Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 4, 2014 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: 1 Peter 1:17-25
Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed; and He is the wisdom and strength to finish well the journey of your life by faith in Him. Amen.
What's the first question you hear from kids when you take a road trip in the car? I know that you know this one. Yes, that question that's asked over and over again, "Are we there yet?" Our family vacation when I was young, was to visit our family in Ironwood, Michigan, going "up north," as they say. It was great to see our family, but the family fun was 650 miles away one way. Trips, longs ones; they often begin with excitement, but there comes a point when we just want to get there. We want to know when the journey ends.
Now, you may not be taking a road trip vacation at the moment, but you may very well still be asking the question, "Are we there yet?" Because you are asking it in the context of this journey called life. You wonder when you will arrive at certain destinations: will you meet the right person to become your husband or wife? Are we there yet? Will your dreams be realized for starting a family? Are we there yet? Will you reach the career goal you're shooting for? Will God's plan for your life be clear so you can understand what He wants you to do? What will your purpose be as your life changes as you experience new challenges along the way? Are we there yet?
How will you handle aging, health issues, and, ultimately, the end of your life? When will you feel at peace? Will life be okay? Are we there yet?
Those are really important, "Are we there yet?" questions for your life. And, all of us have to answer them eventually. And the words of the Bible help us face those questions in confidence that can only come by faith in Jesus Christ.
So, this lesson from the Apostle Peter speaks to anyone asking those are-we-there-yet life-questions. But, did you notice what he says first? Peter says, "And if you call on him (God) as Father...conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile..." (1 Peter 1:17).
This journey, our life, he calls an exile. Peter was saying to them, to us, no matter how things are at the moment, they weren't home yet. They were merely traveling here, on a road trip to their most important destination, to be home with God in heaven.
And, about that important trip; He wanted them, He wants us to travel well.But it's not always easy to do that. In fact, as sinful people, we don't always travel well. We often travel poorly.
When life isn't going the way you want it to or the way you hoped it would, it's very easy to do that. Face a few major obstacles and you may sink into despair and lose hope for the trip. Experience a few detours and you may develop a little road rage, becoming angry or acting out in rebellion and sinful behavior. Or, get stuck in the traffic and you can easily find yourself ready to turn around and forget the whole thing.
If we travel poorly, we can not only lose our cool, lose our focus, or lose our purpose, we may miss the whole point of the whole thing; even getting side-tracked from the main destination. Traveling poorly can do that. Thinking back, I can remember a few times when my brothers and I kind of ruined the trip which took away the joy of the destination too.
So, the Apostle Peter offers some help for you and me. He knows our propensity to travel poorly, so he helps us travel well, to make the very most of this journey that we have in life towards our home with Christ in heaven. Listen to what the Bible says in 1 Peter, chapter one: "If you call on him as Father....conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:17-19).
First, in order to travel well, then, Peter calls you to travel with fear.
Fear? Fear? That doesn't sound very good. What does that mean? Well, let me explain. Do remember the excitement of getting your license so that you could drive? Do you remember the excitement of getting behind the wheel and going wherever you wanted to go? Ah, the joy of freedom to travel, right? But, do you also remember taking drivers ed classes before getting your license? I do. I had to sit through some Saturday classes and test drives with other students under the watchful eye of our instructor. One of the first things that we were told before getting behind the wheel, before experiencing the joy of being able to go anywhere at any time, the first thing we were taught?
It was to drive defensively. That's right, defensive driving. It is important. It's driving anticipating what other drivers might do wrongly, not just doing what's right. When you're on the road, it's watching for other cars, watching for people. Suspect that anything and everything may go wrong. Why? So you'll be ready, you'll be safe. It's driving with a healthy fear.
And that's a good thing, especially when you're traveling down the road at 60 mph in a 2000-lb car that has a flammable liquid in the tank. There's joy in driving; yes, but you might want to be careful not to hit another one of those potentially combustible, battering rams. That joy can be snatched quickly. Lives depend on everyone driving smartly, defensively, with a healthy sense of fear. It's fun to drive, no doubt; but, that joy should be focused, undistracted, alert.
That's how God calls you to live your life in this sinful world. Peter says that's how you travel the journey of life well. There are practices in life that will cause you to crash. There are habits that will hurt yourself and others. There are attitudes that will drain your soul of hope. Traveling with fear means that you live on the alert for hazards, hurt, and distractions. You listen to God's guidance and you resist the temptations that would cause you to fall asleep at the wheel of your life.
But Christians, we don't just travel with a healthy fear of the potential potholes that might knock us off course. We travel ultimately with the excitement of the destination, with the wisdom of how to manage the trip, with the knowledge that the trip and the destination are going to be special because God is with us all the way!
Peter says, "Believers travel with hope!"
1 Peter 1, he says: "[Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."
Jesus was manifest. He was made visible--shown as the Savior to our world. He made the ultimate journey, to make a way; a highway, if you will, back to the Father. He not only made it possible, He made it clear, the death and resurrection of Jesus was God making a way home for all of us who had lost our way!
One of the great feats of engineering today is tunnels. If you've ever driven in New York City, you know that, it is an island, so you either need to drive through a tunnel or cross a bridge to get into Manhattan. Before there were bridges or tunnels, drivers were faced with the absolute barrier of the Hudson River to their journey into the city. But someone made a way where there was no way, they dug under the water, they made a tunnel and voila, cars driving on dry land under the water into New York City.
Well, today, maybe you're facing an absolutely impossible obstacle too. Maybe it's the impassible river of grief or stress. Maybe it's a mountain of guilt or shame or loss. There are times in this world where we are all overwhelmed by our inability to finish the journey we're on. And that's why the Bible's message is so unique in all the world.
God doesn't tell you to drive a little harder or smarter; and take on the water, the mountain, that won't let you pass. God, the very Engineer of our salvation, makes a way for you and me, on His terms, by His efforts for us as a gift! The cross and the Resurrection of Jesus are more than a tunnel under water or a tunnel through a mountain, it's a highway of grace back to God, paved by His death, offered toll free by His Resurrection. When God makes a way possible where there is no way, you can trust Him that you will finish the journey well.
And not only does He make a way possible, He offers a destination that is beyond our imagination.
Think about what keeps you going on a long journey. It's the promise of a wonderful destination. I know of a family who loves going to Disney World. The first time they went, they had a brochure and a guidebook. One summer, they piled into the car with their kids and they set out for Florida. It was a long drive. But whenever fatigue started to set in, they looked at the pictures and remembered the amazing place they were heading. Whenever they got grumpy, they would talk about the places they wanted to explore. Whenever they felt hungry or cramped or dissatisfied, they would remember the reason for the journey, Mickey, Minnie, the Magic Kingdom. They traveled with a destination of hope.
What keeps you going on this journey of life? It's not that sun-drenched get-away, or the promises of the Magic Kingdom. No, it's the ultimate destination of hope, it's the hope of heaven delivered through the gifts of God's grace!
On your journey, when you feel isolated, even alone...God strengthens you with His Spirit-filled Word and sacraments and lets you know that you are never alone and He will see the journey through with you!
On your journey, when you feel hopeless, disheartened, God's Word reminds you that you have a worthy purpose for this trip, to be His ambassadors of His destination for all.
And when you grow weary, weary of the challenges of this journey in exile, God lets you know what awaits you; abundant, joyful life with Christ, home with Him forever!
Those who trust in Jesus, they travel on this journey with fear, not dread; with hope, not despair; yes, but above all, the believer travels with the power of love in action for the journey itself!
Peter's words in the Scriptures say it this way: Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
It's amazing, the power of love, isn't it? It's amazing what love can do when it travels with you, right? Let me explain. My dad was a guy who could get things done. When he was young, in his teens, he worked hard, took care of his brothers while his father was away fighting during the war. He did what he had to do for the ones he loved. And that was an attitude of love that was evident in our family too. In fact, he and my mom took care of us with that kind of dedication, always providing whatever it was we needed so that we could accomplish whatever was in front of us too. That's what someone else's love can do for you!
I can remember the feeling I had one day when I realized that that love travels, that love was something I could count on for my journey as their son. I was away at the University of Michigan for my freshman year, my first time away from home. In one of my science classes at Michigan, my faith was being ridiculed, so I decided that I'd also take a class at nearby Concordia College, Ann Arbor. They had a world-renowned science professor there who was a creation scientist. So, I thought I would hear both sides, get the facts as it were. But, to do so, I had to make the trip from my dorm at South Quad to Concordia every week!
But then one late afternoon, on one of the coldest, snowiest days of the year, my car suddenly died out in the middle of nowhere on the way to class. I checked the basic things that could have gone wrong, but this was something more. The engine was dead. Later, I found out that my car had thrown its timing chain, bad news. So, here I was stranded, no money to fix the car, no AAA to get it towed, no cell phones then, either; but one thing I did know, if I could get to a pay phone and get a hold of my dad, he would know what to do. So, I did; I ran to a phone a few miles away, called my father, and he told me to stay put; he'd be there after work to get me and we'd figure something out together. When he got there, sure enough, he knew what to do, who to call, and how we could take care of this thing and get me back on the road. But, even before he got there, I was sure everything would be alright as soon as I knew that he was coming. That's the joy of knowing that love comes to you and then even travels with you!
The love of a mom, dad, or committed friend, one who's willing to be there on that journey with you, even when you've made a mess of things, it's amazing, isn't it? And for those who love us, they often do it with no benefit to themselves at the moment; they do it because they love us. So, let me challenge you, my friend. This week, when you get a glimpse of any underserved kindness in your life, or when you think back on a time when you received a blessing from someone even though you didn't deserve it at all, let that remind you of the truth of our lesson today; that God loves you even more than you'll ever know.
His love traveled to the cross and back so that you might have life; a real journey to eternal life over the obstacles of sin and death! And, His love traveled to you and even now travels with you, as Jesus Himself promises to be with you each and every step of the way.
For, that's what God did when He sent His Son to you just in time. Sidelined in our own failing strength, immobilized in our inability and sin, God sent His Son to save us. Tires go flat, cars break down, our lives run out of strength and our spirits become deflated; but the Word of the Lord remains forever! The Good News of Jesus never fails! The love of God encourages you and keeps you on the journey.
But traveling well is not merely knowing that love as our travel companion, but sharing it too!
God's love travels, and with His love on your journey, you can travel well as you share it with others. Traveling well means that you can show what you've received! In fact, the journey of life is not some boring journey, sitting still in the car until you get there, constantly asking, "Are we there yet." No, life is a wonderful journey with eyes wide open to all the opportunities around us to be God's people for others; to stop and help those who are stranded, to give God's directions to those who don't know where they are or where they're going, to enjoy the ride with our loved ones and friends as a glimpse of the joy that will be in heaven for all those who trust in Christ.
What a joy it is to be on the journey of life in Christ, pedal to the metal! Peter is challenging us all today, on the journey of our lives, travel well, as one prepared, focused, alert in the grace of God in Jesus, directed by the wisdom of God in His Word. And with His presence and promises, His guidance and strength, ready to hit the road of life with hope and love because in Christ, by faith in Him, you can travel well until you are at home with the One Who has made a way for you where there was no way!
So, rev the engine of your life, chart the course, give it gas, and by faith in Jesus Christ, with His hope and love in action, travel well.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for May 4, 2014 Topic: Accidental Heresy?
ANNOUNCER: Let's call it "Accidental Heresy"-it's what happens when imperfect people worship a perfect God. I'm Mark Eischer, here with Pastor Gregory Seltz. Pastor, worship services celebrate God's perfection, His grace, and holiness, but let's face it, aren't there times when we just flub it?
SELTZ: Wow, Mark, that's a great question and I've talked to pastors over the years and all of us have had times when our hearts wanted to say or sing one thing but our lips delivered a different message-where we've committed worship heresy in spite of our best intentions.
ANNOUNCER: Care to share any examples?
SELTZ: Well, I remember printing a refrain for an Easter hymn, "Let angels' prostate fall, crown Him Lord of all!"
ANNOUNCER: Which brings to mind a whole different image.
SELTZ: It did and it made the Easter hymn a bit harder to sing that Easter Sunday. I've heard of other mistakes that got in the way of worship, too.
ANNOUNCER: Could you share a few of those?
SELTZ: Reluctantly, but here goes. A children's choir, singing about God as the King exalted on high, sang, "The King is insulted on High, I will praise Him." A pastor confessed, "Don't know if it's heresy but during a prayer I meant to say, 'God, be honored and glorified.' It came out "God, be honorfied," which almost sounded like "horrified."
ANNOUNCER: That seems pretty harmless, though.
SELTZ: Well, you're right, but some mistakes are worse than others; and sometimes readers of the Bible have said the opposite of what's printed, musicians have inadvertently sung songs at odds with the Bible and even pastors have had times saying exactly the opposite of what they intended in a sermon, things that were biblically wrong. Things like this happen for a variety of reasons, ultimately because we're imperfect, fallen people; but the important thing is how can we make sure it doesn't get in the way of a faithful proclamation of God's Word for our people.
ANNOUNCER: Even when we commit heresy by accident, it's a problem if it gets "in the way" of sharing the true message of the Bible.
SELTZ: Right. So, let's say first.... it's vitally important for those who lead us in worship to strive to be faithful to let people see Jesus in our work that day. So, one should practice the readings, making sure that one knows what they're reading, even why. People are gathering in church to hear what God says, not us, what He's saying through His Word. So, when we mess up, that can get in the way of that blessing, that Good News communication.
ANNOUNCER: Speaking of good news, surely there's grace for us even there, right?
SELTZ: There is and that too is because in all the words we share or proclaim in church on a Sunday, God's Word of grace, that's the Word that is the most important of all to hear. God's grace sometimes is communicated, then, in spite of us. Or, God's grace is illustrated in our imperfection in spite of our best efforts.
ANNOUNCER: Still, it doesn't excuse poor preparation; reading, singing, or writing.
SELTZ: No, it doesn't. First and foremost, we should strive for clarity and faithfulness in proclaiming the public Word of God and if something is public and egregious, we shouldn't be embarrassed to correct it.
ANNOUNCER: Because...that might be an even greater testimony to God's "grace in action."
SELTZ: It sure could. And when something is corrected, we should all forgive and forget, as Christ does with us. Colossians 3 talks about the attitude we need, "to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us."
ANNOUNCER: But, such a loving, forgiving attitude is not an excuse to give less than our best in leading worship.
SELTZ: Absolutely. And that's the joyous burden of leading God's people in worship. It requires training, and practice, effort, thought, preparation. When God lists qualifications for those who can become public ministers of the Gospel in 1 Timothy 3, much of the list is about character, moral traits that cause a person to get themselves out of the way of a clear, faithful proclamation of the Gospel.
ANNOUNCER: Still, people sometimes come to regard worship leaders almost as performers.
SELTZ: They do, it's like...they think in 1Timothy like it's listing the traits that allow you to be in charge. But, in reality, they're traits that would allow a person to serve, to humbly teach and preach God's Word, to not be worried about who gets the credit, or who looks the most impressive in worship, but to worry solely about letting the Word of God be clearly shared and received, as well as properly responded to.
ANNOUNCER: That attitude enables leaders, then, to clarify or correct anything that might be amiss.
SELTZ: It would, because the focus is on proclaiming God's Word so that all might receive it by faith, with joy as the key!
ANNOUNCER: Worship is both a gracious joy and challenging work for those who are called to lead. Thank God, His Grace covers it all. Thank you, Pastor Seltz; this has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
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