Reflection on 1 Peter 1:3-9
Sunday 26th April
One of the (many) notable things about the changes that have taken place over the last couple of months has been the way that certain words and phrases have so quickly become normal. Words like “Social Distancing”, “Self-Isolation” and “PPE” , which most of us had barely heard of in February now roll off the tongue like we’ve been saying them all our lives.
One word which has been particularly well used is “unprecedented”. These are ‘unprecedented’ times, they made an ‘unprecedented’ decision, the closures are ‘unprecedented’. There is no doubt that these are indeed strange times but I wonder if they are really ‘unprecidented’, or have we simply got so used to the miracles of modern medicine and the wonders of scientific advancement that events like this have passed out of our collective memory? As the bible says in the book of Ecclesiastes – “There is nothing new under the sun”
Luca had to go to the doctors a couple of weeks ago for his immunisation injections – a quick trip out, a couple of days of discomfort, and he is now forever protected against various diseases that not so long ago would have presented a very real threat to the lives of millions of children.
It is very strange for us to not be able to gather in our churches to worship in the way that we have been used to. It is very strange to see these beautiful buildings that have stood as a sign of God’s presence in our villages for hundreds of years now lying empty. But this kind of collective exile which we are currently undergoing is far from new in the world, and it’s far from new in the Church.
Christians down the ages have found themselves isolated, exiled and alone. Sometimes through circumstance, sometimes through choice, and they have always found comfort in the knowledge that God is with them, just as he is with us now.
St Peter’s first letter was written “to the exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” These were Christians who had been scattered from their homes by persecution, driven apart from one another and who were now reeling with the shock of losing all that was familiar to them – perhaps not so dissimilar to how many of us are feeling right now
And Peter writes to comfort them in their distress by reminding them that, even though they are suffering now, they will endure with the strength and comfort that comes from the risen Christ.
And then he says to them: “so you rejoice with a great and glorious joy”. Now the interesting thing about that phrase is that it’s not at all clear what Peter actually means, and in fact in all likelihood Peter deliberately made it unclear. “So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy”
It may mean “you are now rejoicing”, for some people those challenging times – these challenging times – bring their own blessings. Getting to know your neighbours, more time to spend on activities you enjoy, perhaps time to read the Bible and pray, and it’s ok to rejoice in those blessings.
Or it may mean “you should rejoice” – when we are anxious or under stress, finding reasons to rejoice or be grateful can be a powerful way of keeping ourselves going, keeping ourselves hopeful.
Or it may mean “you will rejoice” Peter may be saying I know that things are difficult now, I know that the world has been turned upside down and you are anxious about the future, but the day will come when you will rejoice again. “So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy”
I don’t know which of those resonate with you today, but however you are finding these unprecedented times I hope and pray that you know that you will endure, we will endure, through the strength and comfort that comes from the risen Christ.
As the old hymn puts it, “Rejoice! the Lord is king!” Amen.
Click below to listen to this week’s reflection as part of the service recorded for our Telephone Church Service