April 26, 2020

Staying Together Apart

Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-7
Service Type:

Staying Together Apart

April 26, 2020

In the 6th century BC the people of God went about their lives as if God didn’t matter any more. They lost their first love. They started worshipping other gods and neglected to poor.  It was then that the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem, destroyed the city, leveled the Temple, and dragged the people away to become their slaves 800 miles away in what today is Iraq.  We call this The Exile.

And while the people of God were in exile, they remembered how they had left their first love, and forgot about God. They repented that they neglected the poor and worshipped things and foreign gods instead of putting their trust in Yahweh God.

And as they repented amazingly, they congealed closer together into an identity that was centered upon the God, Yahweh, and it was in Babylon that the people of God were first called Jews – the people from Judah. In their incarceration God was doing something great. God was reforming a people for God’s own purpose and glory.

It was in Babylon that they had a choice, to assimilate into Babylonian society and lose their identity as Jews or decide to congeal even closer together and identify themselves as Jews. This Exile period proved that nothing would be worse than losing one’s identity. Today Jews when taking about themselves say, we were once slaves in Babylon, though no one today ever lived in 6th Century BC Babylon.

God was redeeming the bad bringing good. So many wonderful things happened that would not have happened if not for The Exile.  Not only did the people of God come together as a stronger people devoted to loving God and loving each other. Not only did they congeal as a community of faith and unity. But it was during The Exile that most of the Old Testament was written down. As if to say – this is who we are, and this is what we believe, and this is how we will live. As if too help all generations to follow say, Ahhh, finally, someone knows what it is like to be me.

It was that Old Testament that formulated who Jesus was. He read those words, and in his own abuse and rejection and mistreatment and marginalization he would read, I am not abandoned by my God – no, I will live in this world and know that God is in it with me bringing good from bad.

He would go on to tell his friends, In this world you will face tribulation, but take heart – I have overcome the world. 

No wonder Peter, Jesus’ disciple and friend would go on to write these words – listen to the references to The Exile…

To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

By this time, the Christian believers are facing all kinds of persecution.  Entire congregations were being hunted down and so they were scattered all over the Greek world. No longer in a lonely corner of Israel but forced to flee they populated all Europe.

Peter calls them exiles, away from the land they loved. And yet he is acknowledging God was doing something through it and through them – God was using them to spread the good news of God’s redemption and love for all humanity – not just the Jews and not just a handful of Jesus-followers.

Peter goes on to praise God for doing a good thing in the midst of the bad. He writes them this to regenerate their minds to God’s perspective.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Paul puts it this way when he pens his letter to the church that was exiled to Rome as it grew day by day, See, God causes all things to work together for them that love the Lord and are called according to God’s purposes.

So take heart. Exiled Ones in your own Babylons. God is forming anew a people for God’s purposes and glory – and look – it includes the entire world!

And so, people of the Exile, you’re awaiting your true home – that eternal inheritance awaiting each of us.

Yet God is at work in us and in this time of isolation and caution. As if we ourselves are being tested in exiled and unable to live as we want. Yet will our identity as God’s people be renewed.

Will we be reminded who we are? What our purpose is? You are created by God for God. We are not slaves to Babylon, Rome, jobs, sickness, disease, finances. We are children of God and the Bible says, And if children then Heirs of the Kingdom of God. You know what an heir is – you inherit it all!

So, what is God doing? How do you see God at work.? Where is the redemption in it all?

And please I do not mean to undermine the pain and loss of jobs, and health, and life, and so many other things – in fact being in exile acknowledges the pain and loss.

But as God was doing good things in Babylon so God is doing good things with us and our world.

And here’s what I want you to do – I want to hear from you. How do you see God at work?  Reply even now if you wish in your Facebook Comments, email me, text me, call me. I want to know where I am missing God.

But here’s some ways I do see God at work.

  1. God is bringing us back to God, calling us to reprioritize our lives.

To align our lives with God as God, calling us back to the heart of worship

  • God is teaching us to slow down.
  • God is giving our world a well-deserved rest.

Look at the cleaner skies, the animals coming out of hiding and the renewal of waterways and canals.

Ironically what was this past Wednesday –   Earth Day!

  • God is teaching us to care more for others.

Each one of us has had to take a new look at how we perceive the poor.

  • We are learning how fragile life is and how we need each other.
  • God is teaching us to appreciate what we have – who thought toilet paper would be such a coveted commodity?
  • And finally, this sent to me from my cousin Suzanne D’Angelo Coyle.

God is uniting all humanity together, for no one is untouched in some way by coronavirus.

WHEN YOU GO OUT AND SEE THE EMPTY STREETS, THE EMPTY STADIUMS, THE EMPTY TRAIN PLATFORMS, DON'T SAY TO YOURSELF, "IT LOOKS LIKE THE END OF THE WORLD."

WHAT YOU'RE SEEING IS LOVE IN ACTION. WHAT YOU’RE SEEING, IN THAT NEGATIVE SPACE, IS HOW MUCH WE DO CARE FOR EACH OTHER, FOR OUR GRANDPARENTS, FOR OUR IMMUNO-COMPROMISED BROTHERS AND SISTERS, FOR PEOPLE WE WILL NEVER MEET.

PEOPLE WILL LOSE JOBS OVER THIS. SOME WILL LOSE THEIR BUSINESSES. AND SOME WILL LOSE THEIR LIVES. ALL THE MORE REASON TO TAKE A MOMENT, WHEN YOU’RE OUT ON YOUR WALK, OR ON YOUR WAY TO THE STORE, OR JUST WATCHING THE NEWS, TO LOOK INTO THE EMPTINESS AND MARVEL AT ALL OF THAT LOVE.

LET IT FILL YOU AND SUSTAIN YOU.

IT ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD. IT IS THE MOST REMARKABLE ACT OF GLOBAL SOLIDARITY WE MAY EVER WITNESS.