Stained Glass Windows: Peter’s Story

Stained Glass Windows: Peter’s Story

1 Peter 1: Holiness, Humility, Hope, and Hospitality

When was the first time you experienced God? What was it like? Can you remember where you were? What time of day was it? What was the atmosphere like? Have there been other moments when you have encountered God? If you had to write a timeline of your experiences of God, would they be few or many?

God calls us to create holy memories each time we enter into the sanctuary. The invitation is yours to discover God’s presence here among this people in this place. The design of the worship service is a way of encountering the Holy God we profess to worship and to save this experience in your heart as a moment of encounter with God.

Sometimes memories are hard to recall or vague. Studies show that an old memory can be instantly recalled in the brain as a whole sensory experience from people, place, odors, sounds, and various details. Memory recall grounds us in who we are. Some of us struggle with memory loss yet have vivid recall of past events. It takes all kinds of memory markers to help us find our way in life.

Our Christian life works very much the same way – we need memory markers along the journey to ground our faith! Spiritual memory markers such as Baptism, Confirmation, Promotion Sundays, Laity Sunday, and even Sunday morning services ground our faith in the familiar routine and rhythms of the faith. The most significant memory marker is the reading of the Scriptures. We can find Scriptural narratives across the history of the church etched into stained-glass windows and painted on the walls and in framed pictures. Various icons around the church help us to recall memories of the Scriptural narrative that teaches us about God.

In the church we call our memories of encountering God testimonies. John’s Revelation reaches us in 12.11, “They [the people of God] gained the victory over [the accuser] on account of the blood of the Lamb [because of Jesus’ sacrifice] and the word of their witness [and their knowledge of the living God]. Love for their own lives didn’t make them afraid to die” (Revelation 12.11 CEB).  As we enter into the stained-glass window sermon series you are invited to create a new memory of experiencing God in this place. A testimony!

St. Paul’s Monastery in England hosts some of the oldest pieces of stained-glass dating from 686 AD. Stained-glass was most popular from 1150 and 1500 as many churches across Europe utilized this art form. The purpose of stained glass in the church has always been to tell a narrative and to invite the viewer to find meaning in symbolism. One stained glass narrative or symbol may hold the recollection of multiple stories in the Bible. The pieces of glass are held together with a sturdy frame. Various collections of glassworks are shaped together by soldered lead to retell a living narrative or offer a symbol that represents a narrative. In times of illiteracy this method of biblical storytelling was critical to those who desired to grow in their faith by recalling the biblical narratives.

If we give our imagination the opportunity, we might discover that Peter’s story could be shaped and formed into various stained-glass window narratives. We could easily create windows that emphasize various moments of decision-making in his life.

We can read about Peter in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. We can review his writings in the Gospel of Mark and his two letter that bear his name – first and second Peter. We know Peter as one of the three closest to Jesus during his season of ministry and his scandalous denial of Jesus at his death. We know Peter as the one who stands before the people and offers his Pentecostal speech. We know Peter as the one who initiates the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home. Each point of decision-making along Peter’s timeline could be shaped into a window.

It is the same with our own lives! There are points along our faith journey that we could create symbols of remembrance or a whole narrative picture to recapture a whole story. There are four windows in Peter’s first letter: HOLINESS, HUMILITY, HOPE & HOSPITALITY. But before we hear Peter we have to ask ourselves, “What right does Peter have to speak into my life?” Jesus qualifies us, and we can share our transformation by the word of our testimony. So let’s review who Peter is and then we can hear what he has to say to us.

When we read through the New Testament, Peter becomes a main character, a person of interest for us. We follow his journey as he leaves behind the community middle-class leadership role of being a local fisherman to become a spiritual vagabond on a journey traveling around Galilee, Samaria, and the Judean countryside with a ragamuffin prophet named Jesus who turned the world upside. Peter became well acquainted with Jesus as he earned his way into Jesus’ inner-circle of friends.

One would think that because Peter made his way into the inner-circle of Jesus friends that he would have been the best candidate for understanding Jesus.

Peter is the called out fisherman, the confessor of Christ, the denier of Christ, and the restored disciple of Christ. Peter is the preacher at Pentecost and an emerging leader of the early church. Peter makes the lame walk, restores people from illness, heals the dead, and opens the gateway of faith to the Gentiles. And, in our letter today Peter introduces himself as an apostle and addresses the believers in various places across the Mediterranean Sea Basin. Peter draws attention to the privileges and responsibilities that come with salvation. Believers are born into a new way of life and become heirs of a heavenly inheritance. Trials and afflictions refine true faith, and lead to an inexpressible joy.

Peter struggled with surrendering his will to God. Peter discovered full surrender to Jesus comes by way of holiness. 1 Peter 1.15 says, “…you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.”

Faith has been fortified by the love of Christ through holiness. Salvation history begins before the foundation of the world. You and I were just a glimmer in God’s imagination when Jesus said “yes” to the plan of the Incarnation and became a new born babe created in the womb of a woman. From the very beginning God planned for the multitude of possibilities that might emerge from a newly created world. God chose to give humanity free will, and Peter knows this too well. The cost of free will was that Jesus had to die for not only the whole world, but also Peter.

Peter struggled with surrendering his will to God. Peter discovered the need for humility as full surrender to Jesus. 1 Peter 1.13 says, “…place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

The cost of salvation was the life of our Savior Jesus. The Gospel involves transformation in thought and behavior. The foundation of the Christian faith is the love of the Christian community. Because the believer is a “new born babe” we are bound to our new moral obligations that have been written into our DNA. For Peter salvation had a building block or a stumbling block depending on whether you believed that Jesus was indeed the Savior of the world.

Peter struggled with surrendering his will to God. Peter grasped the hope of his salvation in full surrender to Jesus. 1 Peter 1.21 says, “…So now, your faith and hope should rest in God.”

Peter wrestled with his on transformation as a follower of the way of Jesus, and now he provides key guidelines for every newly born Christians. Peter explains their new responsibilities. Christianity comes with a new life policy in Christ. All believers are given the ability to live into the expectations of this new life. Through the sacrifice of Jesus we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter struggled with surrendering his will to God. Peter recognized that hospitality is shaped by repentance of sin toward God and neighbor. 1 Peter 1.17 says, “Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence…” and 1 Peter 1.22-23 says, “As you set yourselves apart by your obedience to the truth so that you might have genuine affection for your fellow believers, love each other deeply and earnestly. Do this because you have been given a new birth…”

Through the work of the Holy Spirit within us our old way of living is compassionately confronted and we are given the opportunity to mend our ways. Our souls are sleeping until they are awakened at the moment of our first conversation with God in our spirit. The moment we believe is the moment we experience a sense of ‘true remorse’ for the very first time. Repentance is the deep, decisive change in our attitude toward God which eventually changes in our we view our neighbor. For Peter the goal of our faith is salvation: holiness, humility, hope and hospitality.

Peter struggled with surrendering his will to God. The challenge comes when our pride rises up like Peter and we are confronted with the things we have done wrong yet remain unchanged. The Spirit of God in the experience of salvation leads us to remorse for our actions. We have sorrow and regret for our sins. It is only in the experience of salvation that we mourn the wrongs we have done to others. This is the new birthing process that Peter knows all too well. It is through the conviction of sin that we find new hope in our lives. Hope that we can live differently. Hope leads us to eternal life and away from our spirit death. Conviction leads us to know for sure that judgment of our sinful behavior is coming, and Christ Jesus is our Righteousness.

In the world is much sinfulness but you have been brought out of the world of sin and death by faith in Christ Jesus. Each of us no longer live to satisfy our sinful urges, but the Holy Spirit has given us power and authority to conquer those urges. And, now as born again Christ-followers we have God’s love shed abroad in our hearts that we may love our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength… and that we may love our neighbor as our self.

The Bible is full of witnesses who have made this same journey, Peter being one of them. Christianity has no meaning except through a guilty conscious. Until we have understood ourselves to be sinners, we have no need for a Savior.

We need conviction in our sinful nature for our faith to take root in our hearts. And, if we don’t know the experience of conviction of sin in our lives… if we haven’t been personally convinced of sin in our heart as a genuine element of our personal experience …then we must examine our selves. Conviction of sin is the greatest work of the Spirit. As believers we never reach the real end of our self-discovery this side of Heaven, and conviction of sin is an on-going experience in the life of every Christian.

We may never truly realize the fullness of our need for Christ. We may even stop short of sanctification because we believe that just knowing Christ died for us is enough. We may not plumb the depths of the gift of Salvation. We may stop at just receiving the gift of salvation and never go on to examine it.

Imagine receiving a present and never opening it up to see what’s inside. Imagine carrying that present around your whole life, and the end of your journey you still haven’t unwrapped it.

Let us look to John Wesley as our example. John was a preacher’s kid, one of 19 children. His mother was a strong religious presence in his life teaching her children at an early age how to be spiritually minded. John’s life was filled with holy dialogue, and he eventually formed a “Holy Club” to deepen his religious experience. Wesley soon found his way as a chaplain sailing across the Atlantic on a mission to the Native Americans in Georgia. On his journey he was impressed with the holiness of heart and life that the Moravians possessed.

When Wesley returned to England he was unsettled, and one evening he was listening to the reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Book of Romans. In that moment of preaching, Wesley had an unsettling experience – a heart-warming experience of (1) trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation, (2) assurance that all sin was gone, and saved from the law of sin and death. Wesley’s heart-warming experience changed him for the rest of his life.

Wesley believed that repentance was only the porch of religion, and faith is the door. But true religion was the living into holiness of heart and life. Wesley didn’t believe in leaving people have awakened in their spiritual journey, and it was his goal to awaken people fully to their salvation of holiness of heart and life. Wesley believed that all could know their salvation – and that all people can have a real and personal awareness of Christ living within them.

I am convinced like the Apostle Peter and John Wesley that the new birth experience is critical to our growth in Christ Jesus! There is only One True God and One Gospel message. There is no other way to heaven. We are called to be holy and obedient to God’s will. We are called to be on a journey to love God and neighbor through the transformational power of the Holy Spirit. Let us walk together in holiness, humility, hope, and hospitality!

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