Bible Passage: 1 Peter 3:13-22
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: May 21, 2017
Does the name Vinko Bogataj mean anything to you? I’m guessing that it doesn’t. And that’s fine. His is not a name that easily rolls off the tongue nor has he been in any kind of public arena for more than 40 years. The name Vinko Bogataj might not mean anything to you, but I’m guessing that many of you have seen his picture before—perhaps even many times. If you watched TV any time from the early 1970’s to as late as 1988, perhaps you remember a Saturday afternoon show called, ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The show often covered some of the more obscure sports that didn’t receive regular coverage on American TV at that time. But perhaps what made Wide World of Sports so memorable was the opening montage by host Jim McKay. “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!” And as Jim McKay would be speaking these words, different images of sporting events would be flashing across the screen. Many different athletes and teams winning championships came on the screen during the thrill of victory. But there was one iconic image that appeared nearly every week to symbolize the agony of defeat. Any of you remember that image? Does the name Vinko Bogataj mean anything to you? The image that millions of people saw each and every week was poor Vinko and his horrific crash off a ski jumping hill.
Why is it that the one thing I remember from that 30 second montage is Vinko crashing? Why is that people like to watch sports bloopers or America’s Funniest Home Videos where a little kid his Dad with a bat or a ball “you know where?” Why do new reporters have to repeat again and again that people need to stay away from disaster sites? The Germans had a word for this kind of behavior. They called it “Schadenfreude.” In English, we have a slightly different term. We call them guilty pleasures. For whatever reason, we often find enjoyment in watching the misfortune of others. And then, maybe, we feel a little bad about it. Perhaps your guilty pleasure isn’t watching horrific crashes or epic failures, perhaps your guilty pleasure is chocolate. You really love chocolate, You enjoy it immensely, but you feel guilty about enjoying it. Perhaps your guilty pleasure is “polka music.” You’d be horrified if your friends ever found out you liked it, how “unsophisticated” you were for liking something so lowbrow or embarrassing. And that’s where the “guilt” comes in. And I’m sure we could go around the congregation and find a number of other examples of “guilty pleasures” that we all have.
The truth is that many things that we consider “guilty pleasures” aren’t wrong or bad. Why we feel guilty about them may stem from a host of different reasons, but in many cases, our guilty pleasures aren’t wrong in and of themselves. So polka to your heart’s content and don’t feel guilty about it. What’s unfortunate, is that guilty pleasures—something that we really don’t need to feel guilt about—is becoming the world’s definition of guilt. Instead of feeling bad about things that really should bother us—like sin, like the condemnation that God promises because of sin—the world feels no guilt for sin. The world unashamedly runs after sin and defends sin and parades sin as freedom. And our postmodern society certainly doesn’t help with that. After all, why should I feel guilty about something if it’s wrong for you and not for me? Who is the government or God, or any authority for that matter to tell me what is right or wrong. No, the world has taken guilt out of its vocabulary. It doesn’t know what to do with real guilt. It fears it.
But for a group of people who just confessed their sins and their guilt minutes earlier, this isn’t our biggest problem with guilt. No, our problem is on the other side of the guilt road. Our problem is that we realize how much of a sinner each of us truly is. We realize that we have offended God with our thoughts and words and actions. We realize that we deserve God’s punishment both now and in eternity. We know the thoughts of our hearts. We know what goes on in the secret places that no one else can see. We remember well our missteps. We’re bothered by them. We feel real guilt for them. And perhaps, we doubt whether God could actually forgive us. I remember an interview from the Forward in Christ with a man who had recently come to know Jesus as his Savior. And that was exactly how he felt. He had been in Vietnam. He had done and seen terrible things in that war. He felt that there would never be any forgiveness for him or his fellow soldiers for what happened there.
The devil knows the power of guilt. And he’s more than willing to play either side of the road. He’s behind the strategy of the world to try and hush guilt out of existence or make it into something trivial. At the same time he’s behind that feeling of despair that says there’s no way God could ever forgive such a horrible sinner. And falling off on either side of the road leads to the same consequence. Whether we ignore guilt or we are led to despair by guilt, guilt that is left untreated will lead to eternal death. But my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t need to fear guilt or be burdened by it. Because of Easter, we can live free of guilt! “because Christ also suffered once for sins in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in flesh but was made alive in spirit,” When Jesus died on that first Good Friday, he took away all of our sins—once and for all. Because Jesus was righteous, because he was perfect in every way and at the same time because he was just like us, Jesus was able to take our place—the righteous for the unrighteous—and die. His death paid the penalty that our sins had earned. His death paid the debt we owed. But he didn’t stay dead. No, he was raised to life to prove to all that his death was an acceptable sacrifice in God’s eyes. Easter proves that there is no guilt left for sins—that the guilt of the world had been paid for!
“He was put to death in flesh but was made alive in spirit, in which he also went and made an announcement to the spirits in prison. These spirits disobeyed long ago, when God’s patience was waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In this ark a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the body but the guarantee of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He went to heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” But before Jesus physically appeared to his disciples, Jesus first went into the depths of hell. He didn’t go there to suffer—he suffered hell on the cross. No Peter tells us he wente there to announce the spirits, the souls in prison. He went there to proclaim his victory over death, over sin, over the devil himself. He went there to prove what Noah had tried to tell them so long ago.
In Genesis 6 we learn that God was fed up with the sinful world. “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” God was ready to destroy it all and start over. But he couldn’t do that. He had made a promise to Adam and Eve. So he found one man, who by the grace of God alone, followed his will. He told this man, Noah, to build an ark because he was going to destroy the rest of the world with a flood. But he also told Noah to preach repentance to the world. He told Noah to warn them of the coming wrath that they might turn to God. But for 120 years the people refused to repent, they refused to acknowledge the guilt in their hearts, and they perished. But that same water that killed the sinful world, by God’s grace saved Noah and his family.
Perhaps you were wondering why we had two baptism hymns this morning. It’s not because we have a baptism today. These hymns were picked months ago. It’s because of the connection that Peter makes. Listen again: when God’s patience was waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In this ark a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the body but the guarantee of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He went to heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” The waters of the flood symbolize the waters of baptism. Just as the waters of the flood both destroyed and saved, so the waters of baptism destroy and drown our sinful nature. They wash away the guilt of our sins. They give us new life in the righteousness and holiness of Christ. They take that guilt riddled conscience and make it good and clean. Because of baptism, we can live free of guilt because our guilt has been washed away.
But all of this would be for nothing if it wasn’t for Easter. Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no baptism, no salvation, no conscience-cleansing to comfort us when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—in fact there would be no righteousness at all. Because Jesus rose, we have proof of his success on our behalf and we know our consciences cannot rightly accuse us. And it’s because of Easter and only because of Easter that we can heed Peter’s initial plea: “But regard the Lord, the Christ, as holy in your hearts. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you.” Because of Easter, all of us are equipped to share the hope that we have in Jesus, the hope of eternal life. You have all that you need with the simple words of Jesus from our Gospel today: “Because I live, you also will live.” You can talk about the problems in our world and the great problem of sin or falling short of God’s glory. You can talk about how God gave his Son, how Jesus was born, and how he took our sin upon himself, and what it means that the died and rose for us. You can talk about not perishing in hell forever, but having everlasting life with the Lord. Because of Easter, everything that God has promised for us is guaranteed. Because of Easter, Jesus “went to heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” Jesus is controlling everything for our good. Because of Jesus’ victory on Easter, we can life free, even free of guilt! Amen