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Where Could I Go?
April 25, 1993

1 PETER 1:17-23

In a play about Jesus walking on the water to his disciples in the boat during a storm on the Sea of Galilee, a little boy had the part of Jesus. He was supposed to say to the frightened disciples, "It is I; be not afraid!" But, he was so nervous that when he came out on the stage he said, "It's me and I'm scared." I suspect most of us have shared that feeling, or at least have been nervous and anxious. A family spent their summer in the same Vermont town as Paul Newman. One morning the woman of the family got up early to take a long walk. Along the way she decided to do something outlandish and stop for a double-dip ice cream cone. The only other customer in the shop was Paul Newman, sitting at the counter eating a doughnut and drinking a cup of coffee. She thought to herself, "I'm not going to get nervous, or bother him. He's entitled to his privacy. I'll just treat him like anyone else." So she nodded to Paul Newman, and ordered her ice cream cone. When she got back outside, she realized she had a handful of change but had forgotten her ice cream cone. She went back into the store, expecting to find her cone sitting in the little receptacle on the counter. But, it wasn't there. She was about to call the clerk when Paul Newman looked at her with his inimitable friendly grin and said, "You put it in your purse!" No, she wasn't a bit nervous!

Are any of you this morning so anxious about what is happening to you or going to happen to you, so worried about a problem, so stressed about the future, even perhaps a bit scared, that you might inadvertently substitute your ice cream cone for your change? Our Scripture text this morning is 1 Peter 1:21, "Through Christ you have come to trust in God." Don't worry, fret, stew, be nervous, apprehensive, or afraid. Trust in God.

The passage read this morning, which is one suggested by the Lectionary, is a magnificent passage, filled with hope, love, and joy. Peter wrote the letter to a small band of Christians who lived in a culture far different from our own. They were a minority group in a powerful, belligerent pagan culture. To be a Christian meant to suffer discrimination, ridicule, misunderstanding, and sometimes death. Fear was a part of their lives. Peter wrote this letter not just to calm them, not just to acknowledge the place of suffering in their lives, not just to remind them of the cost of witnessing to their faith; but Peter wrote the letter to celebrate the glory, the power, the wonder, and the joy of trusting in God.

Beginning with 1:18, Peter reminded them of how God had worked in their lives and on their behalf. "You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors." They were ransomed, rescued, plucked from the futility, despair, hopelessness of their former existence. The popular religions of the day, the mystery cults and the worship of the Roman emperors, were not meeting the needs of the people. The Christians had been ransomed from the futility and despair which had kidnapped their ancestors and their culture.

The ransom, as in a kidnapping, cost something. The ransom was not a million dollars, or as Peter wrote, "not with perishable things like silver or gold." No, their ransom and our ransom cost Jesus, the Son of God, his life. Verse 9, "with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish." As sacrificial lambs were slaughtered by the priests to atone, to pay the ransom for release from sin and futile ways, so the death of Jesus Christ was understood. Isaiah prophesied, "Like a lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth." To reveal the depth of God's love for you and me, to reveal that compassionate love for humankind is at the heart of God, to ransom us, to pay the price for redemption from futility, despair, and hopelessness, Jesus willingly lay down his life.

Furthermore, God did not leave Jesus in the grave. Our faith, our trust is not only based on the cross. Our faith, our trust, our confidence is based also on the resurrection. v. 21, "who raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God." Because of the empty grave, we trust. "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow."

Therefore, because of the ransom paid by Jesus with his life, therefore because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, v. 23, "You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God." You are growing new, you are a new person, you have new opportunities for creativity, you are participants in an exciting venture, the adventure of living in the grace of God, trusting God. Trust God with your fears and anxieties. Trust the God who ransomed you and raised Jesus from the dead. A God who can do that can surely walk with you and work with you. Trust God with your life.

I'm not talking about the absence of doubt. Trust does not mean we never doubt. Honest doubts keep us growing, keep us open to new possibilities. Trust in God means to trust God in spite of the doubts. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds." Jerry Falwell was asked,

"Do you have any doubts that you are right?"

"None whatsoever," he replied.


"Not once. I've been a Christian for 28 years."

No doubts? No wonder Falwell has not had a new idea in years. No wonder his theology is barbaric! Doubts keep us growing. Doubts keep us trusting in God, not in ourselves, not in what we think is right!

To trust in God means to trust God with your life, trust God for the future, trust God to lead you, guide you, hold you and keep you, learning from your doubts and growing into a closer walk with Jesus Christ. As I reflect on my life, I can see how God has worked. I believe God led me to this congregation and gave me the privilege and joy to minister here for 15 years! During this time, much was accomplished in our church's ministry and much has happened to Ellie and me personally. Several significant events:

All of our parents have died during our time with you. Ellie's father died in 1973, and during the past ten years, my parents, Ellie's mother and Ellie's stepfather died.

Our three sons received their Bachelor degrees.

Jack married Jennifer, and our precious perfect granddaughter was born, and given my mother's name.

Life goes on.

One month ago, I had a profound spiritual experience. It happened on the Walk to Emmaus weekend in Atwater. During a special prayer time, we were encouraged to ask Jesus two questions. I formulated two specific questions out of the anxieties and fears I was experiencing at that time. It was a moving experience and I really felt the presence of God. The next day after I gave a talk to the group, one of the women came up to me, and said, "I need to tell you something. While you were talking, I saw an aura around you--a radiant bright light all around you. And then filling me, flooding me, came this message to tell Doug." And, what she went on to tell me was the answer to the second question I had asked the Lord the previous evening.

I am fully trusting God with the future. With the eyes of trust, I can see God going ahead, preparing the way in Merced. I can see God preparing the way here for your new pastors. Thanks to the vote of the Church Conference last Tuesday, our church now owns a parsonage. Some of the potholes are filled in, some of the bumps are smoothed. As Isaiah sang, "The valleys are lifted up, the hills are lowered, the rough places smoothed, the crooked places straightened, so the highway onward to Zion is smooth and straight."

Do you trust in God? Do you trust God with your life? Don't trust in your fears and anxieties. Don't trust in perishable things like silver and gold. Don't trust in TV commercials. Have you ever thought what our children learn from TV commercials? Three things: 1) All problems are resolvable. 2) All problems are resolvable quickly (usually in 30 seconds) 3) All problems are resolvable through technology: a drug, a pill or something to swallow, a spray can, new car or computer.

Don't trust in things, things will let you down. Things will wear out. Money comes and goes. There's only one source of true security, there's only one source of true lasting hope, there's only one sure thing, and that's the Lord who loves you and ransoms you.

© 1993 Douglas I. Norris