ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
+ In the Name of Jesus + Don’t Be Surprised. Be Humble. Be Calm. Be Watchful. Sermon on 1 Peter 4:12–17; 5:6-11 for Easter 7 May 19-21, 2023
Don’t Be Surprised.
1. We have been given a gift with that name, “Christian.” So, Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” “Humble yourselves.” That’s something we see lacking in our world. Humility. This isn’t just any humility. This isn’t hanging your head and thinking you’re a nobody, or simply giving in to everything. “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand.” That fits in with the First Commandment, and that first term in Luther’s explanation of it. “We should fear… God above all things.” We should take God seriously. We should humbly live our lives knowing our God is in charge, our God is in control, our God has something to say about how we live our lives and how we live in our world. When we endure hardship, we know God has a purpose. That’s Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God.”
1. Therefore, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” So much anxiety comes from our desire to be in control, and our desire to be in control is often the main problem. Sometimes it works like this: You have a wound and you’re anxious about it because you want it to heal, so you pick at the scab because it looks ugly. By picking at it, you actually make the healing take longer. By trying to be in control of the healing, you got in its way. “Humble yourselves…” comes before “Cast all your anxiety [cares] on him” for a reason. Our anxiety has its answer in God and God alone because he alone can do something about our cares. “He will lift you up in due time,” Peter says. “He cares for you.” What happens when a car or truck gets stuck in the mud and you step on the gas? You floor it? The wheels spin. There’s no traction. You expend a lot of energy and get nowhere. You end up calling a tow truck. Same thing with life. Worry involves expending a lot of energy and getting nowhere. “Cast all your anxiety [cares] on him…” is a matter of faith and prayer. Realizing you can’t solve the problem, and calling on the only one who can.
1. It seems most modern translations say “Cast your anxieties on him…” rather than “Cast your cares on him…” and I think I have found the reason for it. Being calm and relying on God does not mean that we have no cares at all. We still need to be careful. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” Daily we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” That is, “Lead us out of temptation.” “Lead us away from temptation.” And God responds to that prayer by telling us, “Be sober! Be vigilant!” “Be awake. Be alert.” We live in a world of distractions. Distractions of all kinds. Whenever a politician or other public figure says, “Watch out for this! This is awful! This is the most dangerous thing happening!” That’s probably not it. It’s a distraction from something else that’s creeping in quietly from the other direction. We all carry with us phones that are supposed to be communication devices. Often, the phones and everything on them distract us to the point of zero communication with those around us. “Be alert.” “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He’s looking for raw meat, and nothing will stop him. How would you deal with a prowling lion? You’d get away from it. Put some space between you and the lion. Get inside. Close the door. Call for help. The devil is on the prowl among us, too. How close have we let him get to us? In our phones, computers and TV sets? He’s on the prowl in our culture—and in our homes—in our hearts. “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” “Humble yourselves.” Remember God’s commands about love for God and neighbor, leading a pure and decent life, watching words and actions. Remember God’s gospel promise about his love and about what he calls you—his own dear child, bought with the blood of Christ, and that you are called to live in him. Remember that you are pilgrims and strangers in this world, and that God has something better for you in the world to come—“Dwelling in God’s house forever,” “Eternal pleasures at his right hand” King David said.
The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever.
1 Peter 4:12–17; 5:6-11
12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.