Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sermon: Jubilate (Easter 4) – 2015

26 April 2015

Text: John 16:16-22

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

“You will have sorrow now.”

This is not something that any of us wants to hear.  The word translated as “sorrow” can be understood as pain, grief, affliction, distress, trouble, regret, mourning, and heaviness of heart. 

And Jesus is using the “you” in the plural: “y’all will have sorrow.”  It’s not just something that some other person will suffer.  The Holy Spirit caused this to be written in the Scriptures for us.  We can take no comfort in the fact that Jesus is speaking to the disciples of the first century, for we too are His disciples; we too are among those who have taken up the cross to follow Him.  Nor does our Lord say that we “might” have sorrow.  It is clear that Jesus is saying that we will have sorrow now, meaning in time, in this age, in the world, in our earthly lives.

“You will have sorrow now.”

For us average 21st century Americans, sorrow has generally been something other people have: the starving children in India or Ethiopia, the people oppressed by their own governments in the Soviet Union or China, the poor in the inner city, or people suffering with ebola or the bubonic plague safely tucked away on the other side of the world or long dead in centuries past.

Sorrow is for other people, of course until it visits us: cancer, addiction, family strife, money problems, depression, sick children, grandparents with dementia, our own aches and pains, heart ailments, anxiety, being victimized by crime, losing our possessions to natural disasters or to economic necessity, and death itself which surrounds us and nips at our own heels.

“You will have sorrow now.”

For us Christians in this culture, our sorrows are increasing.  Just a few days ago, a Christian couple was assessed a punitive judgment of $135,000 dollars for refusing to bake a cake for a ceremony that violated their consciences as Christian people.  The couple has five children, and are looking at total financial ruin.  This sends a chilling message to any of us who would dare believe in the Scriptures, confess the holy faith, and endeavor to live according to the Word of God.

“You will have sorrow now.”

These American Christians, and others like them, are not being persecuted by ISIS terrorists, by an extreme Islamic government, or by a Communist regime – but by American state and federal governments. The flag that was once waved by victims of the holocaust in World War II, who saw in it a symbol of liberation, is also the symbol of the government that has authorized the modern holocaust that has seen to it that nearly 58 million boys and girls have been legally slaughtered in the name of convenience and choice over the course of 42 years. Liberty and justice for all, indeed.  Lord, have mercy.

“You will have sorrow now.”

Dear friends, we often choose to put our heads in the sand.  We deal with the sorrow of this fallen world by all the wrong methods.  We medicate or drink our way through it.  We distract ourselves from it by hobbies and vacations and entertainment.  We figure we can buy our way out of it or rise above it through education or technology or political action.  We think we can fix it by medical breakthroughs or programs or economic systems.  We are convinced, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, that man can reach into the heavens by evolving or growing or self-actualizing or rejecting religion and tradition or by buying into the worldview that says absolute truth is unknowable.

“You will have sorrow now.”

But, dear friends, Jesus did not come into our sorrowful, broken, sin-soaked and death-laden world to leave us in our sorrows, to abandon us in our own deserved misery.  Instead, He has come to save us, to heal us, to forgive us, to restore us, to give us a new birth and a second chance, to make us whole!

“You will have sorrow now, but…”

We have sorrow because of our sins, but Christ is sinless, and He has come to our world to save us.  We deserve the devastation that we have inherited and that we have added to, but Christ has come in mercy to save us by His grace, out of His love, by means of His cross, and through His atoning death.  Jesus replaces the bad blood through a transfusion upon the cross and at the altar: exchanging our poisoned and malignant blood with His perfect and healing blood, giving His holy body into death for His imperfect bride, who has been made holy as His very body.  And He offers His true body and His true blood to us, dear friends, so that our sorrow will be overcome.

“You will have sorrow now, but…”

Yes, we still inhabit this broken world, breathing in its poisoned air, picking through the rubble and filth of its ruins to stay alive yet another day.  But, Jesus has come to give us life, that we may have it abundantly, eternally, and joyfully – through making peace with God, atoning for our sins, and offering a new life – a life without sorrow – to all who believe, to all who are baptized, to all who confess Him as Lord.

“You will have sorrow now, but I will see you again…”

Dear friends, even as the apostles watched Him ascend into heaven, even as they were filled with the Holy Spirit, even as they preached the good news to those who received it joyfully all around the world while awaiting the Lord’s return, so do we take up our cross, follow Him, and believe and confess the Gospel, taking part in the Church’s task to make disciples according to our own callings in the Christian faith and life. 

We do not see the Lord in His full glory now, but rather veiled under the forms of bread and wine.  He comes to us to strengthen us to bear the sorrow of this world by being present for us, and by fortifying us with His Word.  For He promises as the Word made flesh and in His written Word: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

Dear brothers and sisters, our joy is in Him, in Christ alone.  For He has come into our sorrowful, fallen, and falling world in order to rescue us.   He has come to recreate it into something new, joyful, and eternal.  He regenerates us through the new birth of water and the Word, and promises that in Him, our sorrow is turned into joy.

For in a little while, we will see Him again.  In a little while, our persecutions will cease: those far away and those close to home; those carried out with the noose and the sword, as well as those done with judicial action and social ostracization.  In a little while, the slaughter of the innocents and our own sinful thoughts, words, and deeds will end, to be repealed and replaced by joy that will have no end.  In a little while, dear friends, we will see Him again, coming in clouds of glory, to bring us at last to our heavenly home, brought joyfully before the Father’s throne in eternity.

Yes, indeed, dear friends, hear the Word and promise of the Lord:

“You will have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you!”  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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