6th Sunday of Easter

6th Sunday of Easter

May 21, 2017

1 Peter 3:13-22

“Prepare to Defend Yourself”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today is the Second Lesson read earlier from 1 Peter chapter 3.

My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

So…what do I have here? It’s probably similar to what you keep in your car or purse these days. I call it my “Coronavirus Kit.” I keep it on the passenger seat of my car. Inside this bag are the items that (I hope) will protect me from infecting myself or others when I have to go to a bigger public place like Publix or Walmart.I have a disposable mask that I got at my doctor’s office that I have “re-purposed” more than once. I also have a real cloth mask that I use more often than not. I also have a small bottle of hand sanitizer; you can NEVER have enough hand sanitizer. And I also grabbed a few food service disposable gloves that I grabbed from the church kitchen. Those are handy if I have to touch something particularly groody like a gas pump handle. Hey…in this “new normal” brought about by COVID-19, you do whatever you have to do to defend yourself against the Coronavirus. And we’re ALL doing some version of this, right? It’s not just me defending myself. Everyone has to if this whole battle against the Coronavirus can ever be won…if that’s even possible.

And that got me to thinking about the idea of being prepared to defend ourselves. Peter tells us in today’s Epistle lesson that as Christians, even when we suffer, we are daily being prepared to defend not against an unseen virus, but to defend our faith and the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, and that’s bigger than any virus could ever be.

Let’s face it…there will be times when your hope, your faith, will be challenged. Sufferings will come, and that time is NOW. In today’s lesson, Peter speaks of the sufferings that Christians face particularly for being Christian. And let’s face it, on most occasions, Christians in America today will not be persecuted for doing what is good; in fact, we are quite often praised for that. Yet Peter encourages the Christians of every era in any place – places where living your faith WILL get you persecuted, that for those who suffer even when they are doing good are “blessed,” in the same sense (same word) as Jesus spoke in the Beatitudes.

It is on this basis that Christians may be fearless in a right-now very fearful world like we find ourselves in today. If it is God’s will that a Christian suffers, it is far better to suffer for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. That only makes sense. If you steal a car and go to jail, you get what you deserve. But when you suffer for doing the right thing? Peter says you’re blessed! And a great many of you ARE doing the right thing. You’re wearing your masks, wearing gloves, using hand sanitizer, practicing social distancing, and following the guidelines. In doing so, even if you “suffer,” you are Blessed!

This is a universal truth I have learned. It is easier to DO the right thing than it is to SAY the right thing. It’s not just that we don’t want to “offend” anyone. Several surveys have suggested that one of Americans’ greatest fears is public speaking. People are afraid of being unprepared or of embarrassing themselves when they speak in front of others. Many overcome this fear, but when the content of their speaking is a defense of the Christian faith, that’s when people don’t want to sound stupid or say the wrong thing, and so far too many clam up like captured spies. But the fact remains, it’s not enough for us to just go around doing the right thing; being “nice” isn’t a marker of salvation. We are to publically give the reason for the hope that we have whenever necessary; we are to have courage to confess Christ. That doesn’t mean getting up on the proverbial “soapbox,” but you should always be ready to proclaim your faith in any situation.

In our preparation to defend our faith, we boldly proclaim that Christ was raised to life! It is in His resurrection that Baptism saves (v 21). Peter makes use of the image of the flood in Noah’s day and the ark in which 8 people were saved to make the point to Christians of the value of their Baptism with water. “Baptism … now saves you” (v 21). We are baptized into the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no Baptism (Romans 6), there would be no salvation, there would be no forgiveness of sins, and there would be no righteousness of Christ in us, and ultimately no eternal life. There’s no hope in that!

Through Baptism and through the Word, Christians keep the focus on Christ as the only source of strength in times of need. On this basis, Peter sets out the goal for the follower of Christ: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (v 15). The answer – the reason for our hope – always has been and always will be Jesus, telling of your hope through your words and showing them your hope through your deeds.

Saturday (May 16th) was “Armed Forces Day.” It was a day to pay tribute to men and women who serve the United States’ armed forces. We are so very thankful for those who served and gave their lives in service to our country. And if those who fought and died could see their country today like my grandfather, father, and uncle, how would they feel? Would they be happy about our silence in our world, our hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, or the continual political bickering during a time of national crisis? Or would our fallen heroes and our God have us stand up and publically defend our faith and take a stand for what we know to be right and do the right thing? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Challenges will indeed come in your life, and we are living that truth. As a baptized child of God, those made to be His disciples through Baptism and the teaching of God’s Word, you are continually being made ready to make a confident defense of the eternal hope that is in you through the life, death, resurrection of your Lord Jesus Christ. Do you feel ready and prepared? Ready or not, the time to make that defense is NOW and every day into eternity! And if you need some extra masks or hand sanitizer, I have plenty to spare. Be strong and stay safe, my friends.

Amen.