Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sermon: Jubilate (Easter 4)

13 April 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: John 16:16-22 (Isa 40:25-31, 1 John 3:1-13)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Life in this fallen world is a burden. We are surrounded by temptation, sickness, sadness, disappointment, and death. We are just plain worn out, and at times, beaten down. We feel defeated by the devil, overcome by the flesh, and mocked by the world.

In the words of an ancient prayer of the Church, we are “wearied by the changes and chances of life.” In the lyrics of folk singer Arlo Guthrie, we are “hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things.” According to St. John, “the world does not know us” – and a little later on, he goes so far as to say: “do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.” Our Lord Jesus tells us: “you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful.”

Not only are Christians hated in Muslim regions, in Communist countries, and even in supposedly tolerant and free societies, Christians are despised everywhere. For this little while,” Christianity is a cross.

The world just doesn’t get us. We don’t play by their rules. Our values are not their values. In the days of the Roman Empire, the Christians were called “haters of men” for not hailing Caesar as a god. They were made out to be “atheists” because they refused to include the Roman gods with their God. Today, Christians who abide by Scripture and uphold the tradition of the holy faith are known as “misogynists” (that is, “woman haters”), “homophobes,” and “fanatics.”

If the world thinks your religion is cool, hip, and happening, you are not practicing the Christian faith.

Until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, until the end of time and the permanent establishment of a new heaven and a new earth, we are in the “little while” of not seeing Jesus, of weeping, of sorrow, of continuing to exist in a fallen, corrupted world in fallen corrupted flesh, harried and haunted by the fallen corrupted devil.

Our Lord assures us that the time we wait for the Lord is but a “little while,” and that the payoff will be so great, that we will soon forget our travails, even as a woman in labor forgets her pains when the child is born – or at least, so I’m told.

But notice how the world’s ways are the diametric opposite.

Instead of a “little while” of suffering to be followed by an eternity of joy, the way of this fallen world is a “little while” of escapism followed by long periods of misery. Many people live their lives only for the weekend. Their existence during the week is drab and without joy, so that when the weekend comes, they spend it in a drunken stupor.

Others live out the weariness of existence in this fallen world medicating themselves into ecstasy for a “little while” only to return to the real world in a huge letdown. Still others find their “little while” of what they believe to be joy in materialism, in shopping and spending, in increasingly expensive and less satisfying purchases, only to come back to reality when the bill is due.

Life in this fallen world is a burden.

But notice how our Lord Himself picks up our burden. He asks us to cast our cares upon Him, even as He bears our sin and our cross, suffering our death, paying our ransom, and giving us life and communion with the Father.

For even as we are “wearied by the changes and chances of life,” notice the Prophet Isaiah’s preaching of Christ: “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary…. He gives power to the weak. And to those who have no might He increases strength…. Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”

For as “hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things” that we are in this fallen world, John implores us to lift up our hearts: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God.”

And being children of God, of course “The world does not know us,” he continues, “because it did not know Him.” But John tells us our discomfort with this world that doesn’t know us – and in fact hates us – is not permanent. For, “we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

But for the time being, we must wait. We must live out this “little while” in this “vale of tears.” We must endure sorrow. We must endure the world’s wrath. We must endure our flesh’s betrayal. We must endure the devil’s accusations. We must endure sin, sickness, and death. We must endure suffering, hatred, and every manner of evil.

But once again, for us baptized “children of God,” for us who will “be like Him,” we can wait for the Lord, waiting patiently in His promise, waiting patiently in the eternity of the Church even as we are still stranded in the time of this world. This separation we endure from our Lord, from our eternal destiny, from our new and greater body in a new and greater creation is but for a “little while.”

We don’t know why this is the Lord’s plan, but it is. We are waiting for the final judgment, for the end of time, and for the destruction of all evil. And when this happens, our Lord’s prophecy “your sorrow will be turned into joy” will be fulfilled.

Imagine, unlike the world’s miserable existence of suffering long periods of misery for a few moments of false happiness, we who wait for the Lord will suffer a “little while” of sorrow to be followed by an eternity of true joy, a “joy that no one will take from [us].”

This is why this Sunday is known as “Jubilate.” This is how it is that we can limp and stumble into this place, still in space and time, still in the old flesh, singing: “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Alleluia. Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious. Alleluia.”

For even as the world, the devil, and our flesh conspire as our enemies, we can sing: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’”

After this “little while” of “waiting on the Lord,” we shall see Him again. We shall be like Him. And our enemies shall submit themselves to us.

Then, the time will have come that we will no more be “hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things,” no longer wearied by the changes and chances of life,” but rather mounted up with eagles’ wings, running without weariness, walking without faintness, no more to weep and lament, no more hidden from our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather seeing Him face to face, with hearts rejoicing, with irrevocable joy that will have no end. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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