TEXT: 1 Peter 2:9-10
If I were asked to come out one evening to speak to a group of people, do you know what one of the first things I would do would be? I would check with Heather.
When our children were living at home and they wanted to go out or stay out late or go out of town, what would they do? They would check with us, their parents. And even as young adults, if they are home, we all still communicate our plans with each other.
These commitments and connections are not just among family members; we also bear in mind our communities. Recently our new across-the-street neighbors were going to be out of town for a couple of days and they asked us to pick up several packages that they knew would be delivered to their front porch. We don’t know them well, but it was a simple neighborly act.
We are people of community and responsibility. Sometimes we don’t do that well, but it is true nonetheless, and it extends to the practice of our faith as well.
In the second half of our summer series we are looking at seven major themes of the New Testament. We have talked about FULFILLMENT, as Jesus embodies God’s promises and redemptive plan for humanity. We have talked about the KINGDOM of God, featured prominently in Jesus’ teaching and ministry. We have talked about the meaning of the CROSS, both as atoning sacrifice and call to follow Jesus. We have talked about GRACE, God’s gift of love, mercy, and reconciliation toward us in Christ. And this week we return to a theme that featured prominently in the Old Testament as well: COVENANT.
Covenant describes God’s actions toward and with fallen humanity to rescue, redeem, and restore us to God. We have looked at covenants with Abraham and David and today we will look at a “new covenant” made through Jesus. And as with many of the themes in the Old Testament, we will see that Jesus doesn’t do away with them, but explains and fulfills (and sometimes expands) them in himself.
We’ve talked a lot this summer about God’s covenant with Abraham. In short, God initiated a relationship with Abraham, promising to bless him and his children, and through them bless humanity, the nations, and the world. Most of the Old Testament has something to do with that covenant. There are two parts to that second half that I want to highlight. First, God blessed Abraham and his children in order that they might bless others. We remember that simply as “blessed to be a blessing.” Faith and a relationship with God always overflow and turn outward toward others!
Secondly, that blessing was to extend broadly beyond Abraham and his immediate family. It was for the nations, for all humanity, for the world. And so we are reminded, even in the midst of the Psalms – the songs and prayers of Israel – of what we heard as the call to worship:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples. (Psalm 105:1)
And as you may remember, prophets like Micah extended the mission of blessing beyond only making God’s deeds known; we are also to make God’s priorities known through actions like “doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.”
Enter Jesus… Jesus lifted up significant themes of the Old Testament like the Law, sacrifices, Kingdom, and the promises of Messiah, and claimed fulfillment of them in himself. In some cases he took the message of prophets like Isaiah, and explained their message in a new way: explaining that he was the “suffering servant” sent to make an atoning sacrifice through his own suffering and death.
And… he took the covenant with Abraham and declared a “new covenant” centered in his own body and blood. You may recognize that as part of the language around the Lord’s Supper, repeated from his own words at the Table the night before his death.
This [bread] is my body which is given for you…
This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20)
Jesus saw his own work as Messiah, King, suffering servant, and Son of God as a fulfillment and expansion of the covenant with Abraham. We read of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost where the message about Jesus is proclaimed to Jews and Gentiles in languages of many peoples. We read in Ephesians 2:15 that in the blood of Christ, “God might make the two into one, thus establishing peace.” The promise to Abraham that he would be “blessed to be a blessing” is fulfilled and expanded in Christ.
And New Testament writers go to some length to connect the two. In Romans we read that in Christ we non-Jews are grafted into the tree that is Abraham’s family. In other words, Jesus covenant is rooted in God’s covenant with Abraham in such a way that we participate in both. In Christ, all who believe become “children of Abraham.”
Me (and You!)
And here’s the part I want to focus on, because it has come up nearly every week this summer. I want to focus on the “to be a blessing” part. It’s easy to focus on the ‘blessed’ part, which is shorthand for experiencing God’s salvation, love, mercy, and presence. It represents God’s intention to come toward us rather than turn away. It’s surely worth celebrating and marveling over, singing praises and being thankful. But if we miss the second part, we miss something that has been integral from the beginning of the story.
In the Garden, God made humanity to enjoy His presence, but also to serve and work the garden.
With Abraham, God explicitly blessed him in order that he and his children might bless humanity, the nations, and the world.
In the Law we read of loving God, but we also read of loving neighbor (as highlighted by Jesus affirming “the greatest commandment”).
In Psalms like our call to worship we hear of not only praising God, but sharing the news of God “among the peoples.” That’s Psalm 105; the very next Psalm (106) adds that not only should we speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord (v.2), but “How blessed are those who keep justice…” (v.3).
In the Prophets we hear God’s call to return to him, but also to care for others through justice, mercy, and love.
Jesus, as we mentioned, upholds love of God and love of neighbor. In his ministry he consistently forgives, heals, and cares for the outcast and oppressed. In his understanding of his own suffering and death on the cross he offers salvation and a call to obedience and faithfulness towards others.
And notice the second part of our theme verse for today: this is who you are in order that you might do this…
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,
so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has
called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)
All this is to highlight three things:
- In Christ there is salvation for all who believe
- In Christ you are part of a community of faith, both in this local church and through God’s church in all times and places
- In Christ we are called to be a faithful community, reaching out to bless through word and deed our neighbors, community, and world
Often I think we can limit our faith to #1, it’s just between God and me. For most of you hearing my voice right now, we are part of #2, connecting to this or another local community of faith.
Where we continue to need to be stretched and challenged and engaged, is #3 – living out the blessing, enacting faithfulness, showing mercy, justice, compassion, and declaring Good News beyond the walls of our church and our own comfort zone.
This is not a new message… it goes all the way back to Abraham (if not further). And Jesus made it an imperative.
If you are hearing this, you are likely part of the community of faith. But how will you be part of the “faithful community” – being a blessing – this week. I challenge you to think of one concrete answer to that and commit to following through. And if you are inclined to share, I’d love to hear what happens! Amen.
Some Music Used
- Let Us Be Known
- Come, People of the Risen King
- By Our Love (Nockels)