do you make of this?
1 Peter 1:17 You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. (The Message Bible)
This is the Message Bible’s way of dealing with what the NIV version translates as “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” Most of us struggle with the idea that we should fear God. Some say the Bible means “deep respect” by this. Can you love and fear someone at the same time? Well, yes. Perhaps one of the things indicated by the use of the word fear is that we are to bring the full range of our emotions before God, not a watered down, religious set of them. We can feel fear when we more deeply experience the awesome power that created and sustains all things, that makes such miracles like childbirth, that displays a standard of goodness we know we don’t live up to. We can fear for our frail and fault-filled tendencies in the light of what we know we could and should be. I think the idea of fear reminds us that we are to take God seriously, not to presume on God’s goodness even as we trust it, not to minimize our “sloppy living” even as we believe in God’s mercy. Fear was given to us as part of human nature. How do you love and fear God appropriately?
1 Peter 1:6 Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. (The Message Bible)
Gold has always been a precious commodity. Did you know that according to www.britannica.com/technology/gold-processing/Refining, “virtually all the impurities present in gold combine with gaseous chlorine more readily than gold does at temperatures equal to or greater than the melting point of gold. The impure gold is therefore melted and gaseous chlorine is blown into the resulting liquid. The impurities form chloride compounds that separate into a layer on the surface of the molten gold.” How is that for a refresher on your high school chemistry? Suffering is part of life. Buddhists understand this as one of their four noble truths. The atheist Friedrich Nietzsche claimed “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” The suffering appears inevitable. The question seems to be if there is meaning in it. Christianity teaches that God uses even the suffering in life for our good and development, just as the suffering of Good Friday led to Easter. What do you think is behind the suffering in your life?
Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. (The Message Bible)
How would you like to go down in history as “the other Mary?” Those of you who are familiar with Mark’s or Luke’s account of Easter know that they call this woman “Mary the mother of James.” This is much more of an identity than “the other Mary.” We have a woman named Mary in our congregation whose brother married a woman named Mary. In many conversations she became the other Mary. Here, this woman was at the decisive event in all of history but in Matthew she is known only as the other Mary. Maybe she is us. Most of us won’t be the star of any show. We won’t be ones whose name will be remembered and repeated as important. Mary Magdalene is famous. The other Mary is… well, the other Mary, another who happened to be there, a member of the supporting cast, lucky to be mentioned at all. Like I said, she is us. And we were there too. The song asks, were you there when he rose up from the grave? Yes, we were there in the other Mary, in the fact that Jesus rose for the millions and billions (and trillions?) who are barely mentioned but known to God and changed by the resurrection. Happy Easter to all you others! Christ rose for you!
Matthew 21:2, 3 Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.” (The Message Bible)
Some people think the phrase “The Master needs them” was sort of a password Jesus had previously arranged with the owners of donkeys. Maybe so. This would indicate that Jesus had planned the Palm Sunday event, that it was part of what he expected would happen all along. But it might also stand in contrast to the disciples who in just a few days would all desert Jesus when the soldiers came for him. While they turned away, maybe the owners of the donkeys were committed to giving Jesus whatever was required whenever it was required. This then would be a picture of discipleship that has all things at The Master’s disposal, always at the ready for his service. The Christian principle of stewardship is that all we have is God’s and is given to us to care for and use as God directs. Are you more like the donkeys’ owner or the disciples?