Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sermon: Jubilate – 2011

15 May 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:16-22 (Lam 3:22-33, 1 Pet 2:11-20)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

“Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Alleluia. Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious. Alleluia.”

So begins the worship of millions of Christians around the world on this Sunday known as “Jubilate” – which means: “Rejoice.”

And yet, we dwell in a world of suffering, sadness, sickness, uncertainty, depression, disappointment, broken homes, broken lives, broken hopes and dreams, and death itself. It seems as though our rejoicing in this world is temporary and tied to shortly-lived joys: a birthday party, a vacation, a victory for the home team, a new car, a new love in one’s life, a new electronic gadget. But our jubilation over such things often fades away quickly. The new car smell gives way to the stifling air breathed out by the prince of this world. The thrill of something new becomes boredom with just another gadget on the heap. And there is no-one exempt from the ravages of an aging body and of death itself.

And yet, we are invited and even exhorted to “rejoice.” Indeed, the kind of rejoicing called for by the Psalmist has nothing to do with short-lived thrills in this world. We are called upon to make our “joyful shout to God” and to “sing out the honor of His name” and to “make His praise glorious.” We rejoice not in ourselves, but in the One who made us. We rejoice not in what we can do for ourselves, but in the One who has redeemed us. We rejoice not in our own spirit, but in the One who has sanctified us. Our rejoicing even in the midst of trials and tribulations is an act of faith, dear friends. And that kind of rejoicing looks ahead to the great joys to come in eternity, when all of our suffering will be so far in the rearview mirror that it won’t even qualify as a memory. For we know that that day approaches, and that each passing second brings us yet another click nearer to that final, eternal, glory-filled victory won for us by Jesus – in spite of the sins we still cling to that bring us so much heartache.

“A little while, and you will see Me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see Me.” Like the disciples who saw our blessed Lord die, rise, and ascend to the heavens, we too await His return. We too live and struggle and lament and suffer – and yet find our rejoicing in Him and in His promise. We rejoice because we believe, and we believe because He has promised that we shall rejoice.

“Truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is only in this promise of our Lord that we can rejoice, that we can have contentment, joy, peace, and happiness. For the world hates us, persecutes us, disbelieves us, tries to tear down the work of the Church in bringing people to Christ – and the world gloats over its illusion of victory. And we are sorrowful upon looking at our wretched state. But when we focus not on ourselves but upon the Word, the promise, the joy of redemption, the liberty of forgiveness, the victory of communion with God and the defeat of sin, death, and Satan – then we can have true, lasting joy down to the marrow of our bones and into the depths of our very souls – a joy that no amount of money or prestige or material possession in this world can rival.

You are baptized. You are forgiven. You are a child of God. You are promised a place of glory in eternity. You have a share in the resurrection glory of our resurrected Lord.

For we have the promise: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning… therefore I will hope in Him.”

“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Meanwhile, while giving the “cheek to the one who strikes,” the follower of our Lord Jesus Christ can look to His Master and Savior, “as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,” to hold back the temptation to retaliate in the way of the world, to always maintain our peaceful demeanor for the sake of the Gospel, and to accept that we will be mistreated, “so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Dear friends, “the day of visitation” is where we find our glory, our happiness, our hope, and the cause for our rejoicing. For we know that come what may: floods, hurricanes, tornadoes; cancer, heart disease, accidents; family struggles, employment uncertainties, anxieties; temptations, trials, testing; rumors, false accusations, betrayals; pain, aging, and mortality itself – we can still rejoice in our Lord, in His victory, in His redemption of us, in His re-creation of the world, in His Word and promise.

There is no pain, suffering, anxiety, temptation, fear, anger, depression, or agony that we suffer that our crucified Lord did not suffer for us and with us. He is no absentee landlord, but shares our flesh even as he shared in our suffering beyond what any of us could ever know. He knows what we are going through, and He has perfect compassion. And He Himself suffered to bring our suffering to an end.

And even if we are crippled with pain and devastated by the sufferings of life in this fallen world, we yet come to this rail to partake of Him who has promised us: “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.” No one will take your joy from you.

Therefore, in any stage of life – in plenty or in want, in health or in infirmity, in happiness or in sorrow – we join each other and Christians around the world in every time and place and in every possible circumstance, singing: “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Alleluia. Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious. Alleluia.”

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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