Acts 3:12-19, Luke 24:36b-48
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“In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”
Bad News First
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There is a version of the Christian faith, which is a mainstay of many celebrity preachers in America today. It fills stadium-sized churches and sells millions of best selling books as well. The theology espoused tells me that God is holding on to a boatload of blessings intended just for me. If only I will remain faithful and optimistic, no matter how dismal my current circumstances appear to be, I can expect to see good things happen in my life. The key to motivating God to release all of the “promotion and increase” coming my way, is to convince myself these blessings are about to be delivered any day now.
It is difficult to find much support for this theology in the bible. This week we considered the faith journey of the apostle Peter. We recalled that just prior to the crucifixion, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. After the resurrection however, we find Peter preaching with boldness, even to those responsible for crucifying his Lord. In other words, Peter had become faithful.
You may be wondering, what promotion and increase did Peter receive for his renewed faithfulness? Well, he was thrown in prison! No new car. No better job or bigger house, just the inside of a Roman jail. And when they dragged Peter out of the jail and told him to stop preaching about the hope found in the risen Christ or else, Peter kept right on preaching. He even told them that they too could receive forgiveness in the name of Christ.
As Lutherans, we agree that faithfulness is something to strive for. We even believe that growing in our faith in Christ tends to lead to a richer and more meaningful life, filled with all kinds of blessings. Those blessings, however, usually involve sharing the love of Christ with our neighbor in need. We may find ourselves visiting the prisoner or feeding the hungry or comforting the grieving. These blessings do not fill stadiums or sell many books. But they help us experience the abundant life.
Questions to Ponder/Discusss
1. What are some of the blessings you have experienced as a follower of Jesus?
2. Does faithfulness as a Christian tend to make life easier or more difficult?
3. Peter remained safe prior to the crucifixion by simply denying that he knew Jesus. After the resurrection, Peter put himself in grave danger by sharing his faith in Christ. Which of these two approaches do you imagine helped Peter experience the abundant life Jesus promised?
Maybe it’s time for you to take at least one step out of your comfort zone. This week, take at least a small risk on behalf of your faith in the Risen Lord. Invite a friend to church. Reach out to help a neighbor in need. Volunteer at your congregation. I believe your faithfulness will bring new blessings. What those blessings will look like, I have no idea!