Sermon: Lent 1B, Sunday February 18, 2018
The Fifth way
1Peter 3:18-2218 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God.[b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/20180218_message.mp3
I have a little Poem… “If Jesus came to our house”.
1. If Jesus came to your house
to spend a day or two
If he came unexpectedly
I wonder what you’d do?
2. I know you’d give the nicest room
to such and honoured guest
and all the food you’d serve to him
would be the very best.
3. but when you saw him coming
would your welcome be sincere,
or deep down would you worry
that this man had come too near?
4. Or would you change your clothes
before you let him in
of hide some magazines
and put a bible where they had been!
5. Would you turn off the video
and hope that he had not seen
the movie that was showing
on your Samsung TV screen?
6. Would you hide your world of music,
tuck you CD’s out of sight
would you rush about and tidy
other things that were not right?
7. Would you take Jesus with you
everywhere you planned to go
or maybe would you change your plans
for just a day or so?
8. Would you be glad to have him
meet your very closest friends
or would you sigh with great relief
when he at last was gone!
Lent is the time for letting the Spirit question us – not to be embarrassed, judged or shamed, but to be made new, made straight, made alive.
We ask the Spirit to show us our inner thoughts, the things upon which we feed our spirit, mind and body, the place of Jesus in our lifestyle and being Christians when so many are not.
It is good that we have text from Peter’s first letter today. We and Peter’s people have a lot in common.
They are a minority compared in the prevailing culture of their day. They are Christians in a vast community of non-Christians of varying varieties. That’s us too.
It seems that many of Peter’s people are displaced people – new immigrants, people who have come from somewhere else either a long time ago or just a little while ago. This is the story for many of our local families too.
They are people who go to work, raise their children, interact with a vast non-Christian world that seems to be a little feisty, a little antagonistic toward Christians. They are feeling that pressure – that pressure of being different because of their calling to be faithful to the Lord Jesus.
Unlike us in the Barossa, they often paid dearly for letting their faith show by loss of job, relegation to the lower valued people in the community, maybe even economic ruin, political coercion and oppression in the towns they lived.
Christians always have four things to ponder as they live their faith in the face of an overwhelming non-Christian or even anti-Christian society. They could either;
Give it back, or
Give it up.
They could go along with the belief of the people around them. Everyone has to find their own way to a spiritual peace (god). Everyone has to get to peace and joy in their own way. This can be done at sunset on the beach or morning in the tall trees or by boat on the crystal-clear lake. This can be sought in books and on-line (self-help section). This can be sought by taking up all kinds of practices of meditation, fitness, stillness. This can be sought in the raising of children, the building of a family lifestyle or professional lifestyle or financial security…..
Everyone has to find their way to “god”, however they define god for themselves.
In Lent we ask, are we just going along?
Peter’s people could go underground. They had the option of keeping their faith all very hush-hush. Under extreme threat of physical attack or even death, Christians have often met in secret to survive. But Peter’s people and we are not there. Still, whatever level the opposition, year after year…. it all wears Christian’s down!
In Lent we ask, are we hiding?
GIVE IT BACK
We could opt to give it back to ‘em! We could choose to fight fire with fire, get political. We could spend a lot of time trying to make our society “Christian” as we define it. We could lobby Canberra, get in the ear of the rich and famous or community leaders to get a better deal or claim our rights and the like. In extreme moves, I am also thinking of ‘normal’ people like you and me actually bombing an abortion clinic or spreading violent words about anyone they don’t like (Indigenous, Gay, Immigrants…), from the safety of their computer at home.
In Lent we ask, are we trying to give it back to ‘em?
GIVE IT UP
Then, there is always the choice that every Christian has, or at some time or other will have to deal with – what about actually giving up this faith, this church, this belief of heart and mind? Many have. Some still are in the process.
In Lent we ask, are we just giving him up?
THE GOSPEL WAY
Peter will have none of these four. He suggests a fifth alternative – the gospel alternative and it is founded on the truth that we have been brought to God BY GOD, not ourselves.
“For Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (3:18).
We can’t make God up, connect with God, be with God on our own terms or by our own vision, goodness or pious living. God has to get to us, make us, find us, grace us, love us. And he has. That is Peter’s starting point.
Peter goes straight to baptism to really give us strength of faith for the world we live in.
He thinks back to Noah and how God was patient and how God saves 8 people. God saved these 8 through water and then the truth just hits us – God has saved us by water too. By baptism we are with God and we are found by God.
So, if God has got to us, loved us, immersed us in his Spirit for living now, then what is the fifth option?
Friends, whatever happens and however the opposition comes, we have no need to go along with a dead-end culture, go underground and hide from it, give it back by making the church some political force playing the manipulation game of the world or give it up the Lord Jesus..
GO AND TELL
Peter’s option; the gospel option is to Go and tell – to bear witness. We don’t go along, go underground, give it back or give him up, we go and tell.
And in this spirit
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and give glory to God on the day he eventually visits us (1 Peter 2:12) But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Friend, steer clear of just going along, hiding your love for the Lord away, reacting in anger or giving up on Jesus. No need. With him we simply go and tell.
Jesus has come to your house
to spend a lifetime with you
He goes with you wherever you go.
No need to change your clothes, tidy up or make a special meal.
The honoured guest is glad to provide the best clothes –
those of his righteousness and acceptance.
He will also provide the best meal
The one that makes you holy as he is holy,
no matter what you wearing inside or out..
Be glad to have him meet your very closest friends
The joy comes when even one of them is gives glory to Jesus on the day he visits.
Lent is upon us. It is the time for a preparation to receive the Resurrected jesus anew and so, to be made new again in faith, hope and love. How will you play it?
The three great and ancient disciplines as outlined by Jesus in Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount are;
To engage in any of these things for the 40 days of Lent is NOT to earn favour with God or try and look good to ourselves or others. We do not need to earn favour with God because we already have his favour and blessing by the cross and resurrection of Jesus given in full to us when we were adopted as his loved sons and daughters in baptism and in all the ways the Lord has been with us along the journey since.
So, if we don’t do these things in lent to earn God’s favour, then why? I would say – for clarity: clarity of heart, mind and body in the gospel. Being more clear about who we are in the Lord. Being more aware of what things, people and circumstances pull away from our identity and place in Jesus to put our identity ion them – things like work, relationships, looks, food, drink, and etc, etc, etc.
As for Praying, Giving and Fasting, they can be done in many forms and some are to do with going without a comfortable loved thing or taking on an extra thing like regular daily prayer and bible reflection, serving somewhere, helping someone out and etc…. We can give more, do more or do less or different things or give up some things. We are free in the acceptance and love of Jesus to ask him to show us ourselves so we can see him even more.
As for the “prayer” one. There is a biblical principle at work here. Prayer needs to be shaped by God’s word more than our imagination or desire. Our imagination and desires can get pretty clouded. Yes, there is time for pouring out one’s heart to the Lord about a thing, but there is more time for letting his word shape our daily prayer. To this end, Christians for centuries have lived in order of prayer at set time of the day which all begin with, are surrounded by and end in God’s word.
There is morning prayer, midday prayer and evening prayer as a basic three time a day way to pray – simple, to-the point and you can make it what you have time for and need. The thing is that the prayer orders are all scripture. Why don’t you seek them out and see how they fit you this Lent?
Even grabbing a daily devotion book and sticking with it might be good for forty days.
It is always better to pray in the same place and at the same time(s) if you can. Prayer and Word become habitual then. A rocking chair in the spare room early in the morning might be good if you are a morning person. If not, the same chair in the same room 30 mins before going to bed or before dinner time……
The Fifth way
1Peter 3:18-22 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God.[b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Read the text slowly and follow the logic of Peter.
Notice the foundation of what he says about being Christians in a hostile world is what God has done in Christ, not our brains, looks, skills, and etc. See verse 18 and 21-22. Everything comes from the resurrection of Jesus and his forgiveness of sin and defeat of evil and death for us.
His victory over “imprisoned spirits” lying in wait for his victory is complete and then baptism is the thing he raised to give his people a strength of faith in difficult times. It is our baptism and what the Lord did there for us in a real event in real time that is worth remembering and bringing with us to work, school, social life, marriage ad every other aspect of life!
Interesting how Peter remembers Noah and unlike in other place in the Bible where the waters are seen as the thing that threatens and kills humanity, here is it the thing that gives life to humanity – like baptism. We are “saved through water”…..
Notice that Jesus is not dead, but alive and active in our lives. He is currently ‘at God’s right hand” with everything and everything in submission to him. Not easy to believe when we can’t see it! But by faith and via our ears and into our heart, we trust this. Now and again we actually do see it – in the working of the Sprit in our own lives or that of a friend, in the simple but sure receiving of the bread and wine; the body and blood of Jesus for life, healing and forgiveness.
Which way to you find yourself tending to go when it comes to living the Christian life among non-Christian people? Have a look at the list and ponder which one is your temptation and what happens inside you that triggers it.
Give it back, or
Give it up.
We named peter’s fifth option as “Go and Tell” or “witness”
But always in a gentle and respectful way WHEN ASKED.
How might you be able to take this option more where you work and live at the moment?
Do you feel ready to give an account of the hope you have in Jesus? If not, how might you get ready for the moments that will surely come?
One way is to simply “Bring Jesus”. Simply relate a story that seems to fit the conversation and question in your own words from what you remember of the story (a parable, a healing, a teaching word of Jesus you know….). Relate the story and make your point and leave it at that. There is no need to ‘seal the deal’ and ‘get a conversion”. That’s the Sprit’s job! If the words don’t come and there is no story of Jesus or word of Scripture that comes, then leave it. Another time will come.
But it would be good to be able to re-tell a few Jesus stories and relate a few bible texts when needed. What would they be?
For a friend in need of love and hope from Jesus
For words to say and opportunity to speak when asked.
For a gentle and respectful spirit at work, and wherever else you need to go.
Thank the Lord for his resurrection power at work in you from Baptism to today.