Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jubilate Sermon

Jubilate John 16:16-23 "PAINFUL"

In the Name of the Father and the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On the night when He was betrayed, on the night in which He left to His disciple the durable legacy of unity with Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar, He prepared them for His departure with the promise of return and of joy. They were puzzled by it and so Our Lord explains further and with an illustration: "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."

He is speaking of the specific sorrow that the disciples will have at the crucifixion. But we do well to apply this to ourselves and to the sorrows we endure in this life while awaiting His imminent return. For the Church on this side of glory is very much like a woman in labor. For a woman in labor bears the brunt and consequence of the Law. Remember the curse pronounced upon Eve and her children: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you."

Consider the dangerous passage, for both mother and child, of birth. The mother is in great pain, out of her mind, but clearly focused upon, and caring about nothing but, getting that baby out. So also we still bear the burden of the Law. We are forgiven, like Eve in the garden clinging to the Promise of the Messiah, but we are still waiting for completion of our joy. It is still in the future. And the Law of the present brings pain and sorrow.

For the present is full of our sinning. By our sins we have burnt bridges with family and friends, employers and neighbors. With a moment's foolishness or with a moment of selfish pleasure, whether that be giving in to our rage and frustration and lashing out or whether it be a quiet nurturing of our lust, greed, and malice, we've succumbed to temptation, and hurt the ones we love the most. Our words have been spiteful, bitter, and mean. Our service to spouse and parent, coworker, and friend, has been under pressure and with great show. We have needlessly complicated our lives, caved-in, given up, ran away. We have been weak. Sometimes it is like we are two or more people at the same time. In the back of our minds we watch helplessly, ashamed of what we are doing, but not stepping out and stopping it. Repent. Turn away from your fleshly desires. Remember that this is not your home. Let the pain, the sorrow, even your trickery, focus you upon the coming joy.

For a woman in a labor, for all her trouble, is a woman uniquely focused upon the joy to come. She is not distracted by the petty things of this life. She doesn't care if the doctors, nurses, or see her hair is messed up or her shirt a little wrinkled. She is having a baby, and for a little while, that is all that matters. For a little while, she has sorrow, but then the baby is laid upon her and her sorrow is not only complete, but forgotten. It cannot compare to the wonder and joy of the life of her living little baby.

So it is also for us. This life is temporary. It seems long, but in retrospect we will see that it was brief. Our joy will be complete and no one will take it from us. Hang on. Be as focused as the mother in the delivery room. Jesus Christ did not die and rise in vain. It will end soon. And when the going gets tough, in the waning hours of darkness, in the midst of your watch, know that you will mount up on wings like eagles and soar. Soon, you will leave all this pettiness, this hatred sin, these open sewers of false morality and half-hearted lies behind. You shall be free! No more pain, no more suffering, no more shame or regret, no more past, no more sin. You will be free of yourself. This is the horizon that rises before you. God's Grace cuts the cords, which bound you to this awful, dark place. The payment for your selfishness has been paid. There is no more, but the waiting. For God loves you in Jesus Christ and will bring you to Himself. In your labor, ponder this profound and simple truth, for His own reasons, from His own sovereignty, His own goodness, without any merit or worthiness in you, He loves you. He calls you by name. The inheritance of the righteous is rightfully yours, for you are His. In Christ, you are free. You are free from worrying about yourself. You need not defend yourself, look after your rights and honors, or be insulted by the stupid behavior around you. Patience is learned in the cross, for there we see that nothing else really matters. You are free from those who hurt you, from the devil's accusations, from death. Jesus Christ Himself is your Defender, your Advocate, your Friend. He never sleeps or grows faint. Let Him worry about you. For who would dare to stand against you, the King's own chaste Bride? These labor pains are not punishment. Rather, they are the proof of His love.

And while you wait, knowing that your time is coming, that nothing else matters, receive already the foretaste of that Joyous Feast to come. Be strengthened, encouraged, and refreshed for your labor. Eat His Body and drink His Blood for sustenance. Your sins are there forgiven and the Church Militant, that is you, joins its worship to the worship of the Church Triumphant, the Church at rest in glory, which has already been delivered. Here is your strength to carry on. Here is hope for the future, peace for the tired, troubled heart. Here is unity with Christ crucified and raised ,and therein, unity with the fellow confessing pilgrims on earth, diverse strangers no more, but now brothers and sisters in Him, for faith is thicker than blood. And there is unity with the confessing cloud that even now surrounds you and prays for you. This is not an epidermal, a narcotic to numb you and drug you out of your mind. It is a promise of joy to come delivered now, that you would endure in confident Hope and Faith. So, Relax. Fear not. In a little while you will see Him and your joy will be complete, your travails forgotten. No one will take it from you.
In +Jesus' Name. Amen.