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Laetare Sermon – Lent IV

by ToddPeperkorn ~ February 26th, 2008

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Laetare (March 18, 2007)
John 6:1-15

TITLE: “The Eternal Home”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapel six.

It sure seems far away, doesn’t it? Heaven, that is. Whether you are five or fifty for seventy five or anywhere in between, the thought of heaven seems far away for those of us still on pilgrimage here on earth. It is a dream, a hope we believe in but often don’t take seriously. Heaven is easily forgotten in the midst of earthly life.

And because we are so taxed here on earth, so busy, so weighed down with the chances and care of life, that the very purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection may be obscured, clouded up like a morning fog so that we can no longer see with the eyes of faith what the final goal really is all about.

It is Satan, of course, who seeks to rob you of this hope, this eternal peace which passes all understanding. Like the children of Israel, Satan seeks to take away your joy in Jesus’ death and resurrection. How does he do it? He does it by making sure you never lift up your eyes. He wants you to keep you eyes planted firmly here on earth, with all of its cares and toils and worries. More than anything else, Satan wants you to forget the priceless treasure of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and exchange it for the passing treasures and pleasures of this life. He wants you to give up your eternal inheritance for the fleeting happiness of today.
Truth be told, you often go along with him on this. You are implicit with Satan in this worst case of forgetfulness. When you look at the future, when you look at the trials and sufferings of this life, it is so much easier, so tempting to look with the grumbling children of Israel, and with Philip. It is so easy when our Lord asks to look down and say, Half a year’s labor wouldn’t each give the people enough for a bite!
Where do you do this? You do this at work, at home, at church, and in the dark recesses of your own heart. At work you forget that God is Lord of all, and that your task is to serve your neighbor in love, receiving your just payment for honest work. You would rather either have it all, grumble at your bosses, or simply not be satisfied with the work our Lord has given you. At home it is just as easy to do. How will we pay all these bills? How will we put food on the Table and clothes on the family? You may be rich far beyond your parents, but it is never enough. The same is truth with the church. Voters’ meetings, council meetings, even in casual talk we may often act as if God isn’t God and that it is all up to us to raise the money, make the other people give more or do more, and try to control the future. If it is true in all these places, how much more is that true in the dark places of your heart. You are all like Hagar, bound in slavery, stuck to the Jerusalem on earth, and not the free Jerusalem of above.

Repent.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, calls on us today to rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom (Introit). What does that mean? What that means, dearly baptized, is that you sit at the very gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. You are in the presence of God Himself in this holy place. What this means is that you are not sons and daughters of slavery, bound like those in chains to look down lest the master’s whip strike you. You are sons and daughters of the King. You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved and righteous in His sight. Don’t be afraid.

Our Lord will provide for all the needs of your body and soul. Where you see nothing, our Lord provides for you. Where you look ahead and see only more of the same, our Lord sees heaven itself, eternal life in Him, and a bright future. Where you see bread and wine, our Lord gives His very body and blood for forgiveness, for life, and for salvation.

Lift up your eyes, oh Jerusalem. Behold, you king comes to you this day to give you hope. This is rejoicing Sunday. In the midst of Lent, as we turn toward our Lord’s precious death, He gives you hope. For you see, he knows your future. He knows your every need, far better than you. So it is that He gives you what you need out of His very body and blood. He gives you faith to look beyond the trials of today, and toward the glorious resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Only He can give you that faith.

So what does this mean for now, for today as we continue in our labors? It means that our earthly labors do have an end. It means that the work you do today in serving your neighbor is not in vain, for you are doing God’s work. It means you need not be afraid of the future, for whatever may happen here on earth, our priceless treasure has gone there before you, paving the way with his own blood, so that when you walk in those dark places, when you travel through the valley of the shadow of death, you need fear no evil. Christ is with you all the way, and He feeds you with what you need, so that you have the strength to endure to the end. Satan is not your master, Christ is your master. He is the one who died for you, who rose for you, and gives you eternity here, every week. Don’t be afraid. We close by praying the final stanza of our hymn:

Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness, Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, what’er I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure. (LSB 743:6)

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

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