Readings for the day:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the risen Christ. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad that spring is here. Stephanie and I have been waiting all winter to finally build a campfire pit in our backyard this year. I think we will finally be able to start this project. But what we are really looking forward to doing, is being on our patio in the cool summer evening sitting by the campfire. And sure, sitting by a campfire is nice, but what’s a campfire without roasting marshmallows? And I’m sure that everyone enjoys roasted marshmallows that are lightly brown right? No!?!? So some of you actually like your marshmallows burnt to a crisp? No matter how you like your marshmallow roasted, I think we could all agree that campfires are better when marshmallows are present.
Now marshmallows change when they are put anywhere near fire (no matter if you like it lightly brown or burnt to a crisp). All marshmallows change to some degree when placed near fire. And for those initial readers of 1 Peter, some Christians felt that they were burnt to a crisp. The original people that the letter of 1 Peter was written to were Gentiles who were recently new Christians in Asia Minor. They were new. They were in the minority. They got ignored, bullied, and even tortured because they became Christians. It was certainly not easy for them to remain faithful to God. At times they probably felt like they were marshmallows burnt to a crisp. Hence the reason for the letter of 1 Peter.
This letter begins with words of promise and hope, “By his great mercy God 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.” The writer tells these new Christians that because of the new birth that they received through the waters of baptism, that have this living hope that they will indeed receive an inheritance from God because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
And now that is all well and good down the road, but what about now? Remember, they still feel like burnt marshmallows. And so the writer of the letter continues – they are told that they will suffer various trials because of their faith, but these sufferings do not happen in vain. For just as gold must be heated up by fire in order to refine it and remove all of the imperfections, so too, their marshmallows must be heated up by fire. And when marshmallows are heated up by fire, they change – the writer of 1 Peter believes that this change is for the better for he says that the result of this testing by fire is praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed.
If you haven’t heard yet, we are beginning a 5 week study on 1 Peter. This study is happening in both our worship services as well as small groups throughout the week. The theme for this week is – we are “A Tested People”. This testing does not mean that God causes us bodily or emotional suffering in order to test us and see how strong our faith is. No, this testing is suffering for the gospel. In the parish office this winter, I had mentioned how many people were vacationing to Florida to get away from the cold. I asked when it would be my turn. Pastor Eric told me that suffering for the gospel is that after I have been a pastor for 30 years and have suffered enough, then I can go to Florida in the winter. Being tested and suffering for the gospel means to put others before ourselves, to struggle with the hard and challenging questions of our faith, and to rest in the unknown and be okay with it.
The writer of 1 Peter, tells us that when we suffer for the sake of the gospel and our faith is tested by the fire of the Holy Spirit, then we are changed and transformed into the person that God wants us to be. So just as a roasted marshmallow is changed and transformed by fire, we too are changed and transformed through the trials that we go through. When we dare to ask the hard questions, our faith is changed. When we dare to think about those who everyone else forgets about, our faith is transformed. We are told that this test will not be easy. After all, how easy is it to constantly think of others instead of ourselves? Isn’t it easier to just go with what has been done before? Then we don’t have to be challenged or tested. But this testing will result in Jesus being revealed to us and receiving the salvation of our souls.
So now Lindsey, this is the faith that you will be affirming today. The faith in God that is certainly not easy because we cannot see God. The faith that will challenge you. The faith that will pull you to put others before yourself. The faith that might even cause others to mock you. Are you up for the task? Of course you are. I know you are? Because through your last two years of instruction, you have learned that there is a living hope in this faith. There is an indescribable and glorious joy in this faith. Roasting a marshmallow at a campfire can be a difficult task as you try to keep the smoke out of your eyes even though it seems the smoke follows you. And of course you have to find the right area of the fire to do the roasting. But after the marshmallow is roasted there is only one thing left to do…feast and enjoy. And this Lindsey, is the promise that we are given through Christ’s resurrection from the dead; we get to feast and enjoy in God’s house with an indescribable and glorious joy. Until then, we live each day holding on to the living hope that we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Praise be to God! Amen!
© 2014 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.
 1 Peter 1:3-4