May 17, 2020: 5th Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for giving us clear direction for our lives.  In an age where many flounder and search for meaning to their lives, You spell it out today in our text.  We are to let our light of faith shine forth at all times with all people and make an eternal difference to them.  Further equip us to do so today.  Amen


TEXT:  I Peter 3: 15-22

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          In college the gals complained a lot about “gaining the freshman 15.”  Away from home for the first time with no mom or dad to instill guidelines for their behavior, they partied too much, binged on junk food, and gained those infamous 15 pounds.  They needed self-discipline.  They needed to discover their new purpose in life.  Now we have the “quarantined 14” for the same reasons.  Working from home, eating “Ben and Jerry’s” throughout the day, and snacking out of boredom due to a lack of defined purpose and schedules has hit hard. 

          To be sure, some people are much more driven than  others.  Paul Kretzmann, the famous Lutheran commentator on the Bible wrote a 4 part set of books explaining each passage in the entire Bible was one such person.  I was once told that he wrote it from 4 to 6 a.m. every morning!  Each of those 4  books is about 700 pages long!  Now, he had a purpose in  life!  I’m not telling you that you need to latch onto some kind of purpose like that.  But the fact remains: you need a purpose to drive you out of bed and give structure and meaning to each day.  It might be an employer’s expectations or keeping the kids on a schedule of learning.  It might be the dog whining to go outside at: 6:30.  It might be engaging in a thorough housecleaning.  Or, how about a strict work-out regime?  Or even writing that long-dreamed of novel?  Everyone needs a purpose, or many purposes, in life which compel us to get-going and feel useful and necessary.  Well, Peter does just that in our lesson.  In fact, he provides us with an eternal purpose to our lives, an over-arching one.


          For Christians this purpose isn’t anything new.  After all, you sing the Apostle’s Creed every week, know the basic truths of Christianity that it spells out, and can see how many people would benefit from being shaped and molded by them.  So, Peter reminds us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 

          Christians handle adversity better than unbelievers.  That’s a fact, not a dream.  We know that God wouldn’t have invested in us the blood of His Son without a reason.  He loves us.  He cares for us.  He’s our best Friend Who wants to assist us with all our fears and all our indecisions in life.  And He put His life on the  line to do so.  That was His purpose in life.  Because then our lives will have meaning that is eternal.  Then our legacies will last literally forever.  So, always be prepared to confess Christ and what He means to you and the difference Christian hope makes on a daily basis.  God loves me.  God cares for me.  God will protect me.  God promises me eternal hope that does not disappoint.


          Nations that have resilient citizens bounce back a lot faster than those where hope is absent.  What makes you resilient?—The hope that God has implanted in you via faith in Christ!  People hear you talk about hope.  They see you bounce back quicker than others.  They feel good when they are around you.  So, when they ask “Why?” tell them!  Confess your faith!  And do so with “gentleness and respect” as Peter says.  You don’t have to be preachy and give them the whole catechism in one sitting.  Keep it simple.   Tell them: “I will pray for you.  Or, God will give you the strength and guidance to deal with your overwhelming problems.”  Send them the YouTube link to the services.  Invite them to come to church.  Have a handy favorite passage etched in your mind like Phil 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  That’s a promise of God that He cannot go back on.  Tell them that!  And always do so “with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience,” so that their negative side may be shamed by your Godly goodness.  This, my friends, is your Godly purpose in life.  A purpose which makes an earthly difference and an eternal one.  “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous and the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  Yes, that modern catch-phrase: we’re all in this together” certainly applies here!


          Then, to add gravitas to his words, Peter does something quite amazing!  Yea astounding!  Listen to this concerning the ark and the great flood: “In the ark, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”   

          We would say: “The ark saved them from death and destruction.”  But Peter says: the water saved them!  It saved those faithful from getting overwhelmed by the sinful hopelessness of all the others.  It saved them for a new purpose in life.  It saved them to rebuild new nations fueled by joy and hope of an ever-improving tomorrow.  And all this reminds us of our baptism and how it has done the same.

          Bad news, fear, hopelessness—this is the state of our nation and the people in it because they cannot play “make believe” any longer.  Man cannot solve all mankind’s problems—but Jesus Christ can and does.  It’s called the grace of the cross, the grace of the empty tomb, and the grace of increasing heaven’s number of saints.  Your purpose in life is to carry such hope and spread it until the day you get to experience it and see its benefits firsthand.  And you will!  For Jesus Christ has made it so.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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