Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
The text is the Epistle reading from 1 Peter 1, especially these words, “Though you do not now see Him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
“Though you do not now see him you believe in him…” Blindness has its advantages Nathanael. I suspect that by now you’re getting pretty used to the idea of believing in what you cannot see. The rest of us are forced to deal with the handicap of having eyes that see. We have gotten pretty used to the idea that ‘seeing is believing.’ Our patience for trusting and waiting and persevering wears pretty thin pretty quickly if we can’t see the goal. Our 20/20 vision can be an obstacle to our life of faith. If we don’t see the goal, if we can’t see any ‘improvement,’ if we can’t see how this is going to benefit me, we are quick to say, ‘I quit.’ And turn to something else that we can ‘see.’
St. Peter commends his confirmation class for not quitting, for persevering in the faith, for sticking with it, “even though you do not now see him.”
And not only are they ‘blind’ when it comes to actually SEEING Jesus, but it hasn’t been easy to be a Christian. They’ve had to put up with lots of suffering and pain and abuse, just for saying, “Jesus is my Lord.” “Though now for awhile, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”
I know that we think that ‘DOING WITHOUT’ and ‘SACRIFICE’ are BAD WORDS and that we should be able to have everything we want without having to ‘sacrifice’ or ‘do without’ some things, but that’s not the way it really works. How many times have you been faced with the dilemma of having to choose between two things that you would like to do because you just can’t do both? And what did you choose to ‘do without,’ and ‘sacrifice’?
Peter is commending his confirmation class, because they have NOT been willing to ‘do without’ or ‘sacrifice’ their faith. And it’s been hard and in some cases, painful, and in some cases even deadly. And yet, even though they have ‘been grieved by various trials,” Peter says, “you rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…”
That’s quite the confirmation class that Peter is addressing. And it is quite the confirmation class that I’m addressing. Because I am confident that you four will live up to the same high standards.
I want to tell you about a woman named Florence Chapman. Sarah and Emily, that’s a name that you two, as swimmers, should know. Florence Chapman was a long distance swimmer. She was the first woman ever to swim the English Channel – in both directions. It was Florence Chapman’s goal to swim the channel between Catalina Island in the Pacific Ocean to the California coast – a distance of 22 miles. On July 4, 1952, she got into the water off Catalina Island and began to swim. The water was very cold and it was a very foggy day. So foggy that she could hardly see the rescue boat that moved along beside her. After swimming for 15 hours she asked to get out of the water. Her coach in the boat encouraged her to “stay in the water.” “It can’t be very far to the goal.” But when Florence Chapman looked, all she could see was fog. She couldn’t see the goal. And so she gave up and got out of the water and quit the swim. And she was only ½ mile from the shore.
I. Entering the Water in your Baptism
A. You Started Swimming in Your Baptism.
Whether you consider yourself a swimmer or not, you all are. You got into the water on the day when you were baptized and you’ve been swimming in your baptism ever since. Swimming for 15 hours is nothing for you really. You’ve been swimming since before you can remember and you’ll keep on swimming until the day that you die.
The goal of your swim is not the California coast. No, “the outcome of your faith, is the salvation of your soul.”
So, if you thought that the goal of the Catechumenate was TO BE CONFIRMED – you missed the point. The Catechumenate is nothing more than swimming lessons for the long distance swimmer. The goal is to keep swimming in your baptism until the day you die. Because if you quit, and get out of the water any time before you die, you forfeit the “outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.”
B. Jesus Accomplished the Goal for Our Salvation
Listen again to the way that Peter describes the ‘outcome of your faith.’ He calls it “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you…”
That’s the OUTCOME that Jesus won for you by His suffering and death on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. His goal was not heaven. He already has that. He’s not trying to go to heaven, He left heaven to come to you. Jesus’ goal is for you to be in heaven with Him.
Think about all of the suffering and sacrifice and ‘doing without’ that Jesus endured so that He could reach His goal. Whatever you may have to ‘do without’ or ‘sacrifice,’ it doesn’t compare with what He endured. And we draw our strength to ‘do without’ and ‘sacrifice’ from Him.
When Jesus cried out, “It is finished” from the cross, we know that He reached His goal. Your salvation has been accomplished. And God had given you this INHERITANCE that Jesus accomplished for you, in your Baptism. “He has caused you to be born again to a living hope…” You didn’t go through the Catechumenate in order to be saved. You did it because you have been saved and you need to know how to keep swimming.
C. No One Can Make You Get Out
Peter writes, “By God’s power, you are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” I don’t want you to think that this ‘baptismal swim’ is something that you do alone or that you could possibly do alone. “By God’s power, you are being guarded…”
Let me say that another way. No one can force you to quit swimming and get out of your baptism. “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height no depth, nor anything else in all creation shall be able to separate you” from your baptism. (Romans 8:38-39).
Prayer in school may be forbidden but no one can keep you from talking to God all throughout the day. Your textbooks may tell you that you evolved from an ape, but no one can make you ‘give up’ your faith that you were created by God in His image. Others may tell you that there are many gods and it doesn’t really matter which one you believe in, but no one can force you to ‘sacrifice’ your confession that “Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father but by Him.” (John 14:6).
No one can force you out of the water because the One who has put you in the water is in the water with you and He will defend and protect you.
D. But You Can Get Out of the Water
But the truth is, it can get very foggy. There are temptations all around you and if you’re not careful with your life, you can lose sight of the goal and simply get out of the waters of your baptism and leave the “outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul,” behind.
Florence Chadwick had someone rowing alongside of her, encouraging her to stay in the water and keep on swimming to the goal. Who do you have alongside of you as you swim to the “outcome of your faith?” You have your parents and this congregation. A lot of people make a big mistake by thinking that they don’t need anyone to encourage them to keep swimming. They don’t need a church family. They can stay focused and on target all by themselves. It doesn’t work.
There are too many voices all around us encouraging us to quit our baptism and get out of the water. What about the TV you watch and the music you listen to and the games you play on the computer? What are they encouraging you to do? A lot of it seems harmless. Maybe it’s fun. Everyone else is doing it. But what are they encouraging you to do about your baptism? Stay in and keep swimming, or get out?
E. Keep the Goal in Sight
It’s important to be sure you’re getting the proper encouragement that we all need. Listening to God’s Word regularly is critical. Receiving the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper every time it’s offered is critical. These are the means by which the Holy Spirit clears the fog so that we can see clearly.
Regular, weekly attendance in worship will do more to clear the fog of temptation that surrounds you than anything else you can do. I guarantee, if you get lax about being in worship and paying attention to what is said, the fog will grow thicker and thicker until you won’t be able to see the goal at all and you’ll leave your baptism. I’ve seen it happen far too often. I don’t want it to happen to you.
But what if you do? What if you do stop swimming in your baptism and get out of the water, far, far short of the “outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul?”
I didn’t finish the story about Florence Chapman. Two months after she got out of the water short of her goal, Florence Chapman walked off of the same beach and into the same channel and swam the distance between Catalina Island to the coast of California. It was a clear day and she swam the distance and reached the goal, and set a new speed record in the process.
I pray that you would never get out of the water of your baptism. But if you do, God is always ready to welcome you back into the water. Forgiveness and fresh starts and new beginnings is all a part of what Jesus accomplished for you by His cross and empty tomb.
“Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”