Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
A few months ago I visited a Roman Catholic elementary school. It was a Wednesday during Advent or Lent, I can’t remember which, but we had a service that night so I was wearing my clerical collar. I was visiting the school because they were having a “faith fair” (like a science fair, but with religious themed projects). I always feel awkward visiting schools because I’m not a parent of any of the children who go to school there and nowadays there are different rules and regulations for visitors to schools and places like that. I walked in the front doors of the school and looked for the office or something like that where I should sign in as a visitor. I didn’t see anything like that right away so I started walking down the hallway. All of a sudden I heard a somewhat panicked voice from behind me say, “Excuse me sir!” It was the school secretary, turns out I had walked right past the office and the sign-in sheet without noticing. I turned around to look and when I did the secretary saw my collar. Right away she said, “I’m sorry Father” and had me sign the guest register. The rest of my visit to that school as I made my way around the faith fair in the gymnasium I got called “Father” at least 15 to 20 times and each time I tried to explain that I’m actually a Lutheran pastor, not a Catholic priest. What I learned from this whole ordeal was that if you want to fly under the radar at a Catholic school don’t where a clerical collar in there.
You probably have never been mistaken for a Catholic priest like I was. If you have been I would like to hear the story. Unless you’ve been running around masquerading as a priest or telling people that you are one someone calling you a priest it would probably be a pretty strange situation. And yet, that is what Peter calls all of us in our epistle reading today. He says that you are a “holy priesthood” in verse 5 and a “royal priesthood” in verse 9. You are a priest, believe it or not.
If that sounds strange, and I am assuming that it does, then we need to take some time to think of our identity as Christians; who we are and what we do. Peter calls us priest here (all of us, not just pastors) because that is part of our identity as Christians. If thinking of ourselves as priests seems strange then it means that we have forgotten a bit of who we are and what we do as Christians. We have forgotten part of our identity.
If we are going to reclaim this bit of our identity as Christans and realize who we are as the people of God there are two questions we need to answer: “How did this happen?” and “What do we do now?”
How did that happen? How did we become priests? Thankfully, Peter explains that for us a bit in verse 4 and 5 of our epistle today. He says, “As you come to Him (Jesus!), a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” As you come to Him, Peter says. As you come to Jesus this is what Jesus is doing in you. Jesus changes who you are as you come to Him. This should not be a surprise. You don’t come to God in human flesh who died on the cross and rose from the dead and expect Him to leave you just as you are. No, Jesus changes you. Jesus changes you into a priest.
In that verses I just read Peter uses the example of stones. He talks about Jesus as a “living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” This is picking up on a big theme from the Old Testament. In fact, Peter quotes the Old Testament a bunch of times here showing us that Jesus is the stone the builders, the people and their leaders, rejected by putting Him to death on the cross. But even though He was rejected, God has made this Jesus the cornerstone, the base and foundation, of His Church. “Christ is our cornerstone, on Him alone we build.” We sang those words at the beginning of our service today. But there is more than that going on here. Peter also says, “As you come to Him, you yourselves like living stones are being built up.” You, you are being built up like living stones. Jesus is the living stone, the stone rejected and killed but raised from the dead after three days in the tomb, and as you come to Him, as you are drawn to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, as you hear His word and eat and drink His body and blood, you are being built up like living stones, like Jesus, on the foundation of Jesus. You are part of God’s building project for His Kingdom. You are a living stone.
I like to think of it this way: It’s like we are by nature useless stones that are not good for any kind of building at all. We have cracks and flaws. We are misshapen. Our corners are far from perfect. We are weak a brittle, we break too easily. We are not suitable for building. But as we are brought to Jesus we are changed from useless stones that are good for nothing into stones with a purpose, stones that can be used for building and not just any building, but the holy, spiritual house that God Himself is building. Jesus changes us.
By nature we are nothing like priests. We are not deserving of that title at all and we are not capable of carrying out the work of a priest. We are not worthy of that title. But Jesus, changes us. Through His death He has forgiven our weaknesses and our flaws. He lives in us and because He is in us we are new creations, new people. Though we don’t look like it or feel like it then, we are priests of the Most High God, each and every one of us, because that is who Jesus has made us to be.
If that is who we are then, what is it that we should be doing? That’s the second question. Again, thankfully Peter clears that up for us too. He says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” This is your purpose, this is your work as a priest of God: to proclaim His excellencies, His glory, His saving might because He has called you out of the darkness of sin and death and has brought You into the light of Jesus, the light of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.
Jesus has called you out of the darkness. He is the light of the world that the darkness cannot overcome. On the cross darkness seems to have won the day, but by the darkness of His death on the cross the darkness of Your sin has been flooded with His light. As the light broke that Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead brining light to this fallen, broken world. Jesus has brought this light to you. You live in His light. He has not called you out of the darkness just to bask in the light, however. He has called you out of the darkness so that you too might call others out of the darkness by pointing them to Jesus, the light of the world who endured the darkness of death for us.
Part of the problem that we have is that we think that this kind of thing is just the pastor’s job. It’s just his job to tell people about Jesus. But that is not what Peter is telling us here. We are all priests. You, me, and everyone else who has been brought to faith in Jesus. We have come to Jesus and He has transformed us from useless rocks into living stones, from sinners lost without a hope in the world to priests living in the light with a hope for this world and beyond. We all have the glorious task of proclaiming this good news of what Jesus has done.
Last weekend I attended a workshop in Toronto called “Every One His Witness.” There was a lot of stuff in that presentation that I hope to talk with you about at some point, but the most striking point of the whole workshop was this: That God uses people like you and me to carry out His purpose, His will in this world. We know that God wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, He tells us that in His own word. The amazing thing is that God uses sinners like you and me to do it.
You are a priest of God who has been called to proclaim the goodness of the God who saved you by His death. If you feel unfit or unqualified for this work then you are right. You are not qualified. You are not fit for the task. But God uses unfit, unqualified people like us all the time. He takes useless rocks like us and makes us living stones. He makes us His priests. This is our identity. This is who we are. Let us live in that identity, in Jesus our Saviour, through all our days. In Jesus name. Amen.