Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Healing for the troubled heart. . .

Sermon for Easter 5A, preached on Sunday, May 18, 2014.

    When Jesus addresses troubled heart, He addresses a malady that has touched every one of us at some point or another.  Though some might tempt us to believe otherwise, Christians are NOT immune from a troubled heart.  In fact, we might be even more susceptible since Satan works hardest on those who belong to the Lord, seeking to divide them from their hope and confidence and peace in Christ.  We suffer the same troubles as others but not like everyone.
    There are times in the ups and downs of this mortal life that our hearts are weighed down so low that we enjoy nothing, there is no peace left within our empty hearts.  We can become like robots who go through the motions while our hearts remain tied in knots by doubts, fears, sorrows, and struggles.  Like King David we ask the Lord not only for clean hearts, but to restore the joy of our salvation to what often become joyless lives of sorrow and pain.
    The disciples were troubled as well.  The Gospel for today sits in the midst of the Upper Room.  Jesus has warned His disciples that He will be betrayed, suffer, and die on the cross.  Now those words are minutes away from being acted out and Judas comes to betray Jesus to the destiny of the cross He was born for.  Like anyone, they feared that everything was coming to an end.  If Jesus suffers and dies, what will happen to them?  If Jesus is gone, what of their future?  You bet they were troubled.
    They were caught not merely in their concern for Jesus but for themselves.  They did not know if there could be a tomorrow after Jesus is gone and they were not even sure they wanted there to be a tomorrow if Jesus were not in it.  Does that sound familiar?  It does to me.  Do you ever wonder if there will be a tomorrow or if you even want there to be one?
    Notice that Jesus does not ignore those fears or dismiss them but confronts them.  He says "Believe in Me... Trust in Me..."  Part of us is not sure that belief or trust is enough to rescue us from our fears, doubts, anxieties, uncertainties, and despair.  But Jesus is not offering a band aid.  He does not placate our fears with simple words.  His Word is His promise, it is a means of grace, and it bestows exactly what it says.
    You have a future.  I go to prepare a place for you... I will come that you may be where I am...  In the moments before His death, Jesus promises the disciples a future that transcends death.  It is not in spite of but BECAUSE Jesus suffers and dies and rises again, you have a future.  Jesus passion, death, and resurrection are not about the past and the sins that must be atoned but also provide to us and to all believers a real and honest future.  The ONLY reason you have a future is because He dies to pay your debt to sin and rises to bestow upon you new and eternal life.
    Jesus can be trusted precisely because His death and resurrection prove He is trustworthy.  Jesus predicted this cross and told His disciples over and over against what was to come.  His death and resurrection does not negate that Word but vindicates our Lord.  His Word is truth and His truth endures forever.  From the perspective of the world, faith is always a risk but from the perspective of the cross and empty tomb it is that which is most sure and certain of all.
    He has gone to prepare an eternal place for us.  We will be with Him where He has gone and we will be with Him in the eternity that He has promised.  This life is not the main act and heaven the encore.  This life is the prelude for the main life that is to come.  Jesus will be with us by the means of grace, the Word and Sacraments, now and He will share His glory with us forever in heaven.  That is the promise the cross seals for us.
    Sadly there are those who have turned Christianity on end and made it chiefly about the life we have now.  No matter how long, this life is always too short.  If for this life only we have hope, we are most to be pitied.  Our vain pursuit of happiness to stave off death is only the proof of how far and deep the fall has taken us from the Lord.  I know that happiness cannot be sustained in this mortal life and I am not sure it should even be a goal or priority.  What need have we of heaven if we have our best life now?  No, this life is but prelude, a short first act if you will, before the main life that is to come.
    Like Thomas we are often captive to our doubts and fears; we wonder "But how and when and where, Lord?"  Jesus dismisses the idea that we need a crystal ball to know the future or sign and explanations to prove anything.  Faith is the key.  Like Philip, we want a sign, we want some proof other than the cross and resurrection.  To the Thomases and Philips among us, Jesus puts it bluntly: I am the sign.  He does not show us the way.  He is the way.  He does not reveal the truth.  He is the truth.  He does not give us the life.  He is the life.  If we have Jesus, we have all things.  That is why the Spirit is key – He brings Jesus to us so that we may hear and hearing may belief and believing may live the forever life God has given us already now but not yet fully.  The Spirit keeps us in faith as well.
    Troubled hearts are not resolved by explanations or signs or band aids or an improvement in daily life...  Troubled hearts can be answered only by faith, only by trust.  In the midst of our despair, in the midst of our worst fears, Christ is there.  His cross shines forth the light of hope in our world too full of disappointment and pain.  His promise endures forever.  We may not find the elusive dream of continuous happiness but we know contentment and peace.  Just as we sang: "I am content.  My Jesus liveth still."  This is not a pious platitude.  This is no false dream.  This is what is most true and real.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the bestower of  real, honest peace.  Amen.

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