CHRISTIANS HAVE GREAT GIFTS TO GIVE.

Through His believers, our ascended Lord gives His gifts of grace to the world.  He bestows upon each of us gifts for us to spend upon this whole body of which we are a part.  When we consider the riches of these gifts, how vital they are to every soul, and what happens if they are used too late, we must stand in awe that God lets us have such great gifts to give.

The sermon for The Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 16, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

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1 Peter 4:7–11 (CSB)

The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins., Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus:  In these weeks leading up to Pentecost, our lessons, especially our Epistle Lessons on which we have been preaching, state categorically that the Power of the Holy Spirit that was active in bringing us to a saving faith in Christ our Savior WILL also so affect our lives that the life of each Christian will be touched, and the Church (invisible church, gathering of believers), therefore will be like no other gathering of people, for here the Grace of God is to be found.

Through His believers, God gives this grace to the world.  He bestows upon each of us gifts for us to spend upon ourselves, that is upon this whole body of which we are a part.  When we consider the riches of these gifts, how vital they are to every soul, and what happens if they are used too late, we have to stand in awe that God lets us…

CHRISTIANS ADMINISTER GOD’S GRACE

  1. With a Sense of Urgency
  2. Exerting Love for Yourselves as the Church
  3. Making Good Use of All the Forms of God’s Grace
  1. With a Sense of Urgency

Peter underscores the sense of urgency that God always connects with His saving gifts:  The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer.   This is fairly clear and cannot be over-emphasized.  The grace of God that gives salvation is the only thing that is ever enough to stand up against death and give life.  We have all had loved-ones die.  Who is next?  You?  Me?  Or may Christ come in one instant today and call every soul to judgment?

What every last one of us needs is to be “alert and sober-minded for prayer.” This doesn’t just mean that you get a good night’s sleep so your head is clear.  It is spiritual sobriety, serious-mindedness.

You know, there is nothing like an impending crisis to make our prayers more focused, right? As we have heard, Christ live, and has ascended into heaven so that He is present and active now through His word– and will come soon.

Although we don’t know when, we certainly know that the end of life – our life – is coming, and the only way that we can possibly know what waits for us is from Christ Himself:  “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.” (John 3:13, CSB)

There is no end of nonsense about the meaning of life and of death, and about the end of the world. I am sure that all your friends have loads of opinions, and we are encouraged to speculate all the time. Resist the temptation to listen, and especially to speculate yourself! Listen to His word, make room for it in your life, then don’t just listen to the Word of God, but believe and do.

Our sense of urgency is heightened by the fact that we need to be ready at all times, for when we are called from this world, it is too late to search for a way to heaven.  The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer [worship].  Spiritual sobriety comes from God’s word, and it leads to worship.  The expression here really refers to the worship of the church, and quite properly, the worship of the church is focused on sin and grace, repentance and faith, confession and absolution, so that we will stand in the righteousness of faith when Christ comes again.

This is the imperative:  Be serious and clear minded about spiritual things so that in your worship, in your spiritual life, you are prepared to be called.

2.    Exerting Love for Yourself as the Church

God’s word and worship come first, for the Gospel in word and sacrament are the means of grace, the means by which God gives and activates all the gifts that His mercy gives us.  But following after is the love that or Savior wants us to have for one another.  Above all, maintain constant love for one another [lit. “love yourselves,” since love covers a multitude of sins., Be hospitable to one another without complaining.

This is a very interesting way of saying things.  God says “love yourselves” because to love other Christians is like loving yourself, for we are all part of the same body.  If you look around you, you see people with whom you will spend eternity.  You see people whom God has given to you to be a blessing to you, and you to them.  To love them is to bless all of us together.  You can imagine the glee of Satan and the sorrow of our Savior when Christians turn against one another!

It isn’t easy to love.  So love deeply.  Exert yourself, for we are still sinners and not in ourselves all that lovable.  Even though we acknowledge our sins, and repent of them, they still show, and this love that we have must stretch to cover over these sins.  In such a situation, it is the forgiveness and grace of Christ that matters, and not the sin.  It is the blood of Christ that washed my sins away, and your sins away, and brought His perfect love to us that matters.  This love covers over our sins, so they do not matter.

This is what Christ meant when He tells us not to judge.  Accept one another as repentant children of God.

Love doesn’t stop there; it reaches out in hospitality to one another, making Christian hearts a place of rest for fellow Christians.  Let’s consider that word: hospitality.  It means welcoming guests.  In the persecutions that followed the writing of this letter, Christians fled throughout the world.  Symbols like the CHI-RHO and Christian anagrams might have been the assurance that here was safety from the sword of the persecutor.

Imagine if a family – or two – showed up at your door hungry, with only the clothes on their backs, needing every kind of care.  Peter’s encouragement, Be hospitable to one another without complaining was well timed.  But Christians showed more hospitality than that as they went on to start the first hospitals.  During the malaria-cursed summers in Rome, Christian hospitality saved many (not even Christians) who were left to die by their relatives who fled to the healthier hills.

But it stretches and exerts our love to care for one another.

And it is just this kind of exercised love that we need in this congregation and community right now.  By this I am not necessarily finding fault, for this congregation has a reputation for love and hospitality.  But we cannot grow slack at this at all.  Our love will be stretched!

3.     Making Good Use of All the Forms of God’s Grace

These are times in our congregation and community that are, frankly, difficult.

Many are hurting spiritually, have been alienated from their family, from other Christians, or even from Christ Himself.  Our community is full of the spiritually dead, wounded, and wandering, even if they don’t know it.  You have the gifts to do something about it.  10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Whatever your gift may be, it has been given to bless you, you the church, you the congregation, you the body of Christ.  Peter just gives some fleeting examples; it is love that will help you find your gift, and so enable to glorify our God and Savior.

Unfortunately, each one of us falls short of what we should be as an instrument of God’s love and God’s glory.  I imagine that we are like the person who was on his way to his remote home, out in the boondocks.  He has just been saved from a deadly infection by powerful antibiotics, and now he is ready to return home.  In that same remote area is another family, near death, but who will survive with these same medicines

So he is entrusted on his way with the same medicine that saved his life, so that he can bring life to this sick family.  But when he gets home, he finds that there is so much to do to get his homestead back in shape.  Besides, the family that is dying might get the medicine from someone else, or they might come over the hill themselves and pick it up.  It IS a long way for him to go out of the way, after all.  And besides, he might need it again.  So, when the last of the family dies, the life-saving medicine is still on the shelf in the kitchen.

10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.

Whatever gift we have received, and it is probably GIFTS, plural, we have at times been too lazy, too busy, too sinful to spend them as we should.  Our love has been far less than it should have been.  In admitting this, we do what we have done before; we are conscience-stricken.  We are sorry.  We are ashamed.  We truly want to better, for the thought there are those who might die forever because of us, hurts to think about.

But the fact that we want to do better gives us no hope in itself.  It shows that our faith is alive, but it does not earn us heaven.  Our hope, rather, is that we live under grace.  You are forgiven for the poor way you have used the many graces and gifts of God.  Forgiven.  For Christ spent all His gifts, His very life, in the one way that would rescue you from the wrath of God.  He spent His righteous life for you and suffered God’s wrath for you.  Of this you may be certain.

The end of all things is near.  May you ever be clear about one thing:  Jesus Christ has died and risen again from the dead forever, and has given to you his own holiness and righteousness of life. … so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

AMEN.