Sermon preached at Our Savior Lutheran Church on May 8, 2011 for the 3rd Sunday of Easter. Sermon text: 1 Peter 1:17-21. This sermon is the second in a series on 1 Peter called Easter Brings Our Hope to Life.
The commercials are very moving. In them, you see a little boy or girl, usually with tattered clothes. The announcer tells you that this little child does not have access to proper medical care or clean drinking water. This child does not have much food, but has to get by each day on a small handful of rice and some dirty water. Further education and schooling is out of the question. If this child continues on its own, the announcer warns, the future most likely won’t be bright. The child most likely won’t enjoy a long life, and that life definitely won’t be healthy or happy.
But wait! This child still has a chance. The announcer tells you that for just a few cents a day, about the price of a cup of coffee, you can help a child like this. By sponsoring a child you will ensure that they receive regular medical care, clean drinking water, and the best available education. They might even be able to build a new home, a permanent home, not made of cardboard and scrap-metal, but of real walls and a roof that won’t leak. Your donation could change their life forever!
Those are very moving commercials, and I’m sure a lot of people have been helped by charities like that. It feels pretty far away from our lives, doesn’t it? Maybe none of us here would qualify for any wealthiest people in the world lists, but we do just fine for ourselves! We have clean drinking water, access to medical care, we can get an education, we have food — usually so much we end up wasting most of it –, and we have homes. They come in different types and sizes, of course, but we have homes and roofs to keep us warm and safe.
We’ve got it all! We don’t need to be rescued like those little kids, right? We don’t need someone’s donations, a few coins a day, to help us and rescue us from our situation! Right? We’ve got all we need. We’ve got stuff we don’t even know what to do with, we have homes and families and we’re all right. Right?
Except, God tells us that what we have won’t last. All our stuff, all our food, all our clothing, even our homes — they’re not really permanent. They won’t last forever. They will all perish, and none of them can save us. None of them can redeem us when we have a God who demands perfection, but our lives are anything but.
A few pennies a day aren’t going to cut it. We need more. All the money in the world would never be enough. We need real rescue, we need to be saved, we need a permanent home.
But on Easter, the news comes in: it’s ours. We have been redeemed, not with the perishable things of this world, but with the precious blood of Christ. He died for our sins. He rose to give us life. He revives our hope with an eternal future. Easter brings our hope to life. And that hope reminds us we have a permanent home waiting.
We continue to look at the first letter of Peter today. He writes to people who have been changed by the events of the first Easter, people like you and me. Easter means a risen Savior. Easter means victory for Jesus over the grave, and he has given that victory to us. Easter means we rejoice!
But even as we rejoice, we recognize that we live in a sinful world. We recognize that our problems haven’t disappeared because we’re Christians. If anything, our problems press on us that much more. Yet we keep on living. So how should we live?
Peter tells us. Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (1 Pet. 1:17) The moment we became Christians we didn’t go straight to heaven. We’re still here on earth, where we’ve got pain and trouble and difficulty and sin is all around us.
The temptation for us as Christians is to think that how we live now doesn’t matter. We think, I’m a believer, Jesus saved me, I’ve got eternal life waiting for me, so I can do whatever I want now. I know I can’t be perfect so I won’t even try. If I hurt others, if I do things I shouldn’t do and live for myself, frankly, I’m not going to feel too bad about it, because that’s what Jesus is for, so just get off my back!
What a spit in the face of our God and his love! How dare any of us use God’s love like it was a license for us to sin! “I’ve got my get-out-of-hell-free card so I can do what I want.” Not only is this sinful attitude fly directly in the face of God’s love for us, it’s also incredibly dangerous for our faith.
You see, we’re not in our permanent, heavenly home right now. We are strangers here in this world. And we need to be on our guard that we don’t get sucked into this world’s ways. Peter said, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear, and why? Because you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially.
Maybe you’ve heard of the plans to possibly add traffic light cameras to some of the traffic lights in Buffalo. These cameras would insure that you’re always being watched. So, if you start feeling like it’s okay to drive through a red light, you won’t get away with it. The camera sees all, and you will get a ticket.
Well, in our lives, we don’t need cameras. God sees all. He knows every one of your actions, and he judges them. You’re not getting away with anything, because your God knows what you do, and he knows that if you continue in those sins, in that empty way of life, your faith will die.
Yes, the empty way of life. The things of this world are empty because they are perishing, they are passing away, they won’t last. Think of the sins that you are tempted with, think of the sins that you stumble into. What are you gaining by them? Do your sins bring you some sort of pleasure in this world, some sort of happiness? It’s fake. It’s perishable. It won’t last. And it leads to death. Do your sins bring you some sort of convenience, do you think they make your life easier? They don’t. Those sins lead to death, and they are the most inconvenient things that exist, because they pull you away from your God. Do you think your sins don’t matter? They do! Because if you continue in them, you will perish like them.
We need to honestly look at ourselves and recognize these sins. Recognize that they exist in your life. Recognize that there’s nothing you can do about them to make them better. Peter says, For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers. (1 Pet. 1:18) You commit those empty, perishable sins every day. And I don’t care how much money you have, I don’t care how many great things you have in your life right now. Not a lick of it can help you. Not all the silver or gold in the world. Because it’s perishing.
Does that mean our hope perishes, too? Not even close. Easter brings our hope to life! No, there’s no amount of silver or gold that could rescue us, that’s true. But it wasn’t silver or gold that God used. That’s not how he redeemed you, but [it was] with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Pet. 1:19) Jesus, our perfect Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us.
We can’t even imagine someone being “without blemish or defect.” Because nothing in this world is perfect. Nothing lasts. Everything has faults, and everything eventually passes away. But Jesus is different! He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (1 Pet. 1:20) Jesus, and his faultless, blemish-less perfection has always been God’s plan for you!
God knew that he would send Jesus. He knew that Jesus would be perfect, faultlessly obeying his heavenly Father’s will in all things. This wasn’t some last-minute plan by God. God didn’t look at your life and say, “Yeesh, that one’s in bad shape! I’d better figure out some way to help.” No, it was God’s plan from the beginning that he would give a perfect lamb. That he would send his perfect Son to be the perfect sacrifice to take your sins away. And that Son has been revealed to you by God’s Word and given to you in the Sacraments.
Because he was given to you, you believe. Because he lives, you will live. Peter said, through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Pet. 1:21) Your faith and hope are in God.
If you just looked around at this world, there would be no faith and hope. There’s too much trouble, too much death, too much confusion, and it all just passes away anyway. If all we had was this world, we would be the most miserable people possible. We’d be without God, without hope, with our permanent home destined to be the grave.
But Easter brings our hope to life! We have a perfect Savior, who lived and died for us. We have a living Savior, who rose to give us life. And while we live in this world, we recognize that this world isn’t our permanent home. Instead, we look forward to our permanent home in heaven that Jesus won for us.
And until we get there, we live remembering that we are strangers here. We live in thanks for the God who sent his Son to die and rise for us. Will we fall and stumble in sin? Of course we will! But we won’t use that as an excuse. We’ll use that as a reason to be more thankful. We’ll use our sins to recognize, again and again, everyday, exactly how much we need that Savior. Exactly how much we need his love and his forgiveness every second of our lives.
And as we realize that by his Word, as we realize that from the waters of our baptism, as we realize that as we receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, as we realize all of that, we will live for him. Live for him! Don’t get sucked into the empty, perishable things of this world. Don’t get pulled off track by the sins that seem so inviting and special but lead only to death.
No, live for your Savior. Make every second of your life a thank-offering to him. Live with your hope on your sleeve, letting others know by what you do and say that you have a living hope. That you know that because your Savior lives, you will live. That you know your problems will disappear, that your troubles will perish, but your Savior never will.
A few cents a day might be enough to help a child. But all the money in this world couldn’t save even one of us. But we’ve got something more precious. We’ve got the blood of Christ, the perfect lamb. We’ve got a Savior whose love for us never dies. And we have a permanent home that he won for us that no one can take away. Live for him now as you will live with him forever.