Sermons

Sunday after the Ascension

May 28, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

When I was a seminarian at Nashotah House, there was a crucifix in every classroom.  I suspect it is the same today.  I was told the story of the time when a book called “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” was published, and someone tacked a note under one of the crucifixes that said, “If I’m okay and you’re okay, then why am I hanging on this cross?”

We are not okay.  Something at the core of who we are is not okay.  We believe that in the beginning God and creation were in perfect relationship.  But human beings messed that up.  Our relationship with God is soiled, sometimes strained, by our sinfulness.  We choose our will above the will of God.

This is the sobering truth written about in the first Letter of St. Peter that was read this morning.  It speaks of the
world in which we live and the fact that life is not easy.  It begins:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

That sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it?  But then St. Peter connects our “fiery ordeal” with Jesus.  He writes:  “But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

This is connected with the truth that we learn at our baptism.  In our baptismal liturgy, we say of the waters of our baptism:

“In (this water) we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to his in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Through our baptism, we participate in the saving life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  And, like Christ, we will have times of suffering.  St. Peter speaks of our lives in Christ this way:

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.  Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.”

As we, at times, suffer with Christ, we are called to humility.  But, we do not suffer alone, for Christ is there with us and we can cast our burdens upon Him.

And then, St. Peter talks about something that we often shy away from in modern society.  He speaks of the same
temptation which I alluded to earlier when I said that we believe that in the beginning God and creation were in perfect
relationship.  But human beings messed that up.  Our relationship with God is soiled, sometimes strained, by our sinfulness.  We choose our will above the will of God.

St. Peter writes:  “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.   Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.”  Sometimes easier said than done!

That seems rather depressing, doesn’t it?  Most of what I have talked about this morning is hardship, sinfulness, and suffering.  This does not make the Christian life sound very attractive. 

But, having acknowledged the truth of our condition, and the fact that in our Baptisms we are connected with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – let’s get to the resurrection!

What I mean is that yes – we are sinful.  Yes, we are tempted.  Yes, we do suffer at times.  This is the reality of our  brokenness.  But, we are still in the Season of Easter, and let us not forget that Jesus triumphed.  Yes, He suffered death on the Cross, but He also rose from the grave.

St. Peter does give us words of encouragement.  In the last part of his letter which was read this morning, he writes:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  Amen, indeed!