Reading 2Peter 2:1-13
My thought bubbles were circling around holding opposing things alongside one another as I was preparing my sermon the other day. The tensions of life. Living in the midst of a storm be it physical or psychological and being able to come through the other side safely. Living as someone who has lost their way in life and somehow being able to find salvation. Living in a world that is not short of tension and yet somehow finding a way to live in harmony with others. Peter writes in a very open and frank manner that appeals to me. There are troubles and we are in the midst of them. There is no carpet to lift the corner and sweep the unwanted stuff under. There is no fence to sit on and remain undecided about how we will choose to live our life. The journey we are on may well look different from others because our journeys are unique but we are journeying together. I thought about the word tense and other words that derived from it. I recounted my time in the agricultural industry and the phrase, ‘tensile strength’, came to mind and how that was used in describing how something holds itself together. Turning to my bookshelf and the trusty old Oxford Thesaurus I explored the difference between compressive and tensile strength? Tensile strength resisting tension, being pulled apart, and compressive strength resisting compression, being pushed together. Ultimate tensile strength is measured by the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking. All of us live with stress and tension in our lives.
I ask you, ‘have you ever experienced a more stressful time in the last twenty or thirty years?’ Tomorrow Scotland kick-off their Euro Championship competition and I for one am very stressed out. I did write this before last night’s event during the Denmark game and we thank god that the young man has pulled through. Starting tomorrow my tensile strength or put another way my stress level will be that of a Kit Kat. It will not take very much to push me beyond the limits of breaking point. And as if to prove a point right at this very moment in writing my sermon my computer decided to close itself down for an update. No warning, no opportunity to save any work I had already done just a blank screen looking back at me as I frantically tried to remember what I had written and where I thought I was going to go with the rest of the service. I had the thoughts swirling round in my head but not as yet down on paper so to speak. Remember I said I think there will be times when reading this letter, we may need to be brave enough to admit the issues that Peter writes of to the young church of his day are just as real in our churches of today. Are these things we need to face up to? Are we being pulled apart? Are we being pushed together? How far will all of that need to go before breaking point is reached? Peter highlights very clearly that life is a journey with tensions. Firstly, by looking out through the windows and how the world outside views the church inside. Then of course he steps out and looks back in through the same window and relates some of the ways the church on the inside is viewing the church on the inside. And to be really honest neither view appears to be a kindly vision. In his Old Testament examples Peter raises opposing tensions, as he looks back, who is lost and who has found salvation? The angels who have fallen through their rebellion against God and will be awaiting judgement. Peter offers this image of three very different ages in the life of the earth. The ancient world destroyed by the great flood but the righteous Noah and seven others are saved. The destruction of evil in Sodom and Gomorrah but the saving of Lot a righteous man. By giving these examples Peter writes of what lies in store from God in his day for those who are false teachers. Holding side by side the apparent opposite emotions. Can we live with healthy tension that allows harmony to flourish between us? And the answer to that lies in the following chapter. Finally, by looking forward Peter makes reference to a time when the heavens will disappear with a roar and the earth will be laid bare. But in his role as pastor, as shepherd of the flock, he also points to a new age as yet still to come. When we can look forward to a new heaven and a new earth just as God has promised. The three great ages of the journey of earth. A phrase I have used in the past comes to mind I and want to close by repeating it, ‘we have to hold these things in tension’. God will lead us through.