1 Peter 1:3-23
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his gIn this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
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 subsequreat mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. ent 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!
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a traveling salesman who had been on the road for too long. He decided that, to fix his boredom, the next thing he saw he was going to stop and ask somebody about it. Well, wouldn’t you know it, he saw a pig with three legs at the edge of a farm. “Ok,” he said to himself. “A three-legged pig, there’s gotta be something to that.” He pulled down the long lane to the farmer’s house. At the farmhouse, the salesman climbed up the steps onto a weathered porch and knocked on the door. After a few moments a skinny, old farmer answered it. “Excuse me, mister,” said the salesman, “but I was just driving by when I saw your pig. I was wondering how he lost his leg.” “Well, Slicker…” said the farmer, wiping something off his hands with an old dishrag. “This one time, I was driving my tractor in that field over yonder when I hit the biggest gopher hole you never did see! Flipped the tractor right over and pinned myself underneath it! Well, that pig, he ran all the way from his pen to the field, grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and pulled me out! Darndest thing, saved my life.” “Wow!” exclaimed the salesman. “Is that how he lost his leg?” “No, no,” said the farmer, pausing to spit something out onto the porch. “This other time, my boy was takin’ a dip in our irrigation pond. He never was the strongest swimmer, and when he found himself a little too deep, he started hollerin’. Well, nobody heard him except for that pig! He ran all the way from his pen to the pond, jumped in and hauled my boy outta the water! Darndest thing, saved his life!” “Wow, that’s some pig,” praised the salesman. “Did he somehow lose his leg in the rescue?” “No, no,” said the farmer, casually pulling out and lighting a cigarette. “There was another time, middle of the night, our house caught fire, this very house here. Well, that pig busted outta his pen and ran all the way here and up to me and my wife’s bedroom. He busted in and pulled the covers right off us! Woke us up and got us out! Darndest thing, saved all our lives!” “My goodness!” gushed the salesman. “Did the pig lose his leg in the fire?” “Slicker, would you eat a friend like that all at once?”
Surely that pig deserved a whole lot more than a lost leg for saving that old farmer and his family so many times! Why, I believe he deserved a full pardon from being eaten at all…much like the pig, Wilbur, from “Charlotte’s Web!” Heck, Wilbur didn’t do anything at all. Charlotte did all the amazing web designs and yet Wilbur’s life was continually spared. That farmer’s three-legged pig simply needed a better friend! But isn’t that how it always seems to happen; those that truly deserve being saved aren’t saved, or only partially saved, while the undeserving ones get all the luck. To be fair, Wilbur did have a heart of gold and was terribly appreciative of all that Charlotte did for him, so much so that he looked after Charlotte’s young after she passed. Perhaps he was just as deserving of salvation after all…
This week we’re starting in on a new sermon series involving Peter’s first letter to persecuted churches throughout Asia minor. This is the same Peter that was a disciple to Christ, who denied his association with Christ while he was suffering at the hands of the Romans, who later was forgiven for his denial and reinstated as the so-called “rock of the church.” Yes, the same Peter who helped spread the gospel of our risen Lord for years after Christ’s resurrection. As we’ll see, Peter has a rich theology that is comparable to the other great theologian of the early church, Paul. I appreciate that our lectionary has gotten away from Paul’s letters and allowed us to explore the work of another masterful church leader. And while Paul was concerned more with building up churches and addressing internal issues, Peter was primarily concerned with helping churches maintain hope amidst external persecution. Believe it or not, the early churches suffered greatly as they tried to establish themselves under Roman rule. There were a variety of established religions around the Mediterranean region, including the major ones of Judaism and Islam, and the Roman empire itself asserted religious-like authority with Caesar declared a god himself. Jewish Christians were definitely a minority in those early days and their strong Jesus-centric theology caused them to endure great suffering. Peter wrote his letter to ease their suffering and ours too.
Of course, salvation is a big theme to Peter’s letter. Salvation is a big theme to a lot of our lives. A lot of us have endured great suffering in this world and we’ve cried out, “How long, O Lord? How long? What must I do to ease my suffering? How can I become saved from my suffering?” Does it involve simply having good friends or saving our master and his family on multiple occasions as Wilbur or that three-legged pig did? Perhaps…but not likely. No, the suffering of this world is far more complex, far more insidious, than such easy remedies can fix. We, as an established church of the 21st century, may not endure the same suffering as Peter’s church of the early 1st century but the suffering of the world is just as powerful, arguably more so. There are more of us than there were 2,000 years ago and complex interconnectedness has probably grown the suffering of the world. Yes, advancements in medicine and geo-political relationships have eased a lot of the suffering of the world but have they kept pace with the sheer magnitude of population growth? No, I suspect the suffering of the world has grown over the last 2,000 years which means the remedies have also grown in complexity. That said, I, like Peter, also believe there is a remedy that has kept pace with the growing suffering of the world. And that remedy is Christ himself!
Peter writes, “by his (that is, the Father’s) great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We’ve been given a new birth into a living hope! Now, what does that mean? It means that by placing our faith and trust in Christ, the suffering of the world can’t affect us the way it does to those without Christ in their lives. It means that we are never without hope. It means that no matter how hard life in this world can get, no matter how many obstacles to joy and peace may be put in our way, we can always find peace and joy in him. We are never without peace and joy and love in this world because of Christ. Yes, the suffering will come but how we endure that suffering is forever changed because of Christ. We are not alone in our suffering. We cannot be overcome by our suffering. Suffering has no power over us who have Christ!
Christ is the ultimate remedy to the ever-growing suffering of the world. Christ grows right alongside it, getting just as big and just as frightening and just as intimidating. Christ will always conquer the suffering of the world with his love and peace and harmony. Why wouldn’t we want Christ in our lives?! Peter’s words echo the truth of Paul’s letters in so many ways. Recall Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (2:8) Christ is a gift to us all! Our salvation can be found in him and him alone! And Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (10:9) Of course we’ll be saved! Praise God for his most magnificent gift!
Salvation is a key theme to Peter’s letter and something that affects us all. Let us set out on our journey through Peter’s letter with an attitude of gratitude for such salvation. The suffering of the world may be growing but our Lord is growing too! Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Let us to these words as we endure the suffering of the world. Thanks be to God!