February 9, 2022
1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Anybody out there remember black and white television? So for anyone out there born after say 1980, there was a time when when there what we called “black and white televisions.” They did not show color. Even after color television came along, they still showed a lot of the older black and white television programs. Here’s the crazy thing. I don’t know if this was true for you or not, but for me, when I watched black and white television shows I assumed the world depicted on the screen was actually black and white. It never occurred to me I was watching a fully colored reality being depicted in black and white. I thought because all I saw was black and white that the reality must actually be black and white. I think I’m over-explaining but you get my point. O.K., one more try. As I watched a television program in black and white, for whatever reason, I could not possibly picture it in color. I wouldn’t even try. I just accepted it as it appeared.
I think this is a metaphor for how I have read the Bible for so long. I am so familiar with the Bible as I have known it, it is hard to know anything else. I’m so used to watching it in black and white that it doesn’t readily occur to me there may be a lot more there than I have seen. It is the curse of familiarity. I can be so familiar with someone or something that I can only see what I have already seen and be blocked from seeing what is most fully there. Hence the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
As I read 1 Peter this whole notion reverberates within me. Take a phrase like in today’s text:
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
If I’m honest, it is so easy to see it as a plain black and white picture. Words like mercy, new birth, hope, resurrection, they just feel like Christian words I have heard before—you know—religious speak or Christianese.
Something about this time though. . . I am waking up. I am turning over the phrase, “New Birth” and chipping off the familiar barnacles of my doctrinally encrusted understanding. As I do so, hope begins to rise up as a living reality rather than an ethereal concept. To see the picture in a way I have never seen it before requires I get rid of the black and white tv and get a color tv.
But something about knowing this is Peter’s letter is stirring me. I realize just how gripped Peter is by this thing that has happened before his very eyes to the closest friend he has ever known. He died and was resurrected from the dead. This letter literally explodes and combusts with all the implications of this single fact. Everything. Every single thing has been turned upside down and must be re-seen, re-evaluated, and re-framed by this event. Peter is no longer seeing reality in black and white but in a color so vivid he wonders what he was even seeing before and how he missed it. His pen is on fire (ok, probably his scribe’s pen—because who knows if Peter could even write); his pen is on fire with an otherworldly revelation that has landed on earth, on him. All the stuff Jesus said and taught about storing up treasure in heaven is real and true and materializing in full and living color.
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter is not giving us a doctrine of the new birth. No, he is imparting a revelatory vision. For all its necessity and good, doctrine is how we have tried to contain and preserve something that is uncontainable and needs no preservatives. Sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, we need to set aside our preexisting categories and conditions and approach the text with new eyes and the mentality of a beginner that we might see the thing to which familiarity has blinded us. I guess this is what I am asking myself and you:
Would you be willing to trade in what you have already seen for what you have yet to see? Might that get at what it means to receive a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade?
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for this revelation given to Peter and shared with us. To experience revelation, Lord, this is what we seek; not special revelation but the most uncommon revelation made common to us all– the reality of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. I want to turn away from my familiarity and shed it like a cloak that doesn’t fit anymore. I want to put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Asking again, would you be willing to trade in what you have already seen for what you have yet to see? Might that get at what it means to receive a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade?
For the Awakening,