March 1, 2022
1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV
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.
There’s “church” and then there are our churches. You understand, of course, Peter is not talking to our churches, those buildings on the corner that open their doors every Sunday to whosoever would come. Neither is Peter talking to individual, isolated people who identify as Christians. Neither is Peter talking to “The Church” in an ethereal or institutional universal sense. So who is Peter talking to in this letter?
Peter is talking to “church”—and “church” are little collections and constellations of people who have responded to the call of Jesus to come out of darkness and into his wonderful light. They are little collections of persons who were once “not a people,” who have become “a people.” They are little collections of persons who have “received mercy.”
I have been in many churches filled with wonderfully self-sufficient, independent people. They are part of the church like they are part of the Rotary or the Lions club. They are upstanding and often outstanding citizens, good people. They are missing one critical thing. They have not received mercy. And they have not received mercy because they have never known their need for mercy.
These kind of folks have understood the people Peter speaks of here as those who have made mistakes, often big mistakes; their life choices have led them to places of darkness and obvious desperation where they needed rescue and mercy and yes, salvation. Our churches are also filled with many more people who have accepted the “terms of salvation” on the basis of a doctrinal understanding and they legitimately understand themselves as “Christians,” and yet they have not “received mercy.”
People who have “received mercy” are sometimes people who came to the end of their rope, and yet many more did not. They simply came to a providential awakening to their need of God. I’m not talking about their need for God to solve some problem for them (though that may have contributed) but their need for God at the core of their being. Often this means coming to terms with the thing that promised them mercy but never quite delivered. Anyone who has received mercy knows that they know they were made for God and without God they perish, even if they go on living.
People who have received mercy know that they know they simply cannot function without Jesus, who is the mercy of God. They don’t know it theoretically but experientially. They do not judge others because they know that but for the mercy of God so go they. Herein lives “church.”
Whenever and wherever and however these people find each other and make home in the spacious communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you have church. This is why you can have church at work or in prison or at a recovery meeting or at school or in an emergency shelter filled with refugees or in a hospital waiting room. And this is why you may well not actually have “church” in the building on the corner we call our church.
It turns out to be the ones who have received mercy who bow down together as the chosen people, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, indeed God’s special possession. They are the ones who are declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. These people aren’t better than anyone else. They are just a whole lot more humble and loving and yes, merciful. You know them when you see them. So at all cost, the invitation is to find church; to band together with these people who have received mercy, and become one of them, and then to plant “church” everywhere you go.
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. We desperately long for the Church you are building. Thank you for bringing us “church,” for making us “church,” and for planting “church” through our simply being together and united in you. Forgive us for the ways we have missed it and messed it. Thank you for the mercy of endless do-overs. Holy Spirit, stir in me the deepest core longing in me to receive mercy. Even if I have received it, stir it deeper. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Have you “received mercy”? Do you know that you know? Don’t be afraid to be honest. Jesus relates to who we are and where we are. He’s often simply looking for the simple humility of honesty. I sense awakening is afoot in so many these days. And it doesn’t mean discounting what has gone before. It all counts.
P.S. Join Us For An Ash Wednesday Gathering Online
I want to invite you to join us for our upcoming gathering, A Night With New Room: Ash Wednesday. It will be online on Wednesday, March 2, 6:30pm CST and will run just over an hour. It will be available to see on demand following. We will be led by Steve Cordle (author of our Lent Resource The Jesus Shaped Life), Jessica Lagrone, Lo Alaman, Mark Swayze, and I will be there too. It is a free event but you will need to register to participate. Do that here.
For the Awakening,