Sermon for Jubilate

Here is yesterday’s sermon, if you couldn’t make it to church. If you could make it, but didn’t we’ll be meeting again this next Sunday at 8, 11:30, & 5. There is no better use of your time than hearing and learning God’s Word in His Holy Church.

He is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed!) Alleluia.

Easter continues. We turn our focus today. We were looking at the Resurrection itself : the joy now that death is done, the forgiveness of sins given through Jesus death and resurrection, the rest that is ours in Jesus Christ because of his work, and our gracious God who gives that Word to us through the Church. Now we begin to look ahead. Ascension Day and Pentecost are both coming up soon. The Gospel readings for the next few week are from Saint John’s Gospel. Jesus predicting his coming death and resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit after he ascends into heaven. Today, Jesus comforts the disciples. He does not want them to be overcome when he goes to his death. He will be taken from them for a little while, and this will be a great grief to them. God caused these words of Jesus to be recorded because He wants to comfort us as well, because we are in the in-between time. He has ascended, but has not yet returned. We have the promise of the resurrection, the assurance of eternal life, but do not have the fullness of that joy yet. Death has been overcome, it’s power destroyed. But we still live in this corrupted world of sin and death. We still struggle.

And so we have the encouraging words of Saint Peter to go along with our Lord’s word today. Peter encourages us to godly living. But there is a seeming contradiction that we need to deal with if we are to properly understand the Epistle.

Peter instructs us to be subject to the emperor and governors as God’s servants sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. That is what the governing authorities are given by God to do. And in Peter’s day those governors and emperors were sometimes good and led well. But they were often wicked and foolish men. There behavior was so outrageous that today there are debates about whether they had a degenerative disease of the mind, or whether they perhaps suffered from lead poisoning. It would help to explain how they made the foolish decisions they did. And yet those governing authorities – held up to scorn all these centuries later – are the ones Peter instructs the church to be subject to, regardless of how terrible their rule was.

And then, in the next sentence Peter tells the church “Live as men who are free.” This seems to be the opposite of the previous sentence. Be subject, but live as free. And yet the two go perfectly together if we look at all Peter says. First, we do not use our freedom under the Gospel – forgiveness, resurrection, and so on – as an excuse or cover for doing wicked things. Instead we live according to the Spirit. As Paul instructs, the fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Against such things as these there is no law. We can live according to the pattern of Spirit filled living regardless of the wisdom and goodness – o the lack of it  – in our rulers. When we live according to the pattern of the Spirit, we live as those truly free. Those who reject the work of the Spirit, who choose to live according to pattern of this world, living only for this world, live according to the works of the law. They are under bondage to sin and death. We do not live under bondage to the law and to our sin, but live according to the Spirit given to us through Baptism, give through the preaching of the Word, and given through the Holy Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood. Through God’s appointed means, we live a new life. And that life is not a life bound to the things of this world. It is beyond this world.

Our Lord places us in this world. In a specific time and place, in a specific station in life. It is an imperfect world. God’s good creation was messed up by sin – by our sin. It is now a world of sin and corruption, but a world still ordered by God. And part of that order is earthly authorities that God has appointed. We are subject to them according to the things of this world. We subject ourselves to them, we obey and respect them, and most importantly, we pray for those earthly authorities, on Sundays especially as part of the Divine Service, but also at other times. Even though we live under them, we know that this world is not all there is. The things of this world are temporary, they are passing away. So we aren’t especially bothered by one or another ruler. We pray for them, we are obedient as far as we are able, we honor them. But they have no say over the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ. They can not force us to live according to the bondage of the law again. And so, living by the Spirit, we are truly free, even as we are subject in this world to them.

This is what Jesus is talking about in his Little While speech. John records the phrase “A Little While” seven times in 4 verses. Rhetorically, it’s a device called repetition. It’s repeated to draw attention to it. John wants you to ask “What is this little while?” And so he repeats it over and over. Even if you aren’t paying close attention, you are pulled into it until you say, “What DOES that mean?” And then Jesus answers – it is his going away into death and then his coming back in the resurrection. That is the Little While. And it has been accomplished. The joy of resurrection has replaced the grief at the death of our Lord. And the joy given in Jesus resurrection can not be taken from us by anyone in this world. But the church now lives in another little while – the little while between when Jesus ascended and when he returns. And often the world rejoices as we weep. Jesus isn’t around locally. No miracles, no adoring crowds follow him from town to town. The world thinks it has managed to get rid of that Jesus fellow. And the world reasons, if we could just convince his followers to abandon him, the world would enter a joyful new age of prosperity and peace. Ours is not the first age to try and get rid of the church and the preaching of the Gospel. It was tried in Jesus day by the leaders. The Romans tried it repeatedly – persecuting the church, trying to return everyone to the old pagan Roman gods, and away from this new dangerous superstition of the Christians. During the Reformation the pressure on Luther to recant and turn away from God’s word was tremendous.

The Enlightenment believed the church would be best done away with. Old superstitions were left behind by the advent of science. And yet 500 years on, it is science that is being shown as a fraud, and the church remains, we continue to speak the truth. The members of Christ’s church continue living lives freed from the chains of this world and the bondage of sin. We have the Gospel, the good news of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus sake, given freely through the Word and Sacraments, and we receive and hold onto the promise by faith. And Jesus says of this new joy in the Spirit, “No one will take it from you.” The joy of the resurrection is ours regardless of what happens around us. The disciples endured the first – the worst little while. The little while between the crucifixion and resurrection. Their faith was shaken. But then their joy was unstoppable in Jesus and the joy of resurrection. Now we live in another little while. The Little while between ascension and return. And it is not easy. Satan keeps trying to wear us down, to destroy our faith little by little. And yet the promise of salvation remains. Even when we are beaten down, we are not defeated if we continue to cling to our Lord Jesus Christ and the promise of his resurrection.

That is what Isaiah prophesied. Even youths grow faint and weary and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faith. This is the promise of strength given to those who live by the Spirit. No matter how wearying the world is, the Lord will give strength to us to endure. The blessing at the end of the Lord’s Supper is part of this promise, “The true body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ Strengthen and Preserve you steadfast in the true faith, unto life everlasting.” The Lord knew this world was hard – he even prepares the disciples for that this week – and we will hear more about it in the coming weeks as we move closer to the coming of the Holy Spirit, the comforter. But the promise today from Jesus is this: the pain may be intense, but it is short. And once it has passed, the pain is no longer remembered, but instead is replaced with joy and what has come.

We see the Disciples in their anguish at Jesus death fulfilling Jesus prophecy, and their struggle is an example to us as we sometimes can not see the light at the end of the tunnel. We struggle to remember the promise of the Lord, we struggle to remember his goodness. But he is good to us, caring for our every physical need in this world, food, clothing, house, home, so on, filling us with his spirit and feeding us with himself in the Supper so that we would be fed and nourished, so that we would be kept in the faith. That is why he gives his church to the world, so that we would have a place and time to go and hear the Word and promise of God, to be fed with the food from the tree of life. So that we would not be sheep without a shepherd, as we heard last week, but would be safely cared for by our Lord Jesus Christ, who feeds us with his Holy Word, who gives his body and blood to strengthen us as the medicine of immortality, and who renews our strength.

Thanks be to our Risen Lord Jesus Christ for his name mercies. In His Holy Name. Amen.

He is Risen!

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