Reading: 2Peter 1:1-10
Last week we took a break from the writings of Peter. We had come to the end of his first letter the week before and we celebrated Pentecost last week and even in amongst all of that Peter played was a central character. This morning and over the next few weeks we will look at his second letter as we discover much about this remarkable man, his witness for Christ and the part he plays in the building of the early Christian Church. I remember the summer of 2005. I was in the middle of my training for Ministry and had no summer placement to do that year. I applied to what was National Mission and they found a full-time placement for me at Gairloch in Wester Ross.
All around that beautiful part of our country you simply get spoilt for views and every time you turn a corner in the road, at the time, single track with passing places thankfully now upgraded, another part of God’s creation stares at you with even more splendour. Of course if you know the West of Scotland you will know the midge. That lovely little flying beastie who spends its entire life in pursuit of your blood. I remember one night in particular. I was in the house and remembered I had left something in the car. As I looked out I thought it was a bit strange that somebody had fitted one of those black vinyl roofs to my car. On closer inspection it was an entire army of midges covering ever square millimetre of the roof. It is quite amazing how all of a sudden that important thing in the car became quite irrelevant and could wait until the morning. But rethinking this whole episode in the light of this reading has made me reconsider things. This is what had actually happened. The thing that might bite was now in control of what happens. Instead of thinking how can this threat, this menace be overcome, the easier option was to stay indoors until morning and satisfy myself with the thought that the threat will be gone in the morning. The threat had been allowed to become the driving force. Although the authors and the people in our Bibles would not be familiar with all of this I do wonder if in some ways the troubles they encountered were not unlike our encounters with our beloved wee friend the midge. As soon as one attack on the church had been dealt with another came flying right back in. It appeared that new dangers were simply waiting round every corner to have a bite. There were even times when it looked as though these dangers were swarming around in great numbers. There was the group denying that Jesus was God when that had been dealt with along came a group that said Jesus was God but he could not be fully human. The apostles were constantly dealing with attack after attack. They met head on the whole challenge of legalism only to meet the group who said they were simply free spirits, therefore anything goes. There were churches gathered together inactive and huddled away simply waiting for the return of Jesus and they had their counterparts who had given up all together on any return happening during their lives. This is the setting for Peter’s letter.
It is a response to a jumpy church with different views on many things, a young church that was a bit on edge and rather jumpy at times. His first letter was more centred on dangers and fears from outside the church with persecutions coming from all quarters and how the church people lived facing them. Now his focus centres on the church within and I’m sure we would all agree this is a much more difficult challenge to face. It can be far too easy to point the finger away from yourself and say there is the problem. It’s over there and its them that’s causing it. But now Peter is looking inwardly, how many of us are comfortable even contemplating that we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution? These opening verses tell us a great deal of what will follow. It mentions often knowledge and how this must be used in our deeper understanding of Jesus. One of the other midges that is hovering around, and arguably one of the most dangerous, capable of sucking more life out the church than any of its wee pals is the false teacher midge. False teachers will stir up discontent, they will stir up dissent, they will cause brothers and sisters in Christ to fall out and even to part ways and separate from one another. The false teacher will question the most basic doctrines of the faith in a skewed fashion and all of this, Peter writes, if kept unchecked will lead Christians into immorality. Peter calls for a return to the truths of the Gospel and even in the verse immediately following those we have heard this morning he writes, ‘So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.’ That in essence is the backbone of this letter. It is not so much about new teaching but rather there are a series of great big warning signs about pitfalls endangering the church from within. As we journey through Peter’s letter we will find his answer to false knowledge is the true knowledge of Christ. As we journey through Peter’s letter we will find his answer to immoral living is to live in a moral way. Let’s journey through and try to place ourselves in the place of the original audience. What are the dangers they faced and where are the parallels for us today? I close by repeating verse eleven from our lesson today, ‘you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’