May 27, 2019 A+D
St. John 16:32-33
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The day will come when we will ask for nothing. We will ask for nothing because we shall lack nothing.
But not now. Now we lack. We ask Our Father for all the things that we desire. Some of it is needed and some of it would be harmful if God gave it and some of it is nothing more than luxury. It is hard for us to know what is good or useful, but we know Him whom we ask. We trust His promise. He will sort it out. He will give what is good and salutary.
Our lack is not unjust, nor is our suffering unreasonable or unexpected. We do not ask because we deserve of ourselves but we ask because He commands and promises. We ask, beseech, and plead God the Father in Name of Jesus Christ our Brother to give us what is good. This goodness is more than bare necessity. We do not ask only for what we need nor do we ask only for spiritual good. In the confidence that God loves us and hears us and wants to make our joy full, we ask for whatever we desire that is not forbidden. We ask for physical things, for pleasurable things, for small and large things, trusting that He will do what is good and that our joy is and will be full.
We call to the Father by the Name of the Son because the Holy Spirit has given us this Name in Holy Baptism and granted us access. The Holy Spirit didn’t lay some ambiguous burden upon your heart, a riddle that you have to solve to prove your worth or sincerity: He baptized you. This was not your doing. He called you by the Gospel. This Gospel was the words “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It was and is external, outside of you. It was not an inward action unseen by human eyes. Your baptism was and is an objective historical reality. It took place in the real, physical world with flesh and blood witnesses. It isn’t a question of how you feel about it or whether you meant it or not or even whether or not you understand it. The question is “Did it happen or not?” and if it did then “Is God’s Word trustworthy or not? Will He do what He says?”
To be sure, a person can deny Baptism and reject it. He can insist on his own name and sins and therefore blaspheme and fall away from the faith. But that doesn’t mean Baptism didn’t happen or that God didn’t do what He promised. It only means that God does not force Himself upon anyone.
God has bound Himself and His Name to the waters of Holy Baptism by His promise. It is not a ceremony of the Church. It is a gift of God that He instituted for the salvation of the world. He puts His Name upon His children there. If His Name is upon you then you belong to Him. If you belong to Him and His Name is upon you then He takes responsibility for your sins and debts. He cannot be at war with Himself or His Name. Thus His Name, your Baptism, is a shield against the devil’s accusations and your own guilt and tribulations, and His Name gives you access by prayer. You call upon Him as a child calling on His Father.
All this this is because Christ, Our Lord, has come from the Father to us. He, who was lifted up from the earth and returned to the Father as our envoy and ambassador, comes to us in risen Body and Blood, in the peace which is bestowed by the Absolution, and He speaks to us in His Word. He does not deal in ambiguities. There is no reason to think that He hints and prods and places riddles before us. The Lord does not struggle to communicate. He does not try and fail. He speaks in His Word and He comes with His grace where He promises. We receive what He gives and listen to what He says and we respond in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
For all that we still lack good things. We suffer evil. We have tribulation. God loves us as a Father not as a boy trying to impress us and potentially use us. He doesn’t pamper or coddle us or attempt to buy our affection. He respects us. He calls us “friend.” He gives us a part in His Kingdom even making us His ambassadors to the world and we are molded into His image by crosses and even deprivation.
The fullness of our joy is not emptied by suffering or dying. Christ’s joy was full when He looked over Jerusalem and wept for her. His joy was full when He was betrayed by Judas whom He loved. His joy was full even when He cried out in anguish on the cross at His Father’s forsaking of Him. His joy was full because He and the Father are one. The Christ was at peace, trusting in the goodness of His Father’s will, waiting for the revelation and vindication that He knew would come on Easter. Christ, our Lord, had tribulations in this world and He prayed. So do you.
Do not think that the joy He promises is simply pleasure or some shallow happiness. The Gospel is not an opioid meant to give you euphoria, make you forget the past, or even take away all your pain. The Gospel bestows a place in the Kingdom and family. The day will come when you will ask for nothing, but not now. Even then, you won’t forget your past or be in some mindless state of bliss. Rather you will be one with the Father, perfect in your trust, without doubt or corruption, without guilt or shame. You joy will be full and your love will be pure. It will be agape and philew not ecstasy.
Neither the holy angels nor the saints in St. John’s vision are portrayed in Holy Scripture as though they are in a state of euphoria. Rather they appear as an organized and disciplined choir whose voices are joined together in peace and harmony. They are working toward a common and joyful goal. They are free of angst and worry, anger and pride. They are content, at peace. They are happy to be in the presence of God and with their brothers and sisters singing God’s praise and shepherding His creation.
So even though you have tribulations and sorrow and need, even though you have committed sins and continue to struggle against them, you have access to the Father in the Name of Christ and therein is your joy. You are holy and righteous as Christ is holy and righteous. And in this sense, prayer is your right and inheritance. His Name gives it to you. It isn’t a right based upon your worthiness, but it is the right of children which has been bestowed by God’s adoption of you and His decree. You can and must pray because you are baptized. He must and will hear and answer you because He has bound Himself to do so by His Word. Thus, in your joy, you ask Him for all things that you lack and desire. You are bold because He is good and you know that He is trustworthy.
The world holds our prayers in derision. They ask: “What good are you prayers? The world is still full of evil.” We respond: “God works all things together for good for those who love Him. What wicked men mean for evil, such as the slavery and imprisonment of Joseph and the death of Jesus, God uses for good. We live by faith and not by sight. We are the children of God and His Name is upon us. If that brings us dishonor in the world, sobeit. We will not shrink from it. We are His Father. We are unashamed of Him even as He is unashamed of us.”
The day will come, however, when we will ask Him for nothing and will be vindicated, again, even as the Christ has been vindicated in the Resurrection.
In the meantime, Christ has said this that you would have peace. This is the purpose of His speaking to us, giving us His Word, revealing Himself to us, not only this section of the Gospel but in all of Holy Scripture. He tells us the truth so that we would have peace in the world, even though we do not have peace with the world. They hate and mock our prayers and faith, but we belong to God. We have His Name. He gives peace that the world cannot give. This peace comes from the Father for the sake of Christ. It is the peace that was announced by angels to shepherds and then bestowed in the Upper Room. It is peace with God, full joy. We are reconciled to the Father in the Blood of Christ. He loves us and we belong to Him and He to us. This world, its sickness and death, its pain and sorrow, its lies and betrayals, along with its constant lack and many evils, is passing away.
Thus Christ says: “Take heart. I have overcome the world. I have bought your peace, won your joy, named you as My own. The hour will come when you will not be scattered and separated and alone. The hour will come when you will have no needs or lack. You will be gathered to My Father’s bosom and then you shall ask Me for nothing but forevermore will sing with Me My Father’s praise.”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.