Sermon for Jubilate, 2021

Text: 1 Peter 2:11-20; John 16:16-22

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Indeed, Christ has risen from the dead. We unite our voices in songs of great jubilation on this Jubilate Sunday knowing that death has been defeated and no longer has dominion over us who have been baptized into the death of Jesus and are raised to new life in him just as he is risen from the dead. As the Church Year applies to the life of the Christian, historically Lent was a season of catechesis and prayer for new converts to Christianity who would be welcomed into the Church, baptized at the Easter Vigil, and join the Church in receiving the body and blood of Jesus. St. Peter writes his epistle to new Christians who fall in this category. I don’t know, of course, if the practice of baptism at the Vigil at come into being yet, but Peter’s audience consisted of people who had not long been part of the Church. Many of us have been part of the Church for years, of course. Maybe even for the entirety of our lives. No matter when you became part of the Church, though, things changed for you at that moment. You were no longer under the power of the devil. In your baptism the unclean spirit that was in you was cast out to make way for the Holy Spirit.

The fact remains, though, that you are still in this world. You still have to deal with our sinful flesh whose desires are, as St. Paul writes in Galatians 5, directly opposed to the desires of the Spirit. St. Paul also laments in Romans 7 that the evil that he does not want to do he keeps on doing. It is also true that we remain in a fallen, sinful world. This world is opposed to the things of God. You don’t have to look terribly hard to find evidence of this. Jesus says, in fact, that the world will “rejoice” when it sees God’s people suffer. The world rejoiced when Jesus was crucified. They thought he was dead for good and that they had gotten ridden of him. They thought it was good that the man who claimed to be the Savior of the world was dead. This is the way it is in the world. Good is turned into evil and that which is evil is esteemed as good. This is just how Satan wants it. Ultimately, he is behind all that is evil in this world. He desires nothing more than that all turn away from God and their faith be destroyed or, better yet, never even come into existence. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil.

So what are we to do? How are we to live as God’s people when our sinful flesh, the world, and the devil are constantly trying to do irreparable damage to us and our faith? St. Peter sets forth to answer that very question in his “Table of Duties.” You may or may not be familiar with that term. Luther included a Table of Duties in his Small Catechism. It consists of a list of Bible Passages that teach us how we ought to live as the people of God in relation to one another. This is what Peter is doing in our epistle reading for today, too. In the verse that precedes our epistle reading for today, Peter tells his readers that once they were not a people, but now they are a people. They are a people who have received the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. You also have received this mercy.

Then he goes on to show what that means. Notice the importance of making a good confession in front of the Gentiles. Here, “Gentiles” doesn’t refer to non-Jews; it refers to non-Christians. In the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God’s name would be kept holy. The way that we keep the name of God holy is not only that we teach the Word of God properly, but that we lead holy lives according to it. You see, you were marked with the holy cross in your baptism. You had God’s name placed on you there. Everything that you do in your life reflects on God. Everything you do either brings glory to his name or it profanes it. Peter urges us to keep our conduct pure among the unbelievers that they may see our good deeds and glorify God in the day of his visitation, that is, when Jesus returns on the Last Day.

This exhortation from Peter stings, though, doesn’t it. For just as the passage I alluded to earlier from Romans 7, we don’t do the things we ought to do. Peter tells us to respect those who are in authority over us even when we suffer for doing good. This is a hard thing! The world around us teaches that we are to fight back when those in authority misuse their authority, but Peter tells us that we should instead suffer injustice at the hands of those in authority because all authority comes from God. Are we actually supposed to just let people walk all over us like that? The Word of God says “Yes,” but our fallen world says “No, that’s pure foolishness.” Unfortunately, we too often listen to the world on this one.

Then we hear hard words like this from St. Peter that cut us to the heart. We sorrow over our sin. Then, when we actually try to do the right thing, we are filled with sorrow because of the injustice we suffer at the hands of the world.

Know this, though, dear friends in Christ, today the world rejoices and you are filled with sorrow, but Jesus says that your sorrow will be turned to joy. Your joy doesn’t come in the form of revenge over those who deal with you unjustly, though; your joy comes in the form of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

As the baptized, we wait for the day of the Lord’s visitation. We wait for Christ to return that we may be taken from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven. We wait for that day, but Jesus still visits even now. Today is the day of your visitation. For Jesus comes in the lowly forms of bread and wine to deliver to you that which he won on the cross. Come. Eat and drink that you may be filled with the joy of sins forgiven.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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