Easter 5 2009

John 16:23-33

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God has taken up our Flesh. He has made Himself a sacrifice for our sins and risen from the dead. He has defeated death, Hell, and the devil for us, and has ascended to His Father’s right hand to be our Advocate, to pave our way into heaven, and to send His Holy Spirit. This is He has done, whether you wanted Him to or not. He will not force Himself upon you, but He is available for all. You need not keep your sins. Jesus will take them.

And if Jesus takes them, the day will come when you will forget your anguish for the joy that is before you. Your sorrows will end and nothing will ever make you sad again. You will see God and be called the sons of God. The kingdom of heaven will be yours and you will inherit the earth. In that day, you will ask the Lord for nothing. You will have no unmet need or wants, not because you will be without needs or wants, you will still be a creature, dependent on the Lord for all things, but because you have obtained mercy, are Baptized, you will be filled. You will have everything you need or want.

But not yet. Even though Jesus has taken your sins, you still have sorrow, labors, disappointments, tribulation. Then you will ask for nothing, but now you ask for everything.

“Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full,” says the Lord. But we ask and it seems we do not receive. Our joy is not yet full. Our loved ones get sick and die. Our bodies fail. Our friends and lovers betray us. We have joy in Christ, but it coexists with sadness, even as our faith stands alongside our doubt, our good works next to our sins. We are tortured with temptation. We are riddled through with sin. We are haunted by guilt, shame, regret, and uncertainty. We ask, but it seems we rarely and only partially receive.

In prayer, like no other place, we come up hard against the hidden will of God. We know what has happened: that Jesus has made atonement for us, that God loves us and has declared us righteous, that His mercy endures forever, and we are the forgiven saints of God. We know that we are baptized. So we also know what will happen: we will be brought to heaven, our sorrows will end, we will be whole and free.

But we don’t quite know what is happening now. We live in the terror and sorrow of Gethsemane. Our prayer is for the end, for the fulfillment of all things, to be sure, but it also for daily needs and wants, like unto avoiding torture and martyrdom, as much as for daily bread, a pious spouse, and a new television set. But all our prayers on this side of glory are the prayer of Gethsemane. They are always modulated with Jesus’ words, “Nevertheless not my will, but Thine be done.” And that is a will we do not know. We know that God has intervened on our behalf, that His will was done on Golgotha for us, that these sorrows will not last, that death itself, that last enemy, will be overcome. But do not know God’s will for us right now. Will we live or die? Will we laugh or cry? We abide in the night of betrayal, ever on the brink of disaster. We do not know when our beloved will tell us that he has been unfaithful and no longer loves us, what the biopsy will reveal, or who will run a red light and smash into us. We do not know the conspiracies of Hell that the Lord will allow to come partly to fruition, what false accusations or gossip we might face, how we might be sifted like wheat or purified by fire, or even if we can pay our bills this month. We do not know the will of God for these things. We will be spared some, to be sure. We are, in fact, spared much. Even if your stomach is now growling, you cannot describe yourself as truly hungry. There is food in your cupboard at home. Even if your daily bread stopped this instant, you’ve already had a lifetime’s worth. We also have a great deal of joy in this life: family, friends, even nice stuff. But we don’t know what will be given or taken away or when. We also know that we will have tribulation, sorrow, and pain. We just don’t know the exact character or extent of any of it.

So we ask for everything, without shame, like children asking their fathers, trusting that our heavenly Father will only give us what is good and that His will really is best. We are not ashamed to ask for big things, the end of hunger, poverty, and war, a peaceful and orthodox synod in doctrine and practice, a cure for cancer and Parkinson’s disease. We know this will be answered in heaven. But Jesus fed the five thousand and raised the widow’s son in Nain. Perhaps He will turn and give us a foretaste of heaven now. Nor are we ashamed to ask for small things, for a good parking spot, a victory in soccer or water polo, or that the toast not be burnt. The day will come when we ask for nothing, but it is not today. Today, we ask for everything, and everything we ask in Jesus’ Name, according to His will, trusting that the day will come when it is all given and our wills and His will are one. We ask for everything because nothing properly belongs to us, we are beggars, and yet, we are God’s beggars, declared righteous and pleasing to Him and He has pledged all things to us. Ask, and you will receive.

Jesus has overcome the world. He has obtained our salvation. He knows what is best. We focus our attention not on His hidden will, on which breakfast cereal we should eat or whether we should shave or shower first, but on what He has promised, on who He is. His mercy endures forever. Jesus lives. We cannot know His hidden will, so we exercise the freedom He has given us. We choose the cereal before us, what is there, what we can afford, what seems best to us in this circumstance, whether it is best for our health or just best for our taste buds for the moment. For we trust that He will bless it, that His will will be done even in this. We ignore what seems to have happened and confess and wait on what God promises. We hang our hats there, on the promise that the Lord who has given us His only Son will also give us all things, that all things work together for good for those who love God, even bathroom breaks and burnt toast as much as wars and censuses. We will wait on the Lord. We will wait for Him to show Himself, to bare His arm, to reveal to all creation the sons of God, redeemed by Christ, His saints hidden no more in their sinner skins. We will wait and know that He is good and hears and loves and answers all our prayers, now with what is best for us and for our neighbors, whether it seems as though we get all we asked for or not, until such time as all is given according to His promise, and within our vision, in the day to come.

The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob. He has redeemed you. He does not turn away your prayer. He hears. He answers. Call upon Him, O beggars, for He is merciful. He will pardon. And He comes to you today, in answer to your prayers, in His Body and His Blood.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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