For those who couldn’t make it to church today, here is today’s sermon. It’s shorter than usual because I needed to fit it in a 30 minute service. All seven times I preached it, I kept thinking, “I could expand this point…” or “I should elaborate here…” or “More explanation about this would be great…” but I had to stick to the text. So this is what was heard at the Tri-point.
Today is Rejoice Sunday. The opening Psalm says “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her all you who love her!..”
This is the first time in Lent there is no talk of demons. Jesus feeds the people. A wonderful scene for spring – people on the hillside, sitting on the grass, having a meal provided by Jesus.
Today is beautiful weather wise. But 5000 can’t happen. Broken up into groups of 10 or fewer. Lent this year is stealing all sorts of things from us. And we’re praying they are restored by Easter. Plans are day to day. In some places they found out late yesterday that church had to be cancelled. No Rejoice Sunday for them. We may be on forced break for a while after this ourselves.
Like the last piece of beloved but hard-to make desert – you savor every bit, because you don’t know when it will come again. Last Sunday was fairly normal. Today we barely meet at all.
And yet the Apostle says “Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I say Rejoice!” We have the promise of the resurrection: not even death can take that away from us. We are promised that we will be raised in Christ to a new life. He has overcome the world. He has beaten death as well. So what threat can be held against us?
That’s why Paul also says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
When we talk about the fruits of Christ’s death, this is what we’re talking about. Hope that does not disappoint. That’s why Jesus says when you fast wash your face, put on a cheerful countenance. Because when Satan attacks, when death comes calling, we’re like the hero in the movie, playing that final game for all the marbles. We know something the villain doesn’t know. We know we’ve already won. And so on this Rejoice Sunday, when things are far from how we want them –we rejoice anyway. Let the world count us fools, so long as we are fools for Christ.
This past week officials struggled to keep up – rules changed hourly. Who knows what this next week may bring. We may be forced into our homes for a while. We may be forced away from here – where Christ feeds us with his flesh in His Holy Supper. Maybe next week we’ll be back. Maybe next week we’ll be learning even more what our Lord means when he says “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And if we can not come, we have the comfort and promise of Jesus who has forgiven our sins, and feeds us with His Holy Word of life.
If there is a forced fast from gathering to receive the gifts of Christ, then we will bear the cross our Lord send us. We will continue our prayers in our homes. We will continue to read scripture, to meditate on it. And the more we are kept apart, the more our eyes will narrow on the cross. And then we will come again to celebrate with joy the resurrection of our Lord.
The cross we carry is not our cross – it is the cross that Jesus carries for you. As he says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The burden that he bears is all of your sins. It is not light. It will crush him on the cross. But it is light because he has triumphed over sin. Your sin is taken away – it is swallowed up in his death and is no more.
Jesus feeds 5000. Normally, the theme is do not worry, because God provides for us. Everything is closed except the grocery store, which there’s no point in going to because they are probably out of whatever you need. And yet our Lord still provides. Not always the way we want. But according to his mercy, which he proved beyond all doubt when he sent Jesus to die for us on the cross. Why would Jesus die if the plan was to abandon us afterwards? He could have just skipped the dying part, and moved right to abandoning. No chance he abandons us now.
That is why, deep in the middle of Lent, when things are at their darkest, we heard from the prophet Isaiah, who encouraged us with these words:
Sing for joy O heavens, and exult O earth! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.
Grant this Lord unto us all. Come quickly Lord Jesus.