7 Easter Year A 5/21/2023
Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
Today is the Sunday in between the Ascension of our Lord Jesus…
(Which was last Thursday… It is always on a Thursday)
and the Sunday when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples…
What we call Pentecost Sunday.
(Which is next Sunday).
Now these ten days (between Ascension and Pentecost) are an in between time…
The Bible does not tell us much about what happened during these days…
Except that they devoted themselves to prayer…
And chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot.
The disciples stayed in Jerusalem as they were told to do by Jesus.
I’m sure there was some confusion…
And, of course, their lives forever changed on that Sunday of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
But today our focus is on the in between time.
The time of the church is also often described as an in between time.
We are in between the first coming of the Lord Jesus and the second coming of Jesus.
We are in between the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and waiting for the coming of the King of kings to return.
Though we are not to just sit around and be bored in this in between time that we find ourselves in.
We have a mission.
When Christ Jesus ascended, he gave us a command…
…go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And that is what we are to do…
The people of God…
The Church is to be about the making of disciples of Jesus throughout the world.
That is our mission.
We are not to just be caught up with the things of this world.
But we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds…
Through the illumination of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit.
(See Romans 12.1-2)
There is to be something very different between God’s people…
and the people who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior… the People who do not walk in the Spirit of God.
I like the way Bishop N. T. Wright says it.
We are called to be out of tune with the world’s orchestra,
Swimming against the world’s wind and tide.
Not merely cross-grained and awkward;
Rather, in tune with God’s hidden music,
Buoyed up by the submerged swell of his love.
Or as St. Peter wrote:
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,
to abstain from sinful desires,
which wage war against your soul.
Live such good lives among the pagans that,
though they accuse you of doing wrong,
they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
(1 Peter 2.11-12)
And because we are Christ’s witness in this world…
We share in word and deed the testimony that…
Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.
For this is what we declare.
And not everyone likes this message.
And so, the church often suffers.
This is the context of our reading from St. Peter.
And the Christian’s posture during this suffering.
In North America, when we encounter the theme of suffering in the New Testament we might think of disease, financial hardship,
personality conflicts, and so on…
But that is not necessarily what Peter is referring to when he mentions suffering.
Specifically, he is talking about the hardships that come because of the declaration of the Gospel of Jesus.
Sure, our difficulties in life are a form of suffering…
But there is also suffering that comes because we are the children of God in this world intentionally declaring his love, and mercy, and salvation.
The church may get push back in the United States…
But around the world the church…
Our brothers and sisters in the Lord…
are persecuted often if not daily.
Just ten days ago in India reports surfaced that 17 Christians died and more than 100 churches burned down because of violence.
Let alone the ongoing persecutions of the church in Nigeria and Sudan.
And in countries controlled by communist or Islamic regimes.
Media from different political perspectives agree that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.
So, when we encounter our reading today from the first epistle of Peter when it says:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you…
…you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
It is talking about suffering that happens because of the witness of Jesus Christ by his disciples.
The ascended Lord Jesus is the same one who was crucified.
They did not crucify him because they liked him…
They rejected him.
And Christ said:
If they have persecuted Me,
they will also persecute you…
So, what is the lesson from Peter regarding all this? …
A few things rise to the surface from our text.
First, we are to be people of humility.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,
so that he may exalt you in due time.
We are to be humble.
We are to accept our position in this world.
A position of rejection.
We are also to pattern our lives after Jesus.
Who accepted his position…
A position which led to his death on the cross.
The true position of power is the position of humility.
If you want to be great in this world, you must be a servant of all.
So first, we must be humble.
Second, rest firm on God not ourselves.
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert.
We are to rest in God’s grace…
Trusting in God’s providence.
Not the stress and anxiety of this world.
Not the I-should-be-able-to-handle-this-on-my-own attitude.
As scholar Joel Green writes:
Casting one’s cares on God is a recognition of God’s monopoly on justice as well as a deep-seated confession of God’s power to accomplish his purposes.
In our text we have God the mighty warrior described
in (v. 6) with the mighty hand of God he will lift you up…
in (v. 10) God will restore, support, strengthen, and secure…
in (v. 11) to him be the power forever.
We serve an all-powerful God…
And yet in our same text we have God the merciful
In (v. 7) he cares for you…
In (v. 10) God of all grace…
Again in (v. 10) God, who called you.
God cares deeply for us…
So, we turn to him,
casting our anxiety on him,
resting in his faithfulness…
resting in the all-powerful God.
Third, recognize where the suffering comes from.
St. Peter writes:
Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around,
looking for someone to devour.
There is a real enemy of God in this world.
And evil is not just from people who commit evil acts.
There is institutional evil.
And there is the embodiment of evil in opposition to God…
When we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this world…
Many are blinded by the evil in this world and reject our Lord.
St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians:
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We are to stand firm and resist the evil one…
Remaining steadfast in our faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, Fourth, have an eternal heart and mind.
St. Peter writes:
…after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace,
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
It is so important that we have an eternal perspective…
We are children of the forever king…
Our life here on earth is but a vapor…
As St. James (the half brother of our Lord) writes:
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
We must resist the materialism, the politics, and the sway of our world…
This is not to say that we can’t enjoy God’s good creation…
But we are not to be so caught up in this world that we lose sight of our heavenly call.
What I like about what St. Peter is doing in this verse is he is making a contrast between the temporal limitations of our present suffering:
Suffering for a little while
With the limitless future eternal glory that is found in Christ Jesus.
He is pointing toward our hope.
That we will be with Christ Jesus forever.
Suffering here on earth for the sake of the Gospel is a short while compared to the eternal glory in Christ.
We must not get so caught up in the shadowlands…
that we lose sight of eternity.
You see one day…
The holidays will truly begin.
This dream we are living in now will be over.
The new day will break forth…
We will have morning.
We will begin a new chapter in the Great Story.
Which goes on forever…
In which every chapter is better than the one before.
I will give the last words today to a great pastor, preacher, and scholar who passed away at the age of 72 last Friday…
All death can do to Christians is make their lives infinitely better.
May we have such a view of the eternal glory given to us in Christ Jesus.
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays (New York: Morehouse Press, 2012), 66-67.
 Joel B. Green, 1 Peter, TTHNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 179.
 Green, 175.
 C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Harper Collins, 1956), 210-211.