Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Third Sunday after Easter (Jubilate) + April 22, 2018
Text: John 16:16-22
Among the many promises of God, we have our favorites:
- “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
- “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
- “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26)
But there’s one more the Lord makes in today’s Gospel, which probably won’t make anyone’s list of favorites: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” This is a promise we can count on being true today: Truly, truly, I say to you; Amen. Amen. You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. He does not say, if your faith is weak, you will weep. Nor does He say, if you go astray, you will lament. It’s true for every believer. If you follow Jesus, you will weep and lament. We should not be surprised when this life causes us grief and sorrow. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
We don’t have to like it. We don’t need deny it and pretend it’s not that bad. The hurt is real when vows are broken. It really is a dreadful violation when your home is robbed. It’s painful to see like Walther League or a church choir, laid aside forgotten. You can’t deny that it cuts deep when you see your friends and peers in the obituaries. It’s not a figment of your imagination, and it does not mean your faith isn’t strong enough. Don’t be ashamed to cry. Don’t put on a good face and hide it from other people here when they ask you how you’re doing. If anyone gives you flack, tell them Jesus told you it was ok: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament.”
But Easter comes after Good Friday: “Your sorrow will turn into joy.” That’s the ultimate end of the promise, because Christ Himself has been to the grave. Sin unleashed its fury on Him. For three long days the grave did its worst, until by God its strength was dispersed. Because God died for us, the sorrows of all who believe in Him will turn to joy.
Honestly, though, it can seems like shallow comfort in the midst of it. That’s what makes the analogy Jesus gives so appropriate: “21When 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.” (John 16:21) The suffering and anguish we face is like that of a woman in the throes of labor. The pain seems to go from worse to worse. She just wants it to be over. Isn’t there any easier way? Any platitudes you try to offer her will be repaid with a punch to the gut: “In the end it will all be worth it!” “It could be worse.” “I know how you feel.” The only thing that will really help is when the baby is delivered. Then she can rest. Then the joy can truly be appreciated.
The time of joy is still on the horizon. We are in the midst of labor pains, sorrow, weeping, and lamenting. But the risen Christ is our guarantee that we will have joy that will not come to an end, which no one will be able to take from us.
Today, the world celebrates Earth Day with many festivities that promote conservation and sustainability. While this world is full of beauty and it is the only place we have to live, it’s also the place of our lament, the old, broken creation. Christians have something greater to rejoice in.
Today (as every Sunday), we celebrate Resurrection Day, the hope of the new creation already begun when Jesus rose from the dead. Even while we weep and lament in the old creation, we yet have a joy which no one is able to take from us—not the sadness of life, not the devil who lures us into despair and unbelief, not even the grave itself.
Really, it’s hard to imagine what that will be like now, yet we follow our Lord. He was taken away from us for a little while as He lay dead and buried, but He arose on the Third Day (just as He said He would, and just as the Scriptures foretold). All who belong to Him will likewise follow Him through the sorrow, the weeping, the dying…and the rising! He gives us the strength to bear our labors until He gives us rest in death and ultimately resurrected life.
In that Day, the words of Psalm 66 which we prayed at the beginning of the service will be entirely fulfilled: “Shout for joy to God, all the earth. Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!” (Ps. 66:1-2) Alleluia! Praise the Lord. Amen.
 Christ is Arisen! Alleluia! (LSB 466, st. 2)