1 Peter 2:11-20
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Women having their first child often have great distress and concern over the approach of the birth and the nature of the suffering they must undergo. Women having had children before often gladly go to this torment for the joy of knowing what is on the other side: the life, the joy, the grace of a new child being given to her and her husband. But as the hour approaches they dread it, for this is a primal reminder of our first parents’ sin. Birth is so fraught with peril to mother and child, so coated in blood and pain. Just as our Lord was when He contended on the tree with death and life, bringing forth life from His bloody death.
And so in love the night before His death He warns His disciples, “In a short while I’ll be gone. You won’t see me. You will mourn loudly with tears and wailing and the traditional mourning songs and psalms and hymns. And this is good for death is wrong. It is a result of sin just as the suffering of childbearing is the result of Adam & Eve’s sin. But this grief will be short lived. For in just a little while, 3 short days, your grief, your suffering will become joy. The joy and grace of new life! Just as a mother suffers and moans in birth pains. But in short order her cries of anguish become exclamations of joy. So will be your mourning and pain over my death! But I will rise! And no one will take your joy from you.
“They won’t be able to kill it. They won’t be able to snatch it from you. No matter what, even if they should cause you to suffer on account of being a Christian, this joy, this all surpassing joy, is yours. It is eternal. For the thing that causes your joy—Christ’s resurrection given to you in water and word, bread and wine—births in you a new reality, a new and eternal life. It can not be taken from you. Though they take your life—just as the governing authorities did to our Lord and have often done to myriads of Christians over the ages—they can not take your eternal life! They can not snatch you out of the Father’s hand. They can not take your faith given by the Father through His Son. They can not take the resurrection that has been granted to you to a new and imperishable body and an eternity without fear of the governing authorities. For in our eternal future God the Father will rule us, through His Son whom He puts on His throne. He is our governing authority. Our King of Love.
So live in this world which is not your home. Live as sojourners, aliens, exiles, people happy to get along with whomever will put up with them. Live like the refugee fleeing a war-torn place, happy to come to a country which is not his home, but where there is peace. And like such a grateful refugee live at peace with those around you. If you must even suffer their wickedness and evil. For the Lord suffered in His body to bring forth your life in Him. And so suffering will also come to us who are His body in this world. For we are strangers and aliens here. This world is not our home. So glorify your God. Do what is right. Be willing to suffer for what is good and right. For even though the wickedness of the world will persecute those who are His and those who labour for what is good, right, and salutary—that is, what is god pleasing—there is glory in such suffering. For just as our Lord suffered at the hands of wicked men and brought forth salvation for all who would believe in Him, so when we suffer not for doing wickedness—that’s just justice if your suffer for your own wrong-doing—but when you suffer while doing good, if you bear up under it patiently as our own Lord did when He went to the cross, this is to your great benefit and joy! There is life and salvation for you. And there is also life for those who witness what you go through. For your humble example will shame those who persecute you and may even cause the Holy Spirit to save some of them.
But more over, on the day of our Lord’s visitation, when He comes again, those who persecute you will have their mouths opened to sing your praises. They will testify how you suffered innocently; how they put you to the test; how they caused you anguish as they slandered you, caused you to lose friends, standing in the community, maybe even jobs, property or your life. But their testimony will glorify you and the One who saved you. It will be a crown granted you on that day for if we suffer we suffer with Our Lord who saved us by His suffering.
And so, be glad when you suffer at the hands of evil men for this is your glory. You are being counted worthy of our Lord. And dear ones, a time is upon us when such suffering is increasing and soon may overwhelm us. So this means, do not do the things that bring righteous persecution on yourself, for that is to your shame. This means do your best to live at peace with your brothers and sisters in Christ. For you must honour each other as Christ’s own beloved family. You must fear God and seek to listen and do all He tells you. You must honour the authorities He places over us in the world. For we who are God’s, who are subject to Him, who humble ourselves before Him can not say in one breath, “Oh Lord, I am yours. I love you. I serve you.” and then in the next have no respect, no honour, no value and esteem for the authorities God puts in place in this world.
So repent. For we have rebelled against our authorities in attitude, in words, in thoughts, even in actions. We have not loved our fellow Christians. Don’t we often judge them and those closest to us most harshly, by standards even our Lord does not use for us? And we have gotten angry for the unrighteous things we have suffer and in our anger wrath has risen up within us that seeks to harm our neighbour rather than willing suffers as Jesus did so that they might be saved.
Repent. For Jesus will come again. He will visit. These light and momentary sufferings of this present time will pass away and all will be joy for what He has brought forth into the world: life, salvation, and freedom from sin and suffering in the world to come.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON