Easter 4 (and Confirmation) – May 6th and 7th, 2017 – John 16:16-22
Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed, alleluia!) Amen.
Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed, alleluia!) Amen.
You will be sorrowful. There you go confirmands. You will be sorrowful – happy Confirmation Day! Boy, that took a turn, didn't it. Well, understand where and when our Gospel Lesson takes place. In a sense, it happens immediately after the Disciples have been confirmed. It's Maundy Thursday evening, and Jesus has just celebrated the Lord's Supper for the first time, they've all just had their first communion – and our Gospel text is Jesus talking to them after that first Lord's Supper. And what does Jesus know that the disciples don't? He knows that Good Friday's coming. The Crucifixion is coming. And even after Jesus is raised from the dead, His ascension is coming. “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Your class time is done disciples, and soon, you won't be following Me around as my learners, but you'll be out there, you'll be doing things, you'll be teaching. Dare I say, you're going to be all grown up, expected to be adults.
And this sort of freaks out the disciples. “So they were saying, 'what does He mean by a little while? We do not know what He is talking about.” It's scary, and they want to ask, but again, they are proud, they are the disciples, they've spent so long learning, they shouldn't need to ask. Lesson 1 from our text – even though you've all studied, you never learn enough to where you can't ask questions, to where there won't be things you ask questions about. I've been a Pastor nearly 13 years, and I still try to meet with other pastors at least once a week, because I still get questions. And Jesus understands that. Don't be afraid to ask questions if you have them folks – do you see how welcoming of questions Jesus is? He'll actually ask them for the disciples. “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?” Questions don't bother Jesus. And 'what does this mean” questions certainly don't bother Jesus – being done with confirmation doesn't mean you're done with “what does this mean?” Nope, questions continue – and sometimes the answers are hard.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” And you guys all thought me starting the sermon with “You will be sorrowful” was rough. But Jesus is just speaking the truth. What will the disciples see in the next 24 hours? They will see Jesus arrested, beaten, unjustly condemned, and crucified, all while the world mocks and jeers and rejoices that Jesus the troublemaker has been finally put down. And Peter, bold Peter's going to be weeping bitter tears after the cock crows three times; John's going to be at the foot of the Cross getting told to take care of Mary. It's going to stink on ice, and even while it's at it's worst for the disciples, the world will be laughing and celebrating.
Lesson number 2. In your lives, you will see things that will rip up you. The world will do things that are horrible – I hope you don't see much, but chances are you will. And Satan will still keep on stirring up all sorts of hatreds and anger – the world's never going to be a nice place. And even your own sinful flesh will get in on the act, and you will be tempted to do all sorts of stupid foolish things, you'll have discontent from wanting things you don't have, you'll get caught up in stupid fights and anger, and you will sin – and then Satan will slug you and attack you will guilt. That's the way life goes in this sinful world – and it keeps going this way. Bad times, rough times, can come sweeping up at you at any moment – and it doesn't matter what you've learned, it doesn't matter how old you are. Growing up doesn't mean everything suddenly makes sense and is easy – just means new problems. Every single one of us in here has something rough to deal with, and if things are fortunately sort of smooth now, just wait a bit, something will come up soon enough. You will be sorrowful. That's just a fact.
Now, if we stopped there this would be an utterly dour and depressing sermon, wouldn't it? And some folks might want to skip over all this – but we can't. Being a Christian isn't a golden ticket to sunshine and daisies all the time. There will be sorrows in this life. There will be hurts and pains and anger, and as a Pastor I'm probably going to be stuck doing funerals until someone does mine. Sorrow happens, we can't pretend otherwise, we can't live in denial – Jesus teaches us specifically this fact. When sorrow comes in your life, don't pretend it's not there. Being macho never impressed Jesus. When sorrow comes in the lives of people you know, your family, your friends, your neighbors – don't downplay it. We are Christians, we know sorrow – we know just how rotten sorrow is because we know just how Good God had created this place to be. We know sorrow, because we know sin for what it is, and how horrible it is. But Jesus doesn't just leave us in sin, Jesus doesn't just let sin and sorrow stand. No – You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. Now, quickly, let me point out something. Jesus said joy. He didn't say happy. Happy is an emotion, how happy or sad we are is internal, it can go up and down and all over the place. Happy is all over the place. That's not what Jesus said; He said joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Joy is something that is given to you. Joy isn't an internal emotion, but Joy is seeing something else, something greater, something outside yourself.
Jesus explains what I mean. 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. See how that works. Several gals I know, that we know here, have given birth recently, and you know what's fun? Seeing all the baby photos on Facebook. And there's lots of them. Tons of them. That's joy. What's the mom focusing on – not “three weeks ago I was shouting and asking for stronger drugs” - it's “oh look, isn't he cute!” That's joy. Joy in that human being, in that other person. Joy pulls your focus off of that sorrow and then puts it onto something wondrous and wonderful. It doesn't mean that the sorrow was any less sorrowful, it doesn't mean that the labor was any less laborious – but now our focus isn't dominated by that sorrow, our focus is on this little bundle of joy. Not looking at, not overwhelmed by my sorrow anymore – even though there might still be some soreness that still lingers – but look at this fella, isn't he sweet?
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. This is beautiful, oh people this is beautiful. Jesus acknowledges to the disciples that they will have sorrow now – He doesn't downplay it, He doesn't soft-sell it. But He makes a promise. I will see you again. And did you note that – Jesus says I will see you again. He doesn't say, “You'll have to look to try to find Me.” He doesn't say that He'll disappear. Nope – I will see you, and because I see you you will have hearts that rejoice, joy that no one can take away from you. And what does Jesus do after He rises? This was two weekends ago – even when the disciples are locked away in fear and sorrow – there Jesus is. Peace be with you. I told you I would see you again, and lookie here, I see you, and I say peace. And even a week later, He shows up again. Jesus comes again to the disciples – and really, the next few weeks are going to be lessons on how Jesus comes to us in His Church through His Word and Sacraments. We'll get plenty on this the rest of this month, but let's tie it up now.
When you were baptized, Christ Jesus saw you. He saw you and said, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He saw you and declared that you are His brother, His sister. He saw you and declared that you are forgiven and would be an heir of eternal life. That He would be your God who would always be merciful. And you know what – no one can take that joy from you, no one can change the fact that you are a baptized child of God. And what is confirmation? Nothing but this: I will ask these 5 young adults the same question I got asked – Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism? Do you acknowledge the gifts, do you recognize this joy that Christ has given you that no one can take away from you, that no sorrow can take away from you? Are you starting to see things like an adult, see and understand what actually goes on in this service?
What happens in this service? Jesus sees you. He sees you here in His Church, He sees you coming into His House, facing whatever sorrows you're facing in life. Doesn't freak Him out, doesn't make Him ashamed of you. Instead, He sees you, and He sends a pastor, this day it happens to be me, and He instructs that pastor to say, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +” See, your Baptism still holds true. God still sees you as His, and no one can take that joy from you.
Jesus sees you. He sees you, and He calls you to His table, to give Himself to you in the wonderful mystery of the Lord's Supper. Take and eat, take and drink – given and shed for you, for you, yes, for you, so that you would have joy. It's all about the forgiveness and life and salvation that Christ has given you – freely, completely out of His love for you. And this is what He offers you, even until you reach the feast of eternal life with Him – when He appears and you are like Him, raised to a new and glorious and sinless life. This is what Christ has done for you.
You will be sorrowful. That's how we started this sermon – but hear again how Jesus ends it. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy, turn to and see Christ and His everlasting love for you. This the truth, the truth we see whenever Christ comes to us in His Word, in His Sacrament. God grant that we see this all our days in this world of sorrow, even until we see Christ Jesus face to face in the life of the world to come. And we shall see Him. And we confess together why we will see him saying – Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia +