1 Peter 1:3-9
I have a picture hanging in my room with the scripture verse, “Faith, hope and love abide these three, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). I think all three of these are vital to our life with God. This is especially true for hope, but in this text, hope seems to be the middle sister, sandwiched between the other two. Hope can be illusive, it can motivate, it can change the course of history. But on this the first Sunday after Easter hope is what we live in. Marian just read the powerful account surrounding Pentecost, a hopeful day with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Listen now for God’s word as it comes to us from 1 Peter.
We are in the season of Eastertide, where for 6 weeks we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that God raised Jesus up, and we have eternal life! Jesus being seen was one of the ways we know that Jesus was resurrected. But Jesus was not just resuscitated like Lazarus was, only to die again. No Jesus was resurrected never to die again! Jesus still lives and that is what gives us such hope. God gives us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. What I find so fascinating is that Peter speaks of not seeing Jesus but we love him, we still don’t see him now but we believe, have faith. Right there we see how these three sensibilities faith hope and love are interrelated to our life with God.
Do you remember the last Star War movie, the one before A New Hope, when the rebellion is being born and the plans to the death star are stolen? When asked what do we have when fighting the Empire, the young protagonist says, “We have hope.” No matter what battles we face, we have hope as well. The difference for us is that our hope is not based on our own efforts, the determination of the rebellion. No, our hope is based on the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead and gave us eternal life.
When you go to the grocery store you often see a sell by date on meats, dairy products, baked goods so that you know how long you have for this food to be fresh and good to eat. We have all opened that container of milk to get that distinct sour smell when it has gone bad, past its prime and is not good for anything except being poured down the sink. All these foods we eat are perishable and last for a certain amount of time. Most living things have a sell by date, maybe not printed on a label, but we all know that nothing lasts forever.
But here is the power of hope, the living hope we are promised through Jesus Christ. When God raise Jesus from the dead he gave us an inheritance, a hope, that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. What that means is that God got rid of your sell by date. Yes, we will age, and have health problems, aches and pains, and ultimately die, but we will not perish because we have eternal life. When this life is through our inheritance is kept for us in heaven where what is defiled in this life will be made whole in the next. What is faded will be full of glory. That is our new birth into a living hope- that is our life with Christ our living Lord.
I met with Shirley and her family last night after the doctor told her she has cancer. We prayed, talked and cried. But without the test results or treatment plan, Shirley lives in her faith, lives in hope when she said several times “There has to be hope.” I answered there is always hope in Jesus Christ.
It is our faith, our belief in Christ, that manifests our hope; this is when we see the genuineness of our faith. The author of 1 Peter writes to people persecuted for their faith, for us we show our genuineness of faith when we hold on even in the dark times of our life, we live in hope knowing when we hold on, pain ends.
Years ago, long before we got a conscience about our experiments, researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope! (Today in the Word, May, 1990, p. 34)
We know hope when we feel the power of prayer lifting us up, when we know Jesus is walking with us through the fire, when we have the courage to trust a little longer because we are resting in the palm God’s love. Even in our darkest times, we can be like Peter in Acts declaring, “My flesh will live in hope”
With faith comes hope. But the greatest of these is love. I have often thought love is the greatest of these, yet when I think about it as part of our living hope, then I see love being the greatest because it is God’s love. God’s love makes us whole, God’s love gives us eternal life. God our Heavenly Father, loves us so much that he raised Jesus from the dead. That is what makes love the greatest. We did not do anything for that love, but we received this amazing gift through faith that brings us living hope.
Do you know that the southernmost point of Africa has for centuries experienced tremendous storms? For many years, no one even knew what lay beyond that cape, for no ship attempting to round that point had ever returned to tell the tale. Among the ancients it was known as the “Cape of Storms,” and for good reason. But then a Portuguese explorer in the sixteenth century, Vasco De Gama, successfully sailed around that very point and found beyond the wild raging storms, a great calm sea, and beyond that, the shores of India. The name of that cape was changed from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope.
Until Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death had been the cape of storms on which all hopes of life beyond had been wrecked. No one knew what lay beyond that point until, on Easter morning Christ showed us. He appeared to the women and then his disciples. Eventually Christ turns their Cape of Storms into a Cape of Good Hope. With Easter, we are given a new birth into a living hope, a Good hope, hope based on the Good news of Jesus Christ. (Peace and Forgiveness, by Pastor Buchs). Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Amen.