Over confirmation, I hope that these two young people learned a lot from me. But I do have to admit that I learned from them as well. Specifically, I learned some brand new lingo. (Apparently “groovy” and “neato” or no longer “cool").
For instance, I learned about the word “fangirl” or it’s counterpart “fanboy.” Have you heard the word? It's a term used to describe someone who is fanatical for a certain pop culture item or person. You can be a fangirl of Justin Bieber. A fanboy of Harry Potter. A fanperson of the Hunger Games.
This is basically a word to describe "Trekkies" or “Wolfpack fans.”
Today, you confirmands are professing to be "fans" of the Lord. You are professing to be followers of Christ. You are professing publicly to be people of God.
This is why I don't think there could be a better day to start our summer sermon series entitled: People of God. It is important for you confirmands and you (former confirmands) to remember exactly what it means to be a Person of God.
To see what a person of God is we're going to look 1 Peter. Peter is an expert on what a person of God looks like. Peter had spent time with and learned from God himself. He had been rebuked and restored by God himself. He had been given a commission from God himself. If anyone knew what it meant to be a "Person of God"-- it was Peter.
Take then at the first truth he reveals about the people of God in verses 1-2. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, that's who's writing it. "To God's elect those chosen to be people of God. Believers. That's an expected and important theme throughout Scripture.
But then Peter calls these people of God a strange word: Exiles. Refugees. Strangers. Specifically, in the Greek, the words means "temporary dwellers." They are only passing through and won’t be here forever.
This isn't a physical thing. Peter isn’t saying that they are strangers in south Italy and need to return home to Israel. He isn’t saying that we are strangers in North Carolina and need to return home to the Midwest.
He is speaking to all Christians everywhere and reminding them that they are strangers on this earth.
I. Strangers are Scattered
Maybe you're a positive person. Perhaps you think, "Home is where the heart is." As long as you are with all the people in your family, you're at home.
But the people of God aren't in the same place. They are all over. Look at the words again: scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Asia and Bithynia. This meant that the family of Christians was scattered. They were in small house churches that had to deal with persecutions all around them. They couldn’t even be together and encourage each other. They were scattered.
This is still true today.
It was never more evident just how scattered than this week at the Youth Rally. There were teenage people of God from all over. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, even Alberta, Canada just to name a few. And it was awesome. Awesome to be with Christians your age from all over the world. Awesome to see 2000 some young people filling up the seats of an auditorium with praise.
But now we're apart. The youth group shrunk. It’s less impressive.
Maybe this has happened to you:
It's hard to be scattered from one another.
That's not all. Remember that word “stranger.” The implication is that there is a permanent place where we belong. This is where our Father dwells. It's heaven.
The history of the world explains what happened. God created earth. He created a beautiful earth. He created a beautiful garden on that earth for humans to dwell in peace with him as his family members forever.
Then, humans sinned. They rebelled against him. They placed a separation between God and them.
This is still true today. We are a part of that sinful, dangerous, guilt filled, hateful, scary world. . We, the people of God, are scattered the perfect presence of our Father on an earth far from perfect.
But there is an interesting phenomenon that takes place when you move away from your hometown. Think about college. At first, you live life just like you did back at home. You love going to McDonald's. You listen to alternative rock. You eat chili the way your mom makes chili -- with the noodles in it.
After time that starts to change. You try different things and your opinions, likes and dislikes, evolve. Suddenly, you love going to Chick-fil-A. You listen to the Country station on the radio. You like your Chili without noodles in it!
Now this isn't necessarily a danger when you are move from one earthly place to another. But it is a danger when you forget all about your heavenly home.
Here's a way for you to see if you starting to get too comfortable with this world. I want you to tally up one for each side after I give you some options. The option listed first is from this sinful world; the option listed second is from God’s heavenly home. Think about which one makes you more comfortable. Are you more comfortable….
...at the bar or at the Lord's Table?
...saying swears in public or saying a prayer in public?
...inviting your friend to an R rated movie or to a Bible study?
...navigating to XXX.com or Biblegateway.com?
…never missing a church service or never missing an episode of Family Guy?
...listening to what CNN has to say about homosexuality or what your pastor does?
...confessing your how awesome you are to your friends or how sinful you to God?
Brothers and sisters, if you are more comfortable with worldly things, there's a problem. You are comfortable with a place that will not last. You are comfortable with a place that cannot exist in eternity. You are comfortable with a sinful world that God cannot tolerate. You are a comfortable with a place that he will simply obliterate.
Repent. Turn to your heavenly home. Ask your Father for forgiveness.
Because He misses you.
II. Strangers are Missed
Your parents will miss you if and when you go to move out. They will call you on the phone. They will email you. They will text message you. Facebook you. Twitter you. Whatever it takes to get your attention and let you know that they miss you and love you.
If you have gone astray, know this: God misses you right now. If you haven't remotely kept up your Confirmation promises, God wants you back!
Look at verse 1-2, "To the elect…you have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father." Do you understand what that is saying? It is saying that God knows you well. He knows you better than you. He has known you longer than you. From before the creation of the world, he knew that you would be born into sin. He knew that you would be born into a sinful world. He knew that you would need a Savior from this sinful world.
That's why he sent his Son. Jesus. The only one who had not left his Father to earth. Jesus, who is divine and out of this world, became a stranger in this world.
But he never adopted the way of this world. He never was lost in sin. Instead, he conquered it. He lived perfectly. He died innocently on a cross and rose triumphantly for you. When it was time for him to go home? He ascended to heaven. He ascended to fulfill his promise from our Gospel lesson, "In my Father's house are many rooms, I am going there to prepare a place for you."
It's as if Jesus is fixing your room. Cleaning it up. Fluffing the pillows. Putting up your favorite posters. Making sure that God's house in heaven is ready for you. Ready for when God brings you home.
But God is also busy preparing you!
It’s similar to a family reunion. As you prepare to go to one, you have to get mentally prepared. You have to memorize names so that you don’t mistakenly refer to your Uncle Joe as Uncle George. You have to remember what it is your Second Cousin does for work again. You have to breathe deeply so that you stay calm when you speak to Aunt Louise –who really upset you last time.
God wants to prepare us for our heavenly home as well. This is why God gives his Spirit. Again, look at verse 2. "Through the sanctifying work of the spirit." Sanctifying. That’s a word we learned it catechism It means "setting apart as holy." It's God's work of changing our lives here on earth.
And it starts with faith. Faith that Jesus is God's Son. Faith that Jesus knows the way back to heaven. Faith that he will bring us...home.
This is why God has given us his Sacraments. The Holy Spirit works through them to bring to faith and strengthen faith. In baptism, God promises that we are his children. Though we are in this strange world, we are his and he will one day bring us home to him. In Lord's Supper, God send us a divine meal. Just like mom sending a care package when you are off in college, God has sent us a divine care package. It's his true body and blood. A promise that your sins are forgiven and you will be in heaven.
III. Strangers Live Differently
So…what now? As People of God, you are strangers. But how does this affect your life now? Here are three suggestions from our text.
1) Live according to your Father’s rules.
As Peter reminds us, “You have been chosen…to be obedient to Jesus.” Obedience to Jesus means faith, but it also means living a life of faith that God and his way of living is the correct way.
Think about this:
Once you leave your parents household, you might feel emancipated! You can live by your own rules. You don't have to follow the rules of your mom and dad.
But then, over time, you realize how good those rules were. You realize that going to bed at a decent hour is a wonderful idea. You understand that it is important to have a clean house. You may even eat some broccoli every once in a while, because it keeps you feeling healthy.
Don't forget the rules of your Divine dad." In preparation for returning home to him, live according to God’s laws. The Ten Commandments? They are there for a reason. Not because he hates you, but because He loves you!
And you know what, nothing will please your mom and dad more than calling them up on the phone and saying, “I am wearing clean clothes. I am eating a balance meal and I am saving my money.”
Similarly God is pleased when he sees you following his rules for life!
This then is a way to say Thank You to the Lord. It’s a way to give thanks to the one who gave up his only perfect Son for the forgiveness of our sins.
And another way?
2) Be proud of your Strange Foreign Heritage.
You can tell when someone is proud of their foreign heritage. They bring lots of reminders of home with them. They have pictures on the wall. Candles lit in certain places. Colors and clothing that express the culture of the former city.
Be proud of your Christian heritage. Proclaim. Be bold. Make sure others don’t just know from your words, but from how you act and live your life.
Be proud of your Christian heritage even down to the soap youuse.
Ever notice that sometimes people from different areas have different soaps. They don’t have Dove or Irish Spring. Nothing like that. They have soap made from honey. Soap made from Goat's milk. Soap made from oatmeal, hemp plant, and even bees wax.
The soap of your heavenly Father is strange too. It's blood. Blood, which stains and doesn't get you feeling Zesty fresh on the outside. But this blood isn't for cleaning the outside. Jesus' blood cleans from within. It purifies us from all sin.
The only thing is you can't see it. You can't look at the mirror and see "Did I wash all of the dirt off the back of my leg?" or touch your face and think, "Did I get all the oil washed off?" There's no way to look and see if you have really been completely cleansed of all sin. Other than God's promise.
So, think about it. Meditate on it. Don’t wash with the stuff of the world. Alcohol, sex, drugs, sports, money. They can’t wash a guilty soul. Only Jesus’ can. His promise of forgiveness. His promise that through faith in him all of your guilt is removed.
Use this soap. Wash daily with the Word. Come to church. Come to communion. Come and wash with the precious blood of Jesus!
3) Surround Yourself with Gifts from Home.
Peter concludes this opening address with the words: 'Grace and peace to you." These are gifts from God to his people. The gifts of grace (forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation for free! By faith alone) and the gift of peace (peace with God -- He has forgiven all sin). These are his gifts to us. Gifts, not to hide in a cardboard box, but gifts to be displayed. Gifts to be remembered. Gifts to meditate on.
I received a cup a gift from my wife about a month after we moved down to North Carolina from the Midwest. It says “Minnesota Twins.” She simply left it with a note be thankful for and always remember where we come from. To remember our parents, the lessons we have learned, and to always be thankful.
Now think of a cross. Brothers and sisters, it reminds you of whose child you are. It reminds you where your dad lives. It reminds you that one day you will go back there.
Surround yourself with this truth. Surround yourself with people who will remind you of this truth. Surround yourself with God’s Word. Never forget it. Never forget where you came from and where you are going.