Thursday, September 1, 2016

A People

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

The Lord made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. – Psalm 100:3
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. – 1 Peter 2:10

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 105:1-7, Judges 14-15, Luke 22:1-13

The theme that stands out for me today is the creation of "a people." In English, we read "God's people" as if it says "a collection of God's individuals." I'm God's person, and so are you, and if we happen to be standing in the same room, the two of us are both God's people. But in both the Hebrew of Psalm 100 and the Greek of 1 Peter 2, "people" is a singular noun. God has "a people," a unique entity that includes me and you and also a whole lot of other people who may or may not be standing in the same room with us.

We don't talk like this much in English, especially in America, so it's hard to even get the concept. Maybe it helps to think of "a people" as being something like "a nation" (but without the human borders and constitutions and governments that we think define a nation) or "a family" (but without the restriction on blood or adoptive relationships) or "a tribe" (but without the common association that a tribe has to be in competition with other tribes).

The psalm is proclaiming that Israel is God's people. 1 Peter is announcing that in Christ, the whole group of those who stood outside of and apart from Israel (i.e. "the Gentiles" or "the nations") is now God's people. Both individually and together, we have been gathered up and united as God's new creation.

Judges 14-15 tells part of the story of Samson, and clearly shows how setting one "people" against another leads to conflict and war. There's a game of "who started it?" and different views about who's an oppressor and who's righteously fighting for freedom. In contrast, Luke 22:1-13 sets up the scene of the Last Supper, layered on top of the Passover story with Jesus as the lamb that had to be sacrificed. Human divisions are overcome in him, and in his death and resurrection God creates "a people," one people.

The message of both Psalm 100 and 1 Peter is gratitude. We are a people, one people, God's people. May we see this, and recognize it as a gift, and celebrate it, and proclaim it. And may we live in this unity instead of persisting in human divisions.

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