To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based on 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
People who are new to the Christian faith sometimes assume that we can instantly turn to Scripture passages from the Bible and that we will instantly find relief from pain and suffering. A popular theology seems to suggest that the sun always shines upon Christians, that our grass in always greener and that the spiritual temperature around us in always ideal. We however are living in reality not Fantasy Island. Sometimes this is the case but often we will come to realize that trials and sufferings come into our lives despite our faithfulness. While being a Christian might help us respond to sufferings or trials, it does not make us immune to pain and suffering. The New Testament provides for us one of the most realistic accounts of suffering and trials. Over the past few weeks through our sermon series on 1st Peter we see Scripture offers us hope and comfort. We also see that Scripture never whitewashes reality. Scripture speaks of sin, pain, heartache and death. Today’s passage provides us some important instructions on what to do with our pain.
First, we must realize that everyone experiences pain. A few months ago many across our nation were fascinated by the birth of a baby giraffe that was streamed online. In the book, A View from the Zoo, Gary Richmond shares a little more about what happens following the birth of a giraffe in the wild. The first thing to emerge is the baby giraffe’s front hooves and head. A few minutes later the newborn is hurled forth, falls ten feet and lands on its back. Within seconds the baby rolls to an upright position with their legs tucked underneath their body. The mother giraffe lowers her head just long enough to take a quick look. Then she positions herself directly over her calf. She waits briefly and than believe it or not she swings her long leg outward and kicks her baby so that it is sent sprawling head over heals. If the calf doesn’t get up, the process is repeated over and over again. The struggle for that calf to rise is momentous. The baby calf often grows tired but the mother kicks the calf again until for the first time they stand on their wobbly legs. After this feat takes place, once more the mother kicks the calf off their feet again. The reason for this behavior is that the mother wants her calf to remember how it got up because in the wild, baby giraffes must get up quickly to stay with the herd where there is safety. Lions, hyenas, and leopards all enjoy chasing down and killing young giraffes. If the mother did not teach her calf to get up quickly, chances are greater they would fall prey to one of those animals in the wild.
Certainly there are many times in our lives as Christians that we can stand up to a trial only to be knocked down again by the next one. Peter refers to the persecutions, which the church was undergoing as the “fiery ordeal.” Fire is often used in Scripture as a metaphor for God’s judgment. Fire is a very fitting metaphor for the judgment of God because God’s judgment not only destroys but transforms and purifies, which is God’s ultimate desire for His followers. While we may not be persecuted in the literal sense as those whom Peter was addressing in our Scripture passage, who among us cannot identify with them? Whether we are giraffes in the wild or Christians, all of us experience some amount of pain whether that pain is physical, emotional or even spiritual. We must accept that pain is a part of life. In our acceptance, we come to realize that we do not face our pain in life alone.
Throughout Peter’s writing he continued to share with those early followers that the presence of Christ was with them. Peter in fact shared that their suffering can and would be used to glorify Christ. Sometimes when adversity strikes us, we are tempted to think that no one really cares, including God. Peter rebukes this by sharing the following in our passage today by sharing in verse seven of chapter five the following:
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
In doing this we must recognize that caring is not the same as sheltering.
Certainly for those who have raised children or are raising children we recognize one of the greatest challenges is to allow our children be responsible for their actions and behavior. It has been said that the greatest education of our children is completed when parents allow them to graduate from the University of Hard Knocks!
Going through trials and tribulations is part of the learning and character building process of life. The same is also true in our relationship with God. When facing a difficult situation, we can take comfort knowing that we are not alone. Today in the church calendar we recognize Ascension Sunday. Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter. It occurs 39 days after Easter Sunday. It is the time in the Christian calendar that commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven. As we remember this occasion today, we also remember that Jesus shared with his followers that an Advocate, a Helper and a Comforter would be with us in life. This was of course the Holy Spirit that came upon the disciples at Pentecost that we remember next Sunday in worship.
Like that baby giraffe, when we are knocked down in life, we too can rise up again. I recall reading recently a story about the life of the late William Carey. Carey was a pioneer of missionary work in India. He once went through a trial that few thought he would overcome in his ministry in India. Several years into his ministry some of his supporters in England sent a printer press to assist him in spreading the good news of the gospel. Carey and some other missionaries began their new work with the assistance of their new printer, turning out portions of the Bible for distribution. Carey had spent years learning the language so that he could produce the scriptures in the local dialect. He had also prepared dictionaries for the use of his successors. One day while Carey was away, a fire broke out and completely destroyed the building, the printer press, many Bibles, and the precious manuscripts, and dictionaries. When he returned and was told of the tragic loss, he showed no sign of despair or impatience. Instead, he knelt and thanked God that he still had the strength to do the work over again. Carey started immediately, not wasting a moment in self-pity. Before his death, he had duplicated and even improved on his earlier achievements. He knew with God’s presence in his life through the power of the Holy Spirit he could rise again to the challenge.
Amidst the tragedy of Manchester England earlier this week along with those tornadoes that those in nearby communities experienced. thoughts often turn to the subject of not only tragedy but also death. I believe that we as Christians face death very differently from others who are not Christian face death. Those who are not Christians might see this life in the present as all that there is. They will often fight and fear death. However for Christians, our trust is placed in Christ who went to the grave before us and rose again. Christ conquered death and with this knowledge we know that whatever we might face in life that we can trust in God. Again and again we may get knocked down but every time God will pick us up.
As Peter shared within these verses of Scripture:
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. (1 Peter 5:10-11)
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
May 28, 2017