Baptized into a Living Hope

two rainbows1 Peter 1:3-9 NRSV

They were yearning for the good old days—days when their lives were far less chaotic, days when their lives had some sense of routine, normalcy.  They had been through so much; overcome so many storms.  It was no way they could handle anymore.  At the ends of their ropes, they had simply had enough.

There they were, tired and broken.  No lights, no power, no heat. As soon as they half-way recovered from one storm, another storm was almost on top of them.

With the angry Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s Army behind them, they cried out to Moses, “We would have been better off dying as slaves in Egypt than out here in the wilderness.  At least they had fine cemeteries back in Egypt to lay our tired, broken bodies.  Out here, we have nothing!”

They continued: “Moses, we can’t take it anymore.  We can’t handle any more stress.  We can’t face another storm.  Moses, we can’t take another step.  We can’t go on any further.  We can’t fight another fight.”

It is then that Moses gives them the good news.  I believe it is one of the most comforting verses in the Old Testament.  To all the people who could not go any further, who had reached the end of their ropes, he said: “You don’t have to take another step.  All you have to do is be still, and the Lord, the Lord will fight for you.” 

And fight the Lord did, making a pathway through their storm, through the middle of the sea.  But God did not stop there. That’s what’s so great about our God.  Our God never stops there.  God then provided the Israelites with an all-you-can-eat buffet of quail and bread from heaven, even cool, fresh water from a rock.  And in their dark, cold world, God said to them, “I will be your light.  I will be as a pillar of fire leading you through this storm.”

This is of course what we call the Exodus story—the story of God providing a way when people thought there was no way, the story of a God not only granting salvation and life, but granting it abundantly.  It is THE story of the Old Testament.  It is the one story of the Old Testament that best describes how our God works in this world.  There is something built right into the very nature of God to create something very good out of something very bad, and abundantly so.

It should not surprise us then that the Exodus story of the Old Testament directly corresponds with the THE story of the New Testament—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The story of God making a way, when there was no way, the story of God not only granting life, but granting it abundantly, the story in the New Testament that best describes how our God works in this world—creating and recreating, transforming and resurrecting.    

When wine gives out at a party, God not only turns water into a little bit of wine for one or two people.  God makes 180 gallons of wine for everyone.  When night is falling on a hungry multitude, God not only feeds 5,000 people, God feeds 5,000 people with an abundance left over.  When angry, sinful people crucified Jesus, God not only resurrected him to reign in heaven.  No, God didn’t stop there.  God resurrected him and gave him back to the very same people who killed him.  And promises that one day, they too will be resurrected.

And the good news is that this New Testament story, this story of resurrection, which in a way is a culmination of the great Exodus story, is not just a story or an event in history to remember, and it is not merely an event in our future we look forward to, it is an event to be lived in the present.  In 1 Peter we read, that God has given us a new birth, we have been baptized into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.   

During this week’s winter storm, the second storm to cripple the South in four weeks, I was listening to the radio as people were calling in reporting damage, snow or ice accumulations, and sharing how they were coping. I don’t believe I will ever forget one woman who called in from South Carolina.  She said that a tree came down on her carport crushing her car and her husband’s truck.  And another tree is leaning on the back of the house.  She said, “We made a small pathway outside the back door so we can get outside.” 

The man on the radio asked her, “Do you have any place to go?  Can you go over to a friend or relative’s house?”

She said, “No, but we’re fine.  We have each other and the Lord is good.  I don’t have any power.  But thankfully my house has got a gas stove. And we have wood for the fireplace.  And I just made us a big ol’ pot of chicken ‘n dumplin’s!”

That is when the man on the radio said, “That’s one thing about us Southerners.  Our power can be knocked out.  Our cars destroyed.  Trees on the house.  Can’t get out the front door.  But, one thing’s for sure, we’re going to eat and we’re going to eat good!”

I laughed.  For I had been through enough hurricanes to know that was true.  I thought, “Yes, there’s probably no other place in a world where people go through a natural disaster and gain weight!”  However, I believe that radio jockey missed something else that was in that woman’s voice.

When that woman said, “The Lord is good.”  She was not referring to God being good raising Jesus from the dead in the past.  And she was not looking forward to one day in the future God being good and resurrecting her. She was talking about God being good in the present. In the midst of her storm, she had found a way when there was no way. She was taking a bad situation and making something very good come from it. She was living the hope of the resurrection, today.

This is especially good news for many of us.  For the snow and ice this week are just the least of our troubles.  We face so many storms. Crime seems be up as just in the past weeks we have seen both Southern Bank and Zippy’s robbed. And then there are the storms of sickness, cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases—it’s everywhere we turn.  Someone we love is either diagnosed with something dreadful, or someone we love passes away.

And, at the ends of ropes, we feel like we cannot take another step. We cannot go any further. The good news is, that we don’t have to. God will fight for us right now, here in the present, and will make a way when it seems to be no way. God is here now, resurrecting and recreating and restoring filling us with the hope that although we cannot go back to the good old days, before the storm, before the diagnoses, before the accident, we can go forward with God into good new days.

 

Another man called into the radio station from Georgia this week to report that the sun was starting to peak through the clouds. And then he said, “And would you believe that there are two great big rainbows in the sky over the field behind my house!”

The radio jockey acted surprised, “really?” he said, “Two rainbows? How about that!”

But, from what we know about our God, none of us should have been surprised. Because that is just the way our God works.  God never stops at just one rainbow.

Benji, Anna, Johnathan and Jenny, your baptisms this morning, you rising up out of the water symbolize that no matter what storms come your way, you will always rise up. For God is going to be there, not to just remind you of something God did in the past–resurrecting Jesus, or something God is going to do in the future–resurrecting you.  God is going to be with you helping you live the resurrection in the present.  In the middle of your storm, there will always be a rainbow, and there is a good chance there may even be more than one.  

Advertisements