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Sunday, March 11, 2018

A blanket, a mirror, and a gift

Scott preached at our church today, the wrap-up sermon of 1 Peter as we have been working our way through the book, a sermon that aptly addresses this season of approaching the cross.  So here is a brief summary of what he said from one listener, me.  1 Peter is a book written to believers who were suffering, countering the false idea that trials cease when faith enters.  Chapter 5, the final chapter, gives them three ways to persevere in the midst of suffering.  A blanket, a mirror, and a gift.

First, we are called to a path of humility, which is contrasted to a life of anxiety (5:6-7).  The cares of the world we often wrap around ourselves like a blanket.  Success, jobs, the future, financial security, popularity, admiration, look like they will comfort, but instead they distract and choke.  If we throw off that false security blanket, cast our cares on God, then we relinquish illusions of control and embrace a humble dependence on God's goodness.  In humility we surrender our will to seek the good of others and the glory of God, which paradoxically bolsters our perseverance.

Second, we are called to be alert (5:8).  Scott reminded us that we are in a battle, in a world broken by evil where that very breaking, where our own sin, where the deceiving prowling lion of personal spiritual forces, where the discipline of the Creator's merciful order, all mysteriously embattle us in troubles.  So we hold up the mirror of truth to examine our own hearts and to look behind us for the ill-intentioned devil ready to pounce.  Like real soldiers (even the one in our own family!), lethargy and denial can be deadly.  To persevere, we need situational awareness.

Finally, chapter 5 ends with the reality of grace in the fray of suffering (5:10-11).  Being humble and being alert are not states we dredge up by sheer will power, they are states of being we receive as gifts from a merciful Father. God works with purpose through all this hard life to strengthen and purify and transform us for our own good (v10), and for the glorious growing reality of God's putting the universe to rights (v11).  Or as we say in Serge, the world's good and God's glory.

Well, we're preaching to ourselves, so hopefully these thoughts from Scott encourage you too.  Throw off that red woolen blanket, hold up that little yellow plastic hand mirror, and accept that lovely gift bag.  Don't be surprised when trials come (I know I always am), but sink deeper into trust in the One who holds us all.

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