Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lahoma Sermon - Easter 4

Easter 4 – May 15th, 2011 – John 16:16-22

Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) Amen
A Christian is in the world, but not of the world. We are but strangers here. We look beyond these days, to the last day, to the day of the resurrection of all flesh, and to the life of the world to come. This is something we have been taught and trained all the days of our life. We have been raised to not give into earthly temptations and pleasures. We have been taught since we could learn the Creed to know that Jesus will come again and then things will be different. What we see in our Gospel lesson is Jesus beginning to teach His disciples, teach us this truth. For the next three weeks, our Gospel lessons will focus on teachings of Christ that John records for us, teachings from Maundy Thursday evening. These are the things that Jesus tells the disciples just before the Crucifixion – and He tells them so that they know how to live, how to function in the New Testament Church.
You see, the disciples were students, they followed Christ and they listened to Him – and that was their image of how things were going to be. Just them following Christ, listening to Him – they had thought that the end of time was here, and it was to be literally heaven on earth – the Messianic Kingdom, all recreated right then and there before their eyes. Well, not quite – it’s Christ’s victory over sin and death that they would see – not His second coming. So Jesus teaches them, prepares them for what life would be like after His crucifixion and resurrection, after His ascension. In other words, what life as a Christian is like for us.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see me.” This is what our Lord tells the disciples – and they are flummoxed. What does Christ mean that in a little while they won’t see Him – they’ve been His disciples for 3 years – they’ve followed Him all over the place. Is He just going to abandon them? No – He’s going to die for them upon the Cross, and He will be laid in the tomb. “Is this what you were asking yourselves, what I meant by saying ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” Doesn’t this aptly describe Good Friday? We see Peter run off and weep bitter tears. We see John standing with Mary, the mother of our Lord, at the foot of the cross – do you think that they weren’t weeping? And all the while, the world rejoices. The world mocks and jeers, thinks that Christ being crucified is just the dandiest thing.

Now, this is the contrast that we need to remember, because it holds true still today. The world will rejoice over things that as Christians we are sorrowful over. Think of how the world rejoices over money and wanton sex and power. Think of how we will turn people into celebrities simply because the world finds their vices entertaining. The person who is a druggie, is an alcoholic rejoices when he gets his fix, while his family and friends who truly care for him weep. The crowds cheer in Egypt while Christian churches are lit aflame. In this world, things are topsy-turvy, and people continually rejoice over things that bring pain and suffering and death – people rejoice over sin. Us too. We all have our own pet sins, the sins and temptations that call out to us, that we, that our old sinful flesh wants to rejoice in. All the while, as Christians, as those who have been called out of darkness into Christ’s marvelous light, we weep. St. Paul says it most eloquently – the good that I want to do, I don’t, and the evil I do not want is what I end up doing. Oh wretch that I am, who will save me from this body of death. This is the thing – the world rejoices in death… it may not realize it, but it rejoices in sin and hatred and anger – the things that lead to death. And we ourselves are tempted this way, and we are frustrated and sorrowful with it.

“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” Now again, Christ speaks to His disciples about how they will react when they see the resurrected Lord. Two weeks ago, what did we hear in the Gospel? Jesus appears to them in the locked room and - “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” The resurrection is our Lord conquering over sin and death and the sorrow and the pain that it brings. The resurrection is Christ Jesus striding through the worst that this world can throw at Him and saying, “See, I live. I live and have conquered over sin and death, and it can’t do anything to Me – and because you are mine, it can’t do anything to you, not really.” And thus there is joy. Christ’s death and resurrection are the point around which all of our existence turns – without Christ’s death and resurrection, the disciples would have been left with nothing but this sinful, sorrowful world. But when the Lord dies, takes all that sorrow into Himself, and then rises, then the disciples have joy.

And this, dear friends, is the shape of the entire Christian Church and faith. We are not a bunch of pollyannas trying to pretend that everything in the world is wonderful. There are folks that teach that – they’ll teach that if we just grow, if we just learn to love each other then everything here will be great. Now, make no mistake, I’m all for growing, but if St. Paul, who is a far stronger Christian than I am still sins, still views himself as the chief of sinners, I know I’m not going to be perfect in this life – and certainly the folks out there who could care less aren’t going to perfect. In this world there will always remain pain and sorrow and sin. But, we of the Christian faith, who have been called by Christ Jesus, washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, joined to Him, we who partake of His true Body and Blood in His Supper – we know something else beyond just the sorrow of the world. We receive the life and forgiveness and salvation that our Resurrected Lord gives us – we receive His Joy. In the midst of this world of pain, we have a peace, a joy that the world cannot understand – because we know Christ Jesus and His forgiveness. We know the promise He has made us, that He will come again and save us from this body of death, that we will rise to perfection. Our Epistle reading today hits all of this – it’s probably my favorite passage in the New Testament – “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” We are God’s children. Why? Not because of what we do – but because He called us His children – He brought us to the font and baptized us and claimed us as His own – and so we are His children. And the world doesn’t get it – the world doesn’t understand you and your hope… but don’t let that bother you. They didn’t like Jesus, why would they like those who are joined to Jesus in the gift of Baptism? And even in this, even as we see the struggles in ourselves – we aren’t done yet… He will come again, and then we will be like Him, perfect and holy and righteous and having living, resurrected Bodies. And this is our joy, this is our sure and certain hope that the world cannot conquer over.

Doesn’t mean that this life is now easy. Nope. Life in this world is going to be rough. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” Christ Jesus went to the cross so that we might be born again as true human beings… not fallen, not condemn to death – but man as man was meant to be, a living being, created by God to live forever with Him. Christ suffers and dies and rises so that we might be born again. And indeed, this is how we ought to view our lives here. My mom was in labor with me for 36 hours. That’s a long time. I’m 33 years old now… 36 hours, hard as it was, is as nothing compared to my life. Likewise, dear Christians, view your life here in this world, it’s difficulties, simply like the labor, like child birth – the pain and sorrow we face here will pass, and we will be ushered into the life everlasting – what is 60, 80, 100 years of toil compared to an eternity of joy? And again, this is an appropriate image – the pain of child birth is tied to sin way back in Genesis 3. In this life, we face the pain of sin, but it shall go away and be done with.

This is what Christ Jesus is working in you. “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Christ has risen, and we have joy – we have joy that overlaps, that strives against the sorrow in our lives. But the day is coming, dear friends, the day is coming when we will be delivered from that sorrow, from that agony. In that day, there will be nothing but joy, joy at being finally made anew, finally being joined to Christ, finally seeing in full the salvation that Christ has won for us. Amen. Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.


mollo said...

So what does Lahoma mean?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Lahoma is the name of the town in which I live.., and I don't know what it means.

Nice Tasuki, by the by.