SERMON FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 4-22-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me. 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.
A little while. Our Gospel text for this morning has this little phrase said 7 times both by Christ and his disciples. A little while. Hear the words of Jesus. 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.
“It will be just a little while honey.” Those were the words I spoke to my wife while she delivered the children that God gave us. In pain and in agony, and sweating, my wife was having a child. Every time she has looked to me for help and comfort. What help can I give? Maybe call the midwife, help change bedding, perhaps run and get some water or ice. Hold her hand, stroke her head. It will just be a little while. A little while honey. In a sense it’s kind of a goofy thing to say especially if you’re in labor for 10, 11, 12 hours or more. Because clearly it’s not just a little while, it’s a long time to be in discomfort and pain – that’s why it’s called labor. But in another sense, it actually is a little while. In the sense of the reward, of this gift of a child, a gift from heaven above.
When a mother holds her child on her chest for the very first time, she has the most sublime joy. The smell of an infant child. She has already forgotten her pain, because she is so overwhelmed with gladness. The time of labor is short in comparison with the joys that a baby brings.
The labor was just a little while. An insignificant pain - a small inconvenience in comparison with the joy that a human being has been born – awaiting holy baptism and new birth from above.
When it comes to our lives in Christ – when it comes to our salvation it’s a lot like childbirth. Indeed St. Paul himself writes in Romans “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Perhaps that’s why Jesus keeps saying “just a little while.” Just a little while and your sorrow will turn to joy. Just a little while and you will see me no longer. Just a little while and you will see me again. To be sure, Jesus is telling his disciples that in just a little while, they will not see him. He will be arrested in the middle of the night and plunged into Pilate’s dark dungeon. They will not see their Savior. There the jailers will bind him in chains and press a crown of thorns into his head. He will be dressed in a purple robe to humiliate him. The disciples in unbelief will deny him and scatter and flee. They will not see him. Three days in a tomb, not to be seen, wrapped in a shroud, covered by a boulder. Just a little while and you will see me again. He tells his unbelieving disciples.
Your life is filled with a thousand little whiles. Perhaps your labor is great. Perhaps your finances are in ruins. Maybe you’re at wits end with aging parents, rebellious children, or perhaps your own health is deteriorating. Jesus says, ‘just a little while.’ And like a husband talking to his bride, he means to comfort you. He holds your hand. But he does you one much better, because he labors for you. Come unto me all you 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.
It is Jesus who bears your burdens and carries your sorrow. All the way to the cross. And after his agony and laboring for your soul he cried out in victory “it is finished.” For He dealt with your sin, carried your depression, covered your shame, and destroyed your death by his dying. He was laid in a tomb. And He did not stay there. But rose. A little while and you will see me again.
And this morning we see him again as he wants to be seen - In His resurrected flesh – the living God – the Lord of life. Risen and fresh from the grave, He is here among us to turn your sorrow into joy. All of your little whiles are just like childbirth. They will soon end. This dark dreary winter which you thought would never end has already been shown its defeat by today’s risen Son. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. But your present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to you.
This means that all of our little whiles of turmoil and trouble are actually simply birth pains of a new creation – a rebirth of heaven and earth. Your salvation is working itself out – and this never works how you expect it to and certainly not how you want it to. But it does work. You are being treated harshly so that you will stop trusting in yourself and acting as if you could go it all alone without God.
Even amid discomfort and great trouble, he cares for you, even now. He wounds so that he can comfort you, he kills so that he can make you alive. He works all and all – life and death. What does this mean? It means you can lift up your chin – and gladly bear your cross. Your little whiles, your struggles, yours losses, and disappointments are badges of honor in the kingdom of God. Your life is good and holy. You are redeemed and have a life worth living. Your labor is not in vain.
We should consider it a blessing to suffer loss that we should gain Christ. You are being conformed to the image of his Son and being prepared so that you can die faithfully and inherit the kingdom of heaven. Christ redeems the world through a cross and through the blessed cross we all must go.
Your little whiles are worth it. For soon the long winter of this life will give way to eternal spring – and this veil of tears will be lifted. No one will take your joy from you. Jesus said, You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice. Even now let your sorrow be turned to joy as he feeds you gifts from heaven from his altar – food and drink the forgives, strengthens, and gladdens the heart. And he tells you it will be just a little while and everything will be ok. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For the Bride of Christ, His Holy Church, that she would shout for joy to God and sing the glory of His name in response to the salvation she has in the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus, her Bridegroom, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those called and ordained to be stewards of the mysteries of God, that they would be diligent in their studies, faithful in their prayers, steadfast in their faith and compassionate toward the children of God they serve, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the saints of Luther Memorial Chapel here in Shorewood, that they would love their brothers and sisters in Christ, bear one another’s burdens, share in one another’s joys, generously support the ministry and mission done among them, and live as servants of God, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our children and young people, that they would be brought up in Christian homes, receive a godly and Christian education, and that their care and nurturing would grow into fruitful maturity, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our persecuted brethren around the globe, that they would be given strength to endure suffering with patience and trust, knowing that the sorrows and anguish they experience now will give way to eternal joy, which no one will be able to take from them, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the sick and hospitalized, those with chronic pain and illnesses, those about to undergo surgery or recovering from the same, and for all those who have requested our prayers, especially Janice, the friend of Karolina Hagedorn, that Janice would be comforted in her trouble, and fix her eyes on Christ her redeemer, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who partake of the Holy Supper of Christ’s body and blood this day, that they receive the blessed Sacrament in repentance and faith and unto life everlasting, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who have received the sacrament of holy baptism, especially Lena Ruth, that she would be blessed continually by God’s Word and Spirit, confess her Savior, and finally share with all Your saints the joys of eternal life. let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.