“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” ~1 Peter 1:1-7
This beautiful greeting from the apostle Peter was our epistle reading for the Second Sunday in Easter (April 19). Notice his recipients? To the exiles, scattered across the Roman Empire. And who are they? The chosen of God, “destined by the Father.” Were they destined to be spread far from their homeland and from each other? Peter doesn’t say that. The text says they were destined to belong to Jesus Christ: sprinkled with his blood and obedient to his Word. Therefore, abundant grace and peace were theirs (and ours!). We are chosen in Christ. This is an imperishable, un-quarantinable hope.
This season of COVID-19 may feel like an extended Lent, but may I offer an alternative? The Message of Easter is not pastel that pales at the sight of hardship. The Gospel is blood-red. Christian Joy does not come softly like a bunny or unassumingly like a tender new shoot. Joy bursts forth from a tomb and no stone can keep it sealed. Joy in Jesus is hard-earned by him and freely-given to us. Faith is as new as birth.
The 40 days of Lent is superseded by the 50 days of Easter, even if they seem to be overlapping in our current circumstances. Notice in verse six how Apostle Peter places side by side two seemingly opposite experiences: joy and suffering. Christian joy does not smile sentimentally past the trials of the day. It smiles, if tearfully, at this present darkness with the calm assurance of a victor. We have come to know that Christ Jesus is at his best when promising an inheritance and protecting his precious heirs. Therefore, when we come to suffer various trials the result for faith is praise, glory, and honor when Jesus is revealed and he calls his exiles home.
Peace, Pastor Tom