A Living Hope                                       1 Peter 1:3

Easter 2A                                                 April 16, 2023,                           St. John, New Orleans

Hope is an interesting concept; One we can all relate to on one level or another.

When I was in school, I would always hope for a good grade on tests. 

Of course, the outcome was largely based upon my own efforts to study the material and complete the homework assignments prior to the test date. 

And any effort thus expended before the test usually corresponded with an accordingly higher test score. 

Thus, my hope would range between a pipe dream and a near certainty. 

And deep down it wasn't really hope that I was feeling, 

but confidence in my own preparation. 

And because I was a poor student (in that I didn't study well or do all my homework) 

my test performance was largely based on how much knowledge I could retain from lectures. 

My test grades were simply a measure of my listening skills and my ability to retain a strong memory. 

My hope wasn't really a hope at all, 

but an unease about when my powers of recollection 

would be overpowered by the sheer volume of information that needed to be absorbed outside of the normal class or lecture.

We've all held on to one type of hope or another. 

Maybe you've hoped to win the lottery one day? 

Unlike my hope for good grades a hope for winning the lottery is totally out of your control.

Moreover, its chance of becoming a reality is infinitesimal. 

And while I may hope for a good grade, and you hope for lottery winnings, 

the two hopes couldn't be more different from each other.

And, to be honest, can't really be defined as hope. 

If my longings for good grades are to be linked to confidence, your longing for a lottery is simply a fantasy. 

Sure, it’s fun to think about and even imagine how it might change your life, 

but nothing that you would ever plan on happening. 

No, a true hope must be realistically obtainable. 

You must be able to see yourself in the hoped-for situation or status. 

And you prepare yourself for its eventuality should it occur.

When we talk about the hope we have in our Christian faith, it is unlike any other hope we know. 

First, it has nothing to do with our own effort, inputs, or will. 

This hope of the resurrection that Peter speaks of today is completely tied to Jesus. 

He defines it, declares it, decides it, and defends it, until it is realized. 

And it is that dependence upon Jesus which makes it available to us as believers. 

The hope we have in the resurrection of Christ, in Christ, and through Christ, is his pure gift to his people. 

Moreover, the end results of this gift are guaranteed and equal to all who will experience it unlike other types of hope that people cling to. 

Many people who save for retirement hope it will be sufficient to sustain them in old age. 

Yet each person's experience is different, 

depending on the amount they saved, 

how they invested, 

and what they spend. 

In addition, none of us will have the same needs, nor the same number of days or years to live in that retirement. 

But our hope of an eternal communion with God is not like that. 

For all of us, it is made possible by the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning.

It's guaranteed by the words of Jesus when he promised to return for us. 

And it is realized in our own resurrection on the last day. 

And the only doubt we have is that if he returns before we die,

we won't need a resurrection, and he will glorify our bodies right where we stand 

and bring us with him then to that new heaven and earth, he is preparing for us now. 

And it is this hope which sustains us daily as Christians.

But, when one has hope, they don't stand around and wait for something to happen. 

When the Israelites hoped that Moses would accomplish their release from slavery in Egypt, 

they packed their belongings after the 9th plague, knowing the 10th would be the last.

They cooked one last dinner, eating it standing up, ready to flee, 

and they ate it all, leaving no leftovers, since they would not be returning to their homes in Egypt ever again. 

When a man and a woman are about to become parents and are filled with the hope which comes from creating new life, 

as soon as they know a baby is conceived, they begin preparations for its arrival. 

They set up the nursery and begin gathering supplies. 

And they even start thinking about who its baptismal sponsors will be and what they will name the child, 

and their hope of a new child is not guaranteed, but they must be prepared for its fulfillment. 

When a graduate gets hired for their first professional job, with the hope of a prosperous career, 

they don't show up to work the first day in their fraternity or sorority sweatshirt, 

but they go shopping beforehand. 

to get the clothing and accessories they need to make themselves presentable on the first day. 

So, you that hope in the resurrection, how are you preparing for its eventuality? 

It's already promised and guaranteed to come to you, so what will that mean when it happens? 

It means you will be free from the sinful effects and boundaries that now constrain you. 

Namely, death and decay will be no more, 

and the separation of sinners from their creator will be discontinued. 

And so, perhaps our preparation for the fulfillment of that hope will be to practice, as best we can, what that new existence may be like .

To find enjoyment in following God's will.

To rest more often in God's presence through his word and sacrament. 

And by singing his praises each and every day wherever we find ourselves.

Let's take a few moments to expound on this point, shall we? 

We can do all those things because our hope is sure and secure! 

We can follow God's will in obedience because the resurrection overpowers any negative earthly consequences of obeying God. 

Eternity with Jesus and the father outweighs any ridicule or discrimination

from those who would lead us to sin and disobedience. 

We joyously make time for worship and study 

because it strengthens the faith that will ensure the outcome we hope for, 

while abandoning worship for more earthly pleasures only gives temporary benefits and happiness. 

And when we lavish our praise for God through our gifts, service, and worship, 

we know God will remember them for eternity, 

while others who seek our attention will continue to come back for more and more and never be satisfied. 

Those who have the hope of the resurrection also know that hope is inexhaustible. 

Just as our hope will not run out as we live and dwell in that hope, 

neither is it divided or diluted when we share it. 

Rather, it is multiplied and expands whenever we share it with someone else who receives it with joy. 

For these reasons and others this makes those who have hope in the resurrection fearless. 

Because they know they belong to God they know he will guide, guard, and protect them. 

Because their hope is in a promise that is unbreakable, they never question their eventual salvation. 

And because they know they are under God's care today, and into eternity, there is nothing that can deter them from living out that hope before the world.

We live in times seem very troubling. 

Wars and rumors of war are constant. 

What was right is now wrong and what we knew as wrong has been declared right. 

The more time that passes through the hourglass, the less it seems God has sway over the world and its inhabitants. 

Yet, for those who have faith, hope is not diminished. 

In fact, perhaps it is enhanced. 

As we realize more and more, that surely, there is no one or no thing in this world 

that can bring about peace and reconciliation 

that comes through the death and Reconciliation of Jesus Christ

And that's where we, the church, come into the story: we are the people of the resurrection. 

Other faiths have incarnation, ascendency, and some even have a concept of heaven. 

But only Christianity knows God to be concerned with the individual as he created them

and has plans to keep them alive 

and to be in relationship with them forever into eternity. 

And that's why Jesus left his ministry to the church and not to an individual. 

The church exists to extend hope to the world through its relationship with Christ.

Just as it is in relationship with its own members 

as well as the world into which it is placed

We are the bride of Christ and John, in his Revelation, calls the day of the resurrection of all believers ‚Äúthe marriage feast of heaven.‚Ä̬†

We are engaged to Jesus, so he wants us to be about planning for the wedding. 

And the most important part is the banquet, 

who is invited, who will be there, and how much it will be enjoyed and remembered.

 Jesus wants the guest list to be as long as possible and made-up of all types of people. 

And Saint John Lutheran is just one of perhaps millions of corrugations 

called to accomplish this by bringing the hope of the resurrection to the world. 

To engage in that mission faithfully, we need to rely on that hope personally. 

Each of us needs to place our trust in God and demonstrate the hope we profess. 

For some of us that means loosening the purse-strings 

and giving God a controlling interest in our finances, 

not just a tip for good service. 

For others, that means allowing this hope to keep you connected to God more often 

in worship and Bible study, 

rather than other pursuits which keep you away more Sundays than you are present.

And yet for others, you will need to be less selfish with your time and talents 

and be more generous in blessing Christ’s church in service to him. 

If we as a congregation are going to reach our community and the world with the hope of the resurrection, we will need all of us working together in mission and ministry. 

Beyond our individual contributions to his church, the church also needs to speak and act as one voice and body. 

That's why our elders try to call each family every month, so that we stay connected to that hope of the resurrection. 

That's why our council not only deals with the day-to-day operations of the church and school, 

but is always looking ahead to the future, 

identifying spiritual as well as physical needs 

and planning strategies for meeting those needs. 

And lastly as a denomination we are witnesses to the world as to what God says in scripture 

and his hope that all the world come to a saving knowledge and belief in him 

as Paul wrote to Timothy in his first letter. 

May we as a congregation be blessed by the Holy Spirit to accomplish this task, 

even as we pray for his presence and help in our own lives

so that the sure and certain hope of our resurrection 

will keep us steadfast, resilient, bold, and persistent in faith till that day arrives. 

In Jesus name we pray it. Amen.