Sunday, May 29, 2022

Facing Reality

 1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.  Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Sermon for Exaudi Sunday                                                          5/29/22

Facing Reality

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I once had a postcard which read, "Why should I add to my troubles by facing reality?"  It was a personal motto of sorts.  I thought of it again as I was preparing this sermon because the text sets before us a fundamental truth about reality that is essential for the Christian to face.  Christians should be first to be willing and even eager to face reality, since Christians are among the few people in the world who actually have any possibility of knowing what reality is.  Our theme this morning is, Facing Reality.

Reality isn't all that much fun to face, at times.  It has its unpleasant aspects like poverty, misfortunes, illness, and inability to do some of the things we imagine we would like to do.  Those are issues of reality most every individual can face - and must at some point - and they are not what this sermon is about.  The reality that most people don't want to face is the reality mentioned in our text; that the end of all things is at hand.  We are coming up against the end of time.  It is a reality that is not apparent to everyone, and you can ignore it if you wish, which most people do.  The world goes on, blithely, as though it were going to continue like this forever.  The Bible, however, says that this is simply not so.

We stand at the very edge of eternity, the world is coming to the end, and we, who have God's Word on that, should be living facing reality.  And how do you live as though the world is about to come to the end?  It is not done the way the world would want to do it.  The world would say we should kick up our heels and reach for all the gusto and make the most of it since it is not going to last long.  God's Word tells us that the proper response to the situation is to exercise sound judgment, be of sober spirit and pray – and love one another and serve one another with all that God blesses us with to use.

Sound judgment makes sense, when one is facing reality.  We should not live as though there is no end in sight.  We should be using our time and our resources to prepare for that end, and in a way that reflects that we understand that the end of all things is at hand!  Again, the world would probably tell us to throw caution to the wind and dig for all the pleasure and personal experience we could get of this life.  But, when I think of it, that is what the world always counsels.  Go out, make the most of it, party hardy, and celebrate you.

But the Gospel tells us that everything we need has already been won for us, and all that we need accomplished for our salvation has been accomplished.  You cannot do that for yourself, since Christ has already done everything for you.  He lived for you.  He died for you, He redeemed you from sin, and He pours out forgiveness, life, and salvation for you freely.  You already have all that you need.  So how should you live, facing the end of all things?  For others.  That is what the rest of the Epistle lesson says.  It says be of sober spirit for the purpose of prayer; be praying for others, for their conversion, their blessing, their salvation.  The end is coming for them too - because this is not just the end of you, but the end of all things.  This world is almost over, and anyone who does not know Christ is not going to make it through to eternal life.  They will fall into eternal death, prepared for the devil and his servants.

Sound judgment would keep you living as one who has been rescued from sin and death.  It would keep you hopeful, and remind you that the worst that can happen in the terms of this world would merely place you into the loving arms of your Savior for everlasting life.  Sound judgment would keep you looking forward, and rejoicing in the salvation you have, and remind you that God works all things together for good for those who are called by Him according to His purposes.

And then, because Jesus has given you everything that you need, you live for those around you – church and family first – that they too will endure in the faith until eternal life, until the great transition from what is to what God is going to bring about in Jesus Christ.  That is why Peter writes about loving one another.  The end is not going to be inviting or thrilling, at least not in ways that most people will be able to appreciate.  It will be frightening, and threatening, and painful many times, and difficult.  We who know what is coming will need one another to encourage one another here at the end.  We will need to remind each other of the great truths of our faith, which the world will try to undermine and destroy.  We will need to help one another hold fast to the hope we have been given.  That is why God gave us one another, and commanded us to love one another.

Prayer will help, for we speak with Him who has all power, and has promised to hear us and answer each prayer.  Much that we will face will be able to be endured only by the strength which God gives - and He will give it abundantly when we ask.  We will be tempted to turn away from facing reality into the deceits and deceptions of the world around us, distracting ourselves with the amusements of the world.  Sound judgment and a sober spirit, ready for prayer will be a great help.  But we will need one another.

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  The love that we will need is not necessarily the love of affection, but the love of caring about one another.  Hopefully, we will also continue to like one another, but we need that concern for the well-being of each other, to encourage one another and support one another in whatever ways we need.  That is why Peter describes us serving one another: As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter assumes each one of us has a gift, because God has informed him that we do.  Not all of us can do the same things or each thing as well as another, but each of us is part of the body and we are each one here for a reason.  We are to be a body - not turning to one another as a last resort, or when we cannot find what we need in the world, but leaning on one another by choice and depending on one another as family, and serving one another because God has put us together to serve one another and to find our help here first.  When we serve one another, we are to do it with the attitude that this is why God put us here as a congregation.

We are to serve each other gladly, as those given to serving each other, rather than grudgingly or reluctantly.  First, the gift is to be used as or in the pursuit of being a good steward of the manifold grace of God.  The grace of God is manifold in that it has many aspects to it - forgiveness being the one we focus on most frequently, but also His good will toward us and the abundant blessings He pours out on us.  All of the goodness of God towards us for Christ's sake is part of that grace, and our use of the gifts - each a part of that grace as well - are to be as part of our stewardship of that grace.

That is why the one who preaches, speaks as it were, the utterances of God.  It is from the grace of God that he can do so, that he has a message, or has the skill to speak, or the understanding to lay forth this aspect of the grace of God before the people.  The ones who serve do so as by the strength which God supplies because their ability to serve and the opportunities to do so are also various aspects of the multifaceted grace of God.  We can see that the opportunities to serve one another are not by chance, in the light of this Word of God, but by His design and the circumstances are not burdens but gifts in and by which we serve God by serving one another - and Jesus said, in describing the Judgment scene,  'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

Facing reality, we love one another - because that demonstrates more clearly than anything else that we are His disciples, and because the reality is that the world hates us, and always will if we stand with Christ and in His grace.  

Facing reality, we serve one another because that is what the Lord has given us to do, and because we love one another, and because we know that what we do for and with one another is from God and serves God and glorifies God.

Facing reality, we love one another and serve one another because it is His will, and because although the world is coming to an end, we are not, because we have been purchased and won from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may each be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

This reality is not something we can see.  The world would have us all believe that everything is going on as it has for centuries, and we are just a small, inconsequential piece of that long chain.  But we know better.  The Son of God gave His life for us, shed His blood for us and counted us precious - and He has explained that we are just about at the end - the end of all things is at hand.  So we will keep sober in spirit and exercise sound judgement, be busy praying for one another and love and serve each other as our exercise of the multifaceted and varied grace of God.  That is how one properly goes about Facing Reality.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

No comments: