1 Peter 1:11-12: The Angels Lean in to Hear the Stoop People
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
I got a new bike today, it felt great. I’m a big man, and when I ride, I’m a big man on a small bike. But on this day, some thing beautiful happened: I didn’t feel my knees kick my face when I pedaled.
What do I have to my name when I’m here? I have a bike, I have time, and a Gospel that was stuffed in my ears until it broke open my heart. I have, vividly and powerfully, the memory of that heart breaking when that Word was spoken. And when I pedal, I pedal with an anointing and sacred calm of this News: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I am bound by a small bike and a part-time salary. But it is a small bike and a part time job that can be offered to Christ. And in that way, such silly things are sacraments. And this ordinary life I have, and you have, can be offered to Christ and become sacred that way. Not extraordinary but sacred. I take joy in the difference.
A big man, a small bike, a part time salary. And all three things are Christ’s and, all three things, I hope, consecrated unto His laughter.
I think of the prophets in this passage, dipping their heads into their books, inquiring, searching carefully, trying to figure out what God would do and what Salvation would be like.
But the Gospel did not reveal itself to scrutiny, to careful searching. It was not revealed to geniuses or to scholars, scientists drawing elaborate equations. It was revealed to the poor and to idiots like me. Who pedal on a bike smiling when there doesn’t seem to be reason to, smiling anyway, smiling with a secret that is no secret: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I meet my friends on the stoop at which we pray each day. We get to the part where we say the Apostles’ Creed.
I picture,the whole cast of the Old Testament—Kings and patriarchs and prophets—leaning in to overhear this moment. This moment when a few people on the stoop announce the sufferings and the glories of Christ. Us knowing what they didn’t. We, the stoop people, the envy of the prophets.
Today when I get to the stoop, I hear the news. One of my friends, transferred from the care home to another hospital, has died of Covid. I saw him every week. We played chess, we prayed. He liked to smoke. And draw. [Addendum: I would find out later he was not dead, but only rumored to be dead]
I didn’t know what to say, or think. But I sat down on the steps like I do. And I didn’t have to lead our daily service of Evening Prayer. It was led for me, sung to me. I’d loved my friend dearly.
I didn’t have my devotional booklet with me. But it didn’t seem to matter. The Spirit of Christ, the same Spirit who was with prophets, was now in me. And the Spirit lifted out the Scriptures I’d kept in my heart so that I didn’t have to have them in front of me in order to say them sadly and sweetly. To say it slow and sad and well for my dead friend. The Gospel was proclaimed from the steps. Christ had died, Christ is risen, Christ would come again.
My friend, who leads most days, took special care in his pronunciation too. He has been practicing His articulation of the prayers we do each day. You can tell, when he speaks them, that they mean a lot to him. He is careful to say:
“Keep watch, dear Lord. With those who work or watch or weep this night.”
He says with a dignity, grace, and pastoral seriousness I have not heard from him before. We have lost a friend.
The prophets lean in, curious. The angels lean in, serious. And the Lord keeps watch over his people by letting them sing Christ to one another.