Sermon: We Are God’s Peculiar People
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: May 10, 2020
Today we are looking at a text that tradition says was written by the Apostle Peter although the verdict is still out on that fact. This general epistle or letter was sent to a number of churches during a time of intense political and cultural persecution of the Church and Christians in general during the last third of the first century. 1 Peter is a letter of encouragement and was written to shore up the spirits of the persecuted Christians as well as remind them who they really are to begin with. Turn in your Bible to 1 Peter 2.2-10 located towards the end of your New Testament right before you get to the book of Revelation.
Peter is writing to a Church that was undergoing an identity crises as a result of persecution, Roman political pressure (think, Emperor Nero and the likes), antagonism from other faiths like the Jews as well as from the local, indigenous religions, and then by the age-old problem of Christian values being borrowed by the culture who follow the faith’s form but dolefully lack in its depth, purpose, and Christ-like expression. In many ways, the environment surrounding the first century church is an environment the Church finds itself ensconced today.
Church in America is losing its true Christian identity. Once considered a necessary part of our American ethos, it is viewed more negatively than in any point in our history. Like the first century, the Christian faith has been conscripted by politicians from as far back as Constantine when he decreed the Holy Roman Empire. Let us not forget that the Holy Roman Empire was established because Constantine saw how Christianity could be the thread that united his vast empire. It was because of his political shrewdness that forced the ancient Church Fathers to gather in Nicaea and come to an agreement about what being a Christian really means! The Romans had a certain way they understood Jesus. The eastern /Persian influences had an understanding of who Jesus was. The folks in Palestine understood Jesus in a very Jewish way while folks in northern Africa thought to that to know Jesus was to know the secret knowledge about who he was. Constantine told the Church to get its act together and sort out the facts about Jesus so he could have a united political power. Thank God, politics hasn’t influenced the Church in America like that today!
Church in America today is ridiculed today for being patronizing, sexist, homophobic, privileged, racist, and out of touch with who and where the people are in our culture. The church has gone to great lengths to make itself “user friendly” and has adapted to the cultural milieu instead of asking the culture to form itself to Christ’s. Contemporary critics of organized religion today indict religious folks with one of two arguments. First, they remind us that there is little difference between how Christians and pre-Christians live; it’s hard to tell the two groups apart; do people we encounter even know that we are a followers of Christ? Second, those who act like Uber-Christians are seen as unreasonable and out of touch; I cite those pastors near Miami and in Tampa that continue to hold worship services exposing their members to the virus because its their god-given right to do so.
Beloved, the Church today is in danger of losing its identity in ways the churches in the first century did. Our text today is a call for the church to reclaim her Christian identity and make a difference in the world today. Listen to the Word of the Lord!
1 Peter 2:2-10
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture:
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner,”
“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, the Good News of the Gospel is this: The Church is in a perfect position to disengage from the Constantinian shackles of reacting to and reflecting back to the surrounding culture’s demands; the opportunity lies before us, says Rodney Clapp, former editor of Christianity Today, for the Church to regain its thoroughly Christian identity and emerge as a culture of influence in its own right.
How does our text suggest we do that? First, we are return to the font of goodness to be nourished by God and not by the culture. Second, we are to build upon the foundation stone, the Source of our faith in Jesus. Third, we are to proudly reclaim our identity as God’s peculiar people!
Peter instructs you and me to be like infants who are yearning, rooting, for pure spiritual milk so that we can grow strong in our salvation. Friends, let us not forget what a hungry baby sounds and acts like! How do you know when a baby wants to be fed? That’s right! They cry and scream until the nipple is in the mouth! They are hungry, they are craving momma’s milk and will not stop letting you know it until they’re satisfied! We know that breast milk is good for newborns in that its full of essential nutrients and antibodies from the momma. There are no chemical additives; it’s warm and pure.
One of the reasons Church has lost its identity is that over the years, it has made the Bible the best-selling book in the world but also the least read as well. In one LifeWay study, it reported that only 32% of Americans who attend a Protestant church read the Bible daily. As quoted in an article on biblical literacy, the authors muse, “Perhaps Google really has made us stupid, and we’ve lost the ability to concentrate. Perhaps we’re surrounded by too many distractions. For some, the Bible gets displaced by Instagram or Twitter or (now) Disney+. For others (the Martha-types), the Bible could be crowded out by feverish serving and activities. But for many others, it’s more subtle” and the article asks you and me, “What’s your excuse?” The question of Christian identity emerges by asking ourselves, “What am I being fed by?”
Yet, our identity is also defined by the foundation upon which we build our faith. Is it the American dream? If so, what does that even mean now when the definition of “returning to normal” is as elusive as ever. Is it money, stocks and bonds? Maybe it’s real estate or even the power you perceive you have at the job. Friends, the American Dream isn’t a bad thing. Normal is not necessarily a bad thing. Money, real estate and professional influence are not bad things in and of themselves but the facts on the ground in our world today is that our Christian identity is shaped by our nationalism, party affiliation, bank account and stock portfolio as opposed to being shaped by the cornerstone, cut straight and true, named Jesus. We have lost our identity by allowing culture to shine light on our faith and not vice-versa. Our grounded identity in Jesus Christ gives meaning to our dreams, our sense of social justice expressed through our politics, as well as how we are faithful trustees of the financial provisions we have been given. The hard question Peter is asking us is whether our identity is built on the cornerstone and foundation of Christ or is our spiritual identity set upon the shifting foundations of a fickle culture?
Finally, how do we regain our Christian identity? We regain it by totally embracing the fact that we, the Church, are God’s peculiar people! Verse 9 in our version this morning reads, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The King James Version has a refreshingly appropriate reading of the same verse. It reads, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light!”
We are a chosen generation. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. A PECULIAR PEOPLE! As Dr. Clapp mentioned earlier, this is the Church’s grand moment to stand up and be a counterculture in the larger culture! This is our chance to rise up as a peculiar people who are foils to the culture around us. When culture looks at Church and Christ-followers, we should expect they view us as a peculiar people!
We are peculiar because we don’t espouse party planks but embrace the challenge of living our lives with a deeply committed sense of justice grounded in selfless giving and love.
We are peculiar because we don’t identify ourselves by whom or what we are against but are known as people who are strident about who and what they believe and who they are for.
We are peculiar because we identify with the lost and not the found, with the last and the least instead of the first and the best, with the down and out as opposed to the high and mighty.
We are a peculiar people because we are not impressed with power but are infatuated with the humble who choose to be last in line.
Beloved, what shapes your Christian character and identity in Christ? How are you getting nourished, with fatty spiritual carbohydrates that make you feel fat, happy and comfortable or through the pure spiritual breast milk of God? Which provides the foundation and cornerstone of your faith – the whims of culture or Jesus Christ? Do people know that you and I are peculiar people or are we just a part of the flow of the crowd? Let’s reflect upon these things, my friends. Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People. The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Pres, 1996), pp 39, 75.
 Bible Literacy Crisis! (And What You Can Do About It in 2020) JANUARY 14, 2020 by Justin Dillehay and Ivan Mesa. Accessed on May 7, 2020 at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bible-literacy-crisis/.