Monday, April 30, 2012

Sermon for 4/29/12--Fourth Sunday of Easter

Once again, no audio. My apologies. For some reason, our podcast host (buzzsprout) is having trouble with the mp3 recording I tried to upload.

Turning Grief into Joy
John 16:16-22

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

What does it mean to have resurrection joy?  Jesus said, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”  Simply put, God wants you to have joy in His presence.  This joy from God is not simply happiness or giddiness.  It is not merely the joy you feel being here today.  Instead, it is connected to the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Rejoicing in God means connecting your life to the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. At first glance, that sounds easy. But looks can be deceiving. Our text takes place the night Jesus was betrayed.  Just a few hours after He gave the disciples the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said to them:  “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.”  Then He goes into this series of statements about a little while.  “A little while and you will not see me, and again in a little while and you will see me.”  Seven times we hear that phrase, a little while.

For the disciples, there will be a time when he’ll be gone, and a time when He returns.  When did Jesus leave them?  He left them when He was betrayed, suffered and died.  So when did he return to them?  He returned to them when He rose again from the dead.  This is what He means when He says that their sorrow will be turned into joy.  The world rejoiced at His death, but now the people of God rejoice at His resurrection. Jesus said, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me.”  Consider the good Lutheran question: “What does this mean?”  Notice that word see.  Jesus says that there will be a time in your lives when you will not be able to see Him.  You can’t experience Him first-hand—not the way the disciples did.  But you know that He is still here.  Remember again Jesus’ words at His Ascension: “Behold I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Jesus promises that He will always be present with you.  God’s presence doesn’t disappear when things get tough.  Indeed, it is when we are weak and helpless that He is strong.

Jesus uses the example of a woman in labor.  A woman in labor has one thing on her mind: bring the child into the world safely.  That’s all that matters.  There is sorrow, yes, and there is pain.  But in a way it doesn’t matter, because the mother knows it will be worth it in the end.  She can endure the hardship because she knows that what will come afterwards will overshadow the pain that came along the way.  This is what Jesus means when He uses the words, a little while.  The suffering and hardship of this life last but a little while.  In the scale of eternity, it just isn’t that important.  Is it real?  Yes.  Do these struggles tear you apart?  Yes, very much so.  But Jesus promises here that He will be with you through every trial.

Remember again the words of our Lord through the Apostle Paul from Romans chapter six: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” When you were baptized, you entered into this “little while” Jesus is talking about.  You are now in the time of sorrow and trials sinners face this life.  This should not surprise you.  Your life is Christ’s life, and like your Lord, you, too, face trials and tribulations in this life.

And notice, too, where these struggles come from.  They come from your daily life.  They come from dealing with your children and your parents.  They come from work and school.  They come from friends.  In other words, the struggles of being a Christian rise out of wherever God has placed you in this life.  God is the one who has made you a father, mother, son or daughter.  He’s the one who has given you a job, or a school.  He’s the one who put you into family and has given you friends.  And so it is in these places that the trials of the baptismal life take their shape. Perhaps this is why God allows sorrow and hardship to befall the Christian.  God wants you to remember that He is God, and that you are not.  He wants to give you all the blessings of eternity; but He can’t do it if you make yourself out to be your own god, or if you pretend that you can make it on your own.

But take heart, dear Christian friends!  Remember again the words of Isaiah: “But those who wait on 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.”  Even though you live with sorrow for a time today, God will see you through.  You cannot see Jesus with your eyes, but He is very much here, hidden under bread and wine which is His body and blood.  He will give you joy like no other.  You are the children of God, and God always keeps His promises. The time and struggles of this life last just a little while.  There will come a time, soon, when we will no longer even remember these trials, because of the joy in Christ that will be yours—joy that no one can take away from you.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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