Thursday, May 3, 2012

You Are A Priest

1 Peter 2:9 gives us a good picture of how we are to act in the world, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

As the chosen people of God, we are called to declare the praises of Jesus Christ who is the reason for our being born-again. How do we do this? As 1 Peter 2:9 calls us to be a body of priests, the question then is, “what does it mean to be a priest?” In October, we Protestants normally celebrate Reformation Sunday on the last Sunday. This is to remember the Protestant Reformation which occurred around 400 years ago which gave us our Reformed faith. Church history tells us about 400 years ago in Germany, a monk named Martin Luther began to meditate on certain truths of the Bible, ideas that had been lost for centuries. He brought these ideas back into the Christian faith. One of the most radical of these ideas was what he called "the priesthood of all believers." In those days, the church taught that there was a body of men set aside to be a special group of priests. They taught that these men were the only ones who could act as intercessors between God and ordinary men. Martin Luther buried the idea. He taught from the Scriptures that there is no such doctrine at all. Martin Luther might well have had 1 Peter 2:9 in mind when he expounded this idea. Instead every person who comes to know Jesus Christ is made a priest under God and that he or she joins with the great high priest, Jesus Christ himself, in a ministry of mercy, blessing, and service to a broken and disordered world.

A priest is basically someone who helps others to see the presence of God as they commune with one another. Practically speaking, for us that would mean to look to the needs of others and to help them fulfil that need. This is the ministry of helps, of extending mercy to one another. A few years ago, I was very encouraged by our church members. Isaac, one of our youths, had contracted a kind of cancer that affected young people. As a result, his life became a series of chemotherapy cycles, blood tests and hospital stays. It can be quite a traumatic experience for any 17-year old boy. What encouraged me were the actions of many of our church people. There were offers to ferry them to hospital for the chemo sessions, the visits and other practical help. I am very sure that the family was very encouraged and strengthened by the fact that many other people also were standing with them in this moment of adversity. That is what believers in a community do for one another. They look at others’ needs and they examine themselves to see how they can play a part in fulfilling that need. That is the work of a priest, to reflect God’s love in the broken lives of others. This is the offering of spiritual sacrifices, mentioned in 1 Peter 2:5, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This is our ministry, yours and mine; this is the calling to which God has called us. Aren’t you excited that God has called you into this ministry?

The people of Luther’s time were very excited. They were radically impacted by this idea of being a priest of God. It brought about what we call the Protestant Reformation. And out of the Reformation arose a new zeal for God’s work. Mission organization later arose that called people into the mission fields, ordinary men and women like you and your children. These were not just organizations that brought the Gospel. They were concerned for the needs of the people they ministered to. Orphanages and hospitals were built, schools were commissioned. Christians were caught up in this ministry of the priesthood of believers. It was an exciting idea that led to exciting times. And we who form this community of believers are also to be seen as a priesthood, a body of Christians that looks to the needs of others. May the beauty of Jesus be seen in his priesthood of believers.

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