A Living Hope

COVID-19 Lessons in 1 Peter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:26
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Just stay positive?

A student athlete was contemplating the height of the bar on the high jump. “I don’t think I can make it,” he said. “Think positive!” said a friend. “All right,” the athlete said boldly, “I’m positive I can’t make it.”
During this time I find my Facebook page and feed flooded with positive affirmations. Memes, prayers, and other posts keep telling us to think positive, look at the bright side, puppies, rainbows, and butterflies for all!
They keep telling us to have hope. Make the best of it. All this without acknowledging our pain and suffering at being alone, isolated, worried about our future.
It would be so easy to take this passage and have a feel-good sermon about being positive. One about hope and flowers. Rainbows and sunshine. Let’s take a deeper look at what this passsage is really telling us.
This passage is not some Pollyanna, life is going to be better someday, Bible story. It’s really not. Neither is it something I consider even worse - you know, those, “well if you think you have it bad, you should be grateful you are not X, Y or Z” No! This and all our passages today remind us that it is O.K. to lament your circumstances. God does not want you to come to God with all your makeup straight and only greet God when you have your best face forward. If that was the case, honestly I wouldn’t be seeing God much at all lately.
This is neither a Polly Positive post about how everything is really alright, nor is it a “you should see what others are going through before you complain”.
You see, most scholars think that this passage was written in Rome at the height of Nero’s persecution of Christians, probably by a good friend or follower of Peter. They are writing to the believers in Asia Minor. They are writing the the dispersed, scattered, and isolated Christians in the newest part of Christendom. Those receiving this letter are alone. Afraid. They have yet to experience the kind of persecution going on in Rome, but in their separation from the larger Body, they are living in fear that it is coming.
Not unlike today.
No, this passage is not about rainbows and butterflies. It is honest. It is real. It’s not a feel good, everything’s going to be alright, Kumbaya “feeling”. It goes much deeper than that. I believe the writer is is telling the believers that...

No matter your circumstances -


Further, the writer is fully acknowledging, not diminishing their fear, their loneliness, and the coming trials and suffering - the test by fire they call it - that is coming.
is what the writer acknowledges. But this is not all there is, because ..

God is good

God brings Living Hope in the midst of our suffering.

Michael Shannon writes: “Sometimes in spite of all the positive thinking we can generate, life is really terrible. Simple optimism will not do. Genuine hope must go beyond positive thinking. Genuine hope is not, “Wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen.” It is not an idle wish at all.”
While I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Shannon that life is really terrible - I do know it can be sometimes. Masking the terrible times with a smile and a skip and a “I’ll think of it tomorrow” only postpones the genuine lament and authentic relationship that God wants in us, from us.
so the writer of 1 Peter is not speaking of temporal hope, one that is a wish upon a star type, but a genuine hope. A Living Hope.

What is this Living Hope?

First, let’s explore..

I. The origin of Living Hope (v. 3a).

Hint - we celebrated it last Sunday! The resurrection of Jesus is The Living Hope that we have of our own salvation. No matter how difficult and frightening our circumstances are - we live in the Hope that lives in us! We are not alone.
This perfect gift of God’s great mercy is for us. Despite any temporary circumstances - and thankfully despite any of our ranting against it - it is our inheritance.
1 Peter 1:4 NRSV
and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Kept in heaven - now - for you! Your rebirth into a living hope - God birthing us into our own salvation! Re-birthing us over and over again into God’s own inheritance! This is the very..

II. The foundation of our Living Hope (v. 3b).

God has kept for us our salvation from the foundation of the world through Jesus Christ. His resurrection conquered our worst sin - hatred - and our worst fear - death. We rest assured that if Jesus conquered those things, he has already conquered our circumstances.
Trials may come, but it is not where we define our hope. The outcome of our faith, our living hope, is the very salvation of our souls. Our hope is not founded on external and finite circumstances, but on the infinite grace, mercy, and Love of God. God knows. God knows your sorrow, your fear, your doubts. Yet God approaches us continually - touch me - see me - even through your doubts and fear - see that I am here. I will journey with your, says Jesus. And know that God has already delivered your salvation!
Which is..

III. The promise of our Living Hope (v. 4).

Do we have a “seeing is believing” hope? Are we only praising God when we can see everything laid out before us as a perfect “happy ending”?
If so, our hope is awfully short-sighted. Temporary. Certainly not living and everlasting.
No, our hope is not on external and finite circumstances, but on the infinite grace, mercy and Love of God.
This passage is so relevant to our current situation. Our present circumstances do not and cannot define our faith. Salvation is a journey - revealed in the "last time". Our job, even while tested, is to hold on to our Living Hope - Jesus, not the our current trials.
Something I learned while studying for this sermon - the literary form of this passage starts with a “eulogy”. Huh? I know we often think of a eulogy as something we do for a funeral. But actually a eulogy is simply a statement that holds someone in high respect - a statement that praises their good traits.
How often do we treat God like we treat our loved ones - waiting for the final outcome before praising God’s grace, mercy, and goodness? That is the essence of what the writer is conveying here. “I acknowledge this is hard. God KNOWS it is hard. Praise God from the highest heavens because God has already accomplished, through the Resurrection of Jesus, our hope of salvation!”
That IS the promise of our Living Hope - Jesus, revealed in Love, is our Hope of salvation!
For that we rejoice, not just in spite of our circumstances, but in the midst of them!

IV. We are now to share the Living Hope with others.

Our Lectionary reading stops at verse 9, but I don’t think that is the whole story. Let’s look at the next 3 verses:
1 Peter 1:10–12 NRSV
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!
Just like the prophets of old, we must serve not just ourselves, but humanity, including this and all future generations. (v. 12) Scientist might call it “flattening the curve”, but we can call it spreading Living Hope among all people and nations. Just like the people of ancient Rome and Asia Minor - our trials and sacrifices now can insure future generations a Living Hope. And they can declare that God’s People, through the Spirit of Christ in them, that we were serving all the generations to come!
Because, here, now..
Jesus, the Living Hope, is revealed in us
when we reach beyond our own circumstance to spread grace and mercy to all. This is where we rejoice, in the midst of our trials.
I found this passage is so relevant to our current situation. Our present circumstances do not and cannot define our faith. Salvation is a journey - revealed in the "last time" - a time not yet revealed to us, but a time we know is already ours. Our job, even while tested, is to hold on to our Living Hope - Jesus, not the our current trials.
Michael Shannon again writes:
Hope is a powerful concept. Without hope in the future, we have no power in the present. Hope may keep us alive. Without hope there is no reason to live. It has been said, “Life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope.”
Use what trials come our way to glorify the Living Hope.
Go into the world with the Living Hope living in you!
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