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May 8, 2022 A+D
St. John 16: 16-22
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the Upper Room, to prepare them for what is to come, Jesus says: “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.” The first little while will start that very night. He is taken from them in the garden and then by His death on the cross. His soul goes to His Father. His Body goes to the grave. He is gone and they weep and lament.
But their sorrow will be turned into joy. He will see them again, on Easter evening, again in the Upper Room. He will bestow peace and the Holy Spirit. Their hearts will rejoice and their joy will last forever. The risen Christ makes new disciples for Himself by Baptism. He is with His Church in the Sacrament from the Upper Room, in the Holy Absolution, and in His Word.
Those are the facts. Those facts are meant to build up and serve two intertwined virtues: patience and hope. Jesus uses a woman in labor as an illustration. The facts are that a baby will be born who will bring such joy to the mother that she will forget the pain of childbirth and that the pain of childbirth itself is relatively brief. That knowledge is meant to comfort and encourage her when the pain is at its worst. If she did not know this she might start to think that the baby isn’t worth it or that the baby will never come. Pain can make us illogical, desperate. If she did not know that the baby was worth it and that labor was temporary she might be led to despair. She might panic. She might even take terrible action to end it.
But all mothers know that labor is temporary and all Christian mothers know that children are worth it. There is no joy or honor in the world like that of participating in the creation and delivery of life. When Adam says that Eve is the mother of all the living, he is saying that the promise has made her again like God. Let us pray that the Supreme Court comes to this same conclusion!
Our current and future sufferings are well worth the glory to be revealed in us. What we are now, will not last. This life is not the goal. It is a passage. Our real life is in Christ. Paul puts it this way:
Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Ro 5:1–5, NKJV).
Hope is the golden mean between despair and pride. To declare ourselves self-made men who are rewarded for our own goodness and can expect unending success, like the farmer in the parable who built silos to stow his grain is unChristian. We are saved by grace. Jesus died for sinners. His absolution removes guilt and shame. All His blessings are undeserved. Hope is not wishful thinking. True hope expects what God promises. It rests in certainty.
Grown men and women who declare that they still believe in Santa Claus are simply being prideful. They are attempting to will magic into existence because they find it a beautiful story and wish it were true. I don’t think we are so prone to that in the Church, but it is possible for confused Christians to do things like take foolish risks with other people’s money or lives while claiming that they are “stepping out in faith.” We need to be careful of that.
But for the most part, pride disguising itself as hope, is a world problem. It inflicts humanism particularly. They believe in the goodness of mankind or the goodness of their science. They don’t believe in God so they replace Him with themselves or some fantasy. We’re not immune, but the Church’s constant teaching that we are saved by grace and can’t save ourselves and the Bible’s realism about sin make us fairly resistant to its crassest forms.
We are easier prey for self-pity or despair. Our sympathy is with the mothers of Bethlehem, but they are wrong to refuse comfort. In the worst tragedies and injustices of this life, along with our own deepest failures and shame, God makes a promise. The forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are not small things nor are they uncertain. The Psalms of lament typically turn to praise by the end. We are realistic about the end of the world, about the hostility and persecution we already face, and even about our own sins and unworthiness. That does not mean that we should roll over for evil and injustice, be silent while the unborn are murdered and the like, but at the same time: we know that Jesus lives. We know that this is only a little while. We know that God works all things together for good, that His Word is true. What is coming is worth more than we can suffer. These sad days are passing. That is hope.
Here is how Paul writes about it to the Hebrews:
God made a promise to Abraham . . . saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after (Abraham) had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. . . . This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:13–20, NKJV).
The Forerunner, Jesus, has entered into God’s presence for us, to prepare the way. He is our anchor. He cannot lie and has made a promise. It will only be a little while.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.