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Lindemann on Jubilate: Easter 4 (Third After)

by revalkorn ~ May 15th, 2011

JUBILATE, THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

The post-Easter season may be divided into two parts. in the first we look back, and three features are prominent: the Resurrection, the Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. This part comes to an end with the Second Sunday after Easter. In the second half we look to the future. First the Liturgy prepares us for two events yet to come: the Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. These dominate the following two Sundays. Christ now proceeds to found His kingdom here on earth, and this must be a spiritual kingdom. His followers are not to cling to His earthly Person but to become spiritualized. Therefore He sent the Holy Spirit, His Representative, to take His place, to be the Leader in the way and the Comforter. On the other hand, the coming Sundays offer a realistic view of practical life. More and more we are led away from the peaceful joys of Easter into the life of combat and reality. The newly baptized and all the believers have seen the Lord in the great mysteries. But after only seven days the white garments were taken from the new members, and they were sent back into life. Now they are to become adult and experienced. The following Sundays lead us back into the practical life.

Three weeks have passed since Easter. The Lord’s resurrection has occupied the thought and mind of the Church. On the First Sunday after Easter the Liturgy brought us the story of the Lord’s appearance to His disciples, and we heard His greeting of peace. On the Second Sunday we trustingly gathered as sheep about the Good Shepherd, who on Easter Day gathered us anew and now leads us to the green pastures of His holy mysteries. Until now the Church has centered eyes, ears, and heart on the Resurrection Lord. Beginning with this Sunday we are given a look into the future, into Christ’s and our own future. For the first time the Liturgy broaches our Lord’s Ascension. In this day’s Holy Gospel our Lord plainly states: “A little while and you will see Me no more, because I go to the Father.” We must not imagine, however, that the Church now is sad and sorrowful because of our Lord’s departure. The joy of Easter is not lessened but rather grows greater. In this day’s Holy Gospel the Apostles became sorrowful, but the Easter Christians delight to see the Savior ascend to heaven, for they are not at home on this earth. Heaven is their fatherland, and they yearn to follow their Bridegroom soon. The Head leads, the members follow. This suggests that we think and speak of our own future, for which the Church prepares us. Until now we have celebrated Easter. We felt as though we were in heaven. We could have cried with St. Peter: “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make … booths!” We forgot that we were still on earth. Now the Church leads us back into the crude everyday life. She offers no paradise in which only roses without thorns bloom. No, the Church tells the newly baptized and us plainly and crisply: The Christian life is a hard, difficult life, a life of suffering, of combat, of testing. The Christian life is a pilgrimage to the heavenly home.

Yet this Sunday bears the name Jubilate, “Rejoice.” The season is one of pure joy. The Holy Gospel is full of sorrow at the news of an impending separation. But even the sorrow of the disciples was to be turned into joy, a joy that became their own to such a degree that none could ever deprive them of it, least of all the world. This process of acquiring, rather finally possessing the never-failing joy is a true post-Easter story to every believing heart.

The Introit. “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands; sing forth the honor of His name; make His praise glorious. Say unto God, How terrible art Thou in Thy works! Through the greatness of Thy power shall Thine enemies submit themselves unto Thee.”

The lesson for this day is clearly expressed in the Epistle: “I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against the soul.” This teaching that we are but strangers and pilgrims in this world is profitable, and it is necessary that we put it into practice. With Christ, life here is bearing the cross after Him, but beyond unending joy awaits. Therefore the spirit and tone of the day is joyous. The Introit strikes this note of joy and praise.

The Collect. “Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of Thy truth to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness, grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same.”

Here is an admirable description of the believer’s life, with the Easter baptisms in view, those “that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion.” The past, “in error”; the guidance that led to their conversion, “the light of Thy truth”; “return into the way of righteousness”; their reception into the Church, “admitted into the fellowship (or society) of Christ’s religion”; their life in God’s service, the newness of life, “eschew those things that are contrary to their profession”; childlike obedience, “follow all such things as are agreeable to the same.” The Collects for all the Sundays connected with Easter are eminently practical and point to various aspects of the risen life. On this day we pray for a life of careful consistency. We are to be Christians in what we avoid and in what we aim at; otherwise we shall both hurt the Christian name and bring disgrace upon our fellows in Christ’s society.

The Epistle (1 Peter 2:11-20). The new life into which we have risen with Christ at Easter is still the concern. The Christian is shown as an alien and exile on earth. Heaven is his home, he is foreign to this world. Therefore he is to ab-stain from the passions of the flesh. Before the world he is to maintain good conduct, and this silent preaching may effect good. He is to submit willingly to civil government as the institution of God. For those “that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion” the Epistle is a directory of practical living. The believer is in the world, not of it. He is to be conscious of “the little while” he walks on earth; he is a stranger and pilgrim journeying to the homeland. There is his supreme allegiance, his citizenship, his loyalty, the inspiration -for his patriotism. He may be out of harmony with the world, derided, falsely accused, but his con-duct will be good among the Gentiles. He will be subject to every human institution, but for the Lord’s sake.

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord hath sent redemption unto His people. Alleluia! It behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead and thus to enter into His glory. Alleluia! ”

Christ’s way through life is held before us as our example. It was necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory. (Luke 24:26.)

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. John 16:16-23). The restoration of the risen Christ to His little band is for a short time only, “a little while.” We are looking toward Ascension Day, separation again. Yet we are celebrating Jubilate Sunday. After the Ascension the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). The way through suffering to glory is our way also. The joyous message of the little while fits well with this day’s Epistle of the pilgrimage. The Holy Gospel is a part of our Lord’s farewell address at the Last Supper. In our life also there are two little whiles, in which it will be with us just as it was with the disciples. “A little while, and you will not see Me.” This is our earthly life, when we do not see the Lord, the pilgrimage on earth. Like the disciples, “you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” Our comfort is that this life on earth is only “a little while.” Then comes the second while, “and you will see Me.” “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” At death, at the end of the pilgrimage, the glorified Savior will stand before us, and all sorrow will be forgotten and eternal joy will reign.

The Proper Preface. “But chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

The Christian, risen with Christ and following His holy example, has yet to live his life in the world. He must consider how to be in the world yet not of the world, and how he may combine the heavenly and earthly calling while not of the world. This is the special subject of the Epistle.

Life in the World

A. Separation from the World. Christians must look upon the world as a foreign country and consider themselves aliens. They must regard the world from the outside. They may not imagine that whatever is done there is right. They are also exiles or sojourners whose position is temporary, “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb. 13:14; see also Heb. 11:13-16). They must cultivate a life of detachment from much of the world’s business and pleasure, at least in heart. Especially must they “abstain from the passions of the flesh.” Many things are allowable, some indifferent, but indulgence of fleshly lusts is directly contrary to the Christian life, for they “wage war against your soul.”

B. Duty Before the World. But this separation must not be the separation of pride and contempt, which is no less unchristian than worldliness. The Christian is to remember: (1) His Duty of Example. He is to condemn the world only by showing it something better and not by abusing it. He will best show what is wrong by doing what is right. Christianity works not by revolution but by revelation, and the Christian is to live so that the world shall confess that the Christian life is truly beautiful (good) and a sure comfort and stay in times of sorrow and anxiety, “on the day of visitation.” (2) The Duty of Submission. Though the particular form of any government is human institution,” yet the authority of government is of God, and obedience is a Christian duty to be done “for the Lord’s sake.” The laws, so far as they are wise, express the wisdom of God, and human justice, so far as it is just, is based on the justice of God. Obedience to laws lies at the foundation of society, which is itself an ordinance of God, and is the only security for order, liberty, confidence, and prosperity. (3)The Duty of Service. The Christian owns no man master upon earth, and he can say to the world, You are not my master. But he must not forget to say, Self is not my master. Otherwise he will be “using your freedom as a pretext for evil” and be like the barons who desired the pope to absolve them from their allegiance to the king that they might serve neither. The world need not suspect Christian liberty, for it is endangered only by those who, pretending to serve it, are really seeking their own ease or advancement. If the Church and God come first and men and kings second, let them be content to be second, for if self comes first they will be nowhere. “Honor the emperor,” but also “honor all men.” To a large extent we are to have the same feelings toward all men as toward the emperor on his throne. Here is the lesson of universal reverence and politeness, of having the same manner to the poor as to the rich, of considering men as men, of regarding with interest all men’s feelings, necessities, burdens, and sorrows. Passing through this foreign land as pilgrims and aliens, we have our duties toward our environment: Live as free men. Honor all men. Show special love to the brotherhood. Have a childlike fear of God. Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

A Little While

A. A Lesson for the First Disciples. (1) Christ gently warns His disciples that a separation is imminent. They had hoped for a future like the past and that Christ would be ever with them for guidance, teaching, and protection. They could not realize that the present was but for a little while. (2) Christ kindly comforts His disciples. The coming change was not loss but gain. The approaching grief was also for a little while. This second little while must be their comfort in thinking of the first, for if sorrow was soon to come, it would soon pass by. The joy of reunion would surpass the joy they had enjoyed, for it would be the joy of a clearer vision and a closer intimacy, and “your hearts will rejoice,” for this joy shall never pass away. All grief should be swallowed up and no more remembered, even as the pangs of birth are forgotten in the rapture of motherhood.

B. A Lesson for All Christians. The experience of the first disciples is a lesson for all. (1) Of Warning. Because we are aliens and exiles, “a little while” is written on the whole of our earthly life. The whole history of the world, human life at its longest, human effort at its strongest, is all for a little while. We must never fall into the error of thinking that to be permanent which can only be transient, and become so entangled in cares, riches, and pleasures as to forget that they may end. This is the lesson conveyed by the first “little while.” (2) Of Encouragement. The importance of life is not measured by its brevity. It consists both in what we leave behind us and in what we shall take with us: our example and influence, which we leave, and our character, which we shall retain. While the “little while” lasts, let us do our utmost. Our three great enemies know their time is short, but we know it too. The stress of conflict and the tension of endurance will not be forever. Reunion with Christ and those we love may be very near, must be near. How sad to say at the last: I could have held out had I known it was only for so short a time. This is the teaching of the second “little while,” and this second not only more than makes up for the sadness of the first but shall issue in that which shall be forever.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

“A little while, and you will see Me.” “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” On that night the thought of His return and the reunion with His beloved must have been uppermost in our Lord’s mind. St. Luke reports that before the institution of the Last Supper He spoke of not eating this Passover with His disciples until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. When He offered the Passover cup He said: “From now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” St. Mark and St. Matthew tell us that after the Institution He declared He would not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when He drank it new with the disciples in His Father’s Kingdom. St. Paul, too, connects the thought of the Second Coming with the Lord’s Supper: “As often as you cat this bread and drink the cup, you pro-claim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The first liturgical prayer addressed to the exalted Christ was: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Maranatha, “the Lord is coming,” became a much-used phrase. In the earliest Liturgy the celebrant invites to the Lord’s Table: “If any be holy, let him come; if he be not, let him repent. Maranatha!” If any is a baptized believer, let him come. If not, let him first become a Christian. The Lord is coming, that is, here in the Holy Sacrament and again at the end of the world. So down the ages, when the Church ate and drank in remembrance of her Lord, it always connected the coming of our Lord to His bride in the Sacrament with the coming of the Bridegroom at His final return to take her to the eternal joys. The Lord’s Supper is the “bread of pilgrims,” the sustenance on the way through this world to the Kingdom of God. The believers eat as Israel ate the Passover in Egypt. Girded and ready, they ate and hurried away. Elijah found food under the juniper tree and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. As today we do this in remembrance of Him who died and lives forevermore, we remember in particular His promise: “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice.” So the faithful pilgrims celebrate the Lord’s death. So they keep alive and strengthen the hope that is in them. So they join the saints of all ages in the prayer of unshakable hope, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha! and proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

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