Sunday, February 26, 2017

“Until . . .” (II Peter 1:16-21)

In the Good News Bible, Today’s English Version, our scripture reading begins with these words: “We have not depended on made-up stories . . .”  In our version of the Bible, the New International Version, it reads: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories . . .”  Here, the author--Peter, is continuing his support from his first letter to the Christians in the northern part of Asia Minor by combatting teachings of false teachers who claim to know what is right.  Unfortunately, these teachings often go against what Jesus taught and said, causing the Christians to fall into act of immorality.  Thus it is that Peter takes on those false teachers and what they are proclaiming as the “gospel”.

In the past couple of months there has popped up a new phrase in our vernacular as a society.  That phrase, first used by Kellyanne Conway--one of the chief counselors to President Trump in a press conference, to cover up a falsehood by White House Press secretary, Sean Spicer’s falsehood during a press conference.  Her response to the questions being pressed upon her was that the Press Secretary was giving “alternative facts.”  Now, trust me, this is not the first time in history that “alternative facts” have been used to cover up a falsehood.  No, “alternative facts” have been floating around our society as a people and a nation for many, many generations.  The difference is that we now have a “name” to call these falsehoods.  The fact is that “alternative facts” have been a favorite tool of people everywhere no matter what their political party.  Everyone does it.

That is what Peter is attempting to deal with in his second letter to the Christians in the northern Asia Minor.  Peter is attempting to correct the “alternative facts” with the reality of having been one who witnessed and experienced Jesus firsthand.  In his rebuttal to the falsehoods that these teachers were teaching and preaching, Peter let the people know . . . from first-hand experience . . . that they were wrong.  What the people are hearing are made-up stories . . . cleverly invented stories . . . that pull the people away from Jesus and his teachings.  Peter should know . . . he was there.

In his rebuttal, Peter makes reference to his own experience of Jesus . . . his own experience of the Holy.  He tells the people that he was present when God affirmed Jesus as his Son.  Peter tells the people: “. . . but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”  Peter is attempting to let the people know that . . . unlike the false teachers . . . he was there.  He was in the presence of Jesus when the transfiguration took place . . . he saw it all.  And, not only that, he was present with Jesus throughout his earthly ministry . . . he is a living witness to the presence and words of Jesus.  Because of this, he should know a false teaching.

Thus it is that Peter takes on the “alternative facts” that are floating around this newly found faith.  The words and teachings that these false teachers are sharing are . . . well, they are wrong . . . they are falsehoods.  To follow these falsehoods, says Peter, is to lead to immorality . . . is to go against the teachings and witness of Jesus.  Peter warns them to not fall into this trap.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning.  My head is spinning in this day and age of technological advancement in which we are flooded with an array of sources for information concerning the world in which we live.  My head is spinning so much that I do not and cannot focus as I am being bombarded with an array of “facts”.  There is so much information--both true and false--being thrown around that I cannot determine which is true and which is false.  I feel as if the world I live in is spinning so fast that I cannot even determine what is real and what is fake.  I can’t tell what is true and what is false.  It is so frustrating that I cannot determine for myself which side of the fence I should fall on.

You see, the problem is how do we live lives that are faithful to Jesus and his teachings when we are being assaulted from so many directions as a follower of Jesus.  Yet, at the same time, I imagine that this is not a problem unique to me or you.  It has been going on since the birth of the Jesus movement.  Apparently what the Christians that Peter was addressing are experiencing is not much different than what we are experiencing in this day and age.  In both times, then and now, the question remains . . . how do we shift through the garbage to find the prize?

One of the easiest ways is to go back to the source.  In the case of our faith in Jesus . . . Jesus is the source.  All else is interpretation.  Interpretation is someone’s opinion of what they think is being said . . . that is all that it is . . . opinion.  True, that opinion might speak volumes to us about what that individual thinks, but the bottom line is how well it stacks up to what Jesus is saying.  After all, Jesus is the source of our whole being and our faith.  He is the fulfilment of the prophets . . . prophets who did not speak their words, but shared the words of God.  What the prophets shared about the “source” . . . about Jesus . . . were true.  They manifested themselves in the presence and words of Jesus.  All was from God.  Peter told the Christians that the words of the prophets were certain, and in Jesus they were fulfilled.  Jesus is the source . . . Jesus is the foundation . . . Jesus is the baseline from which we are to live our lives as his followers.  Anything outside of Jesus is a lie . . . is what we are now calling “alternative facts.”

Peter calls the people to focus upon this.  He tells the people: “. . . and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  Here the apostle challenges the people to hold what they are hearing up to the standard of Jesus and what he taught.  In doing this the people have a grounding point in which they can weigh what they are hearing.  If what they are hearing does not meld into the words of Jesus or his example . . . well, then, it is a bunch of hooey.  

Until . . . until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts . . . we are challenged to hold all that we hear against the presence of Jesus and his words.  We are to do this over and over again until it becomes a part of who we are as the followers of Jesus . . . we are to reconcile Jesus--his words and actions--against the world we are living in.  We are to do it until we become who God has created us to be.

“. . . until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  That is the prayer of Peter to his fellow sojourners of Jesus . . . that they continue to strive to hold the “alternative facts” up to the words and actions of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  In doing this, we begin to understand and incorporate our faith into our daily lives.  This is not easy.  What Peter is asking is that each and every follower of Jesus to do is to step into this “twilight” zone of uncertainty and frustration . . . to compare Jesus--his words and actions . . . to the world in which we live.

Ultimately the bottom line is knowing whether or not our faith is congruent with Jesus.  If it is not, then Peter recommends that we get aligned.  To allow the morning star to rise in our hearts . . . to arise in our being . . . to arise where we happen to be.  That is the challenge then . . . and, it is the challenge now.

May God grant us the courage to truly walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  It is a simple prayer.  May we discover its power in our own lives.  Amen.

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