If you say this is who you are, and you know this is who you are, then prove it. Show it: how confident are you? Are you prepared to leave everything and everyone behind? What are you holding on to? What are the notions of how your story pans out that you are still rivetted to that are preventing you from being who you have been called to be? I encourage you to be open even to notions that you weren’t aware that you had been holding onto…notions that have been in your blind spot.
A Reminder of Who You Are
The Epistle for today, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 1 Peter 2:2-10 ends on this note:
These are pretty enabling words, wouldn’t you say?
Let me give you a bit of context. This letter was one of several Catholic (or general) Letters written to groups of Christians (in this case, churches in five provinces of Asia Minor). This letter is categorised differently from the letters written to churches in a specific community (such as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, in Rome, etc). This letter was written to churches in several areas, hence the name, Catholic.
That’s the first characteristic of the letter. The second characteristic and, which for me, is more relevant to the purposes of this week’s message is the context of the people to whom the letter was addressed. The people receiving this letter were recent converts to Christianity who, for their conversion, were being attacked. Of course, under attack, they began to question their newfound identity, and maybe even considered reverting to their former ways. The letter wass intended to encourage them in their persecution, and beyond their self-doubt. The letter was meant to keep them looking forward to who they were being called to be, and not to be intimidated by those around them who, through their hostility towards the recent converts, threatened the recently-reconciled-in-Christ to return to their former ways.
Threats to Our Identity
Beloveds, centuries have passed, but this message is still relevant. As Christians, daily we are enticed to abandon our ways, to be more accommodating, to be woke. Truth be told, I don’t know how sober some of the ‘woke’ mindsets are calling us to be and one wonders how vigilant they leave us. Increasingly in public spaces, we are being forced to conceal our Christian identity – we can’t display the cross, we wonder: can we wish other Merry Christmas and Happy Easter? Referencing God is taboo, except to curse. And, if practices in the contemporary world offend us, we’re accused of being intolerant. And, while we might not be killed in this life by our persecutors, if we are not confident, they do threaten our access to eternal life.
Individually, we might have decided to stop practices as we seek a deeper relationship with God, or to abstain from others. The challenge, though, is that those with whom we might have engaged in those activities taunt us – they mock us, they jeer at us, they ostracise us. We might even try restricting our association with persons whose lifestyle doesn’t quite align with the one we seek to develop. Sometimes, those persons keep reaching out to us, making the separation that much more difficult or painful.
In short, as a community and as individuals, we, very much like the churches in Asia Minor during the last decade of the first century in the Common Era when 1 Peter was written, are under attack. It is for this reason that it is so important that we maintain community, that we come together so that we can find the strength together to be who we were called to be in Christ. It is for this reason that it is important that we continue to rebuild community so that we can re-establish connections with those who might have fallen by the wayside, so affected have they been by the forces pulling them away from the Body of Christ. It is so important that we go into our communities and find others who are seeking something more, something deeper, so that we can bring them into the gathering of God’s people.
Confidence in Community
My fellow believers, it is important, for in coming together, we are likely to grow in confidence.
Just how important, though, is the need to be confident? Well, 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us that God’s own people ‘proclaim the mighty acts of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvellous light’. But who can proclaim anything without having the confidence to do it?
Let me ask you: Students, have you ever had a teacher who was not too certain of the lesson to be taught? How well did you learn? Adults, have you ever attempted to purchase a product but the person attending to you was clueless? How did that interaction end? Confidence, beloveds, empowers us. Confidence gives us the strength we need to go out there and proclaim the message. 1 Peter 2:9 also tells us the message to be proclaimed: the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness.
Confidence through Sobriety & Vigilance
In order, though, for us to proclaim those mighty acts, we must be sober and vigilant – taking note of the things God does for us in our daily lives. If you’re receiving this message – thank God, for it is God who has given you the alertness of mind to be able to receive this message. Let’s go a step back: it is God who woke you up today and gave you that alertness of mind. It is God who allowed you to receive the education that is allowing you to understand the message. And these are just a few of the things that God has done. What about the special things that God did for you yesterday – things that were unique to yesterday? What about the special things that God has already done for you today? You see, there is much to be proclaimed if only we would be sober and vigilant, if only we would be really woke and recognise what God is doing in our lives every day. And, if we are sober and vigilant, and practise gratitude for what God is doing, then we are readily confident to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness.
Turning now to the Gospel, John 14:1-14, in another of His ‘I Am’ discourses, Jesus says to the Thomas in verse 6, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Dear ones, could Jesus have uttered those words convincingly had He been lacking in confidence? Jesus knew who He was, and this confidence empowered Him to do the work He had come to do. As He continued in verse 7, ‘If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Continuing in confidence, Jesus declares in verses 10 and 11, ‘The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me’.
Confidence in Who We Are
Confidence in who we are and in the Power that allows us to be who we are allows us to proclaim the mighty acts. Confidence allows us to attend to and dispel the doubt of others as Jesus did with Thomas in today’s Gospel. Confidence allows us to act in faith, assured of the things that we hope for and convicted of the things that we have not seen. Confidence allows us to continue on the path to purpose. Confidence allows us to withstand the persecution just as Stephen, the Church’s first martyr did as related in today’s Lesson, Acts 7:55-60. Confidence even allows us to pray, as Stephen did, ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them’. Confidence allows us to take refuge in God when we are under attack, as the Psalmist prayed in today’s Response, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16.
I return now to the question: how confident are you? Are you confident enough to proclaim the mighty works of the one who called you out of darkness, and to be counted among the nation of God’s people? Are you confident enough to say who you are in the Father, enough to dispel the doubt of others and even your self-doubt? Are you confident enough to withstand persecution, and in that persecution, to pray for the forgiveness for those who persecute you? Finally, are you confident enough to seek refuge in God, knowing that God will rescue you from the hands of your enemies, and from those who persecute you? Dear ones, it is said that St Francis of Assisi encouraged us to preach the Gospel at all times, and, when necessary, to use words. In like fashion, if we are truly confident in who we are called to be, let us be who we are called to be, and when necessary, we use words.
My dear ones, I have shared with you in the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit. Amen.
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