Sunday, May 28, 2023

Joel 2:28-29; May 28, 2023; Festival of Pentecost;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28–29, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are you parched and dry this morning? I’m not really talking about the weather; we aren’t experiencing a drought this spring, yet. And up here in the Arrowhead we’ve got all the water we need. Although we could always use a bit of rain. This year, for right now, the ground seems to have just about the right amount of moisture. But you do know what I mean when I talk about being parched and dry. You’ve seen drought, with the dust floating in the air, where moisture should be. Great dry cracks in the ground made by the evaporating of surface moisture. Brownish-Green plants with shriveled leaves, clenching the dry dusty earth, steadily shrinking into nothing as they vainly suck the ground for water, smoke from forest fires that chokes out everything.

Human beings can be dry, too. Working in the sun can quickly dehydrate a person; as it beats down on you; the heat causes you to sweat in great drops that are soaked into your clothing. Your tongue seems to swell and fill your mouth with dryness, instead of saliva. Weakness comes to your joints; even movement emphasizes the need for some moisture. Your mind aches for a small drop of water on the tip of your tongue. The land can be parched and dry; people can be parched and dry, you’ve all been there, and you know what it means.

Our text today comes from the book of the Prophet Joel. We don’t hear much from him in our regular Sunday readings, but he pops up in Pentecost. He does because; the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the text that St. Peter used to preach the first Sermon in the Christian Church; he did that on the first Pentecost. We heard a part of it in our reading of Acts a few moments ago. It might seem kind of strange but Joel, that important Pentecost book, mostly speaks about being parched and dry. In fact, almost two thirds of the book talk about and invasion of locusts, and the ensuing drought. Listen to the prophet Joel describe what’s going on:
The seed shrivels under the clods; the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. To you, O LORD, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” (Joel 1:17–20, ESV)
It is quite a vivid picture of a drought that the prophet paints. It almost makes you want to get up and go get a drink, doesn’t it? We really don’t know exactly when Joel penned those words, or when that drought took place. It really doesn’t make that much difference, the dryness of the land that Joel talks about was something that happened in that part of the country occasionally. The people living there suffered because of it. But Joel wasn’t only talking about dry ground; he was talking about dry people, too. Over and over again in their history, the People of God became spiritually dry. They forgot about what God had done for them, by giving them the land he promised. They forgot what he had done for them, supporting them in the desert when they escaped from Egypt. They forgot what he had done by delivering them from slavery to Pharaoh in the first place. The parched land was only a sign of their parched lives; lives without the God who was their God; lives spiritually dry and empty. Their tongues no longer sang the praises of God; they lacked the moisture that was needed. They no longer made the thank offerings and the drink offerings that God had command them to do; they lacked the moisture that was needed. They had turned instead to false gods, made of dry stone, or cut wood. These gods sucked the life from them, instead of refreshing them, and giving them what they needed. Through the prophet Joel, God calls them to repentance. “Return to me!” he called out to them. I will end the drought; I am the one who provides what you need to live. I will give you the moisture your soil and your soul need. “Return to the LORD your God,” say the well-known words of the book of Joel, “for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

God always responds to repentance: “in those days I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” Like the water poured out on a thirsty land, that runs into the cracks in the ground and refreshes dry withered plants; my Spirit, says God, will be poured out on my people. They will drink up the moisture of my care and compassion; I will take care of their physical and spiritual needs. I will give them abundant water, more than a drop to cool the tongue, but overflowing to fill up their whole lives, to refresh and replenish them… “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” That was God wanted, for the people to be saved, not only from the drought of the land, but from their spiritual dryness, too.

It isn’t difficult to see that people today are also parched and dry. There is clamoring for spirituality, those sections in the bookstore are busier than ever. Titles like “10 ways to use God to make your life better.” “Basic life principals-Use the bible to fix whatever is wrong in your life.” “God wants you to be healthy and happy, use this prayer to make it so.” People today are dry as the ground in a drought, sucking at the dust for spiritual direction, panting for moisture in the dryness of misleading (if not well intentioned) texts. Laying their offerings at the feet of false gods who promise and end to the drought but can’t deliver, because the moisture that people need in their lives can only come from the God who created them. The moisture they need can only come from being in a relationship with the Only True God.

Do you sometimes feel dry, too? Even though you are in a relationship with One True God. Do the pressures of life, the busyness of life, the demands of life, seem to suck the life out of you? Life can be that way. It’s nice to be able to work, but when the demands of your job overwhelm you, when the workload increases, it can dry up your opportunities to do anything else. And your family relationships are affected, too. You struggle to keep them alive, but the pressure leads to arguments and misunderstanding that just drain the life away from them. Painful memories from the past suck the good from current relationships and leave you gasping for moisture.

Even your relationship with your Savior is, at times, affected. There are Sundays when you may wonder why you are sitting here, because God feels so far away… so far that it seems as if He doesn’t care what happens in your dry and dusty life, so far away that you feel parched and dry.

“In those days,” says the Lord to you, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” God provides the moisture you need in your life. Just as he sends rain on dry parched ground, just as he gives due every morning to thirsty plants; he gives you the moisture you need to live on this dry planet. It isn’t a coincidence that he speaks of the ‘pouring out’ of the Spirit. It’s the language of liquid refreshment, water is poured out, wine is poured out, and thirsty lives have what they need.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”” (John 7:37–38, ESV)
Those are the words of Jesus. He knows how dry and parched life can be, and he knows that people need spiritual moisture, but more than that he knows why life can be that way. It isn’t a coincidence that the dryness of life shows up first in our relationships with other people. That’s because it’s caused by dryness in another relationship, our relationship with God himself. It’s sin that comes between Your Heavenly Father and you, straining the relationship, just like an argument keeps your friends or even your parents away. Sin causes the moisture of life to trickle away. But Jesus says, “come to me and drink.” I have overpowered the dryness of sin. When it drains your life of meaning by drying up your relationships, remember what I have done for you. I lay in the dry dusty tomb that should have been yours. I died the death and suffered the punishment that your sin should have brought to you. I made permanent the relationship between Our Father and you. It will never dry up again!

And that brings us to Pentecost. Pentecost is above all things about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul wrote to a Pastor under his instruction
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3–7, ESV)
You see, Pentecost is exactly about the pouring out of spiritual moisture on dry lifeless people. It is about the giving of the gifts of spiritual moisture to Christ’s church. It is the Holy Spirit at work here in this place as we hear the Good News of what Jesus Christ has done. He renews and restores; he works to pour living water into dry and parched people. He is at work, reviving the dry dusty soul at the baptismal font. Where he creates living faith through water connected to the words of God. There is moisture there for you. When we say, “remember your baptism,” we mean remember what God did there for you there. Pouring the water life into your life, washing away the sin that made you parched and dry. Whenever you remember it, the spiritual moisture flows again and revives you. The Holy Spirit is also at work whenever we approach this rail to drink the spiritual moisture, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin, the very blood of Christ.

God knows about your dryness, about the drought that sometimes affects your life. He does more than offer you a drop to cool your tongue. He offers abundant overflowing “…living waters that flow from within.” as Jesus said. He gives spiritual moisture to quench your thirst, moisture to end the drought, moisture to mend the dryness in your family relationships, and bring meaning to the work you do every day. That spiritual moisture, that living water, flows from within you to everyone around you. Just as you are forgiven so you also forgive. The moisture you have been given, you give to others, and just as the ending of a drought begins with a single drop of rain, dry and parched people, the dry and parched land, are revived. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Acts.1.6-11; May 21, 2013; Ascension of Our Lord (observed);

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” ” (Acts 1:6–11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There they stood on the Mount of Olives gazing up into heaven. For all they could tell Jesus was gone. A cloud took him away. I think they were wondering what to do next. Of course, Jesus told them,
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v. 8)

But how could they possibly do that without Jesus? As they were standing there with their mouths hanging open in wonder the angels appeared. “Hey, why are you looking up there? You’re looking for Jesus in the wrong place. Look for him, instead, where he has promised to be. He’ll come again just like that. You’ll see him that way again. But for now, he’s giving you something else.” The disciples were there standing in two great promises. First, the angels tell of the promise of Jesus coming again. We Christians stand with the disciples in between. Jesus came first in the womb of the Virgin. He completed all that was necessary for our forgiveness. His life lived for you and me. His death died for you and me. His resurrection too for us. Everything is done. He goes into heaven and is coming again to bring it all to its conclusion; a world without sin and death and pain and sorrow. That’s the joy of the Ascension. That is the ultimate joy of those baptized into God’s name. We are his children, adopted through Holy Baptism by God putting his name and promises on us with water. We live our lives looking forward to Jesus’ glorious return, just as he promised.

To put some flesh on the second promise of the Ascension we turn back to St. Luke’s Gospel, the Gospel reading for today. Jesus promises the disciples what they’ll be doing. “…repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [Jesus] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” (Luke 24:47-49, ESV) The Good News of Jesus is going to go out from Jerusalem. They are witnesses of these things; the forgiveness of sins that Jesus has won. They saw his life. They saw his miracles. They heard his teaching. They saw his death. They were witnesses to his resurrection. When he promises they know it is true. The one who can rise from the dead can do whatever he promises. The disciples are the ones sent with this Good News the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus. And they do not go alone. Jesus’ Ascension comes with the promise of the Holy Spirit. He is the promise of the Father. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises to be with us always is true. He is with us in God’s Word and worship, in Bread and Wine and Water. Creating and strengthening faith in Jesus, through the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

These are the two great promises of the Ascension, and we confess them in the Apostles’ Creed when we confess the story of Jesus:

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus sits at that right hand of God. As one of my seminary professors says, “The right hand is what you use to do things.” (Norman Nagel, 2010) What God is doing right now in the world he is doing with his right hand, Jesus. In his life, death, and resurrection Jesus gains forgiveness for you. His “It is finished” on the cross restores your broken relationship with God. He takes your sin, your deserved punishment into the grave, and rises to your new life. He is active and working right now in your ears, on your wet head, and in your mouth. In fact, this means that Jesus is closer now than he has ever been. It is what Jesus did on the cross, delivered. In these means, the spoken word, water, and bread and wine, he delivers forgiveness to you.

It’s as Luther confessed in the Small Catechism:
What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. (Small Catechism, The Sacrament Holy Baptism) What is the benefit of this eating and drinking? These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. (Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar)
There is nothing more practical than the daily remembering of the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. Every day we sin. Every day we live with the knowledge of broken relationships, broken promises, and broken dreams. Every day we struggle with the knowledge that death waits for us. It is ours because of sin. But we live every day also in the promises of the Crucified One, the Risen One, the Ascended One, the One Who is Coming Again to be our judge. For those who are his children, Jesus’ return is not a day of dread or fear. We already know the Judge. What God promises is already true. Jesus is already, right now, our judge. He has declared us “not guilty” through his cross, his word, and his sacraments. We are his forgiven children now. We can only be lost from him if we reject his promises to us, wanting to be our own savior. We look forward to his return, because then we will see him, just as the Ascension angels promised. We will be with Jesus forever. This great Ascension joy compels us to live differently. Forgiven sinners forgive sinners. We forgive those who sin against us and strive to live our lives according to God’s will.

This is the joy of the Ascension. There is no question as to why the Christian church has celebrated this as one of the highest festivals of the church year. We rejoice in Jesus coming the first time, in flesh and blood for our forgiveness. We rejoice in the message passed down to us through the Apostles; repentance and forgiveness of sins, proclaimed beginning at Jerusalem and ending in our ears. And we rejoice in our Lord’s second coming as our judge, our Savior. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Galatians 1:1-12; The Sixth Sunday of Easter; May 14, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:1–12, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Maybe it's time to update the Gospel. I mean, we know what it is. Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and rose again to new life. Jesus perfect life and death in exchange for our sin and new life for us. We hear it all the time. It's the gospel. It's "good news". But maybe there is more. Maybe other religions have some things that we need to consider adding. Other people are spiritual. They seem to have ways of getting along in the world. Some of the things they say make sense. So maybe we should incorporate some of those into the gospel. All good ideas need updating from time to time, right?

People say things like this all the time, even today in this modern world. The only real sin today is believing that you know "The Truth". There are far too many ideas out there for you to be sure that you have the right one, they say. The thing is this idea is not new at all. It's modern and ancient. In fact, it's what Paul is writing this letter about. There were teachers, troublemakers, that showed up in the church in Galatia. This was one of the churches that St. Paul founded. They wanted to add in some things to what Paul had taught them. They wanted to update the Gospel. A little good works here. A little circumcision there. "If you want to be relevant to the society you are in…"

When St. Paul heard, he wasn't just angry, he was livid! He quickly gets through the niceties of beginning the letter but drops all pretense and shouts. "I'm astonished that you are so quickly deserting the Gospel and turning to a different gospel!" They had set aside what he had taught only a short time ago. They altered the Gospel. They tweaked it. They caved into the ideas of inclusivism and accommodation. They buckled under cultural pressure. Smooth talking false teachers told them it was okay. As long as they didn't give up the core of the Gospel.

If you're anxious to do that, there are plenty of other Gospels out there. I have said the names of the preachers before. They tell you the gospel is about you. One asks the question "What On Earth Am I Here For?" Another tells you to ask God the impossible for your life. Another says if you treat every day like Friday, God will make your life happier. And still others tell you that if you are just less particular about what the Bible teaches and drop the old hymns and liturgy the world will flock to your church door. And more will try to convince you that there's no place in the church for discussions about LGBQ+ or homosexuality or abortion because those are personal issues. Nothing has changed. Some of Satan's attacks against the church seem so reasonable. And they usually start out, "if we just…" And Jesus is moved from the center. And if Jesus is not at the center, we have lost The Gospel.

But the Gospel is a particular thing. It's not a conglomeration of ideas brought together by people wandering around the Middle East. It is not man's gospel. It is God's gospel. It is a gospel made sure by God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the gospel of our being saved from this present evil age. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ who gave himself up willingly to the cross to save us from our sinfulness. It is the gospel of restoration with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is the gospel that did not come from the mind of people. It was not made up by clear thinking human beings. It was revealed by God in the life of Jesus Christ. And there is no other way to have a right relationship with God than through Jesus Christ. Any other way of trying to connect to God leads to permanent, eternal separation from him. The true gospel is the gospel of our receiving from God, not our doing for God. In a few pages in this letter Paul says it like this:
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”” (Galatians 3:11–12, ESV)
and he further clarifies in Romans:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21–25a, ESV)
Through faith we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is given to us freely without cost by God because of what Jesus has done. Faith clings to the promise. This is the good news. The true gospel. No human input. No human supplements. No human tweaks are changes or alterations. This is the gospel that comes from God through St. Paul without modification or accommodation.

In the face of the promises of God in Jesus Christ, who are we to change what God has given? As St. Paul says are we seeking the approval of man or of God? If we want to please human beings, we can incorporate all of those things into the gospel and end up with no gospel at all. The gospel of salvation by grace through Jesus Christ, if it is changed, is a perverted false gospel. And Paul gives strong warnings to those who would preach that kind of a gospel:
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4, ESV)
Either we are saved by our good works, and we don't need Christ, or Jesus Christ and his righteousness are given to us freely by grace. When you tweak the gospel to make it about what we do rather than what God has done it is no longer the good news. It takes Jesus out of the picture. And if Jesus is out of the picture what you have left is not the gospel but another of the many paths to hell.

There is only one gospel. It is the good news of Jesus that frees us from the curse of the law. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10–14, ESV) and so, we receive this forgiveness of sins, that is, you are justified, by God's grace, his undeserved love for us, and nothing else. We cling to Jesus in faith that his promises are true for you and me. And all of this is apart from any works of the law or any deeds we do. And that is truly good news.

St. Paul's astonishment comes because it only took a very short time for the Galatians to go from a position of being willing to have their eyes gouged out for the truth of the gospel to giving it up entirely. This is fair warning. We must always be on guard. We must always be testing and checking to be sure that Jesus Christ is at the center of what we do and say. We pray for the Holy Spirit to be among us as we worship so that we would receive the good news of Jesus. And so, we hear it again. The good news of Jesus Christ is here for you.
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:3–7, ESV)

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

1 Peter 2:2-10; Sixth Sunday of Easter; May 7, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:2–10, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the center point of history. That is our confession. Biblical scholar Carl Michaelson said that Jesus is the “hinge of history.” The fact that most people on earth don’t recognize him as such, is of no consequence. He is so, in fact. Not surprisingly, St. Peter agrees. He says, “Christ is the cornerstone.” We look forward to the day when we lay a cornerstone for our new church. It is customary to put documents and memorabilia in it to commemorate the occasion. Something for future generations to see what we were thinking, why we built the building. The laying of a cornerstone is decisive. When you do it there is no turning back. You either build on it or you stumble over it. The future will look at our cornerstone and either think of us fools or wise.

The Christian faith is the same. St. Peter quotes Isaiah,
For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:6, ESV)
For those who do not believe (the vast majority of the world),
“[Jesus,] the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1 Peter 2:7–8, ESV)
To put it another way,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, ESV)
The gospel is the account of Jesus coming into the world, dying for the sins of the world (even those who will never believe), and who is coming again to finish “making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5, ESV) It is the culmination of all that was foretold in the Old Testament, all that is recorded in the New Testament. God has and will solve the greatest problem that faces humanity. He will abolish death. All that Jesus did is the “making of all things new.”

A center point has a before and an after. A hinge has two sides. A cornerstone has a before and an after. Again St. Peter talks about that.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)
He states it this way.
• Before, in darkness; after in marvelous light.
• Before, not a people; after God’s people.
• Before, no mercy; after mercy.

And he says even more. We are chosen, a royal priesthood and God’s possession.

It all hinges on Jesus, the center point, the hinge, the cornerstone. He makes all this happen. As St. Paul eloquently puts it,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)
According to Peter the result is our being born again, “like newborn infants” (Latin: Quasimodo Geniti, celebrated as the Second Sunday of Easter, named for the first line of the Introit). He carries the idea here from his words in Chapter 1:3.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3, ESV)
Peter fills the idea with Old Testament images. A priesthood, a holy nation, a temple. He ties salvation history together Old and New, before and after. What was before Jesus was there because of Jesus. It told of the cornerstone ahead of time. It set God’s people in ready mode. They had God’s grace because of Jesus to come. We have God’s grace because he did come.

As you would expect the hinge of history is a provable fact. Unbelievers deny it, just as we would expect them to, but Jesus, the Son of God, the Savoir of the World, the Cornerstone of history, came in history, “born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate.” And the result is clear. We are born again, like newborn infants. Our status as God’s people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, is, in fact, a historical fact.

The fact is nothing less than astounding, if not a bit confusing. Even the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus was confused. He asked Jesus,
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”” (John 3:4, ESV)
Jesus was clear. Understanding our status is tied to his resurrection. We are
…born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3b, ESV)
Like newborn infants, we are to, long for the pure spiritual milk. All newborn infants need their mother’s milk. It provides everything necessary to live and grow. I once heard a sermon that the preacher said, “It’s time to move on from the milk. It’s time to get into the meat.” Meaning, not focusing on Jesus and his salvation, but rather the good works we should do. He was wrong. It is the pure spiritual milk that causes us to grow. As infants we long for it and need it. Good works follow as a consequence of nourishment.

It is all by God’s gracious hand. He provides what we need and want. A place, a time, a pastor proclamation of his word, sacraments to wash and feed us, a building, possibly a new building, fellow infants to console and share, a community to proclaim Jesus as the cornerstone. These are the “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5b, ESV). These are our infant priesthood good works to do.

In the world today, there are only two ways to be. Born of Adam, born into sin, born into slavery, born into death, or born again of Christ through his resurrection. Newborn infants, feeding on the pure spiritual milk, Alive in Christ bringing Life in Christ. With death in our future but the sure hope of life with Jesus forever, with the certainty by God’s promise of a physical resurrection like his with no more death, pain, sorry or suffering. Living with sin, but also living in Jesus’ victory over sin. Knowing that sin has no power over us but is dead in the grave with Jesus. Living with pain a sorrow but knowing certainly they are short lived. Because we are a chosen people, God’s people, a royal priesthood, a people for his own possession. We have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.