Sunday, May 03, 2020

Sermon for 5/3/2020: Fourth Sunday of Easter

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The Reunion

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

As He had prepared them for everything He would lay before them in the days to come, Jesus prepared His disciples for His death. “A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.” Death robs us of the visible, tangible presence of those we love. We long to see them, but we cannot. We long to hear their voice, but there is only silence from the grave. We remember all the good times we shared with the dearly departed. We remember all the joy, all the care, all the love. We mourn what we have lost—and rightfully so, for God has blessed us richly through those with whom we have shared our lives.
In that sense, we ourselves know the grief the disciples experienced, nor can we fault them for it. Lacking understanding of our Lord’s teachings, the disciples mourned their beloved teacher and friend. There was a great, fearful silence hanging over the world on that Friday we call good. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” and then there was silence—a silent, breathless body; a silent, cold tomb; a silent, grief-loaded Sabbath. The enemies of Jesus doubtless rejoiced, for they believed they had silenced this troublemaking rabbi who called Himself the Son of God. In the meantime, His disciples were filled with fear and sorrow. They grieved as do those who have no hope, for Jesus, their Friend and Teacher, was dead. “Your sorrow will turn to joy,” Jesus promised them. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” In the early morning, Christ’s followers, both the women and the disciples, saw the tomb; they saw that it was open and empty. They heard the good news: “He is risen! He is not here.” That evening they saw and heard and touched Him. And as they recognized their Jesus as the living Lord, their sorrow melted away into unspeakable joy.
Jesus compared that sorrow of grief over death to pains of a woman about to give birth. It’s true that her suffering is great, and it can last many hours. But then, when she delivers her child into the world, she forgets all the anguish—or, at least, that anguish is unimportant compared to the extravagant joy she experiences as she holds that newborn child in her arms. If that anguish wasn’t forgotten, it’s entirely possible that only the firstborn child in any family would arrive. But it doesn’t work that way. The anguish of labor, no matter how long or how bitter, gives way to the joy of a child who is born.
Thanks to our Lord’s death and resurrection, we are given to think of death as a new birth, and our suffering over death as labor pains that will give way to something of incomparably greater joy. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Our present sufferings do not compare with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” There is coming a Day of resurrection and reunion, a great and glorious Last Day. And on that day all the dead will rise, and we will be gathered together with Christ and all who have died in Him. There will be no more sorrow, for Jesus will wipe away all tears. There will be no more death, for our Lord Jesus has conquered death; death is now only the gate to eternal life. And then, as Jesus promised, at last, your sorrow will turn to joy, and your mourning into dancing. For now, we rejoice that we experience a humbler reunion, though no less joyful, when our Lord gathers us around His altar for the family feast. He brings us together “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven” for fellowship in His body and blood. We will be reunited there soon, God willing, gathered together as a congregation to receive life. Soon and very soon you will see Him, and and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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