The Church as God’s Royal Priesthood- 1 Peter 2:1-10
Terrell Carter, Pinnacle Affiliate
Captain Marvel was one of the early blockbuster superhero movies of 2019. On the surface, it’s a superhero movie about good versus evil and the eventual redemption of a person and a people group. Vers, the main character, is the most powerful military fighter for the righteous Kree people. She lives to defeat the evil Skrull nation. Vers also lives under a perpetual cloud. She has no intact memories of her past. Periodically, she’ll have brief 2-3 second mental flashes of something that has happened in her life, but it never matches up with anything concrete. The more of these brief memories she has, the more disconnected they all seem to be.
Through a series of events, Vers learns that everything she’d believed about herself and her life was wrong. She finds out her true name, where she’s really from, and what she thought about the good guys and bad guys may not be true. Good and whose bad is based on who’s telling the story. Before the movie ends, she has a choice to make. She eventually must face the question of whether she will live into the story that she’d been told, or will she take control of her own future? On the surface, Captain Marvel is a story about power; who gets to describe someone else as good or bad and what do you do when life isn’t what you thought it was. But, at its core, I think the movie is about something else. I think it’s the story of a person who doesn’t know who she is and the journey that occurs as she finds out her true purpose and the change that can be made when a person understands their purpose in life.
If you didn’t already know, this plot isn’t only found in Marvel superhero movies. In a sense it applies to the Church. I think we see this in 1 Peter 2. 1 Peter is a letter written to a people that seem to have forgotten who they were and what their true purpose was. In chapters 1 and 2 of his letter Peter reminds them of who they are (they are God’s precious children), where they come from (they were once a landless and powerless people, but the true King brought them into the holy family), and what their purpose in life was (to represent God to the world). The letter of 1 Peter 1 is an extended process of Peter reminding his readers of how their lives had been changed in Jesus and how that change should lead to them living differently from every other nation around them.
Throughout the letter he uses powerful historic language to describe how they were changed and God’s expectations for them due to that change. One of the words that he used to describe the change they experienced is the word priest or royal priesthood. We find the word/phrase in 1 Peter 2:5 and 2:9. Priests were a part of the lineage of the Hebrew people. From the earliest days of the nation, God set aside priests to serve a specific function within their community. Their jobs were to help ensure that the people of God kept a proper relationship with God. The priests did this by:
Representing God before the people (Helping the people understand what God expected from them).
Managing access between God and the people (Helping the people understand what they needed to do for God to hear them and communicate with them).
Revealing God’s will to the people (Helping the people know what God wanted them to do/not do).
Caring for the Tabernacle and Temple (Helping the people understand how to respect the places where God resided/was accessible).
According to Peter, through the redeeming work of Jesus, members of the Church were to understand that, in Jesus, they shared the same calling as priests from the Old Testaments. Like the priests, God was calling the Church to understand and live into their holy calling. They were to stop practicing unhealthy/unspiritual attitudes and actions, grow in personal spiritual maturity by imitating Jesus, and live like royal priests who represented God before every nation and in all places by caring for others because God resides not in a building but with all people.
Peter’s words don’t only apply to the church from the 1st Century. They apply to us today. As followers of Jesus, we are also part of this set aside people. We share this task of accepting our common calling to be a royal priesthood. To live into the example that Jesus left for them and us. We are the church. We are God’s royal priesthood. We are God’s representatives in the earth who are called to represent God to all people, let the world know that personal access to God has been restored through Jesus, live in ways that reveal God’s will for the world, and take responsibility for caring for people, even outside the places where people typically think God can be found.
Like the Captain Marvel character, we sometimes forget who we are and what we are called to do. Instead of representing God’s desires, we can be like the priests from the Old Testament and New Testament and represent our own personal and political desires. Instead of helping make sure all people know that God wants to be in relationship with them, we may tend to hold that truth to ourselves or put unnecessary stipulations on what it takes to become a part of God’s family.
Peter reminds us that as God’s priests, God has called us out and set us aside to represent the meeting of heaven and earth in Jesus and God’s holy desires for humankind. To share the good news that God wants to be in relationship with everyone, regardless of arbitrary stipulations. The church is called to live into the priestly role that began in Hebrew history and was perfected in Jesus’ ministry. May we learn to make that one of our primary aims in life. Amen.