REJOICING ALWAYS - REV WALTER ABETZ 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
The readings set down for today are a rich treasure trove – they are a mixture of warnings, encouragements and positive advice, all signs that we are LOVED by God, our heavenly Father.
Behind the Psalms is the conviction that the God of Israel is the creator of Heaven and Earth, and we are his creatures. The fear of the Lord, the acknowledgement and worship of God, is the beginning of wisdom. In the New Covenant true wisdom is righteousness, and it comes to us through our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the Messiah.
We are counted righteous because of his sinless life, his death and resurrection. The righteous ones know God and they know their place before God in a world that is fatally damaged by human sin, whether it be by the Corona Virus, or sexual abuse of children, or banks enriching themselves dishonestly, or even persecution. In the midst of these things, we have our undeserved place before God – and it gives us cause to be happy and joyful.
3 But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol Him who rides on the clouds[b]; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
That inner and outer joy can be disrupted by confronting events. We may feel that there are several fiery trials upon us all at once – the pandemic, no physical weekly gatherings of the Church, the Western world abandoning its Christian heritage for a potage of paganism - and you can add to the list. But Peter in his pastoral letter acknowledges only one fiery ordeal – perhaps he put all the troubles of the Jewish Christians in the Diaspora into one …
1 Peter 4:12-14
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
There is great joy when restoration is accomplished.
One sentence stood out to me.
13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. What are the sufferings of Christ? He bore the weight of the sins of the world and alienation from His Father. We are called to share in the sufferings of Christ. Absorb or collect the sins of the world without too much fuss, and take them to the foot of the cross and pass them over to Jesus, the Saviour of the world. When wrong is perpetrated on us, do we stone-wall and stand on our dignity and rights, or do we absorb them, collect them and hand them on to the one who has dealt with them already in his death on the cross?
The story of the leader of the synagogue who did not extend the usual courtesies to Jesus when He visited, complained about the woman who a washed Jesus feet with her hair. Some people read the story as Jesus defending his rights, but in the Jewish context it is different. Jesus is defending the woman, by claiming that she is a better Jew than the leader of the synagogue. What happened to Jesus personally is merely incidental. Jesus is the advocate, the go between, the mediator . It requires humility to be snubbed by the leader of the synagogue and remain silent. Peter advises humility to his readers.
1 Peter 5:5-9
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
How to live in difficult times, when people are tense? If we can cast all our anxieties of God, we will have enough “give” to absorb the intentional and unintentional wrongs people inflict on us, as a participation in the sufferings of Christ – and hand them on to Him.
1 Peter 5:10-11
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
That is why we can rejoice always. Amen