Text: St. John 16:16-22, Jubilate 2018 A. + D. (Redeemer-Ft. Wayne)
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Three Sundays from Easter and the Church turns your attention to the Ascension and your life in this world awaiting Jesus’ return. There’s a tinge of sadness and yet the Church calls on you to shout for joy, to be jubilant, for your joy is not in this world but in the crucified and risen Jesus. And no one can take this joy from you.
But in that little while you don’t see Him, you know sorrow. For a little while, you await that unknown Day when Jesus will again come and show Himself to you. Yet Jesus is faithful and keeps His promise to you. Already the child of God by Holy Baptism, the fullness of who you are has not yet been revealed. You wait on the Lord. And after a little while, you will see Jesus again.
Waiting, though, is still hard. You’re a stranger in a world at enmity with Christ. How many say unborn children aren’t really people worthy of rights and protection? Meanwhile, the courts of men sanction their murder even as they attempt to redefine marriage and what it means to be a man and a woman. Terrorists kill your brothers and sisters in Christ. You yourself are mocked and abused, reviled and treated shamefully. How long until even you are thrown into prison and killed on account of Jesus?
And what of that sorrow you suffer quietly, at home, unknown to anyone else? Maybe it seems your prayers go unanswered, or are even flat out ignored. Maybe everything has come crashing down around you and it’s a struggle to make ends meet. You sing forth the honor of God’s Name and are met with silence. Where is your vindication? You wait on the Lord.
This world is not your home. And, no matter what you suffer, there’ll be no compassion or sympathy to be had from the world. When a loved one dies, your spouse leaves you, and your children hate you; when you fight and argue with family and friends, when you’re sick, in pain, and near death, doesn’t it seem your enemies rejoice in the sight of your suffering? That they’re laughing at you and mocking you all the more? After all, if Jesus is your Head, why should you be treated any better than He?
In this way, it was a blessing that Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden after their sin. God did not want them eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in a world marred by sin, disease, and corruption. Your real home is with your Father who gave you new birth in Baptism and put His Name upon you. You are His and He yours. His home is your home. And it’s not this world.
This is why the Church calls on you to be jubilant even in the face of suffering and misery. You wait on the Lord, yes, but Jesus promises the wait is only a little while. Only a little while that you will not see Him. Only a little while until your faith is vindicated before your enemies. Only a little while until your heart is gladdened and your joy full.
Consider the holy Apostles on the night in which Our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed. He’d be taken from them, falsely accused, tortured, killed, and buried in the heart of the earth. Hidden from their sight in the grave, they’re filled with weeping and mourning. But after a little while, Jesus stands in their midst, showing them His hands, feet, and side. Jesus stands in their midst, declaring the Scriptures fulfilled in His death and resurrection, that God and man are reconciled in His death and resurrection. He gladdens their hearts, filling them with a joy which can never be taken away.
So you wait as a stranger in a strange land. The Christian life is one of hardship and difficulty, a life of suffering, combat, and testing. You are a pilgrim. And while you wait, Jesus feeds you with the Bread of Pilgrims, the Bread come down from Heaven: His own Body and Blood.
You wait, but not as one abandoned. For in this little while, Jesus gives His Flesh and Blood as grace and strength to endure this earthly pilgrimage. In the Sacrament He shows Himself to you, making Himself known and gladdening your heart. In the Holy Communion, Jesus takes your burdens upon Himself as He says to you, “I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
For your sorrows are pierced through in His Flesh. Your fears, sins, and trespasses are put to death in Him upon the holy Cross. Your burdens are wrapped in the shroud and left, impotent, in the dust of the grave. For Jesus lives.
So if you feel beaten up by the world – hemmed in on every side by suffering – if you sense your brokenness and know you need healing, come, O pilgrim, and receive the living Jesus. To you who are faint, He gives power in His Body and Blood. To you who are weak, Jesus renews your strength like that of an eagle to endure all this world does to you. Jesus feeds you the sign, seal, and guarantee of your own resurrection.
Thus this joy which the Liturgy asks of you this day isn’t just about being happy. Happiness comes and goes. Joy runs deeper. Joy knows how to frown and cry and is not fleeting. Your Joy is Jesus Christ. He is the Rock and Foundation upon which you stand. So long as you have Him, you have eternal life and a joyous ending at the finish of a hard-fought struggle. You will go home to your Father.
And on the Day of His coming, who you are by Holy Baptism – who you are even now – will indeed be revealed for all men to see: the child of God, holy, righteous, and innocent, an heir of the Kingdom and co-sharer in Christ’s resurrection. Jesus says the waiting is like a woman in labor. That time is pain and sorrow caused by the curse of the Law. This whole world is broken and cursed due to the transgression of the Law, full of hardship and pain. But like a woman in labor, the time is short. The stress of conflict and the tension of endurance will not last forever.
Jesus shall appear and put an end to your sorrow and abuse. Your labor and struggle will be transformed by the grace and joy of Jesus, as your enemies cower in sorrow. But your sorrow will be turned into joy. No longer will you wait or suffer but see Jesus face-to-face and dwell with Him for eternity.
So if you suffer now, take heart. Your suffering is only for “a little while.” And that “little while” is under the control of your gracious Heavenly Father and He has overcome all things, even this, in His Son. Because Jesus has come through even death for you, He shall bring you through this.
In a little while, the appearing of the Lord Jesus is the end to your sorrow and abuse. Shout for joy and sing the glory of His Name! Your faith is vindicated and your prayers answered: for Jesus the Crucified lives again, overcoming the world by His Cross and filling you with His life and joy in the Holy Communion. Your sins are forgiven. You are set free to live in holiness as befitting a Christian. And soon your enemies won’t be able to deny it any longer.
The sufferings of this life are inconsequential to what is yours in Jesus. In Him, you too overcome the world as your waiting and suffering are soon at an end. For He comes to take you unto Himself and bring you, body and soul, into His heavenly Kingdom. And no one can take Jesus from you.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.