1 Peter 1:3-9
April 16, 2023
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 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, 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 Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him 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.
| Prayer |
Blessed Easter to each of you, my beloved,
And may the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Deepen your faith and grant you assurance
Of your redemption and salvation.
Over the course of this and following Sundays of Easter
You will hear wonderful Gospel narratives
Of the resurrected Christ
Appearing to his disciples,
To crowds, and
Granting to each
Of God’s miraculous acts of mercy and grace.
I’m taking this Easter opportunity to
Allow the Gospel to speak for itself,
To stand on its own two feet,
That you might be fed by its imperishable Truth.
In its place,
I will be preaching a series of sermons
From 1st Peter,
A remarkable letter
To the faithful
dispersed and scattered
Throughout Asia Minor,
Primarily in modern day Southwest Turkey;
The Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
The author of First Peter speaks fondly
To the faithful,
Referring to them as “elect” or “chosen”
Drawing upon Israel’s unique status in the Old Testament as chosen by God.
He is appealing to their former Jewish persona,
Now transformed by Christ’s own election,
As eyewitness of Christ and his resurrection,
As exiles of the diaspora,
As strangers in a strange land.
(Much of the content of today’s sermon is inspired by the exceptional commentary by Richard Carlson, Pastor, First Lutheran Church, Kearney, Nebraska as found at working preacher dot com.)
I remember the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land
As the jetliner made its final approach.
Below was the large city of brick-and-mortar huts topped by rusty tin roofs.
Above each was smoke curling up,
evidence of the morning meal being prepared
over a cook fire
in each walled off compound.
Numerous, decades old
Decaying Russian Hind helicopters
Rested in the weeds just off the taxiway.
I was a stranger in a strange land.
“Do not be afraid,” I was reminded of Jesus’ greeting
To the women at the tomb,
To the disciples hiding in the Upper Room,
To the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Seated next to me waiting to deplane
Was Tony, a native son of Nicaragua,
A true brother in Christ,
One who’s faith and hard work
Led him to America with his family
To play baseball for the Baltimore Orioles and the Rochester Red Wings.
Tony was beaming ear to ear.
He was so excited to return home
Leading our mission group
To share the Gospel and love of Christ,
Build homes for the homeless
(mostly, his cousins and extended family),
And to host a vacation Bible School for 300 village children.
I didn’t speak the language.
I was thousands of miles away from home.
I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into.
But, what I did know,
Is that the love of Christ is universal.
I felt like one of those exiles,
A stranger in a strange land,
To whom Peter authors this letter.
Peter reminds the faithful
That they do not belong to the pagan reality in which they dwelt,
Anymore than I belonged to the Noreiga communists in Nicaragua.
Instead they belong to God,
Our God who specifically singled them out,
Chose them before the foundations of creation,
Made and formed by the Holy Spirit
Through Christ’s obedient and sacrificial death.
Christians have been born anew,
Or born again, according to some translations,
Into God’s holy family.
This new birth is the result of God’s enormous mercy,
Not because of any decision we’ve made
Or because of any extraordinary faith.
It is by God’s mercy that we are given a new beginning.
This new beginning is not a one-and-done affair.
We are born new every day,
Transformed, reformed, refreshed, and renewed
By God’s mercy every moment of every day.
This continuous Divine effort by our merciful creator
Results in us a living hope
Of salvation that begins in the here and now
And extends into eternity,
The gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jim and I made our way off the main cobble stone street
Through numerous back alleys
In an attempt for him to point out to me
The numerous homes prior mission teams had built.
We were two big, tall, non-Spanish speaking, white Americans
In a village full of short, underfed, non-English speaking Nicaraguans.
We rounded a corner
Were a man with a large machete ran up to us.
I shrank back, but his incongruent smile, eased my fear.
He pointed to a tree,
And up he went
To cut down clusters of plantains, a type of banana,
For us visitors to eat.
The plantains were delicious.
His welcome and hospitality transcended language barriers.
Out from a house came a young couple,
The woman holding a newborn,
Sucking from a bottle of sugar water.
Underfed, tiny, wrapped in a small blanket,
The baby fussed.
They recognized Jim and it was like old home week!
The mother turned to me
And thrust her baby into my arms.
It had been a while since I held my own infant boys
And I was a little out of practice,
But, by God’s mercy and grace
I held the child close
And kissed his forehead.
The plantain man and neighbors who gathered
Let up a cheer
At the love I showed to a newborn baby.
Salvation had long ago been accepted
And was being refreshed.
I was being reborn,
New every day.
Peter has a way of describing this inheritance
With triple adjectives:
Salvation is imperishable.
The act of Christ’s death and resurrection
Can not be undone and
Will not be destroyed.
Christ’s motive was as pure
And the love of the one who Created us.
Nothing can degrade or tarnish
That which is perfect.
Salvation will never fade away.
It has not dimmed through generations of saints,
And it will not fade in today’s generation.
The light of Christ and his salvation
Has never shone brighter than today.
Our inheritance is not one of land,
As was promised by God in his everlasting covenant
With our ancestors.
Our inheritance is eternally protected by God’s power.
It is now, and will be, safe in God’s care.
Nicaragua is a land of suffering,
The second most impoverished land in the Western Hemisphere.
Poverty and malnutrition are pervasive.
Corruption and social ills flow in the polluted water they drink.
A number of us were resting
in front of the house
After a day of vacation Bible School and house building.
We sat on the curb that lined the cobble stone, narrow street.
A pickup game of soccer was being played
By some of the children and members of our group.
People came and went from the friendly Pharmacia across the street.
Down the center of the street staggered a heavily intoxicated man.
The soccer game merely adapted to the other side
As he made his way towards us.
I braced for what was going to happen next.
Stood up straight right in front of me,
And passed out, face down in the gutter.
The soccer game came to a halt.
I rolled him face up to protect his airway
Time stood still.
The broken man at my feet was the personification of suffering,
Dressed in rags, dirty as the unleashed dogs that roamed.
The children urged the soccer game to continue.
None of us spoke.
Tony came out,
Recognized the broken man as one of the town drunks
And told us not to worry.
The man rested, then roused, struggled back to his feet
And resumed his staggering journey down the street.
There are such unfortunates
For whom suffering is too much,
Yet, for whom
is offered a place at the table with Christ
just as there is a place for you and me.
Our place at the table
Is God’s gift of mercy
Secured for us
By the cross of Jesus Christ.
Suffering, Peter writes, comes with the territory of faith.
Christian suffering is grounded in Christ’s suffering.
Not only is there a cause for suffering in the present,
There is a purpose to it.
Suffering is a testing ground
“so that the genuineness of your faith
May … result in praise and glory (in the future)
When Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Peter is pointing us forward
To the future
To the promised return and revelation of Jesus Christ.
Salvation has come
And soon will be
When Jesus Christ is revealed.
What does that future eschatological time look like?
I don’t know.
But I do know this:
because Jesus loves.
because in Him is an indescribable and glorious joy.
Words fail me,
But the joy of Christ fills my heart.
Beloved, the Apostle Peter
The first Father of the Church
To whom Jesus bestowed the keys of forgiveness
Has much to teach us in this, his first letter.
First Peter is short in length,
but full in belief.
I trust you will take the time and opportunity
To read it thoroughly during these days of Easter,
During this season of resurrection,
That your faith might be refreshed,
Your hope may be restored,
And your salvation may be complete.
Thank you, Lord, for your gift of Peter to the Church,
For his assurance when we find ourselves exiles in a strange land,
For his insight into God’s marvelous mercy,
For his confidence in the midst of suffering,
For his faithful embrace of Jesus Christ,
For his faith in your greatest gift of love,
The salvation of a formerly lost world.