The text that I’d like to hold up this morning is 1 Peter 1:3-9.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. 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. 1 Peter 1:3-9
This is a wonderful text for Confirmation because it is directed to people just like you who –who have been baptized into the Christian faith, instructed in the Word of God, and who want nothing more than to live by faith in God. It’s not too hard at all to picture St. Peter standing in a pulpit just like this one, addressing his ‘catechumens’ whom have been baptized and catechized in the faith just as you have been.
The first words we hear out of Peter’s mouth connect directly to the first words that come from our Lord’s mouth as He catechizes His flock of catechumens – “Blessed are you…”
That’s where this life of faith begins – not with demands and expectations like – ‘this is what you need to do and these are the grades you’ll have to get before you’ll ever be accepted into this faith.’ No, it all begins with God’s blessing poured out on you – blessing after blessing after blessing, like the waves of the ocean that break onto the shore – breaking over you, one after the other after the other.
Peter was one of those catechumens to whom Jesus gave His blessing. So Peter begins his message to his own confirmands saying, “BLESSED be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” When God blesses us through Jesus Christ, He gives us what we need the most – His name. And along with His Name come all of His blessings of forgiveness and life.
And then when we bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or as we say in our greeting before the service begins, “let us BLESS the Lord,” we give Him our thanks. It’s not that He needs that from us – God doesn’t need anything from us. But we who have received His name and His infallible Word of promise need to give Him thanks. And so we say, “let us bless the Lord.” “THANKS be to God.”
Peter then rattles off the blessings that we have to be thankful for. And it’s a real mouthful and mindful:
• “Born again” through Holy Baptism;
• into a “living hope,” that is not just ‘hopeful’ like, ‘I hope I don’t get the Corona virus,’ but a ‘hope’ that is guaranteed by “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
• With God’s blessing put on you, you live with a “living hope” that an ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading INHERITANCE is ‘kept in heaven FOR YOU.’ For you Andrew, Allison, Caden, Mia, Emmy and for you, Ethan.
• And this “inheritance” is so much greater than money or a house or a jewelry. This “inheritance” that is your ‘living hope” is “your salvation.”
• “Your salvation.” That’s quite the inheritance. No matter how much of an ‘inheritance’ your parents might leave behind for you, it can’t come close to this one – “your salvation.” This is your inheritance from God.
“In this,” this mouthful and this mindful of God’s blessing put on you, “in this, you rejoice,” and who wouldn’t? But just because God has put His blessing on you and set this inheritance of “your salvation” aside for you, doesn’t mean that everything is easy and always goes well and there’s never any troubles or disappointments or even failures. But God’s promise and the blessings He put on you never changes. And so, “You rejoice even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”
Which is to say, this life of faith is not walk in the park. “Various trials” are sure to come and they will cause you “grief.” But you weather them and persevere through them by this “living hope” that you were given in your baptism. And it’s just this “perseverance of faith” – always remembering, never forgetting that God put His blessing on you in your baptism, always clinging to this and never letting go of it – it’s in this that Peter says, you are “obtaining the salvation of your soul.”
I want to talk to you about the “perseverance of faith” – which is just a fancy way of saying, ‘continuing to live by faith and trust in God, even when “you are grieved by various trials.”
I want to introduce you to a woman named Florence Chadwick. Florence Chadwick was swimmer. She was NOT the first woman ever to swim the English Channel, which is 21 miles wide. She was the first woman to ever swim the English Channel IN BOTH DIRECTIONS, setting a speed record for both laps.
Before that accomplishment, Florence made it her 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. It was a very foggy day. So foggy that she could hardly see the boat in which her coach moved along beside her. After swimming for 15 hours she wanted to get out of the water. Her coach encouraged her to “stay in the water,” saying, “it can’t be far to the shore.” But when Florence looked, all she could see was fog. And so, in despair, she gave up and got out of the water and quit the swim. Turns out, she was ½ mile from the shore.
Whether you’re a swimmer or not, when you were Baptized, you entered the water and you started swimming, and you’ve been swimming in it ever since. Now, you need to continue to swim in that water until the day you die. THE GOAL OF YOUR LIFE IS TO DIE WHILE SWIMMING IN YOUR BAPTISM. That is the goal of the life of faith. If you get out of the water of your baptism before you die and quit swimming in it, you forfeit the goal – which is, ‘the salvation of your soul.”
No one can force you to get out of the water. “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to” force you to get out of the water of your baptism. (Rom.8:38-39).
But don’t kid yourself, it can get very foggy at times. The temptations to quit the race and get out of the water will surround you like a thick fog.
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 rowing alongside of you as you swim in your baptism? Where does your encouragement come from? One of the primary jobs of this congregation of your brothers and sisters in Christ is to “encourage” you to keep on swimming in your baptism. St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “Encourage one another and build one another up.” (1Thes. 5:11).
Christ has established His Church so that you would have the encouragement of others, which you need. You can’t do this alone. The Christian faith is not a UNITARIAN faith but a COMMUNINTARIAN faith. You need to be present in the congregation to BE encouraged and to ENCOURAGE OTHERS to persevere in the faith.
So, regular, weekly attendance in worship is essential to reaching the goal because it is here, in worship, that the fog is lifted and we’re all given about an hour and a half of clarity where the goal is held up clearly before our eyes before we go back into the fog.
It’s here, that we hear the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. And as we hear God’s Word proclaimed to us, the Holy Spirit lifts the fog and we see clearly that He is right alongside of us, guiding and encouraging us, protecting us. And He gives us the nourishment that we need by feeding us with holy food that strengthens us to keep on swimming.
And the more we listen to His Word, the more we eat this divine food, the stronger we grow. And even as the various trials and troubles continue to come our way, we continue to keep our eyes fixed on the outcome of our faith – “the salvation of our soul” – and we keep swimming.
Just so you know, two months after Florence Chadwick failed in her attempt to swim to the California coast, she tried again. This time, it was a clear day and she swam the distance and reached the goal, and set a new speed record in the process.
Andrew, Allison, Caden, Mia, Emmy and Ethan, I pray that you will persevere in this “one true faith” and never get out of the water of your baptism, never quit swimming. But I also want you to know, that if you do, God is always ready to welcome you back into the water. To all of His baptized, He offers the forgiveness of sins and the chance to repent and return to your baptism again.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with the joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”