April 4, 2010: Easter Sunday

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR GLORIOUS RISEN SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT: I Peter 1: 3-9

Fellow Redeemed In The Resurrected Lord:

The Lord is Risen! C: He is risen, indeed! That wonderful ancient Christian greeting used on Easter finds its echo in this letter from old, grey-bearded Pastor Peter. Indeed, it is the whole reason Peter writes this letter in the first place. 30 years have passed since Peter raced with St. John to see Christ’s grave. And wonders of wonders, it was empty! Yes, the freshness of the resurrection message still transports this old preacher along life’s pathway with all the vigor and optimism of youth. Listen to Peter’s opening words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his 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 can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

The resurrection served as the ultimate “upper” for Peter, an “upper” that sustained him every day he lived on this earth. And who better than Peter to extol the Savior’s triumph over death? For Peter had experienced the lowest of lows before that great and glorious day. He had denied Jesus and called down eternal curses upon his head in order to save his own skin while outside Caiaphas’ palace. He had wept bitterly when the bound Christ caught his eye. He had spent a hellish Good Friday hiding away from the cross. He had lived with inner despair for three days. And then Christ arose! He appeared to Peter. He restored Peter to faith. And in doing so Jesus gave him and us:

A LIVING HOPE

And so today, St. Peter extols his Lord and reminds us of the new birth and living hope that flows from Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

You might have been born with an Apgar score of 9.9. Yet, you and everyone else were also born with a gruesome, eternal birth defect. That defect was and is: sin. We inherited our opposition to God from Adam and Eve. Bottom line: God is life and fallen man is death. And with the inevitability of death hope is finally crushed. But, into this abysmal void stepped God’s Son. He came in pure love to crush death and to restore hope. He didn’t come to “keep hope alive” but to “make hope alive!” Dr. Luther said it well: “Death took an innocent victim when it overcame Jesus. Therefore, death owed our Lord a tremendous debt that it could not pay. What did our Lord demand for that injustice? That you and I be set free from sin, death, and eternal hell. Because death could not hold Jesus, we are assured that our sins are forgiven, God’s justice has been satisfied, and Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection to everlasting life.” Or, as Peter says: “a new birth into a living hope.” With that in mind, I say to you again: “The Lord is risen!” C: He is risen, indeed!

Peter also speaks of a great inheritance that comes to us via the resurrection. That inheritance is the ongoing hope and certainty that with our “death taxes” paid for by Christ, heaven now stands open to receive us.

You know, heaven is described by many word pictures throughout the Bible—such as a beautiful garden, a jewel-decked city, a wedding banquet, a family reunion—to name a few. Each touches something we hold dear in this life: beauty, riches, hospitality, high joy, the warmth of family and friends. But these are all metaphors of heavenly glory and thus don’t completely satisfy our curiosity. Somehow we sense more. And we’re right. For our inheritance is greater than we can ever imagine.

St. Paul was once given a quick glimpse of heaven. He said that he heard things in heaven that the human voice is not capable of reproducing. What visions beyond sight are there? What aromas beyond smell are there? What peaceful harmony is there? And all this awaits, all this is part of your living hope, through Christ’s resurrection. For the living Lord awaits there to share it all directly with you. Yes, truly this is an inheritance that “moth, rust, decay, and thieves cannot destroy.” Or, as Peter says: “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade….”

But there is still more. This inheritance belongs to us long before we even enter its pearly gates. It is yours today!—through faith in Christ. You and I are co-heirs, legal recipients, of all these benefits. And to assure us that no evil power can take them away from us and negate our legal claim on them, Peter adds: “Through faith you are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice.”

So, how should we now live?–As commoners who have no inheritance? As beaten people who have no future? As bankrupt serfs crushed by the taxing afflictions of life? No! Our living hope may be hidden under the cross and under earthly trials, but it is still real, just as the Divinity of Christ lay hidden under the humble humanity, yet was still always present.

Peter speaks of putting our living hope to work and enduring in our faith when he now writes: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

What kind of trials are you suffering right now? Children who disappoint and bring bitter tears? Health that is becoming fragile? Economic hardship? Friends who desert? Recognize these things for what they really are! The world and its prince means them for evil, but God uses them for good! He uses them to drive you deeper and deeper into His loving arms. He uses them to make your living hope in His triumphant victory over all evil, to make that hope even stronger and more vibrant! So strong that in the end you’re not 10 carat, or 14 carat, or even 18 carat gold, but pure 24 carat! Yes, you and I are God’s riches, God’s gold, refined in this life, made pure and holy through the blood of Christ, and made alive eternally by His glorious resurrection!

What a feast St. Peter spreads before us this Easter! And with the irrepressible confidence of one who has tasted and seen the wealth of heavenly glory through the eyes of faith, he sweeps us up with the final words of the grand doxology, or words of praise: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Did you note those words: “are receiving.”? Not past tense. Not future tense. But present reality, right now! Right now Christ is keeping His living hope alive within your very soul because He’s alive. Our living Savior is also the Source of our living hope. My friends, Christian hope can never die because Jesus, the Hope of the world, lives! So I say to you again: “The Lord is risen!” C: He is risen, indeed! Amen