Monday, March 8, 2010

“This Is It?” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

S-1173 3MIL/3C 3/03/2010 Hymns: (O) #388; (S) #347; #180; (C) #145

Texts: Psalm 27; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Mark 14:

Theme: “This Is It?” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Question: “Have you said, “This Is It” lately” (3rd in Sermon series on “Life Together”)


(I beg your forgiveness if there is any similarity to your situation. This is not intended in this manner. The names of the couple have been changed to protect their identity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Third Midweek in Lent is from the Epistle Lesson: “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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved Joan sat at the kitchen table sobbing and weeping bitter tears. She had married Bob her high school sweetheart, the great All American Football player. She had hoped that the two of them would have a very lovely and beautiful life together. But that wasn’t the case.

After 35 years of marriage and 3 children all grown up and gone Joan sat and sobbed at her state of affairs. She cried out to herself and God weeping and saying, “This Is It Lord, I can’t take it any more! This is not the life I bargained for! I can’t stay in this marriage any longer!”

As she was contemplating these thoughts Bob walked into the house and asked, “Why are you crying?” “Nothing,” was Joan’s response. “What do you mean nothing? Why are you crying, then?” Bob asked a second time. Between sobs Joan lifted her head and looked at Bob and said, “This is it Bob. I can’t stay in this marriage any longer. For the last 35 years I have had to put up with all of your cutting and harsh words. I have had to listen to you many times cutting me down and making me feel worthless. In public and private you said hurtful things. Well, Bob I have had it with all of the mental abuse of being degraded by you and made to feel that I am just another piece of YOUR property. I have begged you to speak to me kindly and with gentle words.” But you always say, “That is just the way I am!” “Well, I am sorry, but I can’t take this any more. I want to know that I am wanted and loved. I want to know that I am more than just something to be used for your personal satisfaction. I can’t live any longer in this one way marriage. This is not what I asked for when I sought you to be my husband and the father of my children. This is it! I will have my attorney contact you with the divorce papers. Good bye Bob” PAUSE.

Stories like this fill the air. Perhaps you know someone just like Joan and Bob—maybe it is even your story. Could this be your story? Our whole lives are stories. Some of them have been written, others are being written even as I speak. May I be bold to ask you this evening my beloved an honest question? If you were to wrap your life up in one story, just one story, what would it be? What would be the one big story that makes sense of all the other little stories? Our lives are filled with countless little stories. We go to work in the morning and come home at night; each year seems to get us home a bit later. Each promotion comes with more work, a salary is great, but it also means you don’t get overtime anymore. Everyone is looking to put their little stories into the context of the big, defining story of their lives. Some of us go big and try to become famous and rich, others go a little smaller and just hope that we can leave a little something to our kids. Some of us just want enough to make it in our retirement years, maybe travel a little. Others of us go on mission trips to do some good in the world. We all are searching for that thing that gives life meaning. We hope it will be imperishable, undefiled, and unfading for all time. This is it?

In the story that tells and binds all stories together there are two characters that I would like to introduce you to. On that dark Friday so long ago when they hung Jesus on the cross; two thieves were crucified with Him. Each thief had his own story, just as each of us has our own stories.

My beloved in the Lord, your stories are not my stories. Your stories are not your neighbor’s stories. Your stories are not the stories of your spouse or the stories of your children. Each of us has our own stories and yet our individual stories overlap. That was certainly true of the thieves. The overlap in their stories was their lives of crime, their condemnation, and their execution. But in the end, each thief was defined in dramatically different ways. “One of the criminals who hung there, hurled insults at Jesus: ‘Aren’t You the Christ?’ Save yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:39). That thief’s defining story is cynicism, death, and eternal death. But the other thief’s story reads this way: “The other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:40-43). What’s this thief’s story? It is a simple story: Confession of sin, forgiveness from Jesus, and from Jesus’ own lips—the promise of paradise. This is it, not with a question mark but with an exclamation point.

This is it! This is the big story that brings all our little stories together. There is no greater and bigger story than the Story of Jesus in bringing about our hope and salvation. This is the defining Story that helps us understand who we are and where we’re going.

St. Peter had this story in mind when he wrote to Christians scattered in Asia Minor, what we know today as Turkey. In his first letter to these Christians, Peter writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-


These beloved Christians in their “life together” were defined by that incredible story. So is ours. Because of the loving acts of God, you and I have a resurrected Savior who gives us hope and a heavenly inheritance. “Today, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There’s insight in this text for living as Christians today. In the past America was an overtly Christian nation. Going to church was a social norm. Most people, whether they were churchgoers or not, knew their Bible stories. Today all kinds of stories are being told in America. Today the Christian message is no longer the privileged story. Our situation is, in some ways, similar to the situation of the Christians to whom Peter was writing. They were not people of privilege. They had never been the “party in power” and had no hopes of becoming so. So how should we live? The same way they did. Amid all the stories swirling in our fractured and fragmented society, Peter encourages us to live together in the story that defines us. He would have us yearn to be immersed in the story of God’s mercy, His acts of loving kindness to you. Peter writes:“In His great mercy He has given us a new birth.” Our story is about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wow, doesn’t that give us hope! It is according to Peter“…a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Our story is about living with a purpose, a goal. That goal, according to St. Peter is “to an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” And what can keep you in this greatest story of all? “…through faith [you] are shielded by God’s power that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Faith is like a fortress. As the walls of a fortress keep people safe within; so the teachings of Jesus Christ in God’s Word keep us safe. That God sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, that His resurrection gives us hope, that we have a heavenly future… Surrounding ourselves with these teachings of faith is the way the Spirit of God keeps us safe for eternity.

You, I, and the world are in the same position as those thieves on the cross. So are Joan and Bob. Where is my imperishable, undefiled and unfading life? I know that you know the answer to this question. It is in Christ, Who is your life.

We don’t know all the factors in the one thief coming to this faith. It’s remarkable; however God’s Spirit led Him to such trust at such a time of suffering. But what really was more remarkable? That the dying criminal used his last words and energy to ask Jesus for a lasting gift of life in His kingdom or that Jesus granted it? Both are extraordinary, but that is what Jesus is all about. There is nothing ordinary about Him! He calls us to come to Him…humbly, led by His Spirit, and He gives salvation to all who do. The man on the cross was a common criminal. We don’t know what he stole. But we know who stole his heart and carried away his sin. “Ah, this is it!” the forgiven thief knew then and there…forgiveness and life everlasting from Jesus.

Christian author Tim Wesemann has some wonderful words capturing the feelings and faith of this new believer. Wesemann writes in his book “Seasons Under the Son” (104-105):

If the nails hadn’t been holding the man to that tree, I imagine that he would have fallen on his face at Jesus’ feet. Despite [Jesus’] pain, despite the hell He knew was ahead, Jesus gave this criminal a peace he had never before experienced. And in that moment the man received a little bit of paradise. While fastened to the cross-shaped tree, the thief was also grafted to His Savior—as a branch is to a vine. He was nailed to one cross while his sin was nailed to another. He deserved the death sentence but he received a gracious life sentence. Heaven was his—that very day.

There were more miracles on the day Jesus was crucified than we might at first realize. He didn’t just die for the salvation of all those in the future who would put their faith in Him. In His last moments on earth, Jesus immediately gave everlasting life to someone many may think was undeserving of such a gift. That sounds exactly like the story of our own encounters with Jesus. It sounds like the story of everyone who has ever lived.

The thief said, Remember me.” Remember that Jesus has remembered you. He remembers your need for a Savior. He remembers the Holy Spirit creating saving faith within you. Never forget that He remembers His daily and eternal promises for your life. Remember that paradise is yours by grace, through faith in the One who hangs around sinners.

(Pause) This is it! Amen! (And shall we dare to say it, even during Lent? Alleluia!)

Now the peace…

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