Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
It will never happen here
in America…that’s what was said prior to 9/11, and since then
has been proven again and again to be wrong, sadly. It does happen here
in America. But it’s not just since 9/11, it has happened here in America
at many other times where things in this world it seemed, how could
this be, and how could this possibly have taken place, or how could
it have taken place in my life?
Sadly, what you and I confess
to be true as Christians, what we believe, teach, and confess from the
Scriptures and from that which defines them, the Book of Concord about
what we believe to be true in regard to those Scriptures, is at great
variance with the rest of this world. And sadly it is at variance with
many other Christians in this nation.
So to say that it will never
happen is to deny what God has already revealed to us in His holy Word.
We’re one of the last ones that hold and affirm that God has given the
responsibility for pastors to be adult males. Most of the denominations
don’t. We’re also one of the few that hold that life begins at conception,
and should be revered as such, but we live in a nation that condones
it and allows it to continue…the death of young Americans.
We affirm and believe that
infants are born sinful and are in need of the grace God gives us in baptism,
and yet many churches though they use it and practice it, do not see
it to be giving such forgiveness of sins and impartation of the Holy
Spirit. We cling to the fact that this world was made in six 24-hour
days as Scripture declares, and yet there is a quagmire of multitudinous
versions of how this world came about.
So yes, it does happen here,
and it does happen to us. Now having said that, how then do we respond
to such a variance with the rest of the world? On one hand, we could
become radical, which is typically what people respond to when being
attacked, marginalized, and viewed as narrow minded and myopic. So we
can pick up things and try to change things in this world and for this
time to bring about our own little earthly kingdom here and now. The
church has never experienced that for very long.
It has gone through times when
it was the agreed upon or accepted point of view and it has gone through
many centuries and still is going through, at various parts of the world,
including our beloved nation, as being myopic, close minded.
The other extreme from that
is to completely close down, shut off, ignore, and put our head in the
sand. There have been many sects that have done that. Amish. Monks in
a monastery. As if this variance with which we have with the world is
not a part of what we’re going to be a part of, we remove ourselves,
which leaves you and me right here in the middle. How then do we deal
The desire is to completely
try to overcome it with positive optimism. Positive optimism works for
a time until you get bit, and you can see the wounds, and feel the
pain of being at variance with this world in which we live, and this
nation of which we call home. Most of the time when we are surprised,
we’re not listening to what God has already proclaimed and revealed
to us in His holy Word.
This morning in the gospel
reading, He reminds the apostles on the very night of His betrayal,
on the very night of Him instituting the great gift of victory, the
Lord’s Supper, He reveals to His disciples, His apostles primarily that
this is the way of life for them, and for the future of all who have
been baptized into Christ. This is our life in this world, which is
at great variance to us and our point of view from Scripture.
That’s why He says, “I
still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth,
for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He
will speak. And he will declare to you the things that are to come.
The Spirit has come, and He
has declared to you for He dwells within you, the things that are to
come. These are the things that are to come that Jesus mentioned to
His beloved apostles that the world will continue to grow in its animosity
toward us, and toward our point of view of reality, and will view this
point of view of which we believe, our faith, as being completely inapplicable
to this world.
So why should we be surprised
when encountering such vehemence against us because there is still a
part of us that wants to see victory here and now, and see it in a big
way, almost so that we can say, “See, I told you so,” because
it is no fun being the butt of ridicule and scorn. That’s why Jesus
said very clearly, “You will weep and lament, but the world will
rejoice. You will be sorrowful.” He has told us that. For us to
expect anything else is to truly be our head in the sand in ignoring
what God has said.
But in the same way He has revealed
this to us, has He also revealed to us the joy that is ours and there
awaits us, and that is sure and is certain that is ours. That is how
the apostles faced all of their martyrdoms. That is how the disciples
faced the death that waited for them as they lived and would not die
without confessing Christ. It wasn’t as if they came upon some great
gift of self-courage. They relied upon the faith God had given them. The
Spirit God had given them, made them stand firm by those promises.
The problem is we’re tempted
to want the joy now. And that is a problem, but we can learn a lot from
you mothers. For you mothers had to endure nine months of a lot of pain
and sorrow before you held in your arms the result of those nine months,
your son or your daughter. Then there is joy. Isn’t it interesting because
when women get together, they talk about the war stories of their pregnancies,
of how their back was painful and how it was. They love to even chide
their kids, “Boy, I tell you, you were the most difficult thing
to carry, and you kicked right up here in my ribs!”
Such a beautiful example that
our Lord uses the same one in the gospel reading. When a woman is giving
birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered
the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being
has been born into the world. 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.
God be praised for you mothers,
for we your sons and daughters look at you and say, “Thank you
for enduring those nine months of sorrow and trial and tribulation to
give birth to us, and to bring us into this world.” We need to
learn a great lesson from that in that the same way, we will also endure
this time, this beginning and end, this determinant amount of time of
sorrow, but we will hold in our arms the gift of our salvation. We will
have joy. It will not be taken from us. That’s why we gather here. That’s
why you are here today to be reminded of such great truths.
You sang it with great gusto
with the choir backing you up these very words of what we’re about here
to be a partaker of. This is the feast of the victory for our God. Worthy
is Christ the Lamb who was slain, whose blood has set us free to be
people of God. For the lamb who was slain has begun His reign, hallelujah
this is the feast of victory for our God, your victory and mine. It
doesn’t look like it. It doesn’t always feel like it, but it is your
sure and certain promise that joy awaits you, and it will not be taken
from you regardless of the sorrow and the mocking of this world.
And the things that surprise you
and cause your head to spin, do not ponder and dwell on those things,
for only your own flesh and only Satan and this world draws us to dwell
upon such things. Dwell rather at the victory that is yours and mine.
Dwell rather upon the joy that is ours though we do not have it in its
fullness yet. That is your and my hope that is sure and certain, and
as Christ our Lord said, “No one will take it from you.”
The same apostle who wrote
this beautiful gospel reading is the same one who wrote the book of
Revelation, whose words are our confidence. Behold the dwelling place
of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be His people.
God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every
tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there
be mourning or crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Behold, I make all things new. This is our hope and our victory. This
is our joy in the midst of everything in this world telling us we’re
wrong. Dwell upon those good things and be faithful. Be steadfast and
immovable upon those sure and certain hopes for everything is ours in
Christ. Rejoice; it is complete. In His name, Amen.
The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to
life everlasting, Amen.