The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, February 21, 2021 @ 11:00 a.m.
EVERYBODY TAKE TIME TO MEMORIZE THIS VERSE”…above all…love each other deeply…because love covers over a multitude of sins…” (1 Peter 4:8)
WHEN WE SUFFER – NORMALLY – WE DRAW CLOSER TO THE LORD”…therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, becausewhoever suffers in the body is done with sin…” (1 Peter 4:1)
THIS SEEMS SUCH A PUZZLING VERSE AT TIMES”…for this reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they mightbe judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regardto the spirit…” (1 Peter 4:6)
GOD IS GOOD FOR HIS PROMISES”So God said to Noah, ‘This is the covenant I’ve established between me and all life on earth.'” (Genesis 9:8-17)
BETTER TO LIVE BY GOD’S GRACE THAN TRY TO PROVE TO GOD YOU CAN MAKE IT BY YOURSELF”…I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me…No one whohopes in you will ever be put to shame…” ([David] Psalm 25:2)
USED TO BE THE HARDEST BIBLE VERSE TO UNDERSTAND”…For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit…after being made alive…He wentand made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits — those who were disobedient long ago whenGod waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it, only a few people,eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you,also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God…”it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:18-21)
We are happy to give thanks and praise you — in general — for all things, obviously good and seemingly bad, because we’re called to do so. However, in addition, we want to praise you andthank you…on this particular day…at this particular time…that your great, extraordinary love — your heartfelt concern for us — your perfect plan for our lives — isn’t just some kind of “quick fix” to makeus feel good for the moment, or relief us from painful, unpleasant experiences in the past, including deep-felt regrets, as though they were some kind of accident, without purpose in the long run. We have learned to understand that all things work for our good when we focus in on your unconditional love, and we freely choose to place our trust in you. That doesn’t mean that we expect to be madeexempt from suffering in our lives. Lord, we are ready to take on this day. Help us to rediscover joy and peace, even during the pandemic, and to be the “hands and words” of Jesus to at least one other person this day. We pray in Jesus’ name.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
Brothers and Sisters, we want to continue to pray for our friends in Texas, and other places in theUnited States, who are experiencing extreme cold, and lacking the bare essentials for present conditions. Please pray for the people of Myanmar, Hong Kong, politically, and the entire globe, during the present pandemic. We continue to pray our seniors [being confined] to keep them healthy.
The prescribed texts from the Scriptures today are fascinating. In recent years, 1 Peter has reallygrabbed hold of me, especially the text in the third chapter. 1 Peter 4:8 is a verse to really take toheart. It implies to me that if we get into the habit of truly loving those whom God has privileged usto live with, it will pretty much take care of a multitude of guilt feelings regarding sin that could well keep us in a personal prison. Therefore, I buy the gist of the verse whole-heartedly. It is incrediblyfreeing and powerful medicine for the soul.
What is Saint Peter in 1 Peter 4:1 suggesting? It’s been my experience that those who suffer a great deal in life are in a “special category” spiritually. Suffering helps us to be like Jesus, and yet, people will do anything to avoid pain, myself included. Genuine faith tells me, however, that those who follow Jesus should be willing and prepared to do God’s will, even when it requires suffering. We can overcome sin and suffering when we focus on Christ and what He tells us to do. Pain reveals our true values. In the larger view, people who suffer for doing good in this world win a great battle against their sinful nature, which fights to enslave them. On two occasions recently, with folksfrom our church in terrific pain, I’d prayed to God that their suffering may not be in vain, and that theirsuffering might be “in fellowship with the suffering of Jesus on the cross”. The prayer put that suffering and pain into an entirely different and useful context for the two who heard this prayer. There’s a part of me that senses that our suffering is not in vain, or useless suffering, and that as Jesus suffered and died on the cross, we share in that purposeful suffering, as it gives the one who suffers a sense of significance and purpose in that which is taking place.
Note the difference in subject matter between 1 Peter 4:1 and 1 Peter 4:6. 1 Peter 4:1 give us theidea that suffering has a positive aspect in that it focuses our lives into the direction of Christ andthe things of the Spirit of God. That doesn’t happen in all cases, but it happens often.
1 Peter 4:6 is about something else. We are alarmed by the phrase, “…preaching even to those who are now dead…” as well as the rest of the verse. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer (Catechism,page 862) provides a perspective for us, “…we pray for them, because we still hold them in our love,and because we trust that in God’s presence those who have chosen to serve Him will grow in Hislove, until they see Him as he is…” However, Peter’s letter has a more powerful element to it.
Things are brought into focus for us as we fall back to 1 Peter 3:18-21, from the fourth chapter. It tells us that Jesus’ suffering and death were not in vain. Jesus didn’t die, Jesus didn’t come to earth, to die without ultimate purpose and significance. He wasn’t a victimized “religio-political figure” of that time who fell victim to the powers that be in Jerusalem during the 1st Century A.D. Jesus came to provide salvation for human beings by the shedding of His blood and His glorious resurrection . At this point Saint Peter states that Jesus was put to death, but made alive…to make a most unusual life-giving proclamation and offer to the most unlikely audience.
That remarkable proclamation was made to “imprisoned spirits”. Well, who were the imprisoned spirits? They were human beings who had been in Hell, [better translated as, Hades, or, Gehenna], for thousands of years. They were the men and women, who lived on earth, during the time Noah was the building of the ark (Genesis 6:5,6,12):
“…the Lord saw how great was the wickedness of the human race had become on earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…the Lord regretted that He had made human beings on earth, and His heart was deeply troubled…God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways…”
They were then drowned in the Great Flood. Because of their wickedness they were consigned to Hell, or Hades, or Gehenna. Would that be their fate for eternity? What message did Peter want to present?
1 Peter 3:18-21 is the only place we could look to find the Scriptural authority for the phrase from theApostles’ Creed, “…He descended into Hell…” in regard to Jesus’ action after His death on the cross.
Peter’s proclamation simply declared the remarkable compassion of God in sending His Son toredeem “imprisoned spirits”, men and women experiencing eternal damnation and to offer them salvation and relief from everlasting suffering. This portion of Peter’s first letter is indeed remarkable.For years I was puzzled by the third and fourth chapter of 1 Peter.
Finally, Saint Peter suggests that only eight human beings were saved after the Great Flood, namelyNoah and his family. The phrase, “…saved through water…”puzzles me. The image doesn’t seemto fit. I understand that these eight people were saved from drowning as they traveled through the waters of the flood. However, they were not saved, as we’re baptized, by being either dunked or sprinkled. They were saved by the ark despite the flood waters. I can assume that the ark, or any ship or boat, could be a symbol for the Church, the vessel, [or instrument, or organization] that preserves the Word and the Way in order that the Lord God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — can dispense blessed assurance and peace.
On the other hand, Peter’s phrase: “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you...” seemsvery significant to me, especially within the context of the Genesis account. Considering that we’reall sinners, as were the ancients of the Genesis text, in the Sacrament, we’re sort of drowned in thewaters of the baptism unto death in order to become a “new creature” or a “new being” in Christ Jesus.
Saint Paul puts it this way, in Romans 6:3-6: “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death…we were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His…for we know that our old self was crucified with Him, so that the body ruled by sin mightbe done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has diedhas been set free from sin…”When we are baptized (like the ancients) we die…to self and to “me first”…in order to live in God’s grace, forsaking things most human beings treasure. It’s not so bad to live a blessed life style which gives such ultimate peace, joy, and love. With these three we really prosper in this life and eventually end up living eternally in great glory with Christ. It’s good to let go of many of the pleasures of the fabled affluent life so that we can focus upon living gracefully, growing daily in the Word, and blessing others.
It is my sincere desire that your Sunday is a pleasant and fulfilling experience.Be confident. Be good. Be healthy. Be safe. Be well.
The Lord really loves you — just as you are,