Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon for 4/26/15: Easter IV

I apologize for the delay in posting this. My computer is still down, and so there will be no audio recording posted. I hope to have the computer back soon.

Jesus and Time

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Seven times in this Gospel reading reference is made to "a little while." It is a reference to time and its passage. There is much that can be said and thought about the passage of time. As Moses said in Psalm 90: "For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh." You know just how this is from your own experience. All you have to do, especially if you are bit older than the rest, is think about those people and places and times you once had that are now nothing but memories. Memories are often a cause of sadness, of longing, of wishing we had back what we once had. Every joy or gladness this life gives you is transitory. These things will pass away. The things you now enjoy on earth won't last. The people whose company you now enjoy will not always be around. And we tend to ignore this and live only in the present. But we know it's true. It can be a terrifying thing to contend with: time marches on, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
Jesus knew all about the painful passage of time, and here was His answer. He was with them for a little while. Their Master was with them, but only for this little while, as every little while on earth will pass. "A little while and you will not see Me." But now comes the good news: "Again, a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." And that's just what happened. Good Friday came. Jesus died and was buried. And while the world rejoiced that He was gone, His disciples mourned and wept, as He said they would, but only for a little while. On the third day, He rose from the grave; their little while of mourning was over.
When someone is dead, they are dead, and there is nothing you can do about it. And that is a helpless experience, as many of you know firsthand. But He who was dead is now alive again. He turned back the clock--or perhaps better said, He turned the clock ahead. The resurrection of Jesus is a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come, a glorious glimpse of the everlasting salvation God has prepared for His people. There He stood before them, having conquered sin, death, and the devil. He had won the forgiveness of sins and, in doing that, guaranteed their resurrection from the dead and everlasting life! And this is the answer to that dreadful passage of time we would prefer to not think about.
Every time He would vanish from their sight, they would still expect Him to return. Indeed, on one such occasion, on the road to Emmaus, He went in to eat and stay with two of them. At first they did not recognize Him. When it was time to eat, He took bread and blessed and broke it, and their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. But then He vanished from their sight. And they came rushing back to Jerusalem to tell the others how Jesus had revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread, a phrase that came to refer to How Jesus comes to His Church in the Holy Supper.
And then, the day of Pentecost came, another Sunday, and Jesus returned again, though not in the way He had been returning before--that is, not to their sight, but in the apostolic ministry, where He charged His disciples to preach the Gospel and administer the Holy Sacraments. And from that day, Jesus kept on returning to His people, and they rejoiced. Were they sorrowful the day after Pentecost? No, because they knew He was coming back. And so moves the life of every Christian lived in the light of the resurrection of Christ. That resurrection is an eternal thing. And every single Sunday since then, Jesus has returned to His people in Word and Sacrament. He is here at this very moment!   
But where is He? Can you see Him? That question can only be answered by a confession of faith that says that He is known by us, too, in the breaking of the bread. He is recognized when His Word sounds forth as it is rightly proclaimed and taught among His people today, especially in the words of forgiveness and life. The resurrection of Jesus provides victory, not only over Satan, sin, and the grave, but also, as we may celebrate on this Jubilate Sunday, a victory over the passage of time. Yes, even this He has conquered.
This victory over the passage of time is reflected in the way we worship. Week after week we say and sing many of the same words. This is a reminder that the feast of everlasting life is an ongoing feast that has no end. Time stands still when you come to this place and stand before the Holy One and kneel before His presence. Time stands still--or rather, unending time begins. The reign of the Lamb of God upon His heavenly throne has begun, His unending reign. Do not be sorrowful, therefore, about the passage of time, about people and places and times that you miss and long for. Do not be worried about the passage of time, and those things to which you will bid farewell on some day to come. The little whiles are, indeed, little, but the eternal life our Savior gives us has no end. And every longing, every sorrow, every grief among God's people will be put away. You know this because Christ has risen from the grave. Let us, therefore, continue to sing our Alleluias to Him! 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.

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

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