Easter Sunday 2021
Asbury Free Methodist – April 4th, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett
1 Peter 1:3-7
Easter is usually my favourite time of year. There are usually full churches full of boisterous praise. There are sunrise services and family dinners, and extra prayer. This year is different.
Families are not supposed to get together. Churches closed. Even when we could meet our outward congregational praise is muted. But not only that -there are a lot of people who are at their wit’s end. Talk to people who are working with the public and they will tell you that they experience a lot of verbal abuse.
Talk to families with young kid and they are just doing their best to hold it together. Talk to families of older kids and they will tell you of being weary.
I thought that with the arrival of spring and the hope of good weather around the corner – that people’s moods would improve – but my observation is that people’s moods are actually devolving.
Around the Perth area the numbers have been high, but they have fallen significantly over the past week. But we are in lockdown anyways –and it is just another added stress – and it is putting some people over the top.
Here is what you need to know, the good news of Jesus always deals with reality. If you are listening today and you have felt really challenged in these times – then this easter message is for you.
Today I am going to take you to the book of 1 Peter. As you might guess it was written by Peter the disciple, Peter the apostle – Peter – one of Jesus’ best friends. This was written near the end of Peter’s life. He may have been in prison when he wrote this. Life was not easy for him.
It was written to an area known as Asia minor – a rather wide area that takes in the city of Ephesus and the area of Galatia (The yellow and green parts of the map) – most of it located in modern day Turkey. It is written to followers of Jesus in that area.
The people who he was writing to were finding life hard too. It wasn’t a time of real persecution – not yet anyways. Christians were not being thrown to the lions. Christianity wasn’t illegal yet – but life was hard.
Peter puts it like this.
1 Peter 1:6 (NIV)
… now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
Their challenges were different than ours, but life was hard. I know that a lot of you know what it means to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. Some financial, some physical, some emotional, some relational – and it has been tough.
But when Peter puts quill to paper, his life is hard, the people who is writing to have hard lives – but he doesn’t say poor us. Here is what he says.
1 Peter 1:3–9 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This passage acknowledges their hardship – but this is not a woe is me passage. You can sense that Peter is bursting with joy – and the people that he is writing to have real joy.
This joy can be traced back to Easter Sunday morning. It can be traced back to this morning 2000 years ago. So, this morning – in spite of the challenges you face – I want to invite you into the joy. Come with me to verse 3
1 Peter 1:3–4 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…
Peter’s initial response to life is worship. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I know that there are a number of you who have not felt like worshiping. But I also know that when you don’t feel like worshiping that it is probably more important than ever that you do worship. Worship remembers what God has done and what God will do. Worship remembers who God is and who he will be for you. Worship has a way of changing our perspective from our problems being bigger than God to God being bigger than our problems.
Notice the content of Peter’s praise – and this is phrase I want to camp on this easter Sunday morning.
! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
On Good Friday I talked about what sin does to us. It is more than just breaking the laws of God – sin is a poison in our souls – it is soul rot. Imagine your soul like a beautiful ripe apple. It is full of goodness and life and all that it was created to be. It is bursting full of life. That is what you were meant to be. Full of love, and unafraid. But sin came into the world and it rotted our souls. Our minds and hearts were poisoned against God and each other. Because of shame we hid ourselves- our truest selves got buried deep – and we are afraid to let others see who we really are. Sometimes we are afraid to look at who we really are ourselves. That is what sin did to us. When Jesus died on the cross, he took our sin upon himself. He took the rot that was in us upon himself.
The bible says that he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf that we might know the righteousness of God in him.
Now we come to Peter and it says he has given us new birth into a living hope.
The best illustration I can think to describe it is – if you are that apple and Jesus removes all the rot, then there is nothing left but the seeds. In those seeds are the potential you – you that you were meant to be. The you without the rot and poison of sin. He takes that seeds he takes you and plants it in the fertile soil of the Kingdom of God.
Instead of the poisonous lies of Satan you grow up in the truth of who God is and who he has made you. That seed grows up into the same thing as the rotted apple – but different. It is an apple, but it is a different kind of apple. It is healthy and whole. When you are planted in the kingdom of God you grow up into the human that you were created to be – healthy and whole. The rot is gone, and you are growing up in the kingdom of God. That is one good picture of the new birth.
Let me give you a different picture of the new birth. You will notice again that our verse says,
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
This new birth comes out of the resurrection. The cross of Christ to our sin away. The cross of Christ took our rot away. But the whole point of the cross of Christ was not that you would be forgiven of your sin. Christ dealt with all your sin on the cross – but that was just a means to an end. The end – what the cross was all about – was to bring you into a relationship with God – to connect you to God.
Relationship is too weak of a word – I have a relationship with my auto mechanic. Union might be a better word. We are brought into union with God.
When God raise Jesus from the dead, – that same resurrection power is at work in those of you who believe – and you are raised to new life. You are born anew. You are reborn spiritually.
Here is what that means, Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit comes into you. The bible says if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone the new has come. It is Christ in you the hope of glory. But not only is Christ in you, but you are in Christ.
Through the power of the resurrection, you are born anew right into the heart of the Trinity. The divine relationship of love that has been from the beginning between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – you are brought in Christ, right into the heart of God – and that conversation swirls around you.
Or as Paul writes, you are raised and seated in Christ in the heavenly realm. You have this spiritual union with the God of the universe. That is part of what it means to be born anew through the power of the resurrection.
There is no wonder that Peter starts off with praise because this truly is a wonder. The God of the universe wants a relationship with us. He gave his son to deal with our sin so that we might have that union with Him. This new birth has been accomplished because of what we celebrate today – Jesus conquered evil, sin and death and was raised to life again. He gave us new birth.
Let me just stop here for a moment and say that if you have not experienced the new birth – If you haven’t given your sins to Jesus and experienced new life – then I would invite your right now to ask Jesus to make that happen.
If you would pray a prayer trusting that God will do what he says he would do – it will happen to you. Pray a prayer something like this. Lord I give you my life. I give you my sin. Please take it all away – forgive me, heal my soul. Take my life and plant it in the kingdom of God where it will grow up in a relationship to you. Come into my life, and allow me to be in you.
Prayers like that are answered when allow God the opportunity to that.
Let me take you to the next part of the verse.
1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)
… he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
We are born into a living hope. We get what hope is. We are looking forward to something in the future. We hope for a vaccine. We hope for a great summer. We hope for a life out of lockdown.
But this is more than that kind of hope. This is a living hope. Come with me in your imagination. Imagine us going on a hike into Rocky Mountains. You have heard about this spot that we are hiking to – it is supposed to be absolutely spectacular.
It is a hidden spot and the only way to get there is to hike. You don’t know the way although it has been explained to you. But what makes all the difference is that you have a guide. This guide has been there, and he can describe the place well.
I don’t know if you have ever hiked in the mountains, but it can be hard sometimes. Sometimes the journey can get tedious, sometimes the hike can be long. Sometimes it feels like you have been walking up hill forever. You wonder if you are going to make it. But the guide that is walking with you is your living hope of getting there. He is encouraging you – the troubles the challenges are worth it.
The resurrection teaches us that we live in an already but not yet kind of world. Jesus has conquered sin and death – yet sin and death is still a part of our lives. We have been forgiven and cleansed from sin, but we are still recovering from the poison of sin. We have union with the God of the universe, but sometimes we feel it and sometimes we don’t.
We live in this already but not yet. We can see beautiful sights on our hike, but we are not where we want to be yet. We can see the progress we have made, but we realize that there is more of the journey yet to be taken.
Some of you are tired from the hike. Some of you are weary from the journey. I get it. I understand. But I want you to know that Jesus is on this journey with you. He is leading you to someplace spectacular. Even now he walks beside you encouraging you on. He would say to you, “you are in me and I am in you. You have what it takes to meet the challenges. Yes for a little while you are suffering all kinds of troubles. But I am with you.
Trust me on this journey. Continue to connect to me. You need to stay close to me because as you walk beside me, you will find that I don’t too fast or too slow. I am with you. I overcame death I can help you overcome what you are facing. I will be with you to the end.
Here the word of the Lord
1 Peter 1:3–6 (NIV)
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
It is resurrection day. Jesus has overcome. He has giving you new birth. He has given you a living hope. He is with you now even in the middle of the challenges.
Spend time with him. Connect with him. I know you are weary but be with him. He will see you through. It is possible to have joy in the middle of struggle. A sense of well being in the middle of trial. I want you to know this Jesus invites you into joy that is found in him,
Sermon Questions – April 4th, 2021
Easter Sunday – Living Hope
1. What is one thing that you are giving thanks for today?
2. What are you praying about today?
3. Read 1 Peter 1:1-9 – What do we know about the people that Peter is writing to?
4. What is Peter giving thanks for in this passage? Given that we know that Peter was writing from prison and the people who he was writing to were going through a difficult time – what does this tell you about worship?
5. This sermon ( and the good Friday sermon) talked about sin as spiritual poison, or spiritual rot. (Remember the contrasting picture of the apples) We often talk about sin as breaking God’s laws. (Both are good metaphors) Does understanding sin as poison help you understand the work of God in you?
6. Read John 3:1-8. What does this tell us about being born again?
7. 1 John 1:3-4 – says this new birth comes through the resurrection. How do you see this process happening? Check out Romans 8:10-11.
8. 1 Peter 1:3 Talks about a living hope. What is hope? What is a living hope?
9. How does the living hope that God gives help you to live through the challenges of today? ( Verses 3-6)
10. In the church calendar the Easter season lasts from Easter to Pentecost. (May 23rd this year) Take some time and give thanks for what God has done at Easter.