April 23, 2016
Rev. Fritz Nelson, First Presbyterian, Columbiana
Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9
When was the last time you rejoiced at your salvation? When was the last time you woke up and said, “God loves me, God died for me, God rose for me, God rebirthed me, no matter what comes my way this day, I can rejoice, I can persevere, I can thrive?
A few years ago, Netflix launched a sitcom starring the hilarious Elle Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt, a young woman who’d been held captive in a bunker for years by a cult leader. Upon her rescue, she takes on New York City with a combination of naiveté, big heartedness and unfailing optimism. She’s hilarious. She’s annoying. She’s unbreakable. Should she exist in real life, a radiant super hero bouncing like a rubber ball through life’s many indignities, she would soon shatter into a million pieces, becoming dust on the very sidewalks she showers with her high energy radiance.
Schmidt plows through life by sheer force of positive will. The anchored Christian navigates life secure in their identity as one embraced by the resurrected Christ. Positive will only goes so far until life kicks us so hard that we just don’t bother to get up. Or we get up so wounded we face each day with agony instead of hope. One of my spiritual gurus, the Rev. Kirk Byron Jones, had just this experience. He was a high flying revival preacher capable of drawing crowds and holding them spellbound with his impeccable, jazz like sermons. Until one day, in the middle of a revival, in the middle of a sermon, he ran out of words. He ran out of faith. His positive will crumpled and he became like dust.
As he let God heal him, Rev. Jones developed methods to help Christians become truly anchored in their faith, to help them wake up each morning and face the stress, chaos and pain of daily life with confidence born of the resurrected Christ. I’ll be teaching some of Rev. Jones’ techniques in my new class starting on May 4th – Prayer through Hard Times. When the going gets touch, common wisdom teaches, the tough get going. Rev. Jones teaches something different. When the going gets tough, the Christian stops, finds calm and in that calm receives the embrace of Christ that awaits all of us.
As we receive Christ’s embrace, we find new birth. As I spend more and more time doing this Christian thing, I become increasingly convinced that the healthy Christian, the anchored Christian, experiences Christ’s salvation over and over again. Yes, some of us have experienced dramatic moments that have literally moved us from death to life, but not all of us do – and even for those who have, those one time experiences only sustain us for so long. The hope they give us soon becomes dimmed by the hurt, pain and chaos that swirl around us. Old sins revert their ugly heads. New sins bring challenge and consequence. Outside the maelstrom offers neither security nor stability. Inside we are exhausted and empty.
Only in the resurrected Christ can we find rebirth. Only in the resurrected Christ can we find hope in the midst of daily struggles. By his great mercy, God has given us new hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
A hope that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you. As we crack, break, turn to dust that hope remains. A hope banked for us in heaven – far away from earthly institutions that crumble and disappoint, far away from bodies that fail and relationships that struggle – secured in heaven for us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Available to us in the midst of our very real work trials, temptations and struggles.
And so we wake up each day rejoicing. We wake up each day to experience anew God’s salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We wake up each day with hope. Not a naive hope founded on the myth of unfailing optimism but an eternal hope, protected by the power of God, gifted to us through our salvation by a merciful God.