Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter 2020 - Born Again to A Living Hope

Easter 2020
Fr Phil Eberhart

This is a one time experience today, Easter service via Zoom and Facebook live. We're happy to be together and to see so many faces, in our Hollywood Squares boxes. God bless you in your homes this morning.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!! We can't say it enough, can we?

In the midst of a great worldwide pandemic, in the face of death and fear, of uncertainty across the planet... we have a living hope... because we have a living savior!

We say it often...

CHRIST HAS DIED... CHRIST IS RISEN... CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN!

The mystery of our faith! A Savior who died and who has come back to life and who promises to come again to receive us to Himself!

The Death, Resurrection and Return of Jesus Christ the Messiah is the source and fountain of our life, our hope, our joy inexpressible and full of glory! Even in the midst of suffering... even in the presence of pandemic... nothing can dampen the reality of God's love and His resurrection power in our lives.

I got accused this week of being "psychologically unstable" - needy because I posted that our Easter will be unchanged, walls or no walls, and declaring my love for being "face to face!" Well... guilty as charged! I'm needy... I need Jesus and I need you all!

A wise old man, when faced with his grand son's challenge of "why go to church?" Simply brought him to the roaring fire in the den, sat down and reached in with the tongs and took an ember out, setting it in the bricks in front. Soon the ember was a cold black coal. Then he simply placed it back in the fire again and it soon glowed red with the flame.
If that's psychological neediness then I'm guilty.

In a day of separation and social distancing, of not looking at one another for fear of catching something, of isolation, separation and being together only on laptops and computers, I want to declare that I hate being a lone ranger! We're not made for this.

Peter tells it pretty straight in his first letter. As I sat with my father in his last week 5 years ago, this section of 1 Peter was our meditation. Beginning at vs 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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

1 Peter 1:3‭-‬5 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1pe.1.3-5.ESV

The fact of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central fact of our faith... all of our faith! It stands like an anvil that has worn out many hammers!

https://www.yourdictionary.com/anvil

Paul says, without it we're most to be pitied! But with it we're able to go through any circumstance, any difficulty, any temptation or test of our faith, because the resurrection is an anvil! A LIVING HOPE through the RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD!

The Anvil of the Resurrection has tested the hammer of unbelief, the hammer of doubt has failed to scar it; the skeptics hammer, the so- called "liberal's" hammer can't stand up to the anvil!

Friends, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central fact of history. Everything flows to it from before Christ and everything flows from it now, after Christ!

Listen to what Peter says as he goes on...

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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.
1 Peter 1:6‭-‬7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1pe.1.6-7.ESV

The testing of our faith is part and parcel of the testing of the Anvil! The use for an Anvil and a hammer is the shaping of steel, white hot from the forge. There's a TV competition show called Forged in Fire. Watch an episode of that to understand what I'm taking about. We are being Forged In Fire! Even now, today, in how we're responding to all that's going on around us. God is looking for Tested Genuineness in our faith. Forged by Fire!

Paul said of all he went through that it was "light and momentary affliction" but that it gains for us "an eternal weight of glory! "

Peter goes on...

"... 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."

1 Peter 1:8‭-‬9 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1pe.1.8-9.ESV

This Easter will stand out in our memory, individually and in our corporate memory, and I hope that we will remember it fondly, as a time when we were tested and found faithful; as a time when we were shaped on the anvil into a "truer beauty and usefulness" to use a phrase from Bishop Terry Kelshaw's prayer; and as a time when we discover all that we mean to one another in the community of His New Life.

Peter concludes as I will with these words...

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ...through him [you] are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."

1 Peter 1:13‭, ‬21 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1pe.1.13-21.ESV

Peter in later chapters of this same letter asks us to "always be ready to give an answer for the HOPE that is in us!"

Lord our God, we pray that you will show us the full glory of your power and might in the Resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, from the grave. He has trampled death and the grave, and given us a new birth into a living hope! Help us to continually live in that hope in relationship to you, Jesus Risen Lord and King. And finally, use us as we come out of this time of COVID-19 and help us Lord Jesus, to never go back to normal! In the Matchless Name of the Risen Jesus, for the fame of His Name and the glory of His Eternal Kingdom.

 Amen and amen!

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