Lectionary Reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Peter (BTCB) by Douglas Harink, commenting on 1 Peter 5:6-11:

Among the “elect exiles of the Diaspora” humility toward one another in the community is grounded most fundamentally in our relationship with God. In all things the triune God is the source, power, and end of the messianic life.

As Peter now comes to the end of his letter he again acknowledges the exilic vulnerability of the messianic community, which is so often under attack and therefore subject to anxiety and suffering. He calls the community to live its life within the gracious care of God.

Peter’s point in saying “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God” (5:6) is not to “put us in our place” before God, but rather to call us to entrust ourselves to God’s care in the most radical sense.

The messianic life is possible only under this condition—that we trust God absolutely in every circumstance. Only such trust will free us from the constant and normal temptations to assert our own power in circumstances, to take down the enemy or oppressor, to seek our own good, to establish our own rights, to attain our own position of honor, or, most basically, simply to defend ourselves and secure our own safety.

Without humble trust in “the mighty hand of God,” how would we be able to follow the way of the Messiah, who did not do any of those things, but rather, “entrust[ing] himself to the one who judges justly” (2:23), walked the journey from divine glory to the cross?

All messianic life must, therefore, be other than a mere imitation of Christ carried out by the sheer power of human will. It must be a participation in Christ whose own life of trust (which is the root of his sinlessness) precedes, defines, bears, and completes ours.

The Messiah is the Alpha and Omega of the messianic life. He humbled himself under the mighty hand of God, entrusted himself radically into God’s hand, and endured shame, suffering, and death, in order that in him we might also humble ourselves and trust God.

 

©2009 by Douglas Harink. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Peter (BTCB) by Douglas Harink, commenting on 1 Peter 3:13-22:

Here again we see why the call to “be subordinate” is good news. Those who have no worldly image, honor, authority, and rule to gain or lose, to horde or defend, also need not be troubled by or “fear what they [the ones doing harm] fear” (3:14). Freed from such fear, God’s people are also freed up for the goodness to which they are called.

Having relinquished their own desires and labors toward sovereignty by being subordinate, they make “holy room” (hagiasate, “sanctify”; 3:15) in their hearts for only one sovereign, Christ the Lord, who, as Peter repeatedly reminds us, enacted his sovereignty on the cross. He is the one in whom our desires find their end and fulfillment. In him we already share, as much as we allow, in the gracious infinite fullness of the triune God. What more do we need? What is there to fear?

Such a free and revolutionary life as lived by the followers of Christ will surely provoke a host of questions from those who observe it, from those whose hopes, expectations, and habits of thought and practice have been withered and misshapen by the powers of this age: How can a person reasonably follow Christ?

How can anyone live such a “subordinate” life?

How can it be good, especially if it brings suffering?

How can you think that justice is being done in the world by it?

How can you turn the other cheek, walk another mile, give your shirt as well as your coat?

How can you not desire to wield the power that the rulers and masters do, so that at least you can do the good and the justice that they are not doing?

How can families, societies, nations, and empires be expected to live in such an anarchic manner?

Would that not be the end of the world as we know it?

Indeed!

 

©2009 by Douglas Harink. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Peter (BTCB) by Douglas Harink, commenting
on 1 Peter 2:2-10:

As those newly begotten by God through the word, we now, like hungry infants, turn all of our desire toward that “milk of the word” with which our lives are fully nourished until the day of our salvation.

We receive this nourishment through the church’s preaching and sacraments. We receive it in the sanctorum communio, the concrete, gathered life together of the messianic community.

We receive it through the practices of corporate and personal scripture reading and study under the rule of faith. We receive it through the testimony of the saints and the writings of the Christian tradition. In each of these ways, and more, Christ gives himself to us as our food.

Quoting Ps. 34:8 in 1 Pet. 2:3, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” Peter subtly and imaginatively makes an aural connection between milk or food and Christ himself.

Muers writes: “The passage we are considering [1 Pet. 2:2–3] is not explicitly Christological, but the words of verse 3—in their materiality, in the sounds they make—contain an echo; chrestos ho kurios, ‘the Lord is good,’ Christos ho kurios, Christ is Lord. This echo in turn serves as a reminder that the addressees of 1 Peter are being asked to relearn their desire in relationship to Jesus Christ. The indispensable condition of their need being met, of their being able to ‘grow up into salvation,’ is a particular human body.”

Peter appeals to our spiritual sense: the food that is Christ himself is not merely “good for us” because of its “nutritional value.” It is also delectable: it tastes good! Our desire for this food is moved not only by hunger, but also by delight; not only by need, but also by attraction; not only from our lack, but also from the savory allure of that which will abundantly fill it—God’s goodness. “He has filled the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53).

Having once experienced this gourmet offering, which is truly good beyond imagining, how could we wish to return to the flavorless fast foods offered in the markets, malls, and carnivals of our society? In the kingdom of God the glorious, life-giving banquet is the big attraction (cf. Isa. 25:6; Luke 14:12–24). The aroma and flavor of Christ’s sheer goodness invite us: Come and dine!

©2009 by Douglas Harink. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Peter (BTCB) by Douglas Harink, commenting
on 1 Peter 2:19-25:

Many forceful human uprisings against existing orders are attempts to overcome a sin of injustice—the sin of the illegitimate or oppressive regime, the sin of the cruel master, the sin of the abusive misogynist—to free oneself from such sin’s consequences, and to make the world right.

And who would not immediately see the justice in so many of those attempts to undo the injustices of the world? Justice must finally be done, the balance restored, if the whole human struggle for life is not to devolve into an empty striving after the wind. The struggle for justice is what makes us human.

But does history not also reveal in all too abundant and horrific detail that that struggle is itself not only the child but also the mother of further injustice? And so it goes. Who shall deliver us from this body of death? Where and how shall justice be done?

The gospel is that God does justice in Jesus Christ. God wars against injustice when the divine Son “becomes flesh” and takes “the form of a slave,” entering fully into the deepest and broadest realms of injustice, becoming vulnerable to its consequences, absorbing its destructive power, and allowing himself to be conquered by its agents, to be crucified.

In this ultimate act of submission to the power of injustice, Christ reveals his ultimate freedom to be just; that is, in his own death, to honor, serve, and forgive the very agents of human injustice that murder him, rather than to inflict their just punishment upon them.

The Father receives and honors this ultimate act of life-giving justice by giving life to the just one, raising him from the dead, revealing him as the one in whom alone true justice is eternally enacted. The Holy Spirit draws and binds us to this just one and makes us participants in his justice as we both receive it and do it.

We become a people who learn to forsake the false promises, practices, and protections of the rulers of this age and to dwell under the sovereign healing, guidance, and protection of Jesus Christ: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:24–25).

In such a people nations, societies, and families in bondage to injustice might begin to perceive, however dimly, God’s justice for all in the Messiah, and to do it.

 

©2009 by Douglas Harink. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.