1 Peter Re-Imagined

Derrick McQueen, May 8, 2011

After recognizing the changing circumstances of the early Christ gatherings it became clear that it was a time of painful growth for many of the communities that espoused the teachings of Christ.  I Peter, specifically, tries to address many of these tensions as they related to the conversion of Gentiles.  The introduction to the First Letter of Peter in the Harper’s Collins Study Guide translation of the NRSV succinctly surmises the fears in the Greco Roman society of all things foreign that would take hold going against the grain of Roman norms.  The groups who were aligned to the teachings of Jesus Christ were one such foreign element truly causing turmoil.  The language used by Pliny in his entreat to Trajan as to how to judge these “Christians” is a typical example of how this foreign religion was viewed:  “There have been others similarly fanatical who are Roman citizens…It is not only in small towns, but villages and rural districts too which are infected through contact with the wretched cult…” (italics mine, Letters of Pliny, Book 10, 96)

But the concern of this particular interpretation is the nature of the letter for inter/intra community use.  In Elliott’s work, “I Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary” there is considerable attention given to this idea.  In the section of his introduction entitled Aim, Strategy and Theological Concepts he states:

“In general the letter itself serves as a direct group-to-group

communication assuring the beleaguered addressees of the

concern and support of their brothers and sisters abroad.

In terms of content, it is arranged and designed to motivate its audience to meet the challenge posed by their social alienation, abuse and unjust suffering.  More specifically, this message is designed to (1) enhance the readers’ awareness of their collective dignity and privileged status with God over against their low status  in society and to strengthen their resolve to dissociate from the former, preconversion modes of conduct allegiance and alliance…” (p. 105)

This idea is shared with Burton Mack in his “Who Wrote the New Testament”, in which he speaks of a network of gatherings who recognize their outsider/alien status within the Roman Empire while trying to align themselves with the Jewish diaspora.  It was quite a shift in theo/socio/politics over the one hundred years or so the Christ gatherings had started to take hold. (Mack, 208.)

These two similar ways of speaking about this internal diasporic movement brought to mind the question, “How does I Peter speak to a group of insider/aliens in a more contemporary instance?”  As a result of wars, military skirmishes, coups, uprisings and revolutions there are many instances of exile and diaspora all around the world.  These political situations are a bit too complex to analyze in this effort but there is a situation to which I Peter might be more suited.

Over the past thirty years the Presbyterian Church USA has been divided over one clause in its Constitution the Book of Order.  Many falsely believe that this clause is against the ordination of LGBTQ folks into ministry be it as a church elder or as a minister of Word and Sacrament.  However, the clause actually states:

“G-6.106B

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life

in obedience to the Scripture and in conformity to the historic

confessional standards of the church.  Among these standards is

the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of

marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001, or chastity in singleness.  Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged

practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

Much like the “Household Codes”  and its regulations regarding women and slaves as found in many of the Letters and Epistles, this statement comes across as harsh and seems to seal the fate of any LGBTQ persons seeking ordination. (LGBTQ in this case can be compared to “Gentiles”.)  In practice, there is a way to declare that this is not tantamount to your beliefs in ministry and many LGBTQ persons have been ordained.

But on Tuesday, May 10, 2011, history stands to be made as the one last vote needed to overturn this clause is expected to be cast.  Many organizations that have been working on this issue over the past thirty years are now in a quandary as to how to react to the news.  Can there be a celebration?  Is that to disrespectful to those who will be hurt over the decision?  And this certainly does not mean that the persecution is over as ordination is based on receiving a call and there is no guarantee that this is forthcoming.  After reading I Peter with the supporting materials it seemed like this was a perfect resource to speak to the LGBTQ and community of Allies about how to live into this moment.  What follows is a Rewriting of I Peter for those persecuted in the LGBTQ community who belong to the PC/USA.  There is a sense that bringing in Queer ordination is a conversion of sorts, bringing the Gentiles into the fold.  This letter is for them.

Note: as an LGBTQ member of the PC/USA, I Peter has been extremely comforting as I think about the transition to come.

 

The following is a code for ideas that needed shifting for the entire church’s ease:

Jesus=Love, Christ=Anointed, Lord=Supreme

1Peter, an apostle of Love Anointing.

 

To those who are in exile of the Diaspora in the farmlands of Nebraska, the flatlands of Arizona, the mountains of Oregon, the cities of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, indeed in all the known world, who have been chosen and destined by the God and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to the Love Anointing and to be sprinkled with its life blood.

 

Blessed be the God of our Supreme Love Anointing!  By their great mercy we have been given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Love Anointing from its death, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,[1] so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Love Anointing is revealed.  Although you have not yet seen it, you love it; and even though you do not you do not see it now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied[2] of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of the Anointing within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for the Anointing and the subsequent glory.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you the good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

 

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Love Anointing will bring you when it is revealed.  Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.  Instead as you are called holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.

If you invoke as the God the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.  You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors[3], not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Anointing, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.  Anointing was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.  Through the Anointing you have come to trust in the God, who raised the Anointing from the dead and gave it glory so that your faith and hope are set on God.

No what you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth[4] so that you have genuine mutual love; love one another deeply from the heart.[5]  You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For

“All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

but the word of Supreme endures forever.”

 

That word is the good news that was announced to you.

 

       2Rid yourselves therefore of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Supreme is good.

Come to the Supreme, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable God through Love Anointing.  For it says in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone

a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes will not be put to shame.”

To you then who do not believe[6],

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the very head of the corner.”

And

“A stone that makes them stumble,

and a rock that makes them fall.”

 

They stumble because they disobey the word as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,

but now you are God’s people, a queer people[7];

once you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy.

 

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh against[8] the soul.  Conduct your self honorably among the Straights[9], so that though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds[10] and glorify God when it is time for judgment.

For the Supreme’s sake let us accept the reality[11] of every human institution, whether of the President/Court/The Houses, or of democracy, sent by Enforcement of Law, to punish those who do wrong and make the norm those who do “right”.[12]  For it is God’s will that by doing all in truth you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.  As builders of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretense for evil.  Honor everyone.  Love the family.  Fear God.  Honor the powers that be.[13]

 

You are in obeisance to the customs, procedures and prejudices of the land, accept this reality with all deference, not only to the things that are kind and gentle but also to those things that may be harsh.[14]  For it is a credit to you if, being award of God, you endure this harshness while suffering unjustly.  If you endure the backlash to the stereotyped fear of the Straight and that dominant world has deemed it wrong, what credit is that to stray from your Supreme and wallow in the life those against you would have you live for ridicule and spite.  But if you endure when you live the life in the love to which you have been called and suffer for that, you most assuredly have God’s approval!  For this you have been called, because Anointing also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in its steps.

“Anointing committed no sin,

and no deceit was found in its mouth.”

 

When abused there was no return of abuse; and when Anointing suffered, there was no ensuing threat; but Anointing entrusted self to the one who judges justly.  Bearing our sins in body upon the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; through the wounds of Anointing you have been healed.  For you were leaving the flock, going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and sentinel of our souls.

 

3Partners, lovers, mates, companions and help meets, in the same way, accept the authority of each other, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word they may be won over without a word by your conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  For what need is there to pollute your body with drugs to enhance your body?  What need is there to share the intimacy of your form you have committed to your partner with garments that cling to your loins and breasts?  What need is there to use your resources to sculpt your body through the physicians knife; and at what cost?  And what need is there for you to flaunt what has been afforded you in body with adornments of gold, fine linens and objects?  Rather let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.  It was in this way long ago that partnered spirits who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting each other’s authority through the benefaction of our Supreme’s authority belonging to God.  Thus Sarah and Abraham obeyed one another and called each other Supreme.  You have become their children as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.

Likewise partners, lovers, mates companions and help meets, show consideration for one another in your life together, paying honor to each other in recognition of your weaknesses, since this too is known by your God and in this you are still heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.

 

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart.  Do not repay evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary repay with a blessing.  It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

For

“Those who desire life

and desire to see good days,

let them keep their tongues from evil

and their lips from speaking deceit;

let them turn away from evil and do good

let them seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Supreme are on the righteous,

And the ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Supreme is against those who do evil.”

 

No who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good.[15]  But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed in the doing.  Do not fear their fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your heart sanctify Anointing as Supreme.  Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.  Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in the Anointing will be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer what for doing good, if suffering should be the will of God, than to suffer for doing evil.  For Anointing also suffered for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteousness, in order to bring you to God.  Anointing was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which the Anointing also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water.  And baptism, which this prefigures now saves you—not as a removal of unseemliness from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Love Anointing, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers made subject to the Creator alone.

 

4Since therefore Anointing suffered in the flesh for all, arm yourselves also with the same intention (whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with the sin that knows no grace), so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by the desires that spring condemned desires but from desires in the will of God.[16]  You have already spent enough time in doing what those who judge you, who know not the will of God, charge you as wanting to do; living in licentiousness, passions, excessive drunkenness, revels, carousing and lawless idolatry—all passions the mind excuses in the alienation of you among those who would follow Love Anointing.  They are surprised when you do not engage in the excesses of dissipation they would have you partake in, and so they do blaspheme and malign you.  But they will give an accounting to the one who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

The end of all things is at hand, therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of transgressions.  Be hospitable without complaining.  Like the good caretakers of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gifts you have received.  Whoever speaks, must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that our God may be glorified in all things through Love Anointing.  To our Creator belong the glory and the powers forever and ever. Amen.

 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has been and is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.[17]  But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Anointing’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when the glory of the Anointing is revealed.  If your are reviled for the name of Love Anointing, you are blessed, because of your spirit Anointing is glorified.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker.  Yet if any of you suffers as one who follows Anointing, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear it in that name.  For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of those who live in the will of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God.

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,

what will become of those who do not recognize’

God and the trespassers?”

 

Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.

 

5Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Anointing, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willing, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain, or for boast but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock.  And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.  In the same way, you who are younger in the spirit must accept as seasoned the knowledge of your elders.  And all of you, all of you, must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

“God opposes the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.”

 

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that you may be exalted in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on God, because and in this be assured, God cares for you.  Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversaries within and without prowl around looking for one for one to devour.  Resist!  Be steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.[18]  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Anointing, will restore, support, strengthen and establish you.  To God be the power forever and ever.  Amen.

 

Through all working for the realm of God through Love Anointing, whom I consider allies, brothers and sisters, I have worked this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God.  Stand fast in it.  Those churches who have preceded you in this decision, chosen together with you sends you greetings; and so do all who work for justice, equality and the human and civil rights of all.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Love Anointing.



[1] Prejudice, stripping of equal civil rights, denied human rights, community scorn, bashing, murder, etc.

[2] Dan Savage, Gene Robinson, Sugar Butch, Michael Roberson, RuPaul, Sarah Herwick, Judy Shepard, Janie Spahr, Lisa Larges, etc. 

[3] Oscar Wilde, Audre Lord, Bessie Smith, James Baldwin

[4] Your sexuality is a part of who the Creator-Mother/God made you to be.

[5] Including those who persecute you.

[6] Belief that the priesthood has room for you, you are included.

[7] KJV “a peculiar people”

[8] The ones that wage war against the joy of love, life, happiness and health through the maelstrom of desires many indulge towards in order to find freedom in identity, which is the same prescription for definition from which flight is desired.

[9] In the modern Empire Criticism of modernity this term is equated with “Breeders”.

[10] …and not your sexuality, partner, gender or gender express but only the treatment of the Word.

[11] Authority

[12] Perceived right of the majority.

[13] In order to work within their realm for a higher realm.

 

[14] Although it is you who has to bear this burden and you lose faith, know that Love Anointing is with you still.

[15] There may be roadblocks but truly, what harm?

[16] For it is these desires in the will of God that humanity has not power to judge or condemn.

[17] As if it were happening to you and not the church or even the world.

[18] This includes others who have yet to understand the fullness of God’s love and cannot be blamed as it is so unfathomable as well as those who are suffering in places like Uganda.