Saturday, May 07, 2005

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 8th, 2005, 1 Peter 4:12-17

7th Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day)
St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City
(1 Peter 4:12-17, ESV)
(Thanks to Pastor Tim Pauls)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Mother’s day is great day to be in church. In fact when the national holiday was established 1911 and has very strong roots in the church. In those days, the celebration of Mother’s Day always began in church. But we should also take not that Mother’s Day isn’t a church holiday. It’s not on the churches yearly calendar, there are not specific reading set aside for the day. Today’s Liturgical date (church calendar date) is The Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Now just because there isn’t day set aside in the church calendar for Mothers, doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, or that God doesn’t think motherhood is important. There is very good reason for us to give thank for our mothers.

Just look at how God has set up the job of being a mother. God has specifically set up mothers to bring new life into the world, and he does it in a way that shows us what it really means to be servants of one another. Every mother knows that as soon as she is pregnant everything in her life is different. She’s got to eat different foods, she’s got care for herself in a different way than she did before because she’s not just eating for one anymore. Her body isn’t just hers anymore; a good part of it is on loan to the other life that’s growing inside her. She suffers discomfort, sickness, weakness, stretch marks, etc. for the sake of a child. All you have to do is remember that fact to realize that we owe a great deal of gratitude to our mothers.
But Mom’s rewards are very often hidden, too. You know about that old yarn that says, “When I was a child I couldn’t believe how dumb my parents were, they didn’t seem to know anything, especially when I was a teenager. I was also amazed at how much my parents learned by the time I got to be 20.” Of course Mark Twain had a lot to say about children. He is well known for not wanting children around him. He said that as soon as children are born they should be put in a barrel with just a bung hole for air. When they get to be teenagers you close the bung hole. It’s the kids that get into trouble that are remembered, and mom is blamed. We all think we know just exactly how any given mom should raise her own children. And it is true, all mothers make their share of mistakes. Mother’s are sinful human beings. Every one of them will tell you they learned “on the job” and on the job training means making mistakes.
Add to all this the fact that motherhood isn’t highly respected these days. Of course we have this holiday, but on the whole women are told that a career is more important, and being a mother is a roadblock. And even more than that, It’s not uncommon for people to think that a woman would only stay home to take care of her children because she the can’t do anything else. These attitudes go against God’s way of thinking and we shouldn’t be surprised. The world always goes against the ways of God. If you have ever been mocked for being a mother… for doing what God would have you do as a mother… you know what St Peter is talking about in this text. When we follow God’s will for our lives there will always be trouble with the way the world thinks.
…do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
We shouldn’t be surprised. We know what the problem is. Motherhood and Fatherhood are built on God’s ideas. He makes parents to serve children. Not in the way of giving children whatever they want, but serving them in the ways they need. In God’s plan, parents give of themselves to serve their children by caring for them, disciplining them, doctoring them, and teaching them. Parents are God’s gift of love to children. In God’s plan all human beings are made to be of service to each other in every part of their life. The problem is that we don’t want to serve… we want to be served. We don’t want to think about what other people need or want, we want to take care of what we need and want. In our sinful hearts anything that comes between us and our self satisfaction can’t be good. Our self centered hearts don’t want anything to do with anything that points us away from self service. We are guilty, too. But the sentiment is clearly expressed in the way that people don’t really respect motherhood the way God has set it up. As we think about it a little bit more, it shouldn’t surprise us, that’s what St. Peter is saying. “Don’t be surprised!” The true nature of sin is selfishness not service. People want to reject anything that smacks of service.
Now if people don’t have much use for the way God has set up families to work… if they reject the very practical gifts he gives in mothers and fathers, we should be even less surprised at the reaction to the gifts that he gives to us through Jesus. Just look at how Jesus was treated. He came to bring God’s forgiveness; he healed people of sickness, spoke about serving others, and even raised dead people back to life. He came to serve people by offering free forgiveness. And for all this, for doing God’s will, for serving people doing what God sent him to do, he was beaten, condemned and nailed to a cross. Jesus gave of himself. He came to serve people. He did what God wanted him to do and the world hated him and killed him. Now as he always does, God used that great evil for good. Because of Jesus death on the cross and his defeat of death through his resurrection, your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life through faith in him. Jesus turns his death in to your victory. “Jesus lives the victory’s won!” the hymn says. Your selfishness doesn’t condemn you anymore. That sin, along with all the others you have ever done are put away. The slate is wiped clean. You don’t have to worry about yourself any more. God has taken care of your greatest need. You are free to think about other people. You can serve, the way Mothers serve, the way Jesus serves. Jesus lived, died and rose again for you. You can give yourself for other people.
St. Peter is making one very important point here, though. He says that if we live the way God would have us live, we are going to suffer. It’s not going to be easy. Don’t think that it’s “something strange” that people hate you for the way you live. Jesus said it like this:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19, ESV)
I know you’ve seen this hate. People call you a bigot for holding fast to God’s Word. People say that you are intolerant because you say that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Family and friends don’t want to discuss their beliefs with you because you won’t compromise. I know about the pressure you are under to abandon the things you were taught when you were young. Or the pressure to measure the success of the church by numbers, instead of using God’s standards. St. Peter says that this is to be expected. Jesus said it, too. If you follow Jesus, if you live as a Christian you can expect to be falsely accused, mocked and rejected. As the world treated Jesus it will treat you.
So what do we do? Well, St. Peter says to rejoice. “Not likely, Pastor. I’m not going to be happy about suffering. Don’t you know that suffering is the enemy? Don’t you know that suffering is to be avoided at all cost? Don’t you know that suffering never did anyone any good?” Peter didn’t say to look for suffering, he didn’t say you had to love suffering, he says “rejoice” in it. That means that when it comes (and it will come to every Christian), you share in Christ’s suffering. That doesn’t mean that you’re suffering for your sins, Jesus has done all that already. It means that your suffering for doing good reminds you of Jesus suffering. It makes you less self dependant and more Christ dependant. Suffering pushes you to Jesus.
Jesus suffering is your salvation: You were born into sin and faced only the prospect of suffering God’s eternal wrath and punishment. But Jesus saves you from that. Jesus, God himself, became a human being, just like you. He suffered and died on the cross for your sins. He suffered the rejection of the world. He unjustly arrested, beaten and put to death. But even more importantly he suffered God’s rejection, he became our sin, and God punished him for our sin. He was condemned for the sins of the whole world. But, Jesus lives. He rose from the grave. He lives forever and gives you the promise of eternal life, too. For all the times that you sin and deserve God’s anger and punishment, even the times when you resent suffering, Jesus declares that your sins are forgiven because he died and rose again for you.
You see, your sufferings don’t earn God’s forgiveness for you. Jesus earned God’s forgivness for you. He gives you his suffering through faith in him. He gives you his suffering through the Word spoken to you. He gives you his suffering in his body and blood present in bread and wine. He says, “I’ve suffered for you. I was hung on the cross in your place. Through forgiveness of your sins, I give you credit for my suffering you aren’t hell bound any more.” We share in Jesus sufferings, when we gladly receive the forgiveness of sins that he offers. Jesus shares his suffering with you.
Dear suffering Christians; don’t think that it is strange that you suffer for being Christian. You will face trouble in this world. But also, don’t think that because you suffer God has forgotten about you. After all he gave his only begotten son for you, you are forgiven. He uses suffering in your life to remind you of that. Remember the words of St. Paul:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)
The glory that he’s talking about here is eternal life. That glory is yours because of Jesus.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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