The Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 29, 2011)

Lessons:Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:8-20 1st Peter 3:13-22 St. John 14:15-21

Prayer of the Day: O Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3:13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you - not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

1st Peter 3:13-22, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Always Ready

Robert had never thought much about God, until he was about 40. He and a friend had started a small business and things had gone very well. They had identified a niche in their market and filled it. They worked hard and their friendship deepened. One day Robert’s partner became very sick. He was hospitalized, and his condition deteriorated. Finally, the doctors brought the report that nobody wants to receive: the illness was terminal, and Robert’s partner had only a few weeks left to live.

In those agonizing weeks, Robert stayed by his side — visiting every day, often late into the night. They talked about many things: business, family, friends, hobbies and pastimes. And their talks would  often turn to matters more essential; matters of death and dying. Robert was amazed at his partner’s calm. His partner would tell Robert how his faith in God was what pulled him through. “I have nothing to fear,” he’d say “because death isn’t only an ending. “It is also a beginning — and even though I hate the thought of being separated from my family, it is a beginning that I look forward to with joy!”

Robert was deeply impressed with his sense of peace and confidence as death drew nearer. His partner almost seemed to grow stronger every time they talked about it. But the most beautiful part of that story is that, through the conversations that took place during those last months, something in his story touched Robert. It wasn’t long after his death that Robert also became aware of the spiritual side of his life. Eventually, he too came to hold the same faith that his partner had.

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.

Peter is teaching us that there are two important elements of being a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ: First, Peter says, Always be ready. You know, there are a million reasons why Christians are tempted not to share the story. Sometimes we don’t feel well equipped to do so: we haven’t had the training that some people have had; we don’t know the Bible as well as some people do. Sometimes we don’t have the energy to do so: it is hard work to share something so personal as our faith; and it just seems like there isn’t enough energy available to do what has to be done. Sometimes we don’t know who to share it with: our friends seem to either have their own faith or be totally closed off to talking about it.

But the truth is: there is no convenient time to share the faith. It wasn’t convenient for Robert’s partner to share the faith: He was in a hospital bed, dying. He had less strength than he had ever known. He had every imaginable excuse for taking care of himself, and not worrying about others. But when something is important to us, we don’t wait for a convenient time to deal with it. We do it when it needs to be done. And arguments about convenience don’t come into play.

The writer goes on to say, Do it with gentleness and reverence. That is what distinguishes true believers from religious fanatics. In those quiet, caring conversation between friends — like that between Robert and his partner – we find the opportunity to share our faith with gentleness and reverence.

This week our second lesson calls us to give an accounting for the faith that instills hope in us. May God give us courage — that this gift we have received might be one that we also share. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. In the dangerous first years of Christianity, why was it hard for believers to share their faith?
  2. What does Peter teach them to say about their faith – about the suffering of Christ?
  3. How is Baptism connected with what Jesus accomplished for believers on the cross?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who has shared their faith with me, in a way that helped me to become a believer?
  2. Who do I know who has not yet met Christ?
  3. How might I gently and reverently share my faith with that person?