1 Peter 1:3-9 CEB
May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! On account of his vast mercy, he has given us new birth. You have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. You have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you. Through his faithfulness, you are guarded by God’s power so that you can receive the salvation he is ready to reveal in the last time.
You now rejoice in this hope, even if it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials. This is necessary so that your faith may be found genuine. (Your faith is more valuable than gold, which will be destroyed even though it is itself tested by fire.) Your genuine faith will result in praise, glory, and honor for you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you’ve never seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t see him now, you trust him and so rejoice with a glorious joy that is too much for words. You are receiving the goal of your faith: your salvation.
“May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed!” Join with me, and let’s say that again, adding all the exclamations you can muster this morning! “May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed!” Here’s the hope for us all this morning, you have been born anew, “born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We all have hopes, those wishes and desires for the future that we expect will be fulfilled. However, what exactly is different about “a living hope?” What is Peter talking about? You might say that Peter’s whole letter to the churches in Asia Minor is about what this kind of hope looks like, and so we’ll be spending some time with Peter in the coming weeks, during our Eastertide. First things first, this living hope is our inheritance, our promise that comes with the new birth through Christ that allows you and I to truly be alive and rejoice in the blessings and gifts of our God!
1 Peter is not a letter we read all that often. It pops up near the end of the New Testament, after much longer and more popular epistles, and just before the big conclusion, Revelation. In some ways, it makes sense that it is not all that popular, as it wasn’t really written for the church today. It was written in a time and place when the church was under constant threat from the wider world. These Christians Peter writes to are slaves and women, “owned by or married to non-Christian men.” They are at the very bottom of the social ladder, and their Christian faith defies traditional family values, making them “antisocial, rebellious, and even ‘atheistic,’ since they refuse to honor their families’ gods.” Every whispered prayer and every hushed benediction comes with the risk of someone else not being there when they gather again. They are a minority and a threat to the wider culture, so these early Christians are being disappeared, killed, deported, and imprisoned. Their temptation is to go quiet, go underground. Their question is, “‘Should we become invisible? Should we hide? Should we blend in, act like them?” In other words, there is a question of whether their faith should become a personal one, kept on the inside where it makes them feel good, where nobody else can see it where they can stay safe and secure. Peter sets out to answer this very question.
After all, who better to answer this question than Peter? During our Holy Week Good Friday service, we read Mark’s Passion account where Peter runs, flees, and denies Christ three times over before the sun can even rise on the day of Jesus’s death! Peter, “the rock,” runs sacred! He was still in hiding when Christ resurrected on Easter morning, so this is a man who understands the temptation to save one’s own skin. Who better to ask about safety than Peter? So, what does Peter tell us this morning, is it to stay safe and hidden? Not at all. You see, we’ve been given a gift by Christ, a new birth. We’ve been born into a new life, one that we cannot earn, cannot deserve, and which cannot be taken away, ever. It is a “pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you.” This gift of life, of finally being alive, is ours, so why live like we are not alive? Why live like we aren’t being transformed?
Our new life includes a promise of salvation. Now, salvation is always a tricky word with multiple meanings. Some have seen salvation “as a future reward given to those who remain faithful throughout their lives,” and others have seen salvation as “a quality of the present life, wholeness of being here and now.” We get the word salvation from the Latin salvus which means “‘healthy’ or ‘whole,’ and it can be applied to every act of healing.” In Greek, the language in which 1 Peter was written, salvation comes from the word soterion, which also means being restored to wholeness and well-being, as this is “God’s original intent for creation.” What is more, soterion is not just salvation for the future as this healing “encompasses the past [...] the present [...], and the future.” In the end, salvation is not either eternal life or present wholeness, but both/and. You are made to be whole, and God desires to make us whole again so offers us this new birth, this life through Christ so we may be whole so we may be saved, not just in the future but here and now.
While the letter may not have been originally addressed to Christian churches in the United States, we all need this kind of encouragement, especially when we experience suffering. Peter tells his audience and us that “You now rejoice in this hope, even if it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials.” In other words, even though you are Christians, even though you have a new birth, and even though you are saved for today and forever, you will still suffer and experience trouble and face fears. The difference is that you now know that these things do not last. I am not dismissing what terrifies you or causes you to struggle. They are very real! However, we are given endurance to survive because we are alive forever more so these troubles then become but a blip on the journey that stretches out into eternity. Suffering is real, but it is not what ultimately defines your life in Christ.
Ultimately, what defines our new life is something the psalmist writes about in Psalm 16: a life of joy. Psalm 16 says, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices,” for “You show me the path of life [and] In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:9-11 NRSV). We are a resurrected people, an Easter people, a people of joy. Not just in the good times but in the face of suffering too, we can have joy. Joy is more than being happy or blindly optimistic. It is a sense of “well-being related in Scripture to knowing God and God’s actions and love [...], specifically in Jesus Christ.” Joy is our response to being made whole through this new birth in Christ and trusting Christ in turn, as Peter writes, “Even though you don’t see him now, you trust him and so rejoice with a glorious joy that is too much for words.” You do not see Christ now, but you can trust in God’s living hope that our well-being, our wholeness, and our lives are assured and unfolding even now.
Today, we have the chance to be a living hope. Faith is not something you have, but something you do. To trust God’s promise in Christ is to be obedient to Christ’s example and in living by his instruction. You see that’s all part of Peter’s answer, don’t stay safe, follow Christ’s living hope boldly for you have faith in his promise! Even though we are not his original audience, I think we can all agree that there are times when it is easier to blend in, to hide ourselves away. Being part of the crowd can be easier than following Christ, to love as he loved, and to live as he lived. We are all tested this way to abandon Christ’s example or bend it until it blends in comfortably with our neighbors. We often do not know our own faith until it is refined in the fires of this world. To choose to hide ourselves is to give up our joy, and abandon our new lives. We need endurance for the journey ahead, and encouragement along the way. Let us share in the full measure of God’s blessing, our joy, and find the salvation that is our living hope today and always. Amen.
 “Hope” in The American Heritage Dictionary
 E. Elizabeth Johnson, “1 Peter 1:3-9: Exegetical Perspective,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, Volume 2, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 389-393.
 Martha Moore-Keish, “1 Peter 1:3-9: Theological Perspective,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, Volume 2, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 388-392.
 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), 146.
 “Salvation,” in The New Interpreter’s Dictonary of the Bible, vol. 5, ed. Katharine D. Sakenfeld (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009), 45-61.
 “Joy” in The Westminister Dictionary of Theological Terms, 2nd., ed. Donald K. McKim (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 72.
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Pastor Paul Grossman