SERMON FOR THE 4th SUNDAY OF EASTER, 5-12-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
My first year as a pastor, on Mother’s Day, I didn’t say much about Mother’s Day. Well, it turned out that was a big mistake and I really heard about that one. Then, my second year in the ministry quite a bit was said about Mother’s Day. And for that also I got reamed out. To say the least, it’s a sensitive day, it’s delicate, and for a number of very good reasons. So for all the young men preparing to be pastors out there, there’s just no way around this. You’ll just have to deal with this as God gives you guidance.
For starters, I’ve never met a mother who thought she was a very good one at all. That’s just the truth, so today can be a reminder of shortcomings or bring back guilt or regret. What mother does not wage war against herself with painful self-criticism and mental chatter – with crushing feelings of inadequacies and insecurities?
Some mothers have children or grandchildren who have abandoned the holy faith, they’ve fallen away from the church. Some of us had good mothers. Some of us, truthfully, had bad mothers, who maybe even abused us or mistreated us. That does happen.
Some mothers have been abandoned or mistreated by their own children. The kids now want nothing to do with them. Some women want to be mothers but can’t for reasons only God, in his wisdom, knows. Some mothers and daughters fight and sometimes sons fall completely out with their mothers. And then, some mothers won’t even get a phone call today. So let’s not deceive ourselves. Because it’s not all Hallmark channel sentimentality today. Far from it! In fact, even under the best of circumstances, the vocation of motherhood is filled with deep trials. Joys, sublime joy, absolute joy to be sure, but tears in no short supply!
This morning’s Gospel is about such sadness and joy – there’s weeping and rejoicing. Our Gospel is actually from the evening of Maundy Thursday – from Holy Week. Jesus is speaking with his disciples in the upper room about his imminent arrest, His betrayal, and His crucifixion death. He anticipates the fear of the disciples over those three days, when doubts, fears, and sorrow will overwhelm them.
Jesus says, “Just a little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” He’s talking of course about his death. They won’t see Him when he’s hauled off in chains to Caiaphas and the governor’s headquarters. They won’t see him when His eyelids close in death, His body wrapped in a linen shroud and laid in the earth. Their hopes will be dashed. “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me.”
Here our Lord speaks of His death and resurrection. They will not see Him when their Lord and master is buried in a dark tomb. How sad, how troubled, they will be then. But again, a little while, and they will see Him. They will see Him again, just as He said, raised up from the grave, in that very same upper room. They will see Him, alive, bearing those victorious scars, those emblems and signs of victory over sin, death, and hell. And then, they will rejoice. But not now, not immediately.
A little while and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me. He’s comforting His disciples - strengthening His disciples to endure the momentary affliction between Good Friday and the day of His resurrection. But He is also giving a catechesis for them and instruction for us as well about the hardship we all endure between Christ’s ascension and our falling asleep in Christ – and the consummation of all things – when our blessed Lord returns.
St. Peter in our epistle this morning reminds us that we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world, looking ahead to a destination yet to come. We are on a journey. At times a very difficult journey, as we remember that friendship with this world and friendship with its fallen ways is enmity with God.
So how interesting that today, on Mother’s Day, our Lord likens our sufferings and momentary tribulation to childbirth. Jesus said: “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.”
What comforting and beautiful words we have from Jesus, on Mother’s Day. He holds the example of a woman before us in labor with a child – the sweat, and the tears, and the pain of it all. But what is that in comparison with the sublime joy of a child now sleeping on her breast. Nothing! She no longer remembers the anguish, the pain, it’s a distant memory, eclipsed by the joy that now rests on her breast.
So shall it be also when God delivers us from every evil of body and soul, possessions, and reputations, and finally when our last hour comes gives us a blessed end graciously takes us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.
But above all, today, our readings are something of a reminder that we’re not with God in heaven yet. We don’t live all of life on Easter morning, with trumpets and lilies, and Easter breakfast. We still have to come back down from and pick up our cross and follow Him. There’s work to do. We’re still in labor. We’re still working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Today we remember that we are a journey. St. Peter reminds us this morning in our Epistle that we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world, looking ahead to a destination yet to come. And though we are now children of God, the fullness of what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
So we are those who wait patiently on the Lord, for “the Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Jesus tells us that the wait is just a little while. “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Though you must experience sorrow for a time, though you must live as strangers in a world that is at enmity with Christ, yet your sorrow will be turned to joy when He returns. Isaiah preaches to us this morning: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Maybe the best thing that could be said on Mother’s Day is that God has one. God too has a mother. A mother who bore him, nursed him, and rocked him to sleep.
She was also there at the cross when He died. A sword pierced her soul. How painful! But how good it was for all of us! For there He was taking away our sins. There He was making all things new. There He was securing our eternal joy and fellowship with angels - all through the blood of the cross. Blood that bespeaks you righteous and holy! Forgiving blood, that declares that in Christ, you actually are the absolutely perfect mother. That in Christ, you are an obedient son. That in Christ you are the perfect daughter, with whom your father in heaven beams with delight and divine approval.
This makes all your difficult little whiles well worth it, knowing that, with Jesus, you will stand up in the resurrection with the whole family of God. The little while of weeping will be replaced with an eternity of rejoicing in the presence of Christ - beholding the beatific vision of Him who has always loved you. You will see Him and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.