Lectionary Year A
April 21, 2002
1 Peter 2:19-25

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


This pericope seems to have three salient features - 1) suffering, unjustly and justly, 2) Jesus Christ, who suffered for our good, and 3) how Jesus' suffering (more than ours) heals us from being lost. Possibly, our lostness includes our wanting credit for suffering unjustly. The proverbial "center of gravity" could be Jesus suffering, righteousness and leaving us a model to follow. From that center, we see that our suffering pales in comparison and following it and we discern that we are far better off when we return to the shepherd and guardian of our lives.


19 Being aware of God, you can benefit even from enduring pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you are punished for doing wrong, what honor do you gain standing firm? However, if you endure suffering while doing right, you gain God's approval. 21 For you were called for this - that Christ also suffered and for you. Furthermore, He left you an example so you could follow in His ways. 22 He never sinned nor was deceit found in His mouth. 23 He was insulted and did not return the insult. He suffered but did not threaten (those at whose hands He suffered). Instead, He handed over Himself to the One who judges justly. 24 He Himself bore our sinfulness in His body on the cross. He did so to obliterate our sinfulness so that righteously we live. By His wounds we are healed. 25 For you were like sheep wandering astray. Yet, you returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your lives.


When Americans today suffer any adversity or, indeed, feel any pain in the least, we tend to look for the unfairness of it. Furthermore, we are "scorekeepers" of the first order. We could benefit much more if we would concentrate on becoming more and more constantly aware of God, God's presence and God's activities even in our days and times. God's activities reach their ultimate in Jesus' passion and death, to say nothing of the resurrection, as does the text. Living for righteousness moves us through to process on toward the goal of our reversal from our habitually going astray. Such reversals are of a magnitude for those of us who are, for the most part, and certainly on the surface, appear to be, smugly satisfied with our lives' directions and accomplishments. Focusing more on God and on the Christ event could relieve us of our fantasies relative to our pretended goodness, etc.


A Good Place To Come Back To

Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.

      The small town in Oklahoma where George and Kathy raised a daughter and a son was not a stronghold of the Roman Catholic faith. But George and Kathy were faithfully raised as Roman Catholics, and they were determined to bring up their two children in the same manner. They brought them for baptism to the small parish where they belonged when each was a wee infant. That fact in itself was a puzzle to most of the townsfolk, who were members of either the Baptist Church or the Church of Christ, neither of which practiced infant baptism.

      First Communion at age seven and parochial school starting with the first grade. Taught by nuns. All the good stuff faithful Roman Catholic kids are supposed to do learn from the time they could learn. They were shining examples of what Catholic parents expected of their children.

      But that little Oklahoma town was also a breeding ground of cultic groups. Strange and distorted offshoots of Christianity grew like weeds in that small community; no one knew exactly why. It was a puzzle to the good Baptists and Church of Christ folks and to the small cadre of Roman Catholics in town.

      Even more of a puzzle was why they were an attraction to some of the young people. The son and daughter of George and Kathy were under the spell of one particularly weird cult. They left their parents stunned and hurt one evening as they announced that they were renouncing not only their Roman Catholic upbringing, but also their family name. "We're starting over with a new religion, and it's going to save the world," they told their parents - almost as though that statement had never been made before.

      When it became obvious after a few weeks that George and Kathy couldn't get to first base trying to persuade their two teenagers otherwise, the parents went to their priest. "Father Baker, we're at our wits' end. We don't know where to turn next," they said wearily. "Is there anything you can do?"

      Father Baker paused before answering. "This has happened here before," he said, "many times, to members of our parish as well as to those of some other churches in and around town. I'm as stumped as you are. But I've learned one thing; that is, you can't argue them out of it. The more you try to argue with them, the more determined they are to stay with whatever group they've hooked up with."

      "Are you saying," George questioned, "something like Jesus said - that is, the only way you can deal with this is by prayer? He said something like that, didn't he?"

      Father Baker agreed, "Yes, that's close enough. And I think that's right. We will pray about it, and I'm sure you are doing the same. Let's not minimize the power and effect of prayer in this kind of situation."

      "We always thought we raised them in the right way in the Catholic faith," Kathy said with some resignation in her voice.

      "Believe me, you did," Father Baker replied. "And I've been around long enough t believe that the seeds you and the church planted in them will bear fruit. I believe some day we'll see them return - to you, and to the church. The faith we teach is, after all, a good place to return to."

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