9th Sunday after Pentecost – August 6, 2017
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. 7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:1-8)
Cassandra may have been the most frustrated lady in Greek mythology. She had been one of the most beautiful woman to walk the earth. One day, her brown curly hair and her dark, beautiful eyes caught the gaze of the Greek god, Apollo. To show his love for the beautiful Cassandra, Apollo gave her a one-of-a-kind gift. He allowed her to see the future. Sadly, Cassandra didn’t return Apollo’s love. Now Apollo’s affection turned to anger. He couldn’t take back his gift of seeing the future from Cassandra, so he added a curse. Cassandra could still tell others the future, but now no one would believe her.
That type of existence would have been sad enough. But Cassandra also happened to be a princess of Troy. And at the height of the Trojan War Cassandra found herself caught within the walls of the magnificent city. After a bitter, bloody war for the ages, she watched as their enemies, the Greeks, left their shore in defeat.
The Trojans had won the war! And to top it all off, the Greeks had left a massive gift – a great wooden horse.
All the Trojans rejoiced, celebrating in the streets, drinking and feasting. All the Trojans, that is, except Cassandra. She knew what was going to happen. She knew that inside that huge wooden horse the Greeks were hiding. She warned her fellow Trojans throughout the city – but no one listened. They wouldn’t even let her look in the horse to prove her point.
It all happened just like Cassandra said it would. The celebrating Trojans fell asleep. The Greeks came out of the wooden horse, and the great city of Troy fell.
“Beware telling what the future will hold. Lest no one believes what you have told.”
The prophet Joel may have been the most frustrated prophet of God’s people. We heard the words the Lord told Joel to speak in our first lesson this morning. Like the mythical Cassandra, Joel knew what the future held, but nobody seemed to listen. Unlike Cassandra, Joel was real, and his message was really going to be fulfilled.
“The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble.” Joel was prophesying Judgment Day and the end of all things. Nobody was listening. Like the citizens of Troy, God’s people were much happier worshipping false gods and living for themselves. They didn’t believe the end would ever come.
Impending doom has a way of keeping people mindful of what really matters. But if God’s people could put off destruction, if they could forget about judgment, then they could continue living the way they wanted to live. Peter gives us a detailed picture of what that type of living looks like: “Living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”
That certainly sounds like the way the world chooses to live. But not us, right? Orgies, carousing, idolatry all seem to extreme for us to worry about them. And who even knows what debauchery means? Well, it is similar to drunkenness – so maybe you don’t worry about that sin either. But this morning Peter isn’t talking about unbelievers. He is speaking to you. And while some of the sins in his list might not be tempting you at the moment, he points out all of your sins when he warns against living “for evil human desires.”
If God wants you to wake up from a sinful slumber, the devil is trying very hard to put you to sleep in your sins. The devil doesn’t want you to think about the future. The devil doesn’t want you to feel guilty about your sins. And the devil certainly doesn’t want you to remember that one day you “will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
So the devil has you focus on the people around you. They are the people who “think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” He wants you to fall asleep in sinful greed and pride, like they have.
No wonder the Lord is giving us a wake-up call this morning! And as always, this wake-up call focuses on Jesus. “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude.” Peter says, “You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do.” And so Peter finally and emphatically encourages you and me: “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply.”
Now, I am no Cassandra. I can’t see into the future. But I can predict with certainty that you and I will fall short of those perfect expectations God gives us. There have been times, and there will be times, when we will fall in to the selfish sins of the world. And what a tragedy that will be.
I wonder if Jesus ever felt like Cassandra. He was constantly telling people what was going to happen, and nobody seemed to listen. Those heartless responses led to Jesus’ most memorable moments of righteous anger and his tears of sadness. They led to the reason he came. He predicted it all. He told his betrayer that he would betray Jesus. He told his enemies they would apprehend him. He told his disciples that he would be crucified on a cross. And even though no one believed him beforehand, it all happened exactly as he said it would.
Those sins we committed, when we were “doing what pagans choose to do” were taken away by Jesus. And now come Peter’s words for you: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”
Those words of Peter this morning sound ominous: “The end of all things is near.” They are ominous. But now you know how to be ready. Believe in the Lord Jesus. Live your faith. “Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray…love each other deeply.”
You might feel like Cassandra – telling the world about the end while no one believes you. Don’t worry. Cassandra’s words may not have been effective – but God’s Word is always effective.
“Beware telling what the future will hold. Lest no one believes what you have told.
The Lord always knows what will take place. Trust in his amazing grace.” Amen.