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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christianity is not a vaccine. There are some, even within the Church, who believe that faith is like an inoculation for a disease; you get a “shot” of Christian faith, and suddenly you are immune to suffering and affliction. The big lie is that the Christian life knows no real suffering, endures no real cross. Furthermore, if you are tormented, or despair of your life, or fear for God’s help, then you must not be a real Christian, because God is no longer blessing you. That is a lie, a tool of Satan. The truth is that the life of faith is a whirlwind of fear and love, weeping and laughing, insecurity and confidence. And what most of us know from honest experience is that it we experience the cross and suffering most in this life, while, as Scripture tells us, the fullness of lasting peace, contentment, and joy is reserved for the life of the world to come.
That is what our blessed Lord tells His disciples—and us—in today’s Gospel. On the night of His betrayal—that night when our Lord would know and feel our cross, our suffering, our every hurt in a way that exceeds our understanding—on that night our Lord explains to His disciples that living the Christian life means you will weep and mourn; sorrow and cross and anguish will define your life. But your sorrow will be turned to joy, your cross to resurrection, your anguish to blessing.
But these are not really the words we want to hear. We want to hear that life in Christ is a life of ease. We want to hear that our Lord has not only taken on our sin and died our death, but has also taken away everything that annoys and frustrates and bothers us, every bad thing that can happen to us, every evil word or deed that might come against us. But instead of telling us what we want to hear, our Lord tells us what is true and real. And what is true and real is this: “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
Now, on which little while should we focus? On which little while should we pin our hopes? Do we obsess over little while when we do not see our Lord, when life is fiercest, when we are blessed to participate in the suffering and troubles of our Lord? Is that where we fix our hearts and minds? For that is precisely where the devil wants us to focus our attention. He is more than happy to get us to believe that our faith does us no good, that God’s Word and Sacraments are no help to us. The devil deceives us into believing that our sorrow and cross is all that is real, and that God is against us. In the same way, the devil works mightily to encourage your pastor, and all pastors, to give up on their calling, to run from what is bad and depressing. He wants us to concentrate on the little while of sorrow, so that we can turn that “molehill” into a “mountain;” so that the little while is no longer only a little while but all that we can see and feel.
But then comes Jesus, our Savior, the One whose whole life and being was consumed with our little while of doubt and anxiety, sorrow and misery. And three times He says to you, patiently, gently, soothingly, “A little while; a little while; a little while.” That is all the longer this cross lasts. Your heartache will pass. Your sorrow and hurt will last only a little while. It may seem like an eternity, and the devil will want to consume your whole life with it, but it’s really only a little while.
And what happens after that little while? Then comes the long while, the never-ending moment, the unending Day of the Lord. For while the sorrow and the devilish despair last only a little while, then comes the joy which knows no end and the peace which surpasses our understanding and the blessing that far outweighs any heartache. Then comes the time when the sufferings of this present life can in no way measure up to the glory that our Lord has already planted within you, and lives through you, and has fully stored up for you.
And even now, though you may have sorrow, the Lord comes to you and gives you His life-renewing flesh and blood. Even now the Lord sees you again as He smiles on you with His forgiveness. Even now, the Lord creates in you a clean heart, renews His free spirit within you, and restores to you the joy of His salvation. Even now our Lord gives you relief in this little while as you gather here with your brothers and sisters in Christ and with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven.. Even now our Lord gives you a taste of His joy as you take His cross-enduring, death-defying body into your unsure and fearful body.
So let the world have its little while of rejoicing while you live through your little while of weeping. For even in this little while of grief, your heart rejoices. You have been plunged into a joy that no one can take from you. You hear a blessed Word that no devil or enemy can undo. You feed on a Jesus who gives you joyful life—life which no one can snatch 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.