Easter 2a

Preached: March 30, 2008

Hope Lives!
1 Peter 1:3-9

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit stirs genuine hope in our hearts and lives is 1 Peter 1.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he gave us rebirth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an imperishable, unpolluted, unfading inheritance, kept in heaven for you, who in God's power are shielded through faith for the salvation that's ready to be revealed in the last season. In this you are rejoicing, even though for a little while now, if necessary, you're grieving in all kinds of trials, in order that your faith's tested genuineness (which is much more precious than gold which perishes even though tested by fire) may be found for praise, honor and glory when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him. Even though you do not see him now but yet believe in him, you rejoice with an unspeakable, glorious joy, as you receive the goal of your faith: the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Even in the good foster homes she felt unloved. Only one hope kept her going: that her real mother was out there and loved her dearly. She was sure that only some cruel fate kept them apart. That hope drove her on. How devastating when she final found her mother and is told by her: “Getting pregnant with you is the worst mistake I ever made. You ruined my life.” Hope died.

Hope drives so much of what we do. Farmers plant in hope of a harvest. People invest in hope of a return. We spend money in hope of some enjoyment or security. Couples marry in hope of a lifetime of happiness together. Children are the hope for the future. Without hope life is bleak and dreary.

Yet how many of our hopes are at best uncertain and changeable? How many are already dead, even if we don't know it yet? Like that young lady's hope longing for her mother, hope can feel so alive and powerful in us when in reality it's dead. It only seems alive to us because we don't know the facts or choose to ignore them. Is any hope a sure thing, guaranteed?

One hope is. It does not disappoint or prove false. It lives. In fact, even if it dies in our hearts because we give up on it, this hope lives on, though we would be lost. For this hope is built on what is real and true whether we believe it or not. This hope is built on what lasts forever unchanged, even though this world changes, decays, and perishes.

The Holy Spirit through the words he gave the Apostle Peter stirs up this hope in us. Know and believe that this hope lives. It lives because Jesus' resurrection has given you new birth. And since this hope lives, our faith rejoices even in trial. Hope lives!

A. Hope lives, for Jesus' resurrection brings you new birth

1) On what unchangeable truth is this living hope built?

Now what is the unchangeable truth that this living hope is built on? Listen to what the Apostle writes, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV).

Jesus has risen! That's the unchangeable truth our hope is built on. No one can put him back in the tomb. No one can change history. Some may find old bones and claim they are his. But a modern-day lie does not change what actually happened two thousand years ago. If anyone could have paraded around bones to prove that Jesus was still dead, don't you think the chief priests and Sanhedrin would have done that? But there was no body or bones. Jesus had risen. So they invented the lie that the disciples had stolen the body. But the disciples were too scared to even go to the tomb, much less sneak past the Romans guards, break Pilate's seal, roll away the stone, and take the body. They were hiding behind locked doors!

Yes, Jesus has risen. No bones about it. He has risen. That is the sure and solid foundation for our hope, our living, breathing, energetic hope. Nothing can or will ever change that truth.

2) How did this unique hope come to live in your heart?

But how did that hope come to live in your heart? “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV). Peter takes us to our Baptism. There you were reborn, born into God's family, born of water and the Spirit. The Almighty became your dear Father; you became his beloved child. His mercy saw your helpless, hopeless condition. His mercy changed you from a damned sinner born from flesh, to a redeemed, blood-bought child born of God. His mercy planted living hope in your heart, the hope built only on your risen Savior.

So when hope seems dim and its life seems to fade away, go back to your Baptism. See the new birth your heavenly Father gave you. Hear his name placed upon you, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You belong to him as his dear child. He made no mistake when he gave you rebirth in Baptism. He loves you more dearly than any earthly father or mother. For he gave you his Son, Jesus. In Jesus you are the Father's child.

3) Why can this hope be sure about the inheritance we have in Jesus?

Now as sons and daughters born of God through faith in Jesus, you are heirs. Our living hope anticipates and longs for that inheritance. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth . . . into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3, 4 NIV). Right now through faith in Jesus that inheritance belongs to you. But we eagerly wait for that time when he can enjoy it in full in the glorious presence of our God and Savior.

Have no fear that this inheritance will be used up before you get it. That often happens in this life. Medical bills, nursing homes, economic troubles eat away an inheritance. But how different this inheritance is! For just as surely as Jesus rose from the dead, so surely this inheritance is kept safe. It's kept in heaven. No thief can break in, not even Satan himself. No rust, decay, and age can destroy it. It will never perish, spoil, or fade. Hope will not be disappointed.

And here is the best news: It's kept for you, for you who believe. But what will keep us safe from devil's attacks to destroy faith and so rob us of this inheritance? God himself is shielding you. Stay safely within the stronghold, the castle of his Word. When we leave the Word behind, we are leaving behind God's power, and we're no match for Satan. Rather faith hides within the mighty fortress of God's Word and is kept safe.

So hope does not worry, rather hope rests securely in God's Word, anticipating the “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” (1 Peter 1:4, 5 NIV).

B. Hope lives, so our faith rejoices even in trials

1)How do trials prove that our faith and hope lean only on Jesus?

This hope built on Jesus' resurrection, this hope born in you at Baptism, this hope anticipating your heavenly inheritance, this living hope makes us rejoice, even in trials. Trials fill our earthly life. Yet no matter how severe they are, face them with faith and hope. For even in the worst of trials you can rejoice.

For you see, the trials of life test our faith. They test our faith to prove that we genuinely trust in Jesus alone as our Savior. When times are good, we easily trust so many other things: our own strengths, our own friends, our own good luck. It's when the fires of life burn away these rickety supports that only Jesus is left as our pillar. Genuine faith leans our full weight on Jesus alone.

The world will laugh at us for trusting in someone we can't see. But in the end, when Jesus comes again in glory, your faith, proved genuine by the trials of life, will bring praise and glory and honor to Jesus and all who follow him, including you. What hope this faith anticipates!

So even though what we finally hope for is not yet here, we still rejoice right now. The Apostle reminds us, “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 event hough refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6, 7 NIV). Even trials that are life-long are but a little while compared to the eternal inheritance that we hope in through faith in Jesus.

2) How does our faith stay focused on Jesus?

So keep your faith focused on Jesus. That's how hope keeps living in us. That's how we keep rejoicing even in trials. Keep your faith focused on Jesus.

But how can we focus on Jesus? We cannot see him, like Peter or Thomas did. If you try to focus an automatic camera on something that's unseen, it doesn't know where to stop and take a picture. So how can we focus on Jesus, whom we have not see?

That's why God gives us his Word and Sacraments. They are the lens that bring Jesus into sharp focus so that faith sees him. You love him, even though you have not seen him with your eyes. You love him because the Word and Sacraments focus you on his great love that sacrificed himself on the cross for you. His body and blood in the Lord's Supper brings that into sharp focus. Faith looks through lens of Word and Sacraments and see what we cannot see anywhere else. Faith sees Jesus and believes in him.

This faith focused on Jesus brings hope and joy because in Jesus we are receiving the goal of faith: salvation. “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” (1 Peter 1:8, 9 NIV).

So don't live your life running after all the different hopes out there. You have the one living hope. Jesus has risen from the dead. You have been reborn into his inheritance. That hope will not fail, so rejoice, rejoice no matter what. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313