1 Peter 1:3
April 4, 2021
Union University Church
Reverend Laurie DeMott
Toward the end of the TV special, “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” Charlie Brown, frustrated by the commercialization of the holiday, shouts out in frustration, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus says that he can answer that question and then, in the quiet of an empty stage, he recites the nativity story. He turns to Charlie Brown and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
We stand now at the other side of Jesus’ life, having followed him from birth, to death on the cross, and into life once again. As we stand before the empty tomb, staring at the confusing miracle of life where we expected death to be, we might be tempted like Charlie Brown to cry out, “Is there anyone who knows what Easter is all about?” and the writer of I Peter would step onto the quiet of the stage and say, “By God’s great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” That’s what Easter is all about, Charlie Brown.
In Jesus’ resurrection, we have been given hope: the hope that these shabby flawed people we have become isn’t the end of the story. Just as Jesus stepped out of the tomb leaving his burial cloths behind, so too God promises that can we leave behind our pasts and be remade into new creatures. Easter tells us that our sins are not indelibly printed upon our souls but that we can be forgiven; that our mistakes are not permanent stains but that we can know mercy; that the injustice and violence that we see in our world isn’t the last word but that there is the possibility of peace; that brutality, cruelty, bigotry, and selfishness don’t have as much power as they seem to have because God’s love is stronger than them all; that even death is not the end, but that life in God’s world is eternal. To know such hope is to find a reason to get up in the morning when every day is a struggle because Easter tells us — it assures us, it declares to us — it promises us that there is more to our lives than meets the eyes.
“By God’s great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Easter is about hope.
Now, human beings use the word hope all of the time but they generally follow it with the word “that” — I hope that I get an A on this exam, I hope that it won’t rain tomorrow, or if you live in Alfred — I hope that it won’t snow tomorrow. When we follow the word “hope” with the word “that” we are really only describing wishful thinking. We are expressing a desire that the bits and pieces of the universe will line up in the right way so that the water molecules won’t fall to the earth, or that even though we didn’t study for our exam, the questions the teacher decides to ask will coincidentally come from the material we passed our eyes over and not from the chapter we put aside in order to watch Netflix. By following the word hope with the word that, we are qualifying the nature of our hope: we don’t necessarily believe that hoping such a thing will make it come true, but we are simply saying that we would really like it if the random fluctuations of the universe would line up in a way favorable to our desires.
Christian hope, however, is not a hope that; it is a hope through, and that little change of prepositions makes all the difference in the world to our lives. Christian hope is not a hope that such and such will happen; it is a hope through Christ, a hope that through him we will be able to accomplish things that we could not accomplish without him; that through him we will be able to be someone that we were not able to be without him. In the resurrection of Jesus, God gives us a vehicle through which we can transform our wishful thinking into real possibility; this old self into a new person; this broken world into a place of peace and wholeness. Jesus told his disciples, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God,” and in the resurrection, we see the truth of his words: “By God’s great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
On Easter, God tells us that we have the power through the risen Christ to bring the impossible into possibility. Easter gives flesh to our hopes and real life to that which was only a dream. Through the risen Christ, we can become new creatures; through the risen Christ, justice can take hold in the world; through the risen Christ, peace can become more than just wishful thinking; though the risen Christ, we can learn to forgive, we can learn to love, we can come to know mercy; we can have the courage to change the world; through the risen Christ, we can be healed.
By God’s great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That’s what Easter is all about, Charlie Brown.