Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sermon: Jubilate (Easter 4)

3 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:16-22 (Isa 40:25-31, 1 John 3:1-3)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Instead of another account of the Lord’s appearance after the resurrection, on this 4th week in Easter, our Gospel recounts our Lord Jesus giving the disciples a warning just before He goes to His cross.

Our Lord tells His followers in so many words: “The bad news is that you won’t see me for a little while. The good news is that then you will. The bad news is that you will mourn. The good news is that you will rejoice. The bad news is that you will have sorrow in the present, but the good news is that there will come a time when “‘no one will take your joy from you.’”

And even though our Blessed Lord gave this warning to the disciples before His crucifixion, and even though He was prophesying primarily about His crucifixion and resurrection, it applies to us as well today.

For as our Lord told St. Thomas as He allowed Thomas to touch His wounds: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Here we are twenty centuries after the disciples rejoiced to see the Lord again, and we have not placed our fingers into the holes made by the nails, nor have we touched the wound in our Lord’s side made by the spear. We have not seen as Thomas did, and yet we believe. Our Lord tells us that on this count, we are blessed. We share in this blessing with the apostles not based on what our eyes have seen, but rather on our faith. And that, dear friends, is miraculous.

For like St. Thomas and all of the holy apostles, we have gone “a little while” without seeing our Lord – at least not with our fleshly eyes. But, as our Lord promises many times in His Word, in a “little while,” we shall see Him again when He comes in glory.

And indeed, for the present, we must deal with sorrows in this life. We still dwell in mortal flesh, though our Lord, while dwelling in the flesh, conquered death through His death. We must still deal with the effects of sin, though our Lord took our sin upon Himself and became our atonement that delivers us from our many and manifold sins. We still wrestle with Satan, though our Lord crushed his serpentine head with His own bruised heel, winning victory as a Man for all men.

We do not yet have this joy that no-one can take away from us, but we have the promise from the mouth of Him by whom all things were made, from the lips of the one who spoke all creation into being, from the tongue of Him who commanded demons to depart, who declared sins to be absolved, and who recalled the dead back to life. For our Lord is the Word who speaks the Word, who caused the Word to be written, who impels the preaching of the Word, and who through the Word defeats all evil and by His Word makes all things new.

“A little while,” says our Lord, “and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

With our eyes, we see everything but our victorious Lord. With our eyes we see a world gone mad. With our eyes we see ourselves slipping into sin and constantly struggling with sorrow, illness, worry, stress, temptation, mourning, doubts, pain, and even death. With our eyes, we see our faith made sport of, mocked, denigrated, and reviled.

But in a little while, our Lord assures us, we shall see Him.

For the time being, we will “weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” To be sure, we “will be sorrowful.” Our Lord is blunt with us. He is preparing us for difficult days ahead. So why should any of us be surprised when it seems that the entire world has lost its way, that evil is called good, and good, evil? Why should any of us have any delusions that the Christian worldview will always be the dominant worldview? Why should any of us be shocked when the Church seems defeated, when people leave the faith in droves, and when it appears that we have been overcome by evil?

And yet, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not defeated. We have joy to look forward to, because we have the promise of unconditional victory from the Lord Himself. For the agony of birth pangs give way to jubilation when the child is born. And the whole world can indeed “make a joyful shout to God” and “Sing out the honor of His name,” for the Child Himself has been born, and He has also borne all of our sins on His shoulders, shedding His blood to pay our unpayable debt.

For in spite of the Lord’s sober warning that tough times are in store for all of us, this week’s name in the church year is Jubilate: “Make a joyful shout” – because we have the promise of the One who made good on all of His promises. And the Lord’s promise today is: “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no-one will take your joy from you.”

And when the burdens of life in this time of waiting seem too much, consider the Lord’s promise through the holy prophet Isaiah: “they who wait for 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.” And, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.”

It is hard for us to wait – for we want what we want, and we want it now. But let us pray for patience, dear friends. For as we pray to our Father in heaven every day in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done.”

Even as the universe collapses around us, even as the world rants and raves and mocks and gloats, and while we continue to pray “Come Lord Jesus,” we have the promise. The Lord will come again in the fullness of time. And at that time, no-one will take away our joy, for our “joyful shout to God” will be eternal, unmarred by time and mortality.

For as the holy apostle also testifies: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are…. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

For even as He spoke to us: “a little while, and you will see me!” Let it be so! Come, Lord Jesus. 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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