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Sermon for April 23, 2017

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Second Sunday of Easter—Series A)

“Living in Hope Because of the Resurrection”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

April 23, 2017

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is the Epistle lesson recorded in 1 Peter 1.

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, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 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. 8Though 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.

 

          On Monday while out browsing the stores with my Mom, I overheard a gentleman in a conversation with one of the store clerks. He was marking the passage of time. “Here it is, Spring, and now Easter has come and gone. How quickly time passes!” Easter has come and gone . . . or has it? I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. From a calendar point-of-view, Easter Day has come and gone; April 16 is finished for 2017. But has Easter really come and gone? From the Church’s point of view, it has not. Easter and its Season, which began last Sunday, continues for 50 days until the Day of Pentecost! So there is quite a bit of “Easter” left! So when we get to Pentecost on June 4, can we then say Easter has truly come and gone? Well, no. Each and every Sunday, the first day of the week, is a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. The first Christians chose to gather to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament of the Altar on the first day of the week, Sunday, precisely because it is the day of our Lord’s rising from the dead.

          You see, it’s pretty difficult to “get rid of” Easter. It’s the heart and center of the Church Year. We gather every Sunday for the Divine Service as people who confess the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on that “first day of the week.” R.C.H. Lenski, in his commentary on 1 Peter, wrote, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the crowning point of his redemptive work which showed that he is, indeed, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and that his dying sacrifice is sufficient to cancel the sins of the world and to satisfy the righteousness of God.” As such, the resurrection of Jesus on Easter permeates every day of our lives as Christians, giving us the certain hope of salvation.

          It has sometimes been said that Christians are “Easter people.” We’re “Easter people” at Easter and we’re “Easter people” at Christmas. We are “Easter people” in Lent and we are “Easter people” during the long green season after Pentecost. By that phrase, “Easter people,” we mean that, as believers in Jesus, we live our daily lives in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us and for our salvation. Well, we mean that we should live our daily lives that way. I mean, at least we would like to live our lives that way.

          For us as for others, Easter seems to come and go. We leave the empty tomb, rejoicing that our Savior is risen as He said, and we go back to our everyday routines. We’re like Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two other disciples of Jesus. We read in John 21, “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat” (Jn. 21:3 ESV). Jesus’ disciples went back to life as they knew it—they went fishing, after all, they were fishermen. It’s what they knew best. They’d all seen the Risen Christ in the Upper Room. Thomas had touched Him and believed. But, as the man said, Easter came and went. Is it possible for the Resurrection of our Lord to impact us every day?

          Martin Luther comments that we as Christians have “become something different from what we were before,”[1] The “what we were before” is put into words by St. Paul in Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12 ESV). So before we were so-called “Easter people,” we were godless and hopeless. Our future was only one of death and hell, separated from God forever because, as we rightly confess, we are “by nature sinful and unclean.” We sin in our thinking and doing and speaking and desiring. This merits for us nothing but God’s wrath and displeasure, physical death, and eternal condemnation. How would you like to live each day with that beast hanging around your neck? How would you like to live every day with your own horrible guilt? How would you like to look at the grave and know that nothing good for you exists beyond it, only everlasting suffering and death? That’s godless and hopeless living. And from conception and birth, that’s what we were all once. But something has changed.

          God brought about our rebirth. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, we must be born again from above. Or to use Peter’s words, God the Father “caused us to be born again.” New life from God has been gifted to us by faith in Christ. “Faith follows from the Word, the new birth follows from faith, and from this birth we enter into the hope of looking forward to the blessing with certainty.”[2] And the blessing is our salvation—our everlasting life and not death and condemnation.

          Jesus Christ suffered the guilt of our sins and the punishment for our sins on the cross. He shed His blood to cleanse us from our sins. He suffered total separation from God by enduring hell itself on the cross, taking upon Himself the fullness of God’s wrath and judgment. Jesus Christ died our death. His perfect sacrifice on the cross purchased and won for us forgiveness for all our sins, removing the guilt and the penalty from us.  Through His cross and resurrection from the dead, the Lord now gives us new life, eternal life.

          “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV). Through the Word of the Gospel and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, God has “caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, God has gifted faith in Christ to us. This faith fills us with new motives, new thoughts, new desires that are in line with the Word of God. All of this we have because of the Lord’s pure mercy including an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance! That inheritance is salvation from sin and death. We have the certainty to be sure that we have eternal life. And we hope with certainty in that promise of life because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

          This “living hope” has become our new situation. We are certain of the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting because Jesus is risen from the dead. Jesus’ rising again guarantees our redemption and eternal life. Triumphantly, Luther wrote, “Behold, Christ died for you! He took sin, death, and hell upon Himself and submitted Himself. But nothing could subdue Him, for He was too strong; He rose from the dead, was completely victorious, and subjected everything to Himself. And He did all this in order that you might be free from it and lord over it. If you believe this, you have it. For we are not able to do all this with our own power. Consequently, Christ had to do it. Otherwise there would have been no need for Him to come down from heaven.”[3]

          How does our new life of faith in Christ, our new birth into a living hope and into an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance of salvation enable us to live differently here and now? Quite simply, the resurrection of Jesus saturates our lives as Christians with forgiveness and the certain hope of salvation in spite of everything that we might face in this world. Yes, we are grieved by various trials. We suffer the effects of a fallen creation. We endure the consequences of our sins and the sins of others. But the resurrection of Christ is our absolute guarantee that God’s power unto salvation (the Gospel!) is protecting our faith. We are new creations in Christ by faith and the Lord guards that faith through the power of His Spirit working through the Word and Sacraments of Christ. Through Christ, God has promised us the riches of salvation in heaven and in a new creation on the Last Day.

          Paul writes in Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6 ESV). Today Peter says that because of the resurrection of Jesus, because our faith is grounded in His resurrection, we will obtain the completion of our faith, the salvation of our souls. Every day we have the guarantee and the assurance that our heavenly Father, for the sake of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, will bring us to the goal of the faith that He has gifted to us. On the cross, our Lord cried out before He died, “It is finished.” Christ completed, once and for all, the work of saving us from our sins, winning our forgiveness, and purchasing our eternal life and salvation. His resurrection from the dead means that His words are true—our salvation is complete. And by faith, we receive that salvation, that eternal life, as a present possession. Our God and Father has caused us to be born again into this living hope, this inheritance. It is ours today, by faith, and when Christ should come again, we will receive that inheritance in all its fullness and completeness. In the day of Christ, all will be finished and we will experience a never-ending Easter of resurrection life in body and soul.

          And the amazing thing is, we have a foretaste of that resurrection life now. We’ve been born again from above. We’ve been brought from the death of unbelief to the life of faith in Jesus who died and rose for us and for our salvation. We have a living hope that, no matter what we face, cannot be taken away from us. Through the hearing of the Gospel, our faith is strengthened and forgiveness is granted. The Word does what it says. Our living Savior invites us to His table where He feeds us with His own Body and Blood with bread and wine so that we might receive forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation, all the while being strengthened in faith so that, one day, we will dine with Him at His banqueting table forevermore.

          For us as Christians, Easter doesn’t simply come and go. Easter is part and parcel of our everyday lives in Christ. Through the resurrection of Jesus, we live in faith and hope with the guarantee of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We live with the assurance that this inheritance which Jesus purchased and won for us, which He has given to us by faith, is being protected by God’s “power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” With the certain hope of your salvation, live each day by faith even as you look forward with inexpressible joy to obtaining the completion of your faith when the Risen Lord Jesus comes again in glory. Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 10.

[2] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 14.

[3] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 13.


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