7th Sunday of Easter

7th Sunday of Easter

May 24, 2020

1 Peter 5:6-11

“He Cares For You”

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you all in the name of God our Father and our living Good Shepherd Jesus. The sermon today is based on the Epistle Lesson read from 1 Peter, especially the 2nd half from chapter 5.

My dear friends,

Here we are. Memorial Day weekend. Picnics. Parades. Cemetery ceremonies. We can’t do any of that stuff this year because of the Coronavirus, but it’s what we normally do. Memorial Day weekend is typically the official beginning of the summer. Of course, here in Sarasota, it’s almost always summer. So that’s why I want to tell you a story about winter. In case you’ve forgotten, “winter” is the cold season between autumn and spring in northern latitudes during which many places get snow. “Snow” is…you probably get the picture. Anyway, here’s the story I want to tell.

A little boy was eagerly looking forward to the birthday party of a friend who lived only a few blocks away. When the day finally arrived, a blizzard made the sidewalks and roads nearly impassable. The boy’s father, sensing the danger, hesitated to let his son go. As you can imagine, the disappointed son reacted tearfully. “But Dad,” he pleaded, “all the other kids will be there. Their parents are letting them go.” The father thought for a moment, then replied softly, “All right, you may go.” Surprised but overjoyed, the boy bundled up and plunged into the raging snow storm. The driving snow made visibility almost impossible, and it took him more than half an hour to trudge the short distance to the party. As he rang the doorbell, he turned briefly to look out into the storm. His eye caught the shadow of a slowly retreating but familiar figure. It was his father. He had followed his son’s every step to make sure he arrived safely. Because that’s what father’s do. They do that because they care for us.

But that can be hard to remember in a time of national crisis, and make no mistakes, that is what we are starting to pull out of…a global and national crisis. By definition, the word “crisis” means “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger,” and that happens to ALL OF US, and the crisis of life are not very pleasant. I can only assume you have no cared for sheltering in place. I bet you have not appreciated the financial difficulties this pandemic brought. I can’t imagine you enjoyed watching the death toll climb every day.

Crisis – times of difficulty and trouble and danger and stress and uncertainty and doubt – are not always related to a viral pandemic. This too shall pass…only to be replaced by another crisis. The times of crisis when our kids let us down or we let them down. The times when the addiction get the best of us. The times we lose a loved one or lose a cherished routine. The times when the daily grind of life is just too much. The times when the ends just won’t meet. And what are we supposed to do? Life is just one crisis after another, right? Where is God in all of this? Where? He’s right there behind you…next to you. Because He cares for you.

Enter the words of Peter into our crises. When you struggle in life, and EVERYONE struggles because of sin, you may not feel like the devil is prowling around. We are “modern” people; we don’t think about old-fashioned ideas like the devil, right? Are you so sure? Think about it. What does the devil want from you? Answer…the destruction of your faith. And what’s the fastest way to do that? Erode your confidence in God. And how does that happen? When we suffer and the anxiety it brings! If Satan can escalate your suffering and the anxiety it produces, his evil needs are met. Peter tells us that as we resist firm in our faith, Christ himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you, because He cares for you.

How do we know that? Because God in Christ forgives you of all your sin. Because we know that Jesus is risen and ascended to Heaven where He prepares a place for us. Because we find strength for today and hope for tomorrow when we endure the sufferings of life including a global pandemic. It happens when we realize that Jesus is our help in ages past and our hope for years to come, including eternity.

In today’s Gospel lesson you heard a portion of John 17. This is called the “High Priestly Prayer.” It is a portion of what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane right before His passion began. And WHO was He praying for? You. He prayed for you and all your anxieties. Notice that Jesus did NOT pray that we would never suffer. He did not that we never have to deal with a crisis and the resulting anxiety. He DID pray, though, that we be kept and we be one. That, my friends, is precisely what we are. One. One body joined by one Lord, one faith, one Baptism. We gather in a fellowship of worship and service to know and worship the one True God who is One…for you…because He cares for you. Always. To ensure you make it safely into everlasting.

Are you familiar with the program “Flags For Vets?” Normally, on Memorial Day, American flags are flying on the graves at the National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts thanks to a man named Paul Monti. Paul’s son, Sgt. First Class Jared Monti, was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, while trying to save a buddy who had been seriously wounded. Sgt. Monti was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and he was buried in the National Cemetery in Bourne.

But when his father visited the cemetery on Veterans Day that year, he was shocked to see there were no American flags on the graves. Cemetery rules prohibited the flags, because the grave markers are flush with the ground so anything placed above them makes maintenance difficult, especially when the grass needs to be cut. That did not sit well with that father. Paul Monti thought that was ridiculous, so he convinced officials to change the rules. Once they did, Monti started “Flags for Vets,” a program to place flags at the graves of veterans. He introduced the program and put out a plea for volunteers.

They came by the busload, kids with their parents and their grandparents, sons and daughters whose fathers and mothers are buried at the cemetery, Boy Scouts and Vietnam veterans on Harleys. In its 8th year, “Flags for Vets” volunteers placed more than 77,000 flags on the graves for veterans on Memorial Day in 2019.

That’s what Fathers do. Because they care about us…and your heavenly Father loves you more than you’ll ever know. Look no further than a cross, and you’ll get a sense of just how much God the Father loves you and cares about you and cannot wait to see you arrive safely in eternity.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. Amen.