Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.
‘Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God…
Now, ‘you are a holy nation…
(so) that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ 1 Peter 2:9-10
It’ll be old news by the time you’re reading this, but I’ve been struck by something Sajid Javid shared on this week’s BBC Sunday Morning show: ‘I made my decision then, sitting there listening to his sermon, and I just thought, it’s about integrity, it’s about a duty’. As far as I’m aware Sajid Javid has never professed his faith in God, but as on countless occasions throughout human history, He speaks and those with ears to hear respond. If someone not yet professing faith in Jesus Christ is called to become more like him, how much more should I be listening attentively to his voice?
Peter is speaking to those already known as followers of Jesus. During the first century they were frequently referred to as followers of ‘the way’. How are we known? This ‘label’ wasn’t chosen, this was no marketing strategy aimed at outsiders, this was a given nickname, the result of others’ observation of their behaviour. I regularly recall a poster on someone’s wall some years ago asking ‘if you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you’. In the first century church Peter was writing to this was precisely the source of their challenges – people could see the evidence in front of their eyes of lives lived in the same direction as ‘the way’ of Jesus.
In chapter 1 Peter has already revealed something of the heart of God for all his people in saying: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ Impossible? Absolutely! That is, if it relies on my ability. However, now he reveals ‘how’ – God has acted deliberately and distinctly to make you and I, ‘a holy nation’. NB. We’re only a nation together.
Holiness. Not a popular word today. Peter understood, first-hand, why we shrink away from its challenge and demand.
When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
When we see Jesus as he is, this is our response. Jesus the truth: we have no right to be identified with him at all. Yet Jesus full of truth and grace. Peter knew what I know, what I hope and pray everyone reading knows, he is both truth and grace. When we see our need, when we recognise in relationship to Jesus we are ‘sinful’, Jesus converts our crisis into opportunity – to receive his grace. He calls us ‘out of darkness into his wonderful light’ and we simply accept.
How wonderful to hear the stories, shared at our annual gathering in July, of so many people being baptised as a result of seeing Jesus as he is. I’ve recently returned from a visit to the Isle of Lewis & Harris. Whilst there I had the rich privilege of talking with people now in their nineties, who were converted during The Lewis Awakening 1949-53. There are plenty of stories in Lewis and Harris of God revealing what people could not. Norman Campbell spoke of the night he was converted: ‘Suddenly a light like the brightness of the sun, on this dark night, shone around us. I looked up to see where the light was coming from – His face!’
I conclude with a challenge for each of our Webnet churches: will you join me in praying for God to move again in a way, which ‘declares his praises’ and reveals ‘his wonderful light’? Whilst we live in increasingly challenging times, I am so encouraged by these words of Peter.
When darkness falls the light will shine.