So now that the culmination of all things draws near, reckon wisely with your guaranteed safety, maintaining a prayerful watch and before all else share a deep and fervent love among yourselves, since love cancels a pile of sins from sight. Go on extending hospitality to each other without any muttering and in terms of what each has received as a gift so minister one to another as good housekeepers of the many-sided grace of God. And so:
if one is to make speeches, then let these be as God's own compositions;
if one is to serve others [at table] let that be done in the strength that God supplies;
in order that God's reputation in all things may be enhanced through Jesus Christ to whom be the status and the power of oversight forever henceforth. Let it be!!
Peter's readers may have had to adapt to their dispersion as sojourners [παρεπιδήμοις διασπορǎς - 1:1] and aliens [παροίκους - 2:11], but he continues to emphasize that they are none other than God's specially chosen [έκλεκτοις - 1:1], a people of His family with His special surname, and thus not just house-servants, but housekeepers and stewards of the entire property. In those terms their employment is secure. It is for life. And it is with that self-same security that Peter addresses them.
Their task in this life is to live in preparation for the return of the house's owner. Peter heard this repeatedly from Jesus' parables. But it is not a metaphor for mere entertainment; it is a directive, a picture of the life into which these hope-filled disciples of Jesus have been called and incorporated. They have significant and extensive responsibility. They are to live with an appropriate sense of timing. They may not know just how long "this beginning of the culmination" will last - neither do we for that matter - but that kind of knowledge, God's timetable, has never been part of their brief. Their brief is however self-evident, because God is making it known to them. They are called to be wise and alert, to be good and loyal housekeepers with a stewardship over the many-sided grace of God. They therefore will live with a constant prayerful outlook.
And so what, exactly, does this life-style involve?
There is an awesome responsibility to represent the Owner of the house in any speech they may make. They may not be prominent, but may simply serve one another their food, or do odd jobs for each other, but this service is rendered in nothing other than the strength that God supplies. The apostles, among whom Peter was numbered, were no overlords.
Subsequent Christian tradition may have tried to make the apostles into heroes and chief executive officers, at the top of some hierarchy, issuing orders "down" to the lower orders. But Jesus had already proscribed such a "gentile" way of understanding the authority given to servants. The task of "serving at tables" was no less a service unto the Lord than any other office. And Peter affirms this when he emphasizes that this is all about the enhancement of the status and rule of God, through Jesus Christ in all things from now on and forever henceforth.
So, although the "culmination of all things" has well and truly begun, the question is not "how long?", the question which Peter's letter answers is "what now?". And indeed this is also the answer that we now need to hear. Now and henceforth.