Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sermon for 4/17/16: Fourth Sunday of Easter

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

For better or for worse, there are times when I look at my children—especially Michael—and I think to myself, “I just want them to be happy.” In the world in which we live and the uncertainty of our times, happiness seems like the best we can do, and often even happiness seems unlikely. Still, parents want the best for their kids, whatever that may be. That’s the way our Lord looked upon His ragged band of disciples on the night in which He was betrayed. All their faults—their dusty feet, their vain thoughts of glory, their sleepiness and fear—all were exposed for the world to see. Jesus just wanted them to have joy. So He washes their feet. He feeds them with His body and blood. And He warns them of what is to come: “A little while and you will not see Me. And again a little while and you will see Me.” Their minds are too feeble to understand, so He makes it simple. “You will have sorrow. But your sorrow will turn into joy.”

And so it was. To their great sorrow, the very next day, Jesus went to Pilate’s judgment Hall. He endured Herod’s false worship and cruel jests. The scourge tore the flesh from His back and sides, His legs and His arms. He was displayed before the world: naked, dying, weak, and alone. The ironic title nailed was above His head: “The King of the Jews.” His ragtag collection of disciples scattered in fear. The beautiful people all laughed and sneered. “Look at Him! There is your God, strung up on the cross. There is your one chance at happiness, and what good will it do you?” But our Lord’s Word is true. And while the disciples are a sad sight to behold, they know exactly what they are. Jesus told them. They expect their own imperfection; they expect their suffering to mirror His suffering. Look and see your God upon the cross! Look; do not be ashamed. He let them do all that to Him so divine justice would be served, so our debt would be paid, so the devil’s head would be crushed. He let sinners do that to Him so that they would have joy. He died, but He is not dead. He lives. He forgives them, comforts them, breathes His Holy Spirit upon them. Even in their weakness, they were wiser than the wise fools of this world. The world groups us together with our Lord in contempt, but in truth, there is nothing better. Yes, holy Father, make us like Jesus! They may kill us, but You have forgiven us. You have reconciled us to Yourself. You have turned our sorrow into joy! 

Still, joy is not the same as happiness. Joy as we await our rising is always stained with sorrow. Nothing here is yet perfect. The willing spirit still lives in the weak flesh. The chaos of sin is still upon us: contempt for the Word of God and the Christians who cling to it; abortions as commonplace as breathing; corruption in government; so-called preachers mislead people in the name of human love; families, marriages, and children are all under attack. Our joy, fully won and paid for, is not yet complete. We weep and lament. We are hurt and confused. We suffer satanic attacks upon all God gives. Repent. Fear God. Believe His promises. Cling to His Word.

We may be under attack, but it is not in vain, for our God is not dead. He lives. He rose and He ascended. And we are not ashamed of His death. After all, we know that He rose! He has defeated death for you. Your sins are forgiven. He is coming back! Now you see Him by faith in bread and wine. Then you will see Him as He is, begotten of the Father from eternity, ascended, exalted in human flesh, when at last we shall all be free. This is how we live. We endure in hope. We lick our wounds in faith. He is coming back, and we are not afraid. As we wait, we do what He has given us to do. We receive Him as He comes to us in His body and blood. We love and serve our neighbors. We teach our children. We turn the other cheek. We support the Church. We pray for our country. We do not do it perfectly, but God is gracious. He forgives. He is not a parent who pines away helplessly for your happiness. He delivers joy here in time in Word and Sacrament, in the love of wife, children, and friends. And He delivers the joy to come, joy that will not end, joy that no one can take away from you. 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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