The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year A (5/21/2017)

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.

The Hope that Is in You

Old Snowmass, Colorado is home to St. Benedict’s Monastery, a Cistercian (Trappist) monastic community. I had the privilege of staying with them years ago for a time of prayer and study, framed by the quiet and inspired worship life of that community. I hope to return one day, and I encourage you to make a visit with them. They are gracious hosts, the views are spectacular, the accommodations are sparse but comfortable, and I expect that you’ll feel as blessed to be there as I did. For those of you who like to toss a fly now and then, there is an additional bonus: it is only a short drive from St. Benedict’s to the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Rivers…

In the retreat house at St. Benedict's, there is a FAQ sheet. One of the frequently asked questions has to do with the long-term viability of monasteries, in a time when few adult men are considering the call to monastic life. The answer, which took the challenge seriously, and considered the possibility that a number of monasteries in the United States may well have to close before too long, included this line:

The future is not assured, but we remain hopeful.

Given all the changes they are facing, this seemed to be a remarkably faithful way to consider the future. As the brothers of St. Benedict’s look to an uncertain future, they do so with hope; a hope placed not in the particulars of their circumstances, but in the power of God, which has been revealed to them in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the first letter ascribed to Saint Peter in our New Testament, the Apostle offers us this advice:

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. [1st Peter 3:15-16]

There is a significant difference between Christian hope and optimism. Optimism views the circumstances at hand, and sees within them the possibility of good things. Christian hope views the circumstances at hand, and even in the most dire of situations trusts that God will have the final say. As Christians, we hold on to the hope that is ours not because we believe in our own abilities, or in the fertility of our own situation, but because we believe that God, who raised Jesus from death, can bring new life even to that which the rest of the world deems to be “hopeless.”

In the 1830s, Edward Mote, Baptist minister and pastor of the Horsham Church in Sussex, England, wrote words that have become familiar to so many of us:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; No merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus name… His oath, his covenant, his blood sustain me in the raging flood; When all supports are washed away, he then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

Edward Mote, St. Peter and the brothers of St. Benedict’s all testify to the power of God’s presence, the significance of the resurrection, and the hope that comes from Christ: a hope that conquers all. Despite the uncertainty of our own lives, may we experience that hope, and discover how to share it, with gentleness and reverence.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What realities in the Apostle Peter’s world threatened to make Christians give up hope?
  2. Why was Peter hopeful, despite the difficulties he faced?
  3. What is the connection between Saint Peter’s hope (verse 15) and the resurrection (verse 21)?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has my faith given me hope, even though my circumstances have seemed bleak?
  2. What faith practices (or discipleship habits) help to strengthen my hope?
  3. If asked about why I am hopeful, what would my “gentle and reverent defense” be?