1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Sunday, May 21, 2023
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
| Centering Prayer |
I cannot tell you why.
I’m only able to report to you
That which comes from my own personal experience:
I find great interest in the war in Ukraine.
I watch YouTube for the latest developments
From the BBC and other international news outlets,
From domestic news sources,
From respected political scientist and historians, and
With much caution,
From individuals who have proven over time
Their front row seats to the conflict and
Their accurate assessments of events unfolding around them.
The geopolitics, expert analysis, technology, and 4K video
Keeps the war interesting, yet, sterile,
Beyond arm’s length,
Reducing the violence, tragedy, and suffering to
A screen reflecting suffering half a world away,
A podcast strong on subject but weak on context,
Rumbling sounds of artillery,
Images of graveyard services,
Processions led by orthodox priests,
Surrounded by mounds of graves decorated in national colors.
Propaganda is as real as water is wet.
Eyes wide open is only the first step in critical thinking.
Why are humans murdering each other? with such efficiency?
What are the Russians and Ukrainians thinking?
Perhaps we are not so evolved after all.
Follow the money, I warn myself;
Where does the money come from?
And where does the money go?
Will money follow failure?
Or does money always follow success,
Regardless of the moral high ground?
Has the Russian offensive failed?
When will the promised Ukrainian offensive begin?
Old, Russian grandmothers stating to correspondents on Moscow’s streets that the war is necessary.
Old, Ukrainian grandmothers from Kherson crying over the deaths of husbands, sons, grandsons.
The opening words of the Apostle Peter
Will be received differently
From civilians caught in the cross-fire of an existential struggle
Then from you and me.
“Beloved,” Peter begins.
Take note Lay Leaders and members of the Leadership Ministry Team
Begins and ends with love.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you,” (present tense).
No surprise; for you were forewarned.
Jesus told you it was coming.
“It” being the “fiery ordeal.”
He even gave you the gift of the Holy Spirit
To ensure victory.
Quite the description of the predicament of the Early Church.
Martyrdom was the reality
For first century Christians gaining a toe-hold in modern day Turkey.
Collateral damage for those hunkered down in the trenches of the Donbas.
Pain; chronic pain.
Emotional, physical, spiritual.
Withered, shattered limbs, memory impairments, hardened livers.
Broken relationships, separation and divorce, death and grief, estrangement.
The kaleidoscope of fiery ordeal
Is dependent upon circumstance, experience, perspective.
Fiery, destructive, and fully consuming,
Take the collective suffering of the world,
Compare and contrast with the pain Christ suffers,
“so that you may be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.”
Hope that is meant to be our daily bread,
for this day of hunger and spiritual suffering,
With the promise that God will provide
More bread for tomorrow.
Purpose? You ask.
To make you glad and joyous, Peter replies.
Feeling sorry for yourself?
Grumpy? Grumbling? Complaining? Gossiping?
Undermining? Hurting? Destroying? Oppressing?
Awash with arrogance? Pride? Self-esteem?
Suffering anger that just won’t let go?
If life isn’t filled with joy and gladness, Peter observes,
The cross becomes a lie
And the empty tomb becomes a broken promise;
God gift unclaimed.
Make corrections, as necessary.
That’s how to live
The life of faithfulness,
The abundant life promised by Peter,
Paid for by Jesus,
Fulfilled by our loving Father.
Oh, the anxiety of this age!
Oh, the suffering that humankind endures!
The Apostle Peter
Provides additional insights into the nature of God,
How we are to live,
And the danger we face.
1. Our God is a god of love, who calls us beloved.
You are loved, good, bad, or indifferent, warts and all.
Accepted or rejected?
It doesn’t matter.
Your past indiscretions?
It doesn’t matter.
God loves you anyways.
God loves you in spite of yourself.
God love you just the way you are.
2. Our God blesses us
by sending us his Spirit
to take up residence in our lives.
The Holy Spirit moves in.
You’ve got a divine roommate.
It takes intentional effort to learn to live with a divine partner.
It takes a thoughtful, disciplined life to lead a life that is Spirt filled.
3. Our God cares for you.
What you do.
Who you are.
How you live.
God cares and always desires your wellbeing,
What is to be our response, according to Peter?
Be glad for what God has done
And what God is doing for you.
Break out the sunshine.
Bring the joy of the Lord
To every room you enter,
To everyone you meet.
As you depart every room
Leave everyone with the aspiration that
“I want what he/she has.”
2. Be humble!
In due time, you will exalt,
You will crow like a pre-dawn rooster,
You will proclaim the glory of the Lord
Far and wide
To all who will listen.
Humility implies submission;
Submission to our higher power,
A willingness to place God’s will before our own.
3. Be calm.
Cast away anxiety.
Turn your life over completely to the care of God.
Calm awaits the faithful
Who are able to place trust completely
in God’s will, direction, and power.
Surrender entirely to the will of God.
my will for Thy will.
4. Be disciplined.
Set a spiritual routine and stick to it.
Pray. Meditate. Listen. Learn.
Watch and listen for the essential truth of God
to speak to you through the reading of scripture.
Service work. Mission work.
Love. God and neighbor.
A disciplined life is a predictable, routine life.
The good thing about a rut is when you’re in it you know where you are going.
Get in the rut of a disciplined life.
What are the dangers we face?
1. Keep alert because the devil is like a ravenous, roaring lion.
Ready to gorge and devour
The moment our attention wanes.
Hungry is the destroyer,
Who’s appetite can never be satisfied.
To roar is to intimidate, to communicate, to initiate.
Denounce evil and speak truth without exception.
Parry the thrusts of evil slings and arrows
Remaining confident in the strength of the Lord,
And the strength the Lord has already given you.
2. Check evil with good.
Destroy darkness with light.
God wins, all the time.
Roaring is a call for reinforcements,
An acknowledgement of inadequacy.
When the devil roars in your life,
Consider it a pitiful cry for help,
Not an effort to induce terror.
Roaring is the herald that initiates kinetic warfare between evil and good.
Claws come out.
The lion makes ready the pounce,
Ready the assault.
The signs align to tip the hand,
That gives good the winning advantage.
The Godly read the signs and adjust accordingly.
3. Strengthen faith.
Learn, practice, repeat the spiritual disciplines,
The practice of the faithful.
Do not grow weary, but grow powerful.
Build and win the heart and mind of our neighbors.
Build and win the heart and mind of our creator, redeemer, savior.
Resist evil, as if your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Resist evil, as was promised at your baptismal waters.
Resist the fear of the devil’s roar.
The devil’s roar is
As shallow as a discounted grave,
As phony as a circus sideshow or a politician’s promise,
As powerful as a snail being salted.
The promise, Peter emphasizes,
Is in a post-suffering world:
That Christ himself will
Strengthen you, and
The tears left on your pillow this morning,
Due to the fiery ordeal of pain, grief, and suffering
Are replaced by God’s grace,
Of the Holy Spirit,
Of God’s love,
Of God’s promise.
Claim this gift for your own
And know the joy of the Lord,
Now and evermore.
Thank you, Lord,
For the gift of the Apostle Peter,
His words and encouragement these Sundays in Easter.
May his correspondence with the first century Church
Remain an inspiration to us today.