11 May 2014
Text: John 16:16-22 (Isa 40:25-31, 1 Pet 2:11-20)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Our Lord tells us: “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 into joy.”
This is a summary of how things are for us Christians living our lives on this side of the grave in the midst of a hostile world, a world that cares nothing for Christ, despises God’s Word, and holds the Church in contempt.
Though we are redeemed, though we are baptized, though we walk by faith and not by sight, we still live in a world of sorrows, of suffering and death, of the devil, and of sin. We are surrounded by our enemies, hard-pressed on every side. In human terms, we are doomed. It seems like every day the noose tightens. The courts rule against us. Hollywood turns our children against us. We shoot ourselves in the foot by ceasing to attend worship – typically over trifles or out of sheer laziness, oblivious to the spiritual damage we are subjecting ourselves to. We take false comfort in our baptisms when we have no intention to repent of our sins.
And as we weep and lament, watching the destruction of western civilization before our very eyes like a slow-motion train wreck, the world rejoices. The world falls deeper and deeper into depravity, and even drags portions of the church down with it. At times, it seems like we are engaging in a long surrender, slowly but surely bleeding to death at the hands of a merciless world held by the sway of the murderous devil. The world rejoices to see the Bride of Christ slapped and mocked and paraded around in rags for all the world to see. The world rejoices to see peaceful Christians in prisons and under sentence of death for daring to swear allegiance to Christ and His kingdom instead of putting their trust in princes. The world rejoices over packed stadiums and empty churches. The world rejoices that good is now called evil and evil good.
And so we weep and lament as our Lord told us we would. And why shouldn’t we? Did our Lord Himself also not weep and lament? Did He not shed tears over the fate of Jerusalem, over the condition of His countrymen, over the state of the world? Did He not shed tears of agony upon the cross in love for us poor, miserable sinners? Did our Lord not lament over the continued existence of death in this fallen world, even just before summoning Lazarus from his tomb?
Indeed, dear friends, the world is falling apart. It grows worse every day. Mankind falls deeper and deeper into the pit. Every institution of mankind has surrendered to the enemy, to the devil, it seems.
And yet, in spite of all of this bad news, the Lord tells us: “Your sorrow will turn into joy.” For though the world is spinning out of control, the kingdom of God stands forever. For though Satan is winning the current battle, he has already lost the war. Although we will all yield to death, death yields to Christ, who has conquered death. And we yield to Christ who gives us life abundant and life eternal.
“Your sorrow will turn into joy.”
This is a promise of God, dear friends, spoken by the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who went to the cross in sorrow, but who rose from the grave in joy. Our Lord wept and lamented at Calvary, but rejoiced upon descending into hell to proclaim victory over Satan and his minions. For the pain experienced in this world are not the pangs of death, but are actually birth pains of a new age to come, an age of redemption and paradise, an age of the unchallenged rule of Christ, an age of the “resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
Our Lord proclaims: “When a women 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.”
On this day in which we Americans honor motherhood and show affection to our own mothers, we call to mind that the joy of the miracle of birth by far outweighs the sorrow of the birth pangs. The Creator continues to use mothers to give birth and nurture new life. The world imagines that all sorts of unorthodox configurations of men and women are equal to the task of raising children, and the world mocks the church for believing that the natural created order is best for children and for society – but it is ultimately the church that lives in this joy of motherhood, this “joy that a human being has been born” – even as the world takes joy in a culture of death. Likewise, we wait patiently through the crushing pain of the crumbling world to come over us in seismic waves, looking forward to the birth of a new era, to be inaugurated and consummated by the return of Him who is God and yet was born to a human mother.
For “He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”
This is where human history is leading, dear friends, and it is a joyful completion of creation’s journey. This is where the pains and rumblings of this decaying world are taking us. This is our joy that awaits us at the end of this vale of tears. This is the cause of our rejoicing at the imminent return of our Lord and the resurrection to life of all who are baptized and who believe, who live in God’s grace, by faith, who are covered by the blood of the cross, rejoicing in the good news of His Word.
We look forward to eternity, dear friends, not placing our happiness in this fallen and falling world, but rather placing our faith in Him who created the world, who proclaimed it good, who has redeemed us from the sin that made this world corrupt, and who is coming again to make a new heaven and a new earth for us.
This is where the Christian gets his joy, his desire to be with his Lord, and his hope for the future. It is in Christ and in the promise of eternal life that He promises and proclaims unto us.
“So also,” says our blessed Lord, our risen Lord, our Lord who is coming again, “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.”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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