Lectionary Text: 1 Peter 1: 3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
There’s lots of “Easter” language in this text–new birth, living hope, resurrection. It speaks of all those things for which we hope, for which we look. But, truth be told, none of it can really be proven, now can it? The writer of this letter obviously has a strong faith, a faith that looks toward what will come, toward what we have been promised. And yet when you’re hurting in the deepest part of you, what good does that really do? Perhaps this doesn’t speak well for my level of faith, but it drives me positively crazy when someone responds to grief or deep despair by saying, “just put your trust in God and God will take care of it”, or “God never gives us more than we can handle.”, or (even worse!) “it’s God’s will”. But you and I both know that most of the time you get up the next morning and it’s just as bad or worse. And these sorts of comments are not only unhelpful; I think they’re just downright mean and often harmful. The truth is, it IS my faith that gets me through times like this–not faith that God will fix it or make it go back to the way it was but faith in a God that is there with me every step of the way, faith in a God that will see me through the end and on to the next beginning.
This letter was first written to people who were going through some really tough times, possibly people who were suffering because they WERE who they were. They are not being promised a quick fix. In fact, there’s a possibility that this is just not going to get any better at all. Faith is not believing that God will fix it; faith is believing that there is always something more, something beyond what we know, something beyond even this.
Come to think of it, there are lots of great stories that don’t really end the way that you would have rather seen them end. I remember reading “Little Women” as a child. In fact, it may have been the first time that I really dealt with heartache and death. I liked the first part of the story much better when all four girls were there. After Beth died, no one and nothing was the same. I finished it and to this day, I love the story, but I just remember feeling so sad. It’s not the only story like that–“Titanic”, “Anne Frank”, “Gone With the Wind”…the list goes on. The point is that sometimes (I would say possibly most of the time) life just doesn’t go the way that you would have written it given the chance. Prince Charming almost never shows up with a glass slipper and whisks you away to material riches and a life without care. Suffering is part of life. We will all suffer, we will all grieve, we will all have something that doesn’t go as planned. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be real, we wouldn’t be human. (I guess we’d be characters in one of those Harlequin Romances or something!)
Faith is not about the story going well; it’s about knowing that there’s an epilogue–the “word after the word”. No, epilogues are generally not part of the actual story. Their purpose is to resolve the plot, bring it together, make it once and for all make sense. I think that’s what faith is. It’s not believing that God will fix the story but rather believing that God has already written the epilogue. In the meantime, go ahead and finish the story. I think this one’s going to get better in the end!
Grace and Peace,