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Fourth Sunday of Easter/Easter III – John 16:16-23a

by pastorjuhl ~ April 26th, 2012

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

            The time of the Church, the time of Her growth, is described by our blessed Lord as “a little while.” What does He mean by “a little while”? We do not know what He is talking about. First, Jesus is talking about the time following His ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit until He returns to judge the living and dead. Believe it when Jesus says, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. We know from history that eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred, killed in the line of duty. They died horrible deaths because they preached the innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.

Martyrdom still happens today, although not so much in our country. When we pray for persecuted Christians, we might think of those in far-off lands whose names we can barely pronounce. “They” are suffering for the faith. “They” have it so bad “over there.” “They” also happen to be our brethren in Christ. When they suffer, so do we. It’s difficult to comprehend this when we are wading in prosperity, peace, and pride. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. “They” are “us.” What is theirs is ours and what is ours is theirs. When they are hurt or killed, we suffer and die with them, even when we don’t “feel it” in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Nevertheless, we do feel their suffering. The devil and the world continue to pinch the Church in our country. Perhaps the “good old days” of church going in our country is like a passing rain shower that falls here, then there. The shower seems to be moving below the Equator and eastward toward sub-Saharan Africa. We have allowed the Church to be a commodity rather than a hospice and banquet hall for dying sinners receiving life from their Father in heaven.

The Church is not a commodity that is bought, sold, or traded. The Church is the Body of Christ in constant birth pangs. She is sorrowful because the hour has come for her to suffer. The devil, the world, even our sinful nature, must pinch, poke, prod, and push up against her. We do feel the suffering of the Church. We are given manifold opportunities to compromise the exclusivity of the Triune God. Exclusivity is a bad word in a world that is dying. The hour has come to confess the faith passed down from Christ through His apostles and then through preachers and teachers of the Word. When that time of confession comes, the pinch is on. Say and do the right thing according to so-called wisdom, well and good. Say what doesn’t jibe with worldly wisdom, and wait for the labor pain of bearing the burden of Christ to fall on you.

In the midst of the world’s rejoicing over what seems to be its final victory over the Good News of Jesus Christ comes the word of the True Victor over the world. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…. 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. In that day you will ask nothing of me.

The coming of the Lord on Judgment Day brings abundant joy to those in Christ Jesus. All the sorrow, all the pelting rain of persecution and cruelty that is thrown on Christ’s beloved sheep, is turned into joy. Those who mocked the Way of the Lord have a place waiting for them in the burning lake of fire, where torment and agony know no end. Those who remain steadfast in the Word that can never die will be raised from the dead, changed into a perfect person, body and soul, and will live forever before the face of our heavenly Father. His only-begotten Son will be with us, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Judgment Day for a Christian is like a movie with an amazing, unbelievable plot twist. You might have a notion something is up for a character in the movie, but it hits you blindsided when it happens. It might leave you dumbfounded, maybe even in shock. You can’t move. You can’t speak. You can’t even think. BAM! WOW! That is a stunning development.

The second coming of Christ is a stunning development for those who scorn the Son of God. They will realize how foolish it was for them to live outside of the sheepfold. When He returns, it will be too late for them. Take care, then, that you do not find yourself outside the sheepfold and that day comes upon you unaware.

Watch! Repent! Believe that Jesus takes away your sin. Cling to His Word of reconciliation. Let Him pluck you from the jaws of death and place you into His green pastures. Washed clean in His blood and righteousness, no one can take your joy from you. Not Satan. Not the world. Not your own flesh. No one can take your joy from you.

Consider Saint Peter’s words in the Epistle. This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. You have to go through a lot of stuff in this life. Not all of it is good. Most of it stinks. Peter calls enduring sorrows a gracious thing when you are mindful of God. Remember who you are. You are His precious possession, bought with His blood. The mess that is life in this dying world has an end. You will die. Your body will be sown. When Jesus returns, you will be raised. You will live. You will see clearly the goodness of the Lord that you can only see in a mirror, dimly. You will ask nothing of the Lord in that day, for all will be clear at that time. Every question will be answered. Finally, for once and for all, everything will make sense. What seems silly, the fact that you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy, sustains you in Jesus Christ until the day that you see it for yourself. Then the fullness of His grace that is seen in sermon, song, and Sacrament will be all you know, all you desire, and all in all.

Endure the little while. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

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