A while back there was a song by Bob Carlisle which went; "We fall down, we get up... and a saint is just a sinner who falls down and gets up.” In I Peter 1, we are reminded of the three consequences of Easter: Eternal Life, Living Hope, and Glorious Joy. Our celebrations on Easter tend to focus on Eternal Life, because that is the ‘big sell’when presenting Jesus to our secularized, unbelieving, world. But to our friends, family, and even ourselves, Hope and Joy might be the harder sell. All three Easter consequences, have a “we fall down, we get up” quality.
Living Hope: My Father loved to play chess when he was a boy. He was good at it. This made it hard for him to find anyone to play him. He had a sister named Betty. To get Betty to play chess with him, he invented a new rule. The rule was, whenever Betty was losing, she had the right to stop the game and turn the board around and play the winning side. Part of what makes hope alive for Christians is the way we get to turn the tables on our defeats. We don’t go to church because we are good at life. We go because we are losing and need God’s grace to turn the tables on life. Where we are failing, we find forgiveness. When we are alone, we find fellowship. Sometimes the support for life comes in strange and mystical ways, from God directly. Other times it comes as the person beside us in our Sunday School class.
Like my father being good at chess, we all know that God is good at holiness. Most people give up on playing that game. God, on Good Friday, turns the table - gives us Betty’s Rule - and lets us apply it to our own losing position on holiness. This becomes living hope, as we renew our interest in living significant, loving, and godly lives.
Glorious Joy: The book of 1st Peter didn’t get around to being written until thirty years (or some say 60 years) after the first Easter. How could you in 60 AD. (or 90 AD) know that Easter really happened or that it had any significant consequences? There are all these stories about Jesus rising from the dead, and supposedly, giving us eternal life. How do you prove it? I tell you what you do; you get on your sneakers and you sneak up on some Christians. You look in through the window, and you watch them at their meals, at their worship, and in their daily life. If they seem solemn and sad, then you know Jesus is either dead or of little consequence. If they mumble along, repeating Jesus’teachings, but not finding any joy in them, then these people are just blowing on the embers of a has-been teacher.
I remember taking philosophy in college, and we studied Plato. Plato was a great man. Everyone should read Plato. It was still, sometimes hard to keep awake in class. I had a good teacher, and it took all of his jokes and creativity just to breathe a little life into the words of this dead man. Plato is long dead, if some of you didn’t get the memo. Jesus is alive and if you look through the window at Christians, and they are having fun together. They read his teachings over and over, as if the words themselves are alive. What we find, and what we need to advertise to the world outside, is that Jesus’words are so alive that even a poor reader can repeat them to good effect. Even a bad preacher, can share with his or her congregation the glorious joy that is to be found in them.