Daily Devotional – April 20, 2020

To the Church in Exile,

The peace of Christ be with you. Today’s daily lectionary reading is the same passage we read yesterday in worship for the second Sunday of Easter, 1 Peter 1:3-9. This time, however, let’s hear it in the MESSAGE version.
         3-5  What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
        6-7  I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
        8-9  You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
As you could tell from yesterday’s message, I love verse 3: this idea of being born again to a living hope “because Jesus was raised from the dead.”  However, the rest of the passage usually does not resonate with me. I so often mistakenly read into the text a celebration of suffering or an easy gloss over struggle. But context means everything: Peter’s audience is facing what looks like a hostile Roman dominated culture. And today, here we are facing a hostile biological reality. I love verse 3 because it sounds a powerful note of hope, a living hope, tethered to something in real time: Jesus’ resurrection. But it turns out that that message of living hope would have fallen on deaf ears if the pain of the day wasn’t addressed. Peter isn’t glossing over pain but singing a song of hope into it.
His congregation is full of hope, “even though they must put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime.” I don’t know about you, but I feel that each week, each day brings a new loss. It’s like I’m going to three or four funerals a week. My heart sank when we didn’t worship March 8th. But at least we’d have Easter together. I had a lump in my throat when we lost that. Then Kyle Turver announced his resignation to head off to seminary. But at least we’d get back together before he left for seminary. Well, will we? And now as we are hearing news of opening the economy up, when exactly will gatherings of 200 people be permitted? And even when we do enter the sanctuary, when will our beloved immune compromised members be able to join us? The uncertainty abounds. When will my wedding happen? How will this pregnancy go? Will I get hired back after having been let go by my company? Will my company be there to hire me back?
Kate Bowler, in her book Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, comments,
         I used to think that grief was about looking backward, old men saddled with regrets or young ones pondering should-haves. I see now that it is about eyes squinting through tears into an unbearable future.
It is into this kind of unknown that Peter is speaking. He names the aggravation but applauds hope. “You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing.” Boy those words speak to me today. They give me inspiration, but not simply because of what they must have meant to Peter’s struggling congregation, or how they give me freedom to lament God’s absence and at the same time lean into my love for and trust in the Lord. No, those words speak to me today because they remind me of all of you at Bethany, a group of Jesus’ followers harassed in the disarray of this season, hunting desperately for a God seemingly gone AWOL, yet adoring him in song and trusting him with your very souls.   
I love you Bethany. I love you for who you are, for your quirkiness and eccentricities, for immense moments of grace you extend to one another, but today I love you mostly because you remind me why I do church and show me what I try to preach: laughing in the aggravation and singing into the darkness. You help me breathe when oxygen is scarce – talk about a living hope! – and that my dear friends is about as close to total salvation that any Monday morning deserves. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ indeed!
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us by your mighty power that we may not fall into sin nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Peace in Christ, 


Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11

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