Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, and scattered…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
I’ve been thinking about last Sunday’s Gospel text from John 9, and the blind man healed by Jesus who was thrown out of the synagogue – in other words, shunned or excluded from the life of the community – has me thinking more about what it might feel like for some of you during this time of social distancing, where you aren’t experiencing some of the communal closeness you have come to take for granted both in your church communities and other communities. That community is a huge deal; the Church is not a building, it’s the people of God, and not being connected to those people might make you feel as if you are homeless.
It occurred to me that there’s another scriptural theme that relates to this idea of being cut off from what is truly “home” for them. That theme is Exile. The theme of exile begins in Genesis 3, where our first parents, after having eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, had to leave their home so that they did not eat also from the other significant Tree in the Garden, the Tree of Life. It won’t be long until we get to Abraham, who was told to leave his home and his family. A few hundred years later, the Israelites would leave the only home they’ve ever known and wander in the wilderness, and after a few more centuries, the people of Judah would be taken from their home to live in Babylon, where they live among those who aren’t their family but whose well-being is tied to theirs.
It’s very interesting that Peter picks up this theme in his letter to people who ARE part of a home and family in the body of Christ. Peter tells them that even though they are connected, they are still wanderers and exiles, waiting for the time they will come to their true home – still living among those who aren’t their family but whose well-being is tied to theirs.
So, what does life look like as exiles?
I’m sure many of you are aware of my new addiction, The Bible Project. If you’re looking for a way to explore your faith more deeply, I highly recommend their videos (and even more, if you want to get really Biblically nerdy, their podcast!). I’d invite you to watch both their video on “Exile” and “The Way of Exile” to begin to think about this image, even as you are living out your own self-imposed exile for the sake of your neighbors in the world. Here are links:
The first one talks about how this concept of exile plays out in the Bible. The second one will begin to draw you into how exile plays out now for you.
Now, hear again what Peter says: You’re exiles, but God picked you from the beginning to be shaped by the Spirit of Christ for obedience to God, even as you’re covered by Jesus life poured out for you.
That’s pretty fantastic news. So, as Peter says, may God give you abundant Grace and Peace in that life.