Sunday, May 24, 2020

1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

 

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.


INTRODUCTION

 

During China's Boxer Rebellion of 1900, insurgents captured a mission station, blocked all the gates but one, and in front of that one gate placed a cross flat on the ground. Then the word was passed to those inside that any who trampled the cross underfoot would be permitted their freedom and life, but that any refusing would be shot. Terribly frightened, the first seven students trampled the cross under their feet and were allowed to go free. But the eighth student, a young girl, refused to commit the sacrilegious act. Kneeling beside the cross in prayer for strength, she arose and moved carefully around the cross, and went out to face the firing squad. Strengthened by her example, every one of the remaining ninety-two students followed her to the firing squad.

 

PART ONE

The selection of this text was chosen on purpose. Saint Peter, writing from Rome, addresses Christians in another part of the Roman Empire suffering because of their allegiance to Christ. Throughout this reading you find Peter, himself in the hotbed of persecution in the city he calls “Babylon” (ROME), offering encouragement to those undergoing persecution for professing the fact of Jesus as truly Lord of all, not Caesar. Jesus is the world’s rightful King who alone with the Father and the Holy Spirit is to be worshipped as God and Savior. Any title or honor that may have been conveyed to Caesar was now heaped onto Jesus.

Not only were these Christians professing it, they were living it. Sacrifices to the gods came to a halt by these Christians. And there were gods galore to attend: household gods, family gods, city gods, regional gods, a group of Greco-Roman gods mixed in with Egyptian gods and, of course, on top of the entire heap of gods was the divine Caesar, Nero. Breaking a link anywhere in the chain swiftly brought troubles as the whole system was built on a web of superstition on which everything hinged; economics, politics, civil affairs, marital relations — everything. The Christians to whom Peter writes were not breaking a link, they tossed out the entire chain which they believed kept the world in bondage to the darkness, the ignorance of superstitions and the violent forces empowering it all.


PART TWO

When the Creator-God visited humanity and reclaimed His throne over Jews and Gentiles in Jesus of Nazareth by conquering death and rising from the dead as the Lord of Life, there was no need for these newly converted Christians to immediately start smashing icons. They simply left them in the dust since Christ exposed them as nothing but bits and blocks of stone anyway. Jesus was the destroyer of the gods as the only true and living God. This is what the earliest Christians believed, taught and confessed right in the middle of their pagan culture. It was the result of the crucifixion and resurrection of the world’s rightful Lord.

They were paying the price for their faith in one God through persecutions. They were Christians; their culture was not. Their persecutions were inevitable. Oppression came from every domain of life: spouse, family, employer, community, and government… all the way up to those who governed in the name of Nero. So, Peter writes to encourage them to remain steadfast in their holy faith.

(5:7-10): 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

 

PART THREE

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, the reporter who'd initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore -- he just sits and stares."

It's hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.


PART FOUR

This message is not merely for the anxious, the persecuted, and the humbled. It is also for those who are self-reliant, confident and accomplished because at one time or another, they too will be anxious, persecuted, and humbled.

Persecution creeps into life in all kinds of ways, with two of the more common being failing health and mental degeneration. Other oppressions, trials, anxieties and persecutions frequently come under the titles of loss of life, tragedy, hardships, and misfortunes. This is because in our fallen world, life is fragile and human health is a complex thing with limitations we are all, subject to and will succumb to.

What happens to these people? What happens when people simply are not themselves and even their faith becomes weak or at least seems to because they do not or cannot express it any longer? What then? There are many who have had parents, grandparents, or other loved ones decline and degenerate, sometimes to the point where they do not recognize you or, indeed, even themselves. My mother was one of them. What then?


PART FIVE

Peter answers: All has been provided for our redemption through Jesus Christ. He saves to the uttermost.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you… be firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:6-11.

All has been provided for our redemption through Jesus Christ. He saves to the uttermost.

 CONCLUSION

Even if death separates us from this world, it cannot separate us from the love of God and the redemption accomplished through Jesus Christ. The world’s rightful King, Jesus Christ came into this world for the very purpose of reversing the power of human sin and rebellion, the effects of illness and disease which lead to death. This is what resurrection life promises.

We may suffer for a little while, but Peter continues by saying, “The God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish” 1 Peter 5:10. And the God of all grace does this through the promise of the resurrection of our bodies. We know this to be true because Christ has been raised from the dead. Through baptism, as Christ is, so we shall be. Amen.

 

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