Sunday 24th May - Suffering as a Christian

Sunday after Ascension Day

 

1 Peter 4. 12-14 and 5. 6-11    Suffering as a Christian

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

 

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

…………………………………….

 

This Sunday we shall be thinking of Peter, writing as an elderly man, perhaps from prison in Rome, who as a young man saw Jesus’ ascension, and who here urges us to let Christ reign sovereign of all things.

 

v6 “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God”.

Peter writes this remembering a time in Holy Week when Peter humbled himself before a servant girl.

She was by a fire, early in the morning, mixing with the soldiers, in the High Priest’s court yard.

And she fancied she knew Peter.

Three times Peter humbled himself to the ruling powers, through her.

 

On the third time Peter caught the eye of Jesus.

Both of them knew what was going on.

Jesus did not rule Peter’s life, Rome did.

 

v13 “Rejoice in so far you are sharing Christ’s suffering…”

Peter looked back to Good Friday and Easter, and now understood there was a pattern to God’s purposes. Christ had to suffer so that he might be glorified.

There was an early Christian hymn which spoke of Christ humbling himself, Christ suffering, so that God may be glorified. The hymn goes like this:

 

This is how you should think as a Christian who belongs to Jesus.

Instead, he emptied himself, and received the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

And then, having human appearance he humbled himself, even to death on the cross. (Philippians 2. 5-8)

 

Jesus emptied himself of God’s form, he humbled himself to death.

 

v13 “Rejoice in so far you are sharing Christ’s suffering…” the verse goes on “so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed

 

The early Christian hymn goes on

And so God has greatly exalted him, and to him in his favour has given the name which is over all names. That now at the name of Jesus every knee within heaven shall bow – on earth too… Every tongue confess that Jesus, Messiah, is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father. (Philippians 2. 9-11).

 

In other words the glory of Jesus on Ascension Day cannot come to us without remembering Jesus’ birth in a stable and Good Friday. Humility before glory.

 

With this firmly in his mind Peter says these encouraging words:

v7 “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

It took sometime before Peter fully cast his anxieties on Jesus.

 

There was a day when Peter thought he was drowning. A moment of acute anxiety -

The disciples had gone out on a boat on Lake Galilee….

Jesus was elsewhere, on a hill praying by himself.

By evening the boat was caught in a storm.

After hours of this, between three and six in the morning, Jesus walked towards through the storm.

“It’s a ghost”, the disciples screamed with fear.

“Courage, it is I” said Jesus.

To which Peter replied “Lord, if it is really you, order me to come to you”.

“Come” said Jesus.

But a strong wind caught Peter as he walked towards Jesus.

Who grabbed him and said,

“How little faith you have! Why do you doubt?”

 

We live in a storm. Our lives feel precarious. We are anxious and full of doubt.

But Jesus is in the storm with us.

He reaches out to grab us when we sink.

 

“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”, writes Peter as an old man, preparing for his martyrdom.

 

After Ascension Day, Jesus who goes through the storm with us, now intercedes for us to his Father. We have an advocate who can sort things out.

 

Peter realises it is not just about us. “Your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering… the God of grace will restore, support, strengthen, and establish you” (v9 and 10)

 

Just as the God of grace forgave Peter, asking him three times “do love me?”, “feed my sheep, feed my lambs”, so the God of grace forgives our sin, our failures.

 

Peter was established as the “Rock”. He was restored and publicly supported by the risen Lord. He was strengthened at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit to speak the good news of Easter to Jerusalem and its visitors.

 

The Ascended Lord is available to support and strengthen us through these tough times.

We do so through prayer.

We all have access to God through the ascended Jesus Christ.

We can all be in conversation with God.

And the Father listens attentively to us. Through Jesus, who suffered for us, God wants to listen to our pleas.

 

Prayer

Ever present God

be with us in our isolation

be close to us in our distancing

be healing in our sickness

be joy in our sadness

be light in our darkness

be wisdom in our confusion

be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar

that when the doors reopen

we, with the zeal of Pentecost inhabit our communities

and speak of your goodness to an emerging world

for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

 


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