What do you hope in and what are you hoping for? For many of us we have a list of things we hope would happen. From the mundane out of our control things like hoping the weather will be nice; all the way to important things mostly within our control such as hoping we will be able to support our families. We hope for all sorts of things. Somethings we hope for are fairly necessary, such as hoping to be able to support those around us but somethings we hope for are unnecessary pleasures in life and threaten to become idols for us. Hoping to win the lottery. Hoping to take a dream vacation. Hoping for that new car. Hoping for fame and friends. Hoping for retweets and likes. Hoping for vain things can quickly turn to hopelessness.
But, hope is a good motivator. Without hope, what point is there in going on? Many who suffer from depression are found to describe their situation as feeling hopeless. Hope provides meaning and hope is a helpful thing towards success. God gives us hope but not just any hope, He gives us LIVING HOPE! And in it we have ultimate success — in living hope we have Christ’s victory.
When St. Peter writes about living hope, he is writing to a people who are likely feeling close to hopeless. In our text for today we learn that the people he is writing to are experiencing “all kinds of trials” (6) a quick scan through the rest f the letter gives us some insight into what these kinds of trials may be. In 1:14 and 17 we learn that the believers are being spoken against maliciously. In 4:12 and following we learn that the readers of Peter’s letter are undergoing a fiery ordeal seemingly for bearing the name Christian.
We get the impression from the book that the first recipients of the letter are undergoing trials of various kinds that go beyond the trials of ordinary life, such as illness, poverty and death. They are undergoing persecution and suffering for the sake of the name of Jesus.
Right out the gate of the letter then, it makes sense that Peter would seek to ground his readers in the fact that they are not hopeless, in fact they are beyond not hopeless. They not only have hope but their hope is a living hope.
Dear friends in Christ, it may seem hopeless for you today. It may seem hopeless for us today. There are so many things that could cause us to despair, but do not surrender. Do not fear. You will not be abandoned, you have something better than hope, you have a living hope.
The world around us is is filled with people and institutions who ridicule our faith in Christ. Thankfully we are fairly safe from flat out persecution but it is becoming harder and riskier to live with a Christian worldview. Raising our children toward God’s design for marriage and God’s intentions for men and women is becoming more difficult. Headlines each week point out the unraveling of the threads that hold humanity in a fashion approaching God’s intentions. The sexual revolution continues to revolutionize that which God called good into something self serving and centered on the individual rather than the good of all. We could easily despair in the face of such things and more but we will not be abandoned. We have a living hope.
The devil is waging war against us. Attacking the church of God, the people of God. Temptations fly at us from the deceiver leading us to believe the worst about each other and to abandon one another. We are called to walk together in Christ but Satan loves to get in the cracks between us leading us to walk away from one another. The church is the only place on earth where we promise to forgive each other no matter what, but Satan wars against us seeking to separate us from one another and ultimately from Christ. We could easily despair in the face of such a things and more but we will not be abandoned. We have a living hope.
And you don’t even need to blame the world and the devil. You yourself are wandering. You are lacking motivation to do the will of God. You are self serving and self focused. You want what you have earned and you want to enjoy it by yourself. Okay maybe there’s one or two you will let in to enjoy with you, but only if you enjoy them. You may even want to do better but find yourself turning back to the vomit of sin that you want so hard to avoid. Your sinful flesh is constantly warring against the new born living hope that is within you, and yes, this too could easily lead you to despair, but you will not be abandoned. You have a LIVING hope.
Okay, maybe you’re sitting there thinking I am painting the extreme picture. Really, Pastor do you think we are on the verge of despair? Do you really think I am going to give up? Well here’s where the rubber meets the road and where the despair shows up in your life. It shows up when you find more hope in something other than the death and resurrection of your savior for you. Jesus for you is where the living hope is found. All other hopes will leave you hopeless.
The living hope we have been born into comes through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The one risen from the dead who will never die again is your hope because in Him you are given this lasting victory. It is an inheritance that is being kept in heaven for you. It is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. You have such a great thing kept for you in heaven that human words and analogies fail to convey what it is. Listen to this from the Lutheran commentator, Lenski, “The glory of our heavenly inheritance is so far beyond direct human conception that the Scriptures must often resort to figures of speech instead of to literal terms or to weak comparisons with earth and thus to such negatives which tell us what will not be in heaven. The realities themselves transcend human language.”
What do you hope for apart from your eternal inheritance that is so good it fails to have words to fully describe it? Many of us hope for electronics and we can list the very specific features and qualities that they come with. Many of us hope for vehicles and we can tell you the exact make and model and all the details of what’s under the hood. Many of us hope for healthy relationships and we can tell you exactly how people should act in those relationships. Many of us hope for a relaxing life and we can tell you exactly how our perfect days will go. We hope for world peace and a safe planet and we can tell you exactly how that would look. Yet that which we hope for with this living hope given to us is so great that human words fail to convey its greatness. When we hope for something and we can fully describe it so as to know exactly what it is, it is not the living hope by which we have life worth living.
The disciples and the followers of Christ hoped for a savior and they could describe exactly what that savior looked like. Political power and military might. Enemies falling under their feet. Yet their hopes were dashed when their savior died. They scattered as he was arrested. They denied as he was tried. They wept as he hung and they hid when he died. Even after his resurrection, they hid in fear and they doubted not seeing. Yet the living hope that was for them, as it is for you, did not leave them to fear and despair.
They were guarded in the faith given to them by God’s power. Jesus did not leave them quivering and doubting. He came to them and overcame all that was giving them alternative hopes. He came and gave to them the truth that they rejoiced in. And rejoice they did, through trials and testings they went forth from their fear and proclaimed the name above all other names. They went forth and proclaimed this living hope that God secures and gives to the entire world.
And through the ages, this living hope has been sustained through the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The world has not stopped it, the devil has not defeated it, and the sinful people along the way have been born again, over and over again from generation to generation, all the way to today.
What we have will not perish, be defiled, spoil or fade. It is being refined so that the indescribable greatness that is to be revealed is kept front and center of your life as your only hope worth having. It is a living hope sustained by the word and God’s gifts of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that he gives to you where He has promised to act for you. Baptised into Christ’s death you are raised in His life. Fed on His flesh you are sustained for eternity.
This is yours. You haven’t seen, you have only heard. But in hearing you believe and in faith you know that which will endure forever. You are being guarded by Him for salvation that will be revealed, but in that guarding you have what is promised already.
Though you do not see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. You today are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. This is what the Word does for you.
Keep on listening with your living hope.
In Jesus name.
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Now may this peace of God which passes all understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting.