Deputies of Christ
Sunday Sermon on 1 Peter 2:1-12
The other day my mom and I were talking about our names for Sammi. I decided to be honest with her and admit that it made me a little sad when she called Sammi, pumpkin, because I am her pumpkin. She seemed relieved to be able to talk about it. “I know! I’m so sorry!” She said, “I’ve been trying hard to think of other things, but pumpkin just comes out! I was even emailing with Anna and Jan(our friends in the Czech Republic) about some Czech phrases but they said none of the words I sent really worked.”
“What were you trying to say?” I asked, since I can still remember enough Czech to get by.
“I wanted to call her precious one, but these are the words that came up in my dictionary app.” I looked at the words and they were more about price or cost and expense, which is like calling your grandkid, “Oh my little expensive one.” Yea, that might be true, but it doesn’t actually express how we treasure her. So I said to my mom, “I know the phrase you want is milačku moje, but I’m not really sure what that means.” We looked for that one on google translate and lo and behold, it means, “my darling.” That was good enough for my Mom. She can even say it really well.
Now that I am a mom, when Peter starts off this description talking about us disciples as infants coming to God for spiritual nourishment, I couldn’t help hearing the next phrase a little differently. Peter says we are chosen and precious to God and I keep seeing, feeling, God caressing our head like a mother does to her child at the breast, saying, “My precious child, milačku moje, I love you and I can’t wait to see who you become as you grow through life!”
Then Peter reveals to us that we are living stones, which is pretty absurd because stones are not breathing or active unless put in motion by another being. The stone on a hill has a lot of potential energy, but it has to be pushed to gain kinetic energy, and the Stone is unable to stop from moving until gravity takes its toll. I’ve always imagined the “living stones” in light of the cornerstone which would obviously be a building stone of no significant cost or difference except that by this Stone all others were to be measured. But then this week I kept feeling this joy when I read about the precious stones, chosen by God, and when I thought about that conversation with my mom, all of the images came together. “What if we are more less like Rolling Stones moving out of control and more like sparkling gems actively representing the beauty and goodness of God? Reflecting the image of God and shining light and color into the dark crevices of the world? Behold and see that the Lord is good!”
I love how Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about how precious we are to Jesus and to the whole earth. He examines the words of Jesus and explains what was meant when he told the disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”
“The disciples, then, must not only think of heaven; they have an earthly task as well. Now that they are bound exclusively to Jesus they are told to look at the earth whose salt they are. It is to be noted that Jesus calls not himself, but his disciples the salt of the earth, for he entrusts his work on earth to them. His own work rests with the people of Israel, but the whole earth is committed to the disciples. But only as long as it remains salt and retains its cleansing and savouring properties can the salt preserve the earth.”
Later in his book Ethics, he develops an idea which scholars currently translate as “vicarious representative action”. Previous translators used the phrase deputy and the essential translation is the law of agency, but essentially he was trying to express our responsibilities as the salt of the Earth. Just as Christ chose to suffer in our place, we are called to be present with others in their suffering and act as representatives of Christ in the world. Like a Sheriff who gives her authority to a deputy sheriff, or a Priest who passes down the office in the “holy priesthood”, our role as disciples requires our relationship to others.
“Jesus—the life, our life—the Son of God who became human, lived as our vicarious representative. Through him, therefore, all human life is in its essence vicarious representation. Jesus was not the individual who sought to achieve some personal perfection, but only lived as the one who in himself has taken on and bears the selves of all human beings. His entire living, acting, and suffering was vicarious representative action [Stellvertretung]...Since he is life, all of life through him is destined to be vicarious representative action. Even if a life resists this intrinsic character, it nevertheless remains vicariously representative, be it with regard to life or with regard to death, just as a father remains a father for good or for ill... Human beings live responsibly where the divine Yes and the divine No become one within them.” D B, Ethics
Our tasks as Deputies or even as Priests is not to look for all of the sin in the world, it is to look for the good. To cherish the beauty and accentuate the other flavors like salt does for our food. We are called to love as God loves, forgiving one another and making sacrifices for one another.
This goodness is not about fitting into some kind of box for evaluation. The goodness is revealed as we look for God and act as instruments of God’s peace.
Recognizing your beauty and strength within is only the first task. Then you are called to reflect and enjoy the beauty in others.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Do not be troubled, dear beloved of God, for Christ has suffered for your sake, so that you might receive the peace of God and experience the knowledge and love of God in this life and the next.
We are now called to come to the table together and taste the goodness. As we tell the story of God’s love for us, may we experience and receive the presence of Jesus Christ, that we may interact with our world in a way that reveals our own identity as the salt of the earth as the flickering, sparkling and growing gems of God.