Easter 7 2020 Exaudi
1 Peter 4:7-14
May 24, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
The Church began her long wait. The disciples would all die before Christ’s promise return is fulfilled. Generation after generation would arise in the Church, and still the beloved of the Lord wait. We wait because we know that He who has kept every other promise will keep this one too. In the meantime, we live as a community of faith in what is not fully seen, but what we know without a shadow of a doubt to be true. Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of God, filling all things and waiting for the Father to proclaim the moment of Jesus’ appearing.
As Christians, we live in expectation of Christ’s return. This last Thursday was Ascension Day, and after Jesus’ ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. The visible presence of Christ has withdrawn into His invisible presence in the Word and Sacraments. We join the Church throughout the ages in the long wait for Jesus’ final appearing, as we confess in Creed, “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” All the while comforted by His constant nearness.
And so, St. Peter reminds and encourages us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers.” In other words, be ready. Pay attention. Clear headed. Prayerful. But above all, while you wait, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. The Christian life is an apprenticeship in the love of God and the love of neighbor.
To be able to love, to truly know love and to love, is to know God. For God is love, and if God is not known, then neither is real love. People take f Bible verses out of context all the time, to meet agendas on what they think love should feel like and look like. But you cannot have love if you don’t have the love of Christ.
“Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him, to expect aid from Him, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey Him in times of suffering. We also begin to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements… God is not loved until we receive mercy through faith. Not until then does He become someone we can love. (Ap V 4, 8).
“Thus, before all else, Christ came so that people might learn how much God loves them, and might learn this so that they might catch fire with love for Him who first loved them, and so they also love their neighbor as He commanded and showed by His example—He who made Himself their neighbor by loving them.” (Augustine, quoted in William Harmless, Augustine and the Catechumenate, 441).
As people loved by Christ, we should always be prepared to meet Him, either by His return or our death, whichever comes first. And that preparation shows in our reception of Christ’s love and in outwardly by loving others. This is how love covers a multitude of sins. Of itself, our love has no power to forgive. But the love of Christ in us does. In Christ, we love others and freely forgive them.
We are called to live the new life He has given us as stewards of His gifts. To use our tongues and service for the good of others to the glory of Christ. And do we ever have the opportunity to do just this. In these times, one of the biggest issues for people is that they are feeling lonely and unloved. Stay at home orders, isolation, working from home, social distancing. (Which really is physical distancing). These things isolate us from one another, and while technology certainly is a marvel, it is no substitute to intrapersonal connections. But we are not separated from Christ. Even though He has ascended, He has not left His people alone.
People are also feeling unloved. Unloved in that so many have been made to feel “unessential”, separated, not worth much. And yet, God loves the unlovable. He visits the lonely. He covers the multitude of sins by loving the world to the point of sending His Son to die that you may live. Through our words and actions of recipients of God’s love in Christ, we bring Christ to a world that is dead in sin so that some might come alive in Christ, even as we have been made alive.