Waiting to Be Revealed – Sermon for April 23/24, 2017

Waiting to Be Revealed
1 Peter 1:3-9
2nd Sunday of Easter
April 23rd/24th, 2017
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

 

Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Everyone loves going on vacation. A little time away is often medicine for the soul. A trip someplace warm in the middle of winter, a visit to a national monument, or just a few days with family who live out of state.  But when does your vacation actually start? If you’re going on a particularly special trip, the tendency is to count the days. For the last week or two before your vacation, you count down to the moment when the clock strikes five and you’re done with the last shift. Maybe you’ve got an app on your phone. Maybe you’ve literally circled the date on the calendar on your wall. You have the date in your crosshairs, and your excitement grown with each step toward that day.

But that’s not when vacation starts. Usually, that’s when a whole new slate of headaches starts.  If you’re flying, you’ve still got to unload your car and get all your luggage onto the little shuttle bus that takes you to the airport. Then you’ve got to get in line and make it through the baggage check. Then comes the TSA line and trying to get through security. All of that usually adds up to one of two extremes – you’re either running to your gate trying not to miss you flight, or you’re sitting at your gate 3 hours early. There’s usually not much in between. Driving can be even worse. You count down the minutes at work until that last day is done, but what are you really counting down to? Trying to fit all those suitcases into the back of your car? Sitting in construction or rush hour traffic? Stopping for bathroom breaks and snacks? Trying to stay awake as you push on toward your destination? The pain in your back from driving for so long?

The point is – we often count the minutes to vacation, but we tend to count to the wrong place. We tend to count to the moment work ends, not the moment vacation begins. Those usually aren’t the same thing. Of course, loading the car and walking through the airport on your way to vacation have an air of excitement, much more than having to do those things for the trip home. But they aren’t the best that vacation has to offer. That comes at the end of travelling. That comes at the destination itself. That’s when vacation really starts.

In some ways, that’s how the Christian life works. Our life as the children of God in this world are like that time between leaving work the last time on your way to vacation and actually arriving at the resort. That’s what Peter says in today’s Epistle reading. He says that we have been born to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He says that we have been born to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. That’s the vacation part. But Peter also says that this inheritance is being kept in heaven for us. It’s in heaven, we’re on earth. Peter says this inheritance is being kept for us who are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The hope is ours. The inheritance is promised. But it hasn’t been revealed yet. And Peter says that we rejoice in this inheritance, but also that until we actually receive it we will be grieved by various trials that test our faith. It’s like we’re on vacation, but we haven’t actually gotten there yet. Instead, we’re struggling to make it to our destination.

The reading from Acts today is an example of one such moment from the life of Peter himself. Peter and the other Apostles were fulfilling the commission Jesus had given them to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching. They were taking the good news of the resurrection out into the towns and villages, and they were performing many signs and wonders to validate their words. But not all wanted to hear. Peter and the other Apostles faced trials. In today’s reading from Acts, they were arrested for proclaiming the gospel. They were beaten. They were chased out of the Temple. But they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. They would not be deterred. They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. With their eyes on the imperishable, unfading inheritance being stored for them in heaven and waiting to be revealed, they were able not only to make it through the trials of the moment, but to rejoice in them.

The fact is, our life in this fallen world is marked by similar hardships. Our life in this fallen world is confusing. We have the great joy of the forgiveness that is already ours, but we aren’t in heaven yet. It’s like we’re done with our last day of work before vacation, but we still have to load the car. Or we’re stuck in traffic. Or we’re the 178th person in the TSA line. Except it’s not minor inconveniences that we’re dealing with. It’s real burdens. It’s death and disease. It’s perpetual temptation and the threat of falling away from the faith. It’s the hostility of the world around us as the animus toward Christianity continues to grow. And what is our response to these threats?

Often our instinct is to lock the world out like the disciples did on that first Easter. On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They were afraid that they were going to be hunted down and executed just like Jesus was. And their fear blinded them to the promises Jesus had made before his crucifixion. But Jesus came and stood among that fear-filled group and brought peace. He brings the same peace to you today – the peace of knowing that you have an inheritance stored up for you, waiting to be revealed. Often we want to lock out the world, afraid of the dangers outside our door. But Jesus comes and speaks peace. He speaks peace and then sends us back out into the world. He knows we will face hardships. He knows we will face temptation. He knows our life will not look particularly comforting. He knows we won’t be able to see ourselves as being all that different than anyone else in the world around us. But blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Blessed are those who realize that there is something more than this life in store for the children of God.

We are often tempted to lose hope. We are tempted to let the challenges of life overwhelm us. In these moments of despair, our Lord gives us the gift of a living hope. He comes to us through the proclamation of his Word and calls us to remember the promised inheritance. When death fills us with fear, our Lord reminds us that we have an inheritance that is untouched by death. When the evil of the world fills us with fear, our Lord reminds us that we have an inheritance that is unstained by evil. When the fleeting and temporary nature of this creation fills us with fear, our Lord reminds us that we have an inheritance unimpared by time.  This inheritance is yours. Moth and rust will not destroy it. Sin and evil will not defile it. It will never wither. It will never fade. It will never wear out. For it is being guarded by Jesus himself.

The trials of this life will not destroy you, for you are a precious child of God. Instead, they reveal your true character, like fire reveals the true character of gold. The true character of the Christian life is faith in the promises of God. It is not financial security. It is not perfect health. It is not perfect family life or relationships. The character of the Christian life is not defined by things of this world. Our Lord has not promised us that life will be easy. He has not promised us that we will always feel good. He has not promised us that we will be immune from the effects of sin and decay in a fallen creation. What he has promised us is the outcome of our faith: the salvation of our souls.

That is your final destination. Salvation is yours, right here and now. You are on vacation, so to speak. But you aren’t all the way there yet. You will be soon, but not yet. And yet all the sufferings of this life are nothing but a small drop in the ocean of eternity. So rejoice in the life you have now. Rejoice even in your trials. Rejoice if you are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of your future resurrection Much like even the longest TSA line can’t totally kill your joy when you’re on your way to Disney World, the promise of resurrection fills you with a joy that is inexpressible. Let the word of Christ fill you with a living hope, one that will sustain you in the trials of this life until our Lord brings you home.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!