3rd Sunday of Easter (A)
I Peter 1:17-25
April 26, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
Well it seems like spring is here; leaves are emerging, flowers are blooming, even vegetables in their greenhouses are sticking their heads above of the dirt. Spring is a wonderful time as color once again fills our world. It’s kind of scary though how this could all change in an instant. Plants are fragile, and while some are hardier than others, it doesn’t take much to injure or kill them. Hail can pound them to smithereens, heat and drought will dry them up, bugs and disease can cause them to wither. I really admire farmers because they know how fragile crops are and yet they plant trusting that all will go well. I would be a nervous wreck.
The fragility of plant life is simply a reflection of all life. We humans are a hardy bunch; broken bones can be mended, hearts can be replaced, and a vaccine eradicated smallpox. We humans are also quite fragile. It doesn’t take much of a fall to break a hip. A small accident can leave someone crippled. A microscopic virus takes the life of the young, the old, the healthy, and the sick. As Peter wrote in his first Epistle: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls.” Fragility is a fact of life. For that matter even things made of stone and steel eventually decay and fall apart. In the end, nothing lasts forever. But if it’s true that all life is perishable and that everything dies eventually, what does that mean for us? What does it mean for our existence and our lives?
Many people see this fragility as a license to live anyway they want. Isaiah described this attitude as, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” If life can end at anytime and if they have no control, then it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do, because it makes to difference in the long run. While most people have a moral compass that keeps them from committing serious crimes like murder, how many think “If I’m not hurting anyone, what does it matter?” If you think your choices only affect you, it really doesn’t matter at all what you do or don’t do. Peter is talking about this very thing when he refers to the “futile ways inherited from your forefathers.” If you lack faith and live only for yourself, or your immediate family, there really is no point to life.
There’s another way of thinking about the fragility of life and that’s being constantly afraid. If everything is perishable, what’s going to happen to me? Obviously, what’s going on in our country in response to Covid-19 is, at least partially, driven by fear. I’m not saying that fear isn’t legitimate, if someone is afraid, that’s okay. You might live in fear of your family getting sick. You might be afraid of getting sick yourself. I’ve been hesitant to visit you unless you invite me is because I’m afraid of making you sick. I’d feel awful if I made you sick and you died. Fear can reasonable. Fear is not reasonable though when it leads you to despair. If you’re afraid and you see no hope, that’s despair. If you think that this is the end of all you hold dear, that’s despair too. Despair is giving up, expecting the worst, and having no hope, and the reason we despair is because we hold on to those things that are perishable.
Peter says, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers.” Despairing or living as if life has no meaning is holding onto futile things. When you’re more focused on money or health or worry about the future, you’re holding onto perishable things that will one day be gone. God has called you out of this futile thinking and brought you into a new way of thinking, a way that trusts Him for meaning and permanency. A way that doesn’t fall into despair or meaningless but which looks to Him and His Word, the very things that are imperishable.
Peter quotes Isaiah when he says, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” God’s Word is the one thing you can rely on when people are sick or dying, when you or your loved ones are afraid, or when you are beginning to lose hope and despair. It’s the only thing that can give you hope. Peter says, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” God has given you faith, He has given you the Holy Spirit who can lead you to live with trusting confidence in the Lord’s promises.
In His Word, God gives you His solemn oath that you can trust in Him in all things. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” The Lord says, “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” As David says, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” or how about “In God I trust: I shall not be afraid. What can Covid-19 or a recession or unemployment or fear to do me?” Nothing, absolutely nothing. His promises are true! You know they’re true because Jesus is the Son of God who was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God ruling over everything.
His word is true and eternal because it’s an oath signed in the blood of Jesus. The holy, imperishable blood of Jesus, like that of lamb without blemish or spot, is infinitely more valuable that gold, silver, or anything else. And that is what has redeemed you and will preserve you. His blood forgives your sins of doubt and of living only for yourself. His blood redeems you from the sin of not seeing the meaning of life if you “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die.” His blood redeems you from the sin of despairing of life and losing faith and trust in Him. While life sometimes seems meaningless, it’s not, because Jesus has given you life, you are His meaning. The Word of God that created you, redeemed you and now sustains you.
This is your hope, because yes, everything perishes, everything except the Word of the Lord. This word is the promises of God, the promises that Jesus fulfilled and keeps for you. That Word, spoken by God, lived among us, died, was resurrected that you would be saved and have something real to put your trust in, not something temporary, but something eternal, something you can always look to for help, even when things around you are perishing and falling apart because the Word of the Lord endures forever.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen