1 Peter 3:8-18a
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Have you heard or read about the latest Pew Research Center report showing that an increasing number of Millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996, say they are not affiliated with any recognized church? Some say they are atheist or agnostic, while others say they simply don’t believe religion is relevant to them. Of these, some grew up going to church but later abandoned the practice, while others were never exposed to the faith and are simply continuing that life, with no religion and no desire to seek one. Such people are referred to as “The Nones”: those who, when asked to choose their church affiliation on surveys, mark “none.”
They have their reasons: some call themselves secular humanists, too logical for religion; some say the teachings of the church don’t align with their personal beliefs, and that in today’s information age there are different ways to determine truth; some say the church as an institution is too opaque about where it spends its money after expecting regular donations; some say the church demands too much time in committee meetings that could be better spent in charitable work; some point to the church’s lack of diversity and disapprove of how LGBTQ people are often treated. Interestingly, according to the study, while only 27% of Millennials attend church, 42% say they pray daily, and 67% believe in heaven or a life beyond their present one. Many say although they aren’t religious, they are spiritual.
Peter, the author of this scripture, would understand. What is it that distinguishes the church from the rest of the world? There must be something: attempts to create a secular church, one without God, typically fail in time, mostly from a lack of commitment. From making coffee and snacks to scheduling speakers and musicians, putting on a weekly non-worship service is hard work. How do churches do it? What is the glue that holds the church together? After all, what is the church but a gathering of flawed human beings who don’t agree on every single tenet of their shared faith? Who argue over church politics or end up splitting over differences in interpreting scripture. How can we go out and share the Good News to the world if we can’t even get along with each other? Peter has some words of wisdom: turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it; in your hearts revere Christ as Lord; always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you’ve found.
Hope is what believers have in abundance. Hope is the glue that holds us together. We acknowledge that the world is a mess, but we have hope that God is even now redeeming all of creation. We understand that the church faces the same problems that the world outside does, but we have hope that by continuing to meet together for worship, serve together, pray together, learn together, and live together as a community, we are being transformed by grace through our faith in Jesus. Hope is what we can offer our loved ones, friends, neighbors, coworkers, everyone we encounter either in person or online or any other way. If we turn away from evil and focus on doing good, if we pursue peace, if we forgive those who wrong us, if we love those we disagree with (or whose life choices we disapprove of), we can be a beacon of hope to those who find no value in the faith. They might seek change through government and law and force, but we know change through the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Hope endures. Hope transforms. Hope is our bright light freely offered to a world stumbling in the dark.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship. (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour will return soon!