Sermon for Lent Midweek Service, March 23, AD 2022

1 Peter 4:7-19; 5:6-11

The Christian life is a life of humility. This is a fundamental part of the Christian life, for to be Christian is to be like Christ. Christians are “little Christs” and as St. Peter says we follow “in His steps.” The Son of God became man and humbled himself, not coming in power, but as a poor infant. He grew up and lived generally holding back his divine power. He came not to overthrow kingdoms, but to establish his kingdom of forgiveness by humble means, preaching repentance and faith. Then he submitted to his death, suffering and being crucified for the sins of us, the very ones whose sins sent him to die. Rising from the dead, Jesus has given all through baptism the new resurrection life which he has won, completely free. Therefore, as Christians in this resurrection life, we have nothing to boast of and nothing to gain for ourselves. We are free in Christ, so we can live in humility as Christ did.

It is obvious then, that our life in the church, where we all live in the freedom of Christ, should be one marked by humility. St. Peter says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, for love covers a multitude of sins.” This is not your own sins he is talking about. Your sins have been covered by the work of Christ. His atoning death has made you righteous before God, his blood has forgiven and covered your sins. Only Jesus could reconcile sinners to the Father. He is the only mediator. It is because of this great blessing of the grace we have received from Christ that our love covers a multitude of the sins of others. We have been freely forgiven, when we did not deserve it, therefore we freely forgive.

Pride is like the unforgiving servant, who, having been forgiven much by the king, will not forgive his fellow servant even a little. Even though everything he had was only out of the mercy and forgiveness of the king, he acted to his fellow servant like he earned it. Such a person will not inherit the kingdom of God. Christians serve in the strength of this gospel, that Christ has served us first and given us all things. All things are his and given by him. So when our brother or sister out of weakness sins against us, our possessions, or our reputation, we bear with them in love, not holding it against them. For all these things came to us as a gift from Christ.  There is an old saying, “Fish and relatives begin to smell after three days.” When hosting, an extended stay by certain guests can seem like a imposition on kindness. So also forgiveness for brothers in the church can seem like taking advantage. In humility we remember, what is really ours that hasn’t been given? What sins do we commit that others look over every day?

Each of us has been given varied gifts by the grace of God, and each also has certain weaknesses. Let us serve one another in our weaknesses, not enabling sin, but strengthening each other in love. One can use his gift in humility – not to boast in himself, but to serve where others are weak. This is what Christ has done for us. For us to live and serve according to what God has given us glorifies God. It is not burying the talent if no one knows, but investing it so that it comes back double. Not because our work inherits such a great benefit of its own, but because our work continues the work of our master Jesus, who rules over heaven and earth.

Jesus rules even now in humility, as his kingdom proceeds by faith, not by sight. St. Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Jesus came in humility and suffered the persecution of the sinful world. If he had come in might, maybe he would have been free from such suffering, but then we would not have been saved. Even now he saves in humility through the means of his word and sacrament. This word can be easily rejected by the world.

Therefore we should not think we are special and free from the trials which come from the world, since our Lord also suffered. As Christ humbly suffered, you too will suffer, but you share in the suffering of Christ. These trials do not come to you in vain. When you suffer for Christ, when you are insulted, it is not you, but the name of Christ who is upon you. That name was put on you in your baptism, and makes you a target for the devil on the one hand, but an inheritor of great and precious promises on the other. If you are insulted for Christ, you are blessed, for you have the same promises of Christ, the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. At this time, this is not seen, but being humbled now means great glory in heaven

The very name “Christian” was first said as an insult to those who followed Jesus. It is related to suffering. But we know it is one who is baptized, one who has put on Christ. The ancient martyrs proudly kept the name Christ when they were brought to trial. When asked their name, they said, “I am Christian.” So in their suffering they glorified God, not even in their own names, but in the name of Christ.

The name of Christ is never something given in vain or for a useless purpose. When the Word is preached in the name of Christ, it always brings with it peace. Jesus told the apostles to preach, and when they are not received in a town to let their peace they preach come back to them. The peace of God is never wasted or lost, even when reject it abounds to those who preach it. So we humbly preach Christ, and if the proud reject it, blessed more are the humble who receive it. For those proud will be humbled eventually – “if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Knowing that Christ will vindicate us, we are humble and ready for judgment to begin with us, for we trust that our faithful Creator has saved us and will remain faithful.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. In the midst of fears of others taking advantage or suffering for the faith, true humility is found in casting all anxieties on God. The hindrance to humility most of all is an idolatry – it is fear of missing out, of losing to others, of not getting what is needed. Humility, to trust in the provision of God first, is what brings the exaltation we seek. When we cast our cares on him and trust in his mighty hand, then all these other worries are taken away.

Yes, the enemy prowls around looking to devour us, but if we are sober and watchful, if we trust in the salvation of Christ, then he will have no advantage. The devil would love to devour Christians, but he can be resisted in faith. When difficulties come, when forgiveness is difficult, if we abandon our pride and trust in Christ the devil is defeated. Part of that strength comes from knowing you are not alone. The suffering you endure is shared by Christians all over the world, and most of all, is shared by Christ. Elijah despaired that he was the only one who followed God, but God showed him that 7000 had not bent the knee to false Gods. Christ does not just preserve you, but his whole church, and sends brothers and sisters to pray for you, forgive you, and strengthen you.

Even when it seems like we are alone and exposed, as we may experience many times in life, remember Christ is coming. He sends you his gifts now to restore and strengthen you through his word. Even St. Peter, feeling alone at the time of Christ’s death, fell away and denied Christ three times. Yet Christ restored and forgave. That is why he came in humility. He is all grace, all underserved favor. If he expects you to forgive and love others, would he do any less for you? Amen.

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