Second Sunday of Easter
I Peter 1 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Dear Friends in Christ,
A little girl named Mary lay in bed, she was crippled, she was crying, and she was complaining to her mom. She had been crippled with a serious nervous disorder, and she would be crippled for life. Three questions she asked one day, “If Jesus loves me, why do I have to be like this? Why can’t I play like the other children? Why do I have to hurt so much, mama?”
Perhaps you have asked or tried to answer questions like that in days gone by. Perhaps you are asking or trying to answer questions like that these days. Perhaps you will be asking or trying to answer questions like that in days yet to come.
No doubt Mary’s mom had asked those same questions, no doubt she had given much thought to how she might answer. Here is what she did answer one day, no doubt with tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat, “God’s children are like jewels, Mary, like sparkling jewels that shine. But jewels are made beautiful through cutting and polishing. And that cutting and polishing can hurt. The sparkle of a jewel depends on how smoothly it is polished. Always remember, Mary, that God does not polish his jewels because he wants to hurt them, but because he wants to make them shine with bright faith and purified love.”
Do you see what Mary’s mom just did? She turned three of the most difficult questions about God a child could ever ask a parent into words of high praise for God. High praise is what the word for eulogy originally meant. In our circles, to eulogize someone usually refers to writing or saying really good things about a person who has died. In I Peter 1:3-9, Peter is eulogizing, he is blessing, he is praising a person who died and rose up again. More than that, he is eulogizing, he is praising, he is blessing the one true and almighty God of this universe. Our text is a doxology of praise to God who was, who is, and who always will be. Three invitations we would consider today with regard to these words of high praise, 1) eulogizing our ancient God for birthing us, 2)eulogizing our present God for guarding, and 3)eulogizing our future God for testing us. Birthing, guarding, and testing.
First of all, we join Peter and early and persecuted Christians in Eulogizing our ancient God for (birthing us). Our Easter sermon series carries the theme, “Ancient Future Faith,” which is the title of a book written by Dr. Robert Weber. and in the weeks yet to come, we focus on how the road to the future runs right through the past. He wonders what evangelical Christianity might look like in the future and speculates that the answers will be found in examining past history.
He invites the reader to think about what it means to be a countercultural community that invites people to be shaped by the story of Israel and Jesus. The premise of this book fits well with the Epistle lessons appointed for these six weeks in Easter, which are taken from I Peter. I Peter, Pastor Muther tells me, is the New Testament book most saturated with Old Testament writings. And so we learn what it means to live as New Testament Christians by immersing ourselves in Old Testament based invitations. Three invitations and three questions for you today as we are still and know that God is God.
Invitation #1 today is to be shaped by the truth that according to His great mercy, God has caused Israel and us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Not a single one of us decided of our own free will to be in the Christian family, we were born again through the waters of Holy Baptism into this family. Not a one of us came by our own reason or strength to the realization that Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, He has gathered us into His Church, He has enlightened us with His gifts. Not a one of us deserved to have God shower us with mercy, mercy is by definition undeserved. Not a one of us merited the grace of God to be given us, grace is by definition unmerited.
The Spirit of God would invite us today to think of ourselves as sinners born again into a lively hope, we have been baptized into an inheritance that will never be corrupted, it will never be stained, it will never fade away, it is in fact safeguarded in the heavens for us. The road to your future runs right through a road already traveled by the nation of Israel, a road traveled in anticipation of a Messiah long prophecied. The road to your future runs right through a road already traveled by your Savior, he traveled that road with a perfection that you could never attain, he traveled that road by suffering all that you needed him to suffer, he traveled that road by dying the death you needed him to die, and by rising up never to die again. The road to your future runs right through the waters of Baptism where you were claimed as child of your Father in heaven, you were marked with the sign of the cross, you were washed in the very blood of the lamb. Question #1 – what does it mean to be kept safe in the ark of the Christian Church in all the chapters of life?
5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Secondly, we would join Peter and the early and suffering Christians in Eulogizing our present God for (protecting us) In the first part of this doxology, Peter praised God for being merciful, he praised Jesus Christ for living and dying and then living again, he praised the Triune God for saving us, now he eulogizes, he praises, he blesses God for being omnipotent. He blessed God for protecting us from enemies who would steal away our inheritance.
The Psalmist speaks of God as the keeper of Israel who never slumbers nor sleeps. Luther prays in the 6th petition that God would so guard and keep us that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor entice us into misbelief and other great shame or vice. It was the omnipotence of God that kept Daniel safe in the lions’ den, it was the omnipotence of God that kept safe the three men in the fiery furnace, it was the omnipotence of God that set boundaries for Satan in afflicting Job, it was the omnipotence of God that freed Peter from Herod’s prison, it preserved Paul amid dangers and hardships. It is the power of God that we pray for when we ask him to send his holy angels to be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us.
The road to our future runs through a road already traveled by Israel, a road already traveled by Jesus. Israel would learn the beauty of the Promised Land only after God had guarded them through the ugliness of wilderness wandering. Jesus would enjoy the glory of resurrection only after His Father and His angels had guarded Him through the darkness of Gethsemane and the curse of the cross. Question #2 today, what does it mean to live with a heart that is resting, lips that are praising, and a faith that is being protected in all the circumstances of life?
First in this doxology, we praised God for birthing us into His family, second we praised Him for guarding us the way good fathers guard their children, and third we praise Him for putting us to the test. First, we blessed God for His great mercy shown in the past, second for His power happening even in our present, and third we bless Him for His willingness to discipline us in the future.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Finally, we would join Peter and the early and suffering Christians in Eulogizing our future God for (testing us). The kingdom of God is like a blacksmith who fires up the furnace, he holds the gold close to the fire to make sure it is tested, he can be heard to mutter to the gold, “this hurts me as much as it hurts you.”
The kingdom of God is like a good father who sets clear boundaries, and when his son crosses the line, he disciplines, and even as he disciplines, he is heard to be saying, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.”
The kingdom of God is like a man who suffers more than his share of grief as life goes along. Some of it is self-inflicted, some of it is inflicted by people in his life who keep on disappointing, some of it comes through no fault of him or anybody else, it’s just because his world is as messed up as it can be. Slowly, but surely, he is able to rejoice in his sufferings, they keep on resulting in the praise and honor of His Savior. He can’t really see what God is up to in the day to day struggling through, but believes with all His heart that his God is shaping him into the man who is more and more the man he is called to be.
Question #3- what does it mean to get to that point in life where you actually rejoice in your trials, knowing they have great potential to draw you closer and closer to your God?
Agnes’ last words to her pastor. A few of you might remember Agnes, who was the sister of Erna, Anne, and Martin among others, she was a daughter to old and faithful Pastor Winter, who served as pastor here for 29 years, from 1905 to 1934. She attended every Bible class she could possibly attend and with all her heart she treasured the central article of Lutheran theology that we are saved by the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. She walked with a cane, and once in awhile she would get pretty fired up and use her cane for emphasis. In one of her last conversations with me, I was telling her how much I appreciated her faithfulness to God’s Word, she made it clear to me that her funeral sermon should have nothing to do with her good life and everything to do with giving glory to God. She looked me in the eyes and said, “if you start eulogizing me, if you start saying nice things about me in that sermon, I just might sit up in my casket and tell you to knock it off!”
She wanted what Peter wanted in our text for today, and what we would do well to want, that God be eulogized for birthing her in the first place, that God be praised for guarding her in faith all the way to the end in the second place, and yes that God be blessed even for testing her with all kinds of trials along the way. In Jesus’ Name and for His glory!
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther