Living well as God’s exiles
When Peter addresses us as elect strangers (1 Peter 1:1-2) he isn’t just reminding us pilgrims that our final destination is out of this world. And Peter is saying more than that as aliens our allegiance is to a different king, even though election reminds us that somewhere there’s a kingdom being built just for me. Even more, Peter is telling us that it is OK not to fit in; it is OK to be a little strange.
Twenty-five centuries ago, the exiles in Babylon were wondering the same thing – could they be comfortable in a strange land? So they wrote this song:
By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion . . . .
How can we sing songs to the Lord while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137)
The first place I heard this song was not in church. Linda Ronstadt, one of my favorite singers growing up, did a lot of great covers – Elvis Costello’s “Allison,” Warren Zevon’s “Hasten Down the Wind,” Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears,” and Neil Young’s “Love Is A Rose.” But my favorite is the old spiritual turned into a reggae hit by the Melodians, “Rivers of Bablyon.” Yes, Psalm 137.
From Babylon in the fifth century BC, to Asia Minor in the first century AD, to Nashville in 1976 the message has been the same – keep your eyes on your God and you’ll find a reason to praise him:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
Peter tells us that whether the enemy is Nebuchadnezzar or Nero, God’s people have lived well as exiles by praising him. We do it when we build our faith by suffering (1 Peter 1:7). We praise God when we are priests together and when we learn to submit (1 Peter 2:12). And we praise God when we use our spiritual gifts to serve each other (1 Peter 4:11). Yes, that does sound like a sermon series.
Maybe living well is the best revenge for strangers.
Keep the faith, Pastor Doug Fakkema, Anacortes CRC