Volume 34, No. 8
A Letter to a Church in Crisis
A follower of Jesus wrote a letter to struggling Christians and regional churches in crisis. To me, the letter sounds a lot like what we have been doing as ministers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. No, the letter I’ve been reading isn’t addressing today’s Church situation, although the struggles of churches in a pandemic to make payroll, stay connected to members, and assist those who are suffering and dying feels very much like a crisis. I’m referring to Peter’s letter to the churches in Asia Minor.
The Epistle lessons from the lectionary have us reading through 1 Peter and, to be honest, I hadn’t really given much attention to this little five-chapter book. It does have some difficult to understand and even cringe-worthy verses like “Wives, likewise, submit to your own husbands” and “For the sake of the Lord submit to every human institution.” Yikes. I’m not sure any person wants to hear this kind of advice when in a crisis.
Yet, 1 Peter also touches on various doctrines of how to look to Jesus in suffering and how to live with purpose and authority in a tumultuous world. The themes in 1 Peter are rich and broad. For example, the letter uncovers the Christian community’s frustrations with people who are abusing strangers and those without power. It also reveals the need for toxic people to separate from one another. The letter also references suffering and persecution, glory, hope, pilgrimage, courage, and the ever-present true grace of God.
And Peter, referencing his location in the fifth chapter, was experiencing all of these things while in “Babylon.” Although Babylon was an ancient region of the world and, at the time, a smaller city near the Euphrates, it is thought that Babylon was a symbolic word used in the book of Revelation to describe the evil and unjust powers of the day. And, for Peter’s time in the first century world, Rome would’ve been that powerful entity. Peter, indeed, lived and died in Rome, so for him to be in Babylon (Rome) when writing to a church in crisis reveals Peter’s understanding of suffering and his suggestions about living as followers of Christ in a chaotic place.
For the five weeks leading us to Pentecost, we will focus on Peter’s letter to a church in crisis during Sunday morning Worship. It is my hope that as we explore Peter’s letter, we will discover the purpose of Christ and the love of God in our own actions as we come together as an isolated and burdened people to survive in an uncertain time. How might we read Peter’s letter to a church in a crisis and at the bottom sign our own names?