Living out our Unchangeable Hope of Easter

April 23, 2017 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

by Pastor Pete Scheele

Read 1 Peter 1:1-9 

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Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

How this is our Easter greeting that we use to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter and for the next six week during the Easter season. This is not my usual way of greeting you at the start of a sermon, because I usually use a greeting similar to that of the Apostle Paul or Peter as they start their letters to us. During the Easter season this year I want to explore the hope of Easter with you and there is no better book in the Bible to use than 1 Peter, for it is called the Epistle of Hope.

Peter begins this letter to us with the introduction of, “To those who are elect, exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1 Pe 1:1-2)

Have you ever thought of yourself as being the Elect of God and yet strangers in this world, who are scattered throughout the world for a purpose? That’s what the Apostle Peter calls each of us who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning.  We are God’s Elect because we have faith in all that God has done for us. Yet we are strangers in this world because the majority of the world doesn’t believe in a triune God. That God created all that exists and cares for it. That God sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to save us from our sins, death and the power of the devil. That God through Holy Spirit works in our lives to enable us to believe and grow in our faith in Him. Yes, we are scattered throughout the world to proclaim this incredible truth of God’s love for us here along the 285 corridor and where ever we go, so that more of the people of the world can become one of God’s Elect with the hope and joy of Easter working in their lives.

So how did we get to be one of God’s Elect?  It is done by God working in our lives through His Word and Sacraments to bring us to faith in Him. The Holy Spirit works in our lives so that we strive to be obedient to all that Jesus Christ has done for us as we were washed of all our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. Yes, because of what God has done for us we have become one of His elect, we have received the grace and peace that God offered to us and we hope that God’s grace and peace will be multiplying in your lives daily.  That’s the hope of Easter given to us by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that most of the world doesn’t know about or believe in, that’s what make us one of God’s Elect who are strangers in this world as we are scattered throughout the world to proclaim the Good News we have about the Hope of Easter.

As we think about all the hope given to us on Easter the Apostle Peter reminds us, “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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1Pe 1:3-5)

Martin Luther in his lecture on these three verses of 1st Peter in 1523 reminds us of this, ‘Satan has through the fall of Adam brought the human race into such awful ruin and misery that all men are conceived and born into sin. Consequently, we all are subject to the power of Satan. Therefore, the physical birth of us gives us nothing more than this temporal and transient life, which is not only full of toil and trouble, but is moreover very short and uncertain.  In life, we are not insured against death for a single moment; and if it would come without faith it would at once destroy us, for there would still be no end to our misery; indeed our real distress and torment would then truly first begin. For since we all by nature are the children of wrath and the enemies of God, we have merited, besides temporal death, also eternal death and condemnation. Into this dreadful and inexpressible misfortune all the children of Adam have sunk and there they stick, with no exceptions.’

‘Such a person who realizes this horrible situation can hear nothing livelier and comforting than that Jesus Christ, the innocent and spotless lamb of God, has taken upon Himself our sins, death and all the misfortunes that distress and oppress us here in this life and torment and torture us forever in the life to come. We believe in Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, in order that those adversaries could not through all eternity do us any harm or condemn us, although they at times, while we still live here, terrify and torment us.’

Through our baptism, we are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning. This living hope is our inheritance that is incorruptible. This new life is given to us now, as we live in the grace, mercy and peace of God and for all eternity in our heavenly home when we rise from our grave. There is no corruption in this new life because it is righteous and purely the work of God, not by our own works or earthly means. This living hope is our inheritance that is undefiled.  It is just and beautiful as it makes us cleaner as we let it work in our lives. This living hope is our inheritance that is eternal, for it never decays like the things of this world, nor will it ever decrease in its value to our lives. This living inheritance is stored in heaven for us so that when the last hour comes, we will have a Heavenly Home waiting for us.

This living unchangeable hope of Easter is given to us now, but the Apostle Peter also reminds us, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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.” (1 Pe 1:6-7)

Living and rejoicing in the living hope of Easter born in us is not easy. The forefathers of the Lutheran Church wrote this about the living hope given to us. “But since in this life we have received only the first fruits of the Spirit, and regeneration is not as yet perfect but has only begun in us, the conflict and warfare of the flesh against the spirit continues also in the elect and truly reborn. Again, there is not only a great difference between Christians, one being weak and the other strong in the Spirit, but even the individual Christian in his own life discovers that at one moment he is joyful in the Spirit and at another fearful and terrified, at one time passionate in love, strong in faith and in hope and another time cold and weak and doubting.” (FC SD ll, 68)

We all go through trials in this life as we live on this earth. Trials and suffering that at times seem to rob us of the very living hope that we have because of Easter and then God’s Word is brought back into our lives and that hope grows once again. It is through the living hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that the chains of sin are broken and we are given the freedom that we need to use, the blessings that God has given to us for the purpose of sharing the love and hope given to us through Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Easter with others.

Peter talks about living in the living Hope of Easter even in the midst of suffering as he says, “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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pe 1:8-9)

One day Abraham Lincoln, while visiting one of the southern states before the war came upon a slave auction and noticed a young woman glaring at everyone with hatred and contempt. She no doubt had been misused and abused all her life. Being on the auction block was just one more humiliation in her life. Lincoln was moved by her appearance so when the bidding started, Lincoln offered a large sum and then kept bidding until he won her.  After he paid the auctioneer and received her title, the young woman followed but looked at him with contempt.

The young woman asked Lincoln what he was going to do with her.  He said, “I’m going to set you free.” “Free?” she asked, “Free for what?” “Just free, completely free.” Lincoln replied. “Free to do whatever I want to do?” she asked. “Yes,” said Lincoln. “Free to say what I want to say and go where I want to go?” she asked. “Yes.” Lincoln continued to answer the flood of questions that flowed out of her unbelief, and then she finally said, “If I’m free then I want to go with you.” For she knew that there was no freedom for a slave in the southern states. 

Jesus Christ has bought us for a very expensive price, His life, to set us free from being slaves to sin, death and the power of the devil.  Jesus has bought us and gives us a new life in His love along with the inheritance in His Father’s house for all eternity, that’s the incredible hope of Easter, it’s our freedom. Yet there is no freedom in this world from sin, death and the power of the devil without Jesus! That’s what makes us want to go with Him through this life until we can be with Him for all eternity; it’s the only way to truly live in the freedom given to us on Easter.

Going with Jesus in this life is knowing that there is no other life in the world worth living, no other freedom than the one that He gives to us and that’s why we rejoice in this living hope of Easter now as we look forward to our future.  As we come to understand the freedom given to us by the resurrection of Jesus we come to the realization that our freedom is only found in following Jesus Christ. Our goal in life is to receive our salvation and it is the only one that has an eternal reward waiting for us in heaven. It is in that freedom that we strive to live as obedient slaves to Him now and always. It is in the living hope of our eternal inheritance that we now come to God looking for His living water and the nourishment that He given to us to enable us to grow and bear fruits of faith for Him. This is the Easter hope that we share with the world.  Amen.

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