14. May 2011
This sermon was preached from an outline. For the full text, listen to the audio.
It seems like Easter is long, distant memory. In fact, we’re still in Easter, this weekend being the Third Sunday after or Fourth Sunday of Easter. In fact, Easter is forty days long, culminating in the Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost. Easter is like the summer road trip you’ve been planning. When you start off, everything is brimming with excitement. Its 106 miles to Chicago, you have a full tank of gas, the car is packed, and you’re all wearing your sunglasses. It doesn’t take long for the thrill to wear off. By the first toilet break, you’re all ready to get out of the car and get on with vacation. But no, you’ve many more miles until you get there. Excitement turns to boredom and boredom into mischief. “What’s going on back there?!?!” mom yells. About the time you get there, everyone wants to turn back. Some even come to doubt that we’d ever get out of the cramped, hot car.
JESUS KNOWS THE ANXIETY OF LIFE AND DELIVERS RELIEF.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples are in the upper room shortly before traveling to the garden, where they will see Jesus handed over to be killed. Jesus says to them, “A little while, and you shall see me: and again, and you shall see me, because I go to the Father.” They have great now anxiety over Jesus’ words. He’s setting them up for a long and difficult journey. He’s going to the cross, then ascending to heaven. It is a cryptic statement. The disciples are clearly confused.
We know he is intimating that he will die but that he will also rise from the dead. For those who do not know of nor understand the extent of the resurrection, this is clearly a mystery. Our life is little different. The thrill of our new life in Christ is waning. What was begun in baptism won’t be complete on the last day.
Or perhaps you were baptized as an adult, or have returned to the church after an absence. When you first joined or first returned, it was a joy to hear from your dear Lord once again. Yet, after a time boredom set in, or perhaps the crosses and trials of this world got you down. Just like the disciples, we had our Easter triumph and Easter joy. But most of us have long since returned to the boring, mundane routine of our lives. The joyous singing, the festive meals, the delight of the children hunting for Easter eggs, even the afternoon nap are but a distant memory. For some, Easter was only a brief respite from the grief of those recently dead or the sorrow of debilitating illness, or even the struggles of a besetting addiction. We are on this side of the cross. We know what to expect. We know the challenges ahead for us, for our families, and for this our congregation. It will be joys mixed with sorrows. The greatest trial for us and sorrow for those near to us is our death.
Last week, Jesus taught us how we tend to consider God’s love in a worldly way. Our prayers might go something like this: “if you truly love me, then you’ll answer my prayers… Just so.” So also, the disciples thought of Jesus’ loving presence in worldly terms. In the upper room, they thought it incredible that he would be suddenly arrested, crucified, and buried. We say it daily in the Creed but the disciples have yet to see it.
Jesus prophesies: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” Imagine how difficult those words are to hear. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. You know just what they’re like. We weep while our families suffer. We lament when death snatches them away The world rejoice while we confess our sins. We are sorrowful for what we have done to our lives, to our world, and even to our Lord. We behold the crucified Christ and lament our sin. But even this sorrow lasts but a moment. It is quickly turned to joy. Our Lord declares, ” I forgive you.” do not fear, do not cry, for you are mine and no one can snatch you from me.
In an example most fitting for last Sunday, our Lord declares this life to be like a woman in labor. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when se has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers her anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world.” How much more clear could Jesus be than that! Pain lasts for a short while but the joy of the child endures on! Our life is but toil and trouble but it has its blessed end.
We are wandering pilgrims, traveling through the barren wilderness of this life, with only the brief weekly oasis before the drudgery begins again. The Christian oasis is the pure and clear water of the Word. It refreshes our parched lips. Added to this Word is a little meal, seemingly inconsequential. The God-man who died and rose, now gives you his body to eat and his blood to drink. And in this small feast, our hearts are made to rejoice. They are given a joy that not a sorrow or lament can take away. Most of all, Jesus has not departed. He has left us with his Word for faith and life, and the refreshment of his own bodily fellowship in this holy communion.
We may have sorrow as we move from trouble to toil. But Jesus says to us: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
JESUS KNOWS THE ANXIETY OF LIFE AND DELIVERS RELIEF.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church