“But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16a ESV) He is risen! He is risen, indeed! “Our Living Hope” is something that attracts the attention of those around us!  Jesus is alive in our lives and this fact changes the very way in which we live and the relationships we have with others. Today at International Lutheran Church we are strengthened in our gentle Christian witness that we make each day as we live in a hope that has prepared us for this very hour!

We have been reading through the Apostle Peter’s first letter to the church in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). We have seen that “Our Living Hope” is a central theme to this letter. Peter makes it clear that this hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Today we see how this living hope prepares us for daily living as it attracts an audience from those who see our lives lived in a sure confidence of God’s presence and activity in our everyday lives.

Chapter 3 of 1 Peter begins with “apostolic” instructions for daily life. Specifically, our living hope guides us in how we live in gentleness together in a family as husbands and wives. This gentleness then extends into our relationships with others outside the home. Peter is aware of how life is not always easy and that suffering, even for doing what is right, can be a real experience that we may face. This suffering is connected directly to our faith and the hope it creates. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Here is the foundation of our hope. This is not wishful thinking but the rock-solid fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us. Each and every experience that we have is an opportunity for us to draw upon this living hope and “honor Christ in our hearts.” While it is true that some suffering can bring about a positive result (such as a rigorous exercise, a medical procedure, even sheltering in place), the kind of result that Peter is talking about, namely life from death, honor from humiliation, righteousness from unrighteousness, etc., is only possible in Christ. His death in the flesh brings about an eternal result for you and me. As Jesus says in John 14:19 “Because I live, so also shall you live.” This is the hope that Paul shared on Mars Hill to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of his day (Acts 17:16-31).

Peter goes on to remind us of this as he explains how we are connected to this Good News in baptism: “the righteous for the unrighteous.” Just as Noah and the seven other people – his family – were rescued from the flood as they rested in the ark, so “baptism now saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21) This is not a mere superficial removal of dirt, but rather the flood of forgiveness of all of our sins and the clearing of our conscience. Our salvation and victory in Christ does not come from our superior behavior but rather brings a change of heart, a gentle spirit and a sure confidence that God is with us and working in the events that we face today. We are not orphans! Jesus is risen from the dead! Our sins are gone! In the gentleness of a Lord who bears our sin in His body on the tree, God won us and saves us so that we would be prepared to speak into the lives of others with this same gentleness and respect.

God has prepared us for this very moment to share with any and all who ask for the reason we have hope. He has even prepared these moments when our hope in Him can be a gentle reminder and invitation to all of His love for them. God grant us His Holy Spirit, His gentle Spirit, as we rest in this hope today and every day!

Pastor Carl