“It’ll Only Be A Little While” / Jubilate 2017 / John 16:16-23Pr. Christopher Gillespie
May 07, 2017
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
There’s no doubt today’s Gospel reading is the most repetitive of the church year. “A little while… a little while… a little while.” This is not some translation error or the Evangelist seeking to annoy you, these are the words of Jesus given for your comfort. It is given get your attention and emphasize the fundamental truth of your Christian life. You live a life that includes weeping and lament, sorrow and grief. But it is but for “a little while.” Your weeping will be turned to tears of joy, your laments to praise and thanksgiving, your sorrow into delightful relief, and grief into rejoicing.
Our lives are full of pain, misery, terror, grief, shame, suffering, heartache. No one can escape this reality. That doesn’t stop us from trying. We seek escape and we’ll resort to just about anything to avoid it. We’ve swallowed the lie that life can be pain-free, happy, healthy, and care-free. That’s why a staggering number of our neighbors and even church members are addicted to prescription pain killers. Others resort to alcohol to drown their misery. Some seek the pleasures of life to ignore the reality, filling their bellies, titillating their senses, or satisfying their lusts.
But the pain always comes back. The grief never goes away. The guilt lingers. The shame sticks to you like tar and feathers. That’s one truth given today: we live in the in-between time… the time between our Lord’s ascension and His promised return. We live in the in-between of life, death, and resurrection. We live in-between the hopeful promise and the realization of that hope face-to-face.
When someone says to you after the death of the loved one, “You’ll get over it,” they’re lying. When someone says when you are suffering physically, “You’ll learn to live with it,” they’re lying again. When someone says to you about your sin, “You need to find a way to forgive yourself,” again they’re lying. These so-called coping mechanisms do nothing good and actually only make everything worse. You don’t get over death. You can’t ignore or forget the pain. You cannot forgive yourself, absolve the guilt, or cleanse the shame.
This is reality. Christians are told to call a thing what it is. We don’t sidestep, ignore, dance around, or sugar coat reality. We meet it head-on, confessing the brutal reality of this mortal, sinful life. And its not because we preachers like afflicting your conscience. It is not because Christians are masochists who joy in pain. It is because apart from calling a thus life what it is, we cannot know our great need and seek help where it is found.
Platitudes won’t do. Fake words of comfort won’t work. Pleasure or pills won’t end it. Self-help will fail. If we are sick, then we need a healer. If we are in sorrow, then we need a joy-bringer. If we are in pain, then we need a comforter. If we are burdened by sin, then we need a forgiver.
The existence of this “little while” is not intended by God to drive us to despair, hopelessness, misery, or unbelief. The life of the flesh, of bearing the cross, drives us to our savior, healer, joy-bringer, comforter, and forgiver. That’s the point! We need the crucified Christ Jesus. We need the Jesus who gave His life and shed His blood on Calvary for us. We need the Jesus promises to come again with a joy that never ends and that no one can take from us. Nothing and no one else will do, only Jesus, His love, His hope, His patience, His forgiveness will satisfy the deepest need of this mortal life.
That’s the truth. That’s what’s really real. It doesn’t ignore your pain. It doesn’t sidestep your struggles. It doesn’t avoid your misery. It’s no pat on the back in the midst of grief. That wouldn’t be your Jesus. Instead, your Christ entered into this life, suffered your great pain, struggled against your sin and doubt, grieved with you over death. He knows exactly how you feel, what you’re experiencing, and where you’ve gone wrong. Your Savior Jesus wept for you, His friends, lamented your unbelief, suffered your rejection, and for it all, died your death.
In reality, we are not from abandoned or forgotten. Jesus has not left you alone. His compassions never fail. His faithfulness is never ending. Yes, today you have sorrow, grief, pain, shame, loss, difficulty, burdens, doubts, worries, and more. Let’s not lie but call it what it is. Each of us bearing our cross for the sake of faith. No need to lie about it, to speak where God has not, to seek fleeting relief where God hasn’t promised it. Instead, wait quietly. Look to Christ. Hope in Him. Receive Him where He has promised to be. Trust in who you are in Christ, a child of God, and hope in what God has promised, the salvation of the Lord.
In the meantime, the “little while,” hear this: His Spirit dwells in your by your Baptism into Christ. You are now children of God, the beloved of the Lord, no matter what your experience or feelings might tell you. The Holy Spirit cleanses your conscience burdened by sin. The Spirit speaks through the Word in preaching and teaching to overcome the lies you’ve been told and the lies you tell yourself. The Spirit comes to bless the bread and wine with the Word of Christ, saying, “This is my body given for you… this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sin!” The Spirit extends His blessing, promising you that God himself is with you to bless you, sustain you, and keep you until your dying breath.
No more lies: this life is marked by the cross with all its suffering, sorrow, and gruesome death. But we believe Christ is coming with His resurrection of the body and life everlasting. So, let us wait quietly and watch with hope for what we know is to come, wait for but “a little while.” AMEN.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church