Scripture Reading I Peter 1:3-9   “The Message”

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

Message:  “Hope That Lives”  (Pastor Dave Fish, then Pastor Jim Renfrew)

When Larry introduces hymns to the choir at Wednesday practice, he has this habit, which I love.  He says about nearly every hymn, “I love this hymn, it is one of my favorites”.  I love his enthusiasm for the music that we are about to sing.  But then I laugh, wondering how many musical favorites can he have, one, hundreds, thousands?  Larry laughs about this, too.  Somehow, he is able to enjoy lots and lots of favorites.

I love telling the story about a youth group I had in Rochester, with one boy who would come in each Wednesday afternoon after school, and proceed to kick me in the shins.  It was his way of getting attention.  One day I figured out what to do, before Chip could wind up with his kick, I greeted him like this, “Here’s Chip, my favorite boy in the whole world”. Chip stopped mid-wind-up.  No one had ever said anything like this to him before.  Now on a roll, I greeted every kid who came through the door that afternoon in the same way, “There’s Sandra, there’s Alicia, there’s Sarah, there’s Margaret, there’s Robert, my favorite kids in the whole world”.  Everyone of them soaked it up and had a big smile.  I noticed that no one questioned my list of favorites, like how can I be your favorite if you’ve already said Chip is your favorite? The truth was that everyone liked being called the favorite, it felt real good, and it didn’t matter how many others there were!

Of course, God has lots of favorites, too, every one of you here today, and many, many more.  Sometimes we are a lot like that boy Chip from long ago, whose choices have not been the best.  But that doesn’t mean God holds back on naming favorites: you, no matter who you are, no matter where you are from, no matter your failures, no matter your successes, you are God’s favorite. I hope that makes you feel real good.

In times like these, you might be feeling some distance from God, some distance from God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s hope,  so we all need to hear that each one of us is on God’s list of favorites.  Because on that list the hope that God offers in the resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes a lot more real.   That’s why our churches are here, that’s why we exist, to help you feel that hope as the most real thing you’ve ever felt.

The way it is put in Peter’s Letter is one of my favorite verses, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven – and the future starts now!”

      Peter tells us that Easter resurrection changes everything!  Because of Jesus rising we are given a brand-new life, a fresh start, a second chance, no longer hemmed in by what we have been, but spiritually liberated to become so much more.  Peter says we have everything to live for, and I don’t know about you, but that’s a fantastic message to hear during times like these.  Peter declares a beautiful future lies ahead, and that the future starts now.

During these difficult times let us not fall into fear and accusations, let us embrace the brand-new life starting now, because the future starts right now.