May 20 & 21, 2017 Easter 6
1 Peter 3: 15-22
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus:
Do you like to apologize? Do you find it fun to say I’m sorry? I’m guessing most of you would say, “No.” And why isn’t it fun to apologize? Isn’t it because you make yourself vulnerable? You fear that if you admit your guilt, it could be held against you. Do you like to share your faith with others? How about when you’re picked on for it? What if you were being tortured for believing in Jesus? Would you find it easy then to witness?
Today, God, through the apostle Peter, encourages us by telling us that it’s easy to apologize to God. It’s easy to say, “I’m sorry,” to him because we know how he will respond. We have the certain hope that in love and mercy that we don’t deserve, he will forgive us. We are assured of this by our baptisms. And this, in turn, makes it easy for us to share our faith with others, even if it brings us persecution or pain.
Listen again to the encouragement God gives us through Peter in 1 Peter 3:15-22…
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Peter reminds that you can find it easy to apologize to God and confess your sins to him without fear. Why? Because you have no fear of his wrath and sin’s condemnation. He tells us: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” He paid once for all the debt that you and I owed to God. The hell our sins deserve, Jesus paid for us. What’s more, he rose again: “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” Easter is the proof that what he paid is enough. It’s our receipt.
And then, the God of all grace, gave us the faith to receive these blessings through his gift of Baptism: “Baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. [Baptism] saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is not just symbolic or just some neat ritual. It’s not just an act of obedience to God. But it’s God’s act of mercy toward us. Through it the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens faith that clings to Christ and his sacrifice alone for the certain hope of our salvation. It’s the means by which God gives his grace to us. When Martin Luther faced despair, danger, or temptation he would look to his baptismal certificate hanging on the wall and declare, “I… am… baptized.” This is where he found his certain hope. And this is where you can too.
Look at the picture Peter paints in our text. It’s a picture of Noah’s Ark. Noah’s ark was the vessel that saved the believers from the destruction that hit everyone else. The flood brought death to so many, but the ark saved the few who believed from corruption and death. God uses Baptism as the vessel that saves us from the destruction of hell. In Baptism, God drowns the sinful nature like those disobedient unbelievers in the days of Noah, but saves us, lifting us out of the flood of God’s wrath.
So, as you come to God in confession, admitting your sins and asking for his forgiveness, plead your Baptism. As you battle Satan, temptation, your feelings of guilt, and your sinful flesh, use your Baptism. Say, “I am baptized.” And maybe even hang your baptismal certificate on the wall, to remind you of it.
Look at the ceiling for a minute. What does it look like? Sort of like the inside of a ship turned upside down? Maybe like a big ark? That’s no coincidence. Where you sit is called the nave in church architecture. (As opposed to the narthex in the back of the church or the sacristy where the elements of the Lord’s Supper are kept.) The word nave is where we get our word Navy from. It means ship. And it’s meant to remind us that we’re all safe in the ark of God’s grace.
By your baptism, God has created faith in your heart. This is a faith that knows the story of his death and resurrection, a faith that knows that it’s all true, a faith that stakes your life for eternity on these truths: That Christ has died to pay for your sins, that Christ did rise again to prove to you that your guilt is gone, that Christ, through Baptism, saves you and makes you his own. So, confess your sins to God. Apologize to him for your all of your sins. Apologize with all sincerity of heart and in truth. And rejoice that through Jesus your sins are forgiven. Then, once you’ve confessed your sins, and have been assured of God’s forgiveness, confess your faith, and share the blessings with others.
Now the NIV and KJV of verse 15 say, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” But in the Greek, it literally says, “always be prepared to give an apology.” That Greek word doesn’t mean you say you’re sorry for the hope that you have. The Greek word, “apologia”, means, “a word towards,” or “a defense”.
Be prepared, Peter says, to share the reason why you have hope. Be prepared to defend those reasons. And you know what? You already are prepared. You know what God has done for you in Christ. And so it’s easy to “apologize” for Christ. It’s easy to confess your faith and defend your faith even if does bring embarrassment, pain, or persecution.
Imagine for a minute that you’re out fishing on the ocean, when, all of a sudden, a huge storm whips the seas into a frenzy. The huge swells and crashing waves begin to sink the boats around you and the passengers abandon ship. But your boat is unsinkable. And you have plenty of room. Wouldn’t you be heartless to leave those swimmers to their deaths if you just took off?
In the same way, countless souls are dying every day. And they’re headed to hell. But we’re in the ark. We know we can’t be sunk by sin, death, or hell. And there’s plenty of room in the ship. Let’s tell others what God has done for us in Christ. Let’s rescue them from drowning in a sea of guilt and going to hell.
And don’t just tell people what God has done for you. Tell them what God has done for you in Christ. God may have helped you quit smoking or drinking, become a better parent or spouse, or make the team or the grade, but what happens when you slip up? When you drink or smoke again, when you’re not a perfect parent or spouse, when you don’t make the cut or pass the test? If all you talked about God doing for you was offering help in this life, wouldn’t those “slip ups” imply to your friend that God wasn’t there for you?
Instead, tell others what God has done for you… in Christ. In gentleness and respect, tell them how he has saved you from your sin, by his sacrifice on the cross. All your sins are forgiven. Your resurrection is guaranteed. Heaven itself is yours, even when you slip up, when you drink or smoke again, when you’re not a perfect parent or spouse, when you don’t make the cut or pass. Tell them that it’s because of Jesus’ sacrifice for you that you strive with all of your might to live for him. And as you “apologize” for Christ and defend him by telling others what he’s done for you, tell them that he has done the same for them. Then they too will find it easier to apologize to him, to admit their faults and confess their sins. And, through the Holy Spirit worked faith in them, they will be heaven bound.
May Jesus always make it easy to apologize as he assures you that your sins are forgiven and removes all your guilt, as he assures you that he will take care of you, even in persecution or pain, as you boldly speak of him and share and defend his name. Easter means no fear of guilt. Easter makes it easy to apologize. Amen.