I Peter 2.1-12 (CEV)
1Stop being hateful! Quit trying to fool people, and start being sincere. Don't be jealous or say cruel things about others. 2Be like newborn babies who are thirsty for the pure spiritual milk that will help you grow and be saved. 3You have already found out how good the Lord really is.
4Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone that people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honored. 5And now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God. 6It is just as God says in the Scriptures,
"Look! I am placing in Zion
a choice and precious
No one who has faith
in that one
will be disappointed."
7You are followers of the Lord, and that stone is precious to you. But it isn't precious to those who refuse to follow him. They are the builders who tossed aside the stone that turned out to be the most important one of all. 8They disobeyed the message and stumbled and fell over that stone, because they were doomed.
9But you are God's chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. The Scriptures say,
10"Once you were nobody.
Now you are God's people.
At one time no one
had pity on you.
Now God has treated you
11Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you. 12Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honor God by telling the good things they saw you do.
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In the first of this series, we asked the initial question arising from the I Peter text: "Who are we?" Then, we asked the second question, "If that is who we are, what is our function?" And I addressed the first and, then, second of five actions. I, again, give the functions in the I Peter passage, quoting from the Scriptures:
1) Come to Jesus Christ.
2) And now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house.
3) You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices
that please God.
4) Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done.
5) Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong.
The Peter writer has reminded us that we are a people, "living stones," the Spirit is using to construct a spiritual temple. A temple needs priests. We are, hence, a temple in process and a holy priesthood. Again, identity precedes function.
What are we priests to be doing? Offering sacrifices. These sacrifices are not, however, the material ones found under the older covenant. Now we offer spiritual sacrifices:
So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.
*Romans 12.1-2 (NCV)
The offering we offer is our very selves. This implies that all we do through our body-selves is to be an offering to God. Our selves, including the body, finds its purpose for existing in offering all one is and does as a "good and pleasing" sacrifice to our Sacred Source.
Of much import is the word "holy," for we are not just priests, we are holy priests. Each Christian is a holy priest; this, while not disregarding the right and need of hierarchy in spiritual community to act on behalf of the whole Body, brings the Christian vision to where churches must go in relationships between laity and clergy. Laity and clergy serve one sacred calling, though in different ways still single. For laity and clergy alike are holy priests. For too long, in too many churches, laity have esteemed that they paid the priest or pastor to serve for them, rather than the priest or pastor equipping for the church to serve itself and through itself as themselves consecrated ministers.
Holiness, while having moral implications, means consecrated to the Divine service, set apart to the Sacred. So, to be a holy priest implies being ordained directly by the Holy Spirit. No church can give one this ordination. Whatever rite that church offers can at best be a means of grace affirming the call. Yet, an ordination rite cannot claim more than being a material act confirming and blessing an inner, sacred summons, a spiritual and interior consecration that only the Holy Spirit enacts.
We could posit the question of ordaining all laity. Actually, we already do that in churches that have membership vows. Yet, the focus on "ordained" versus "non-ordained" classes sets up a dichotomy that confuses the matter of ordination. The very language ordination and ordained needs to be used in regard to both laity and clergy. This will encourage higher standards of faithfulness among laity, while possibly doing humbling of some of us among the clergy. Indeed, if there were to arise strong resistance to this pervasive "ordination," such would likely arise from among the clergy, most especially denominational leadership.
My contention is language used by the churches is formative of action ~ language is always formative of consciousness and, so, action ~ , and the double-language in "ordained" and "non-ordained" is likely a factor in laxity of many Christians in regard to their vows, their ordination.
Finally, how are we to offer ourselves as a sacred offering? The answer is clear: "with the help of Jesus Christ." Christ comes to us through the Spirit that He promised to send to be our helper-companion, to assist us to fulfill our ordination ~ to will and do whatever He calls upon us to do.
So, there is a loving all-potency, available beyond our normal energies:
Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
*Colossians 1.28-29, ESV
I have called this "loving all-potency." Why? Love is not merely a nice, sentimental feeling. In the Christian view of spirituality, Love is sacrificial affect and personal power. If we subtract power, we become weak sentimentalist. If we subtract Love, we become arrogant, malicious bullies. Christian Love is powerful, while Christian power is loving.
The center of the Love-Power is contacted in the contemplative God-Space, the Center where God Be-ing and Human Be-ing join in a single Embrace. Contemplation is Grace welcoming a consecrated person into the interiority of union with the Mystery of Loving Power, a Mystery that neither our words personal nor impersonal can capture in thought or rite.
* * *
*Brian K. Wilcox lives with his wife, Rocio, their two dogs, St. Francis and Bandit Ty, and their fish, Hope, in Florida. Brian is vowed at Greenbough House of Prayer, a contemplative Christian community in Georgia. He lives a contemplative life and inspires others to experience a deeper relationship with Christ. He advocates for a spiritually-focused Christianity and the renewal of the focus of the Church on addressing the deeper spiritual needs and longings of persons and empathic relating with diverse spiritual traditions, East and West.
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