The Third Sunday of Easter E. bevan Stanley
April 26, 2020/ Year A
1 Peter 1:17-23
They stood still, looking sad. In the name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
Two men are walking down South Street, talking about the news. More people are dying. People are out of work. If we let people return to work, the pandemic will last longer and more people will get sick and die. If we continue strict policies of isolation and quarantine, people may lose their homes, or their savings, or their jobs. Suddenly, a third guy is walking with them, keeping six feet apart.
“What are you talking about,” he asks.
“Are you the only one around who doesn’t know what’s going on? Do you have your head buried in the sand? We’re talking about all this bad news.”
“Where is your faith? Where is your hope? Yes, this pandemic is horrible. And it is killing a lot of people. But what does the Bible say? No matter how hard it gets, God is with us. What seems like and end is always the beginning of something new. Every experience is an opportunity to give and receive love.” And he told them story after story from the Bible about God being with people and new beginnings.
Then the stranger stopped and did a strange thing. He pulled plastic bag out of his pocket. From it he took a slice of bread. He looked to the sky and said, “Thank you, Father.” Then he broke it. It was then that the two men noticed the wounds in his hands. He vanished. The two men gaped at each other. “Holy, moly. Did you see that? That was Jesus!”
And what did they do then?
We are all in the middle of a lot of bad news. Life is harder for some than others. Even spring seems to be having a hard time getting here. And Jesus is here with us. God is here. The Holy Spirit is here. Sometimes we see them briefly; mostly we don’t. We are not alone.
Here’s a story I read somewhere: Some women in a Bible study came across Malachi 3:3 which says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This verse puzzled the women, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy – when I see my image in it.”
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
Which brings us to the words in the first letter of Peter: Through Jesus you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
Hope and trust are things we choose. Its not just that we feel hopeful some days and not others. It is not that we feel trusting some days and not others. No. In the midst of this danger and disruption, we choose hope. We choose trust. We choose love. That is our work for now. And as we hope and trust and love, God will be seeing more and more of the divine in our characters.
So as we endure this time of disease and death, into what new thing is God refining us?