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The Reverend Krystal Leedy
April 23, 2017
1 Peter 1:3-9
(Audio not available.)
A Reading from the New Testament
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.
Lent is a beautiful time of year. It is a time where we reflect on the ways that we have fallen short of the glory of God. It is a time when we submit ourselves to the discipline of Jesus Christ. It is a time where we are a bit more solemn, where we take stock, where we reflect. Some may view it as self-induced hardship, as though we are setting ourselves up for hard times and forcing ourselves into difficult situations. But Lent is more about actually seeing what is there, in our midst, the difficult things that are already present. We are shining a light on them, and this is hard work. Which is why, in that season of penitence, I was adamant about a hymn choice. Each Tuesday the staff gathers to talk about the next week’s service. We go over the prayers and who will be doing what. We vet the hymns and hum a few bars. And early in Lent, a hymn was presented that was so upbeat and involved joy to the point that I had to say something. For here we are putting away our Alleluias, here we are taking stock of some of the dark places in our world and lives, here we are asking one another to be reflective, and a joyful hymn just didn’t seem appropriate. Of course, trying to be humorous, I explained that there will be no joy during Lent. No joy. No happiness. No jubilee. And though my intentions were certainly honorable, it came across as a bit harsh to the staff, and became a running joke for those long 40 days. It was certainly not my intention that we suffer for those 40 days of Lent, but that we acknowledge that the suffering already exists. There are people suffering right here in our midst, and perhaps more importantly, there are people suffering in our neighborhoods and in our country. There are people who need a word of good news. And we turn our attention to them during Lent not because we want to feel badly, but because we need to be aware of their presence.
The readers of I Peter are suffering. No joy. No happiness. No jubilee. The readers of this letter are women and slaves and Gentiles. They are the oppressed ones and are not the norm. They are born with two strikes against themselves, and on top of that, they cannot assimilate into their culture because they refuse to worship the household gods. The people that read this letter are the people whom probably feel a great deal of shame. They are the ones we pity, even now.
So, in many ways, we are not the readers of this passage. We are not the ones that need saving from this time of trial. It amazes me that we still read this Scripture, even though it seems like this is not our good news. This is someone else’s good news. This is good news for those who are suffering under the weight of the systems of oppression. This is for the people who feel shame.
And perhaps, some view Lent as a time when we shame ourselves. We try to do our Lenten disciplines just right. We strive for perfection, even though that is unattainable, and all in the name of Jesus Christ. Lent is, after all, the time where we try to be more and more perfect, right? After all, if we are already on the top of the ladder, we may as well try to fly!
Lent is a time to recognize our own brokenness. We are actually being honest with ourselves about the ways in which we are not perfect. Lent is not what you post on Facebook. It is the raw picture that has no filter. It is the pointing out of the stuff that hides underneath the surface for us all, and Easter Sunday is Sunday best and Easter hats and uncomfortable shoes. A white-wash of paint on a crumbling wall. I struggle with Easter because I struggle to believe that it’s real. It’s not like Lent, where all you have to do is flip on the news and see Lent, see the ways in which our world is broken.
I’m ready for what Peter talks about, “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” but even that seems trite. For “being saved” has gotten such a rough reputation, as a question of legitimacy and worthiness: are you SAVED?
Saved is a funny word. We use it for a lot. We keep things safe. We keep things that are precious safe. We have a safe, a box with a lock on it to hold things in place. We save things that we want to keep. We save files and pictures. We save babies from crisis. We save people from rushing rivers. We save people and memories and we hold them close. And when all seems lost, we salvage. Same root word. We salvage from shipwrecks. We salvage from fires. We recover what we can from disaster, from catastrophe. Things are lost, but not what we can save.
But so many of us have not been through a shipwreck, and do not need saving. We are not a person in distress. It makes the question unhelpful. Once again, it makes it seem like this passage is not for us.
Yet, if Lent is for us, and if we dig deep into that time where we put our alleluias away, then how much more do we need to break out the joy during this Eastertide. We talk about our brokenness during Lent and others’ suffering, but Eastertide is the time when we live into our wholeness. We are no longer a broken body of Christ, but a healing one. We are the people who sing songs of joy and help to heal a broken world.
So while Lent is such an important time in our church’s life, how is Eastertide not? How can we live into our wholeness in spite of the fact that the news we hear is still stuck in Lent? How can we hold this story of resurrection so close that it becomes a part of our lives? Your faith is gold. Your shame is gone. You are saved and brought close to the heart of God. You don’t need re-saving. You just need to take an Alleluia with you and go out with a message of joy on your lips.