Wondering IF you should wear a mask when you go out?
I Peter: 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We are all are experiencing corporate grief right now. Many of us are fortunate enough to only experience it second-hand through TV coverage of Covid-19 but there are so many more who are terrifyingly closer to it. God bless them. God bless us all. Even from a distance we see the evidence of grief that impacts hearts in varied ways. We see the productive side through testimonies of determined sacrifice and service. We see tears of courage that will not bow to anxiety and loss. We hear real stories of creative compassion that finds ways to bridge the circumstances of isolation in life and death. We also see willful denial that balks at being told what we should be doing. We see angry protests redefined as personal freedoms. We see choosing risk over reality because it’s beyond the walls that isolate us in our own homes and neighborhoods. These are how varied the responses are that define corporate grief during this very real trial.
All the elements are in place right now for Jesus to redeem the evidence of our corporate grief and make it productive, not destructive. Grief that teaches us to put the other “person” back into “personal” lives. Grief that reveals Jesus to the hearts of those who love, serve, weep and mourn as well as those deny and protest.
Lord Jesus redeem our grief so that it will not be what defines our hearts, but what refines them. May it be “though you have not seen him[Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” May it be so!
I Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter is writing to people who once had no place in society let alone with God but now they have access to His mercy, privileges, and grace. “Once the people who had been different from others were the Jews; now the people who are different are the Christians.a” People like us. I have been using the word “exile” in regard to being isolated as a result of coronavirus. I know “exile” is not a perfect comparison but it certainly fits the bill as far as being kept from activities and places that are easily defined as native to us is concerned. In that context we are people experiencing exile as a modern-day wake-up call to another even a more important comparison.
God gave those early exiles a bridge to get to His great mercy. Exile completely changed their focus from what was familiar to them and opened their eyes to Someone with the power to “elect” them “through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Jesus became their “living hope” for that moment in time. It’s an interesting idea to consider that what God did for them…then…He may be doing for us now; changing our focus from exile to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Please consider this idea as you read I Peter with me over the next few weeks: today we are the “elect exiles.” God intends what we read in His record of the past will prepare us for our future and open our eyes to a “living hope” today. Today in the midst of our “exile” and “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, we still “are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Jesus is still the bridge between our exile today and our inheritance tomorrow.”
a William Barclay on I Peter
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me…” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
I can’t escape associating coronavirus and John 14. These are times when watching the news can result in tears escaping from a heart troubled by reality it sees. My tears are my longing for their victory: “overcoming an enemy or antagonist, achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties.” That’s what I want for those who are dreadfully ill without their families at their side and for the safety of those who pursue victory for them over covid-19 despite putting themselves at risk. And yes for you and I.
I’ve found I’m left feeling pretty chastened by this passage. Our eyes can see the unholy turmoil Coronavirus has created for our world and that certainly needs prayer. Jesus doesn’t get the same media coverage but through those heartfelt tears and this passage I’ve found a solution. I’ve been chastened to pray differently. Jesus’s own words are the most important words of prayer for those who are ill, those who care for them and all the rest of us too: “Let not your hearts be troubled…I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. [NIV]
Wilderness was no surprise to Jesus. He was there when it was created. He knew ahead of time about the temptations of life; food, immortality and power. I’ve read this passage so many times, but the very first phrase surprised me this time “Jesus was led by the Spirit” into the wilderness. It made me consider that our current wilderness hasn’t surprised Him either.
Jesus’s responses in that wilderness have become an important model for us because we are in a place of vulnerability today. Bread is important but every word that comes from the mouth of God is the food additive that sustains life. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Forget the “birds-eye” view of all you could have…”if only.” Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Temptations yield to that choice and the wilderness can become a protected preserve instead where angels may show up wearing a UPS uniform.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24 ESV]
Remember that chorus? I needed to sing it out loud in my own living room this morning. I needed it’s reminder! I needed to re-read this quote from a sermon by C.S. Lewis in 1942 and be reminded that in Jesus own plan it’s more than OK to rejoice; it’s critical for “this” day. I think you may need all those things too.
“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.
I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are far too easily pleased.” [C.S. Lewis – Weight of Glory]
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:9-11 [ESV]
THIS is the day….REMEMBER?
It’s resurrection day! I’m remembering this very special week in Jesus’s life thru the filter of coronavirus today. Holy Week this year began very differently than most of us would have expected. Coronavirus moved us from participation to isolation and gave us a conscious awareness of the reality of our need to be safe.
Our senses have been bombarded all week with grim truths that describe the endless march of a viral enemy beyond our control. But there is another truth that has become the glimmer of “good” hope during this week. It’s hope that reaches beyond the stress of physical distancing, fears for our safety, illness, ventilators, and death…into the future.
The hope of the future of humanity has been revealed through the conscious, sacrificial and persistent service of ordinary people despite personal risk to themselves. That hope is a reality because of this truth; God has intentionally intervened in the hearts of those ordinary people to equip them to surpass even the best of human motives.
people have shown us a Holy
love that saves, in real time,
to make God’s divine
to all of
In the year of our Lord 2020
Jesus Christ lives to be a part of our future and our hope.
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
[Matthew 28:6 NIV]
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [NIV]
This is the middle of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter for us. The memory of that first “Palm” Sunday crowd raising their Hosannas for the Messiah of their own imagination along with this quote from John Piper is my reminder for today. “Many of Jesus’s followers [in AD33] thought Jesus came to rescue and reign now. They anticipated a physical and political freedom from the oppressive Roman rule. For them, the Christ was the key to their immediate, this-world issues.” [Your Sorrow will Turn to Joy]
Re-read that quote from Piper and replace “Roman rule” with coronavirus. As believers in Christ we are confronted today with the same challenge of that long ago crowd – choosing imagination or reality. We can’t imagine how Jesus will rescue us from the deadly coronavirus but we can find comfort in the reality of His own words “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Choosing to let Jesus’s Word be the reality of comfort for us is better than letting our imagination for this-world confront us in the midst of this coronavirus week between Palm Sunday and Easter .
Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [NIV]
Today is Palm Sunday. I know many of us will have the opportunity to hear the message of Christ provided by our Pastor’s via the internet. That’s a blessing. We are living in a new reality where dependence on community worship is restricted. We won’t be surrounded by a crowd of like minded people gathering together to remember this day as the moment of triumph when Jesus begins His final journey to the day of our salvation. We won’t be hearing other voices raised with our own as we shout Hosanna! There are no waving palm branches to prompt our memory of the past.
The pomp and circumstance of public celebrations has been temporarily swept aside but Coronavirus can’t deprive you of your Hosannas, “help” or “save, I pray!” Today we are the ones who must prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the midst of our exile. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is he who comes to complete His identity in you right there in your own home and offers you the opportunity to complete your identity in Him through a different kind of personal experience. Today Palm Sunday worship is up to you.
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. [NKJV]
I’m still concentrating on Jeremiah 29: 10-12 and the Spurgeon sermon from 1887. I found a meaningful difference in the New King James Version’s translation of a phrase from verse 10: “I will perform my good word toward you.” The Bible is more than history, wisdom and recorded answers to allow us to learn how to live according to the expectations of God. It’s His “good Word“ written to reveal His intent to intervene and perform it in the life of His leading characters [you and I] as we navigate through the emotional and unexpected circumstances of life. We are a performance oriented culture, well-trained over most of our years to figure things out but today our unexpected circumstance is a deadly virus. Coronavirus is now daily confronting our ability to figure out what we do know and what we don’t know.
God knows! That is the one thing Spurgeon has reminded me over and over as I’ve read his sermon. “When Moses came out of Egypt, he had no plan as to the march of Israel. He knew that he had to lead the children of Israel to the promised land, but that was all. He probably hoped to take them by the shortest cut to Palestine at once…Brother, you do not know what is to be done, but the Lord knows for you. O, body of Christ, let your head think for you! O, servant of Christ, let your Master think for you. “I know,” says God “the thoughts that I think toward you.” AND “I will visit you and perform My good Word toward you…”
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞