Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sermon: Jubilate (Easter 4)

25 April 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 10:11-16 (Ez 34:11-16, 1 Pet 2:21-25)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Our world is broken. It has been so for a long time. We know this not only from Scripture, but also from experience. We don’t even have to have lived long enough to be adults without it being obvious to us that things are not as they ought to be. We are all surrounded by unhappiness, stress, sadness, marital strife, addictions, family complications, and even death itself.

The world tries to explain all of these things as good and helpful encouragements to evolution. Eastern religions try to explain it with karma and reincarnation. Human nature says that someone who suffers deserves it. But the Holy Scriptures reveal another cause: sin. Sin is the inbred rebellion that infests our nature and has wrecked our world. We can’t fix the world, and we can’t fix our sin. We are sinners individually, collectively, historically, and right down to the marrow of our soon to be decayed bones.

But in spite of our suffering, the Creator against whom we have rebelled, instead of destroying us and starting again, is fixing everything. For “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning,” as the Lord Himself has revealed to us. He truly “has compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”

Though we creatures deserve to be destroyed for destroying the Lord’s creation, our Creator has compassion on us, and implores us to likewise have compassion on our fellow creatures. He forgives us, and even empowers us to forgive others. The cause of all the brokenness is being rolled back, day by day, year by year, century by century – all in the Lord’s good time as that time reaches its fullness.

In other words, we have the luxury of being patient while the Lord goes about His redemptive work. He is fixing everything. In fact, the fix is already in. The fix was put into place on the cross, when the One who gave “His cheek to the one who strikes,” the One who was “filled with insults,” the One who bore “the yoke in His youth,” when our Lord Jesus Christ died our death and rose to restore us to life – declared victory over the forces of brokenness and death by Himself being broken on the cross and laid dead into the tomb.

But the Lord’s work takes time. Thousands of years went by before Jesus took flesh. Thirty years went by before He went to His passion. Our Lord Jesus suffered for interminable hours on the cross. He rested that holiest of Sabbaths in the grave – and only on the third day did He rise in glory.

The disciples had to wait for the resurrection. God’s people had to wait for the Messiah. Creation itself had to wait for thousands of years for the Redeemer to come. And we are all waiting for the consummation of the final victory to be played out.

We don’t like things to take time. Our sinful, impulsive flesh wants things when we want them, meaning right now. Instead of submission to the Lord’s schedule, we grumble that we can’t make the Lord do things our way. But our blessed Lord tenderly teaches us to wait, and to wait calmly and in faith. Speaking to us as dear children, He says: “A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”

When we don’t see Jesus, we are to wait patiently. When we are tempted to doubt or despair, we can indeed wait expectantly. We can do this because of the promise of His Word. We know He is with the Father. He prays for us. He reigns in glory. He goes to prepare a place for us. And He is defeating Satan, abolishing the grave, and God Himself is re-creating the heavens and the earth on His own schedule. His kingdom is not of this world, and His mercy endures forever.

But we are in this “little while” of waiting. And the remnants of the broken world still surround us. We still suffer. We still doubt. We still struggle. We still die. But we do so knowing that all of this brokenness is a passing thing. We must only endure these things for “a little while” more, even as we won’t see the face of our Lord until He is ready to “come again with glory” in His “kingdom that will have no end.”

Nobody likes to wait, but what great and glorious news this is, dear brothers and sisters of our risen Lord! Think about it! Just a “little while” and we will see Jesus. Just a “little while” and we will experience the resurrection and the new and perfect creation. And our own “little while” of weeping and lamentation will give way to an eternity of joy. And when that time comes, we won’t even remember our current suffering, our present anguish, our tears in this life, our pain and our struggle in this fallen world and broken life. It will all be forgotten!

As our Lord tells us, the joy of giving birth overturns the travail and anguish suffered by the mother who delivers a baby. For even that pain in childbearing is an effect and token of the curse of sin and the brokenness of our world. But when that great and glorious new order is generated by our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, our hearts will indeed rejoice, and no-one will take our joy away from us.

Ponder this, dear friends. Treasure this reality in your hearts! For it makes everything that we must endure on this side of the grave bearable. Even with our “mouths in the dust,” as Jeremiah speaks anew to us: “there may yet be hope.” Hope is the very reason we can wait patiently in this “little while,” in the words of the ancient prayer: enduring “all crosses, sicknesses, and trials with patience and trust” until He grants us “deliverance, peace, and health.”

And it is only in this context of hope, of resurrection, of sins forgiven and life restored, of the promise of the coming new and perfect world, of the certainty of our own resurrection and eternal life, that St. Peter’s advice to us makes any sense at all: “as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh.” For even in this broken world, we can “be subject to the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be” emperor or governor, knowing that exercising our liberty should always be tempered by love. For in love, the freeman becomes a slave to his beloved – even as our Master has done for us.

St. Peter does not mince words. He teaches us how to live the Christian life now that we have been forgiven, and now that we are free: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

For in submitting to authority, in bearing our crosses with grace and dignity, and even in suffering unjustly for the sake of righteousness, we give glory to our Lord who is indeed making all things new. In this “little while,” we must continue to endure the effects of sin and brokenness, but we know those days are numbered.

We can endure this “little while” in hope, and yes even in joy, knowing the ironclad promise of Him who walked out of His own grave, of Him who forgives us all of our sins, of Him who gives us reason to “make a joyful shout to God all the earth,” of Him who puts all of our struggles into joyful perspective in this way: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Thanks be to God, now and even unto eternity! 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.

1 comment:

Pastor D said...

"We are all surrounded by unhappiness, stress, sadness, marital strife, addictions, family complications, and even death itself." This is what is on my plate this week. Thank you pastor for a wonderful sermon. I needed it!