Friday, April 15, 2016

A little while. . .

Sermon for Jubilate Sunday...

A little while, says Jesus.  But surely He lies.  It never seems like a little while - not when doubt, fear, pain, or sorrow is involved.  It did not seem to the disciples that it was but a little while and Jesus was gone and a little while Jesus was restored risen and glorified and a little while and then He was gone again into heaven at the right hand of the Father... It has certainly not seemed to us like a little while since He died and rose and promised to return.  No, part of us is certain that Jesus is lying or at least exaggerating. It has not seemed like a little while.

It was painfully long while the disciples waited in fear after seeing Jesus suffer, breathe His last, and fall into death upon the cross.  It was painfully long while they carried His lifeless body to the grave and wrapped it in the spices and linen cloths.  It was painfully long while they made it through the nights and days until the women came back from the grave saying that Christ was not there.

It has been painfully long that we have lived in a world where sin still soils the Creator’s image in humanity and death still steals the lives of our loved ones and our own lives.  It has been painfully long that we have awoken to the terrible headlines of newspaper and TV and lived in fear of what is happening in the world and where it is going.  It has been painfully long since diseases find cures only for us to be afflicted by new terrors of our bodies and painfully long since afflictions tarnish old age by stealing the memories that are our comfort.

It has been painfully long since the Church first began to pray “Maranatha” – come, Lord Jesus – and we wait for the day of the Lord that never seems to come.  We have grown almost accustomed to disappointment and few Christians now really long for the Lord to come in His glory and finish His new creation.  It has been painfully long but there have been too many painful disappointments for us to raise our hopes again.

But, of course, Jesus is not speaking in terms of clock or calendar.  This little while is not what parents say to children who cannot sleep in expectation of Santa or what anxious young man or woman must endure waiting for the day when vow and promise and prayer will unite them as husband and wife.  This little while is not the ticking clock but a Messianic declaration of a Messianic sense of time.

Little while is the term used by Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah to describe the day of the Lord, when God will visit His people not in words but in the Word made flesh, in the Savior who will suffer for sins not His own and will die to kill death, and in the dawn of the new and eternal day that death can no longer touch.  This little while is not the time we chart with watch or tear off with the end of one month and the start of another.  No, this little while directs us to God’s timing, to the fullness of time, when God judges the moment ripe and delivers to His people the form of His mercy and the shape of His grace in the face of His one and only Son.  But that is not where we live.

We live with deadlines and birthdays, anniversaries and due dates, appointments and a future counted in days and hours and minutes.  Or do we?  This is after all Easter.  It is the day and the season when our Lord rose to end the terror of sin and the reign of death.  It is the moment when time itself was no longer shaped by the death that came with Eden’s rebellion but by the anticipation of life that came with Jesus’ resurrection.  If we allow ourselves to be overcome by the ticking of the clock and the fear of the future, it is because we have refused to live in the eighth day, the new day that dawned first on Easter Sunday and still shines with the bright Son of God into darkness and shadows.  We live not in the shadows of a captive past but in the dawn of a bold, new future.

A little while. . .  Is this a lie from Jesus or the mistake of our own impatience for the Lord’s patient and rich mercy?  For God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  His promise was long in coming according to earthly calendars but it came at the exactly right time to dispatch death, atone for our sin, and give us the new birth of our lost lives.  Now we live not in the valley of the shadow of death only but also in the rays of the morning light of Jesus’ resurrection and our own resurrection to eternal life with Him.

A generation ago Ronald Reagan won the hearts of voters with the slogan: It is morning in America.  He stole that line from Jesus.  We do not live in the past nor do we live in the present.  We live in the dawn of the new and everlasting day of Christ and His resurrection.  We may not see the fullness but we see the promise.  We may not yet know what it all looks like, but we know it looks like Jesus.  We live new lives no longer captive to the death, disease, and despair of the past but born a new toward the future already prepared for us by Christ our forerunner, the first born of the dead.

He is risen.  He is risen not for Him but for you.  He is risen for the longing of days that pass too slowly in sorrow and too quickly in joy.  He is risen for lives that bear too many scars of suffering, pain, and loss and not enough the marks of victory and triumph.   He is risen for the impatient who cannot bear their unrighteousness any longer.  He is risen for the despairing who long for hope fulfilled.  He is risen for the infant and the aged whose lives are fragile and for those in the middle who live the illusion of strength and indestructibility.  He is risen for the hungry who want the food that satisfies and the drink that quenches thirst once for all.  He is risen for you in the little while of your mortal life to bestow eternity upon you.

So do not fear and do not grow weary.  A little while and you will see Him... face to face, new flesh to new flesh, where tears no longer flow and death no longer hides.  I know that my redeemer lives and on the last day when He will stand on the earth I will see Him and no other... A little while...  The Kingdom is come, is coming to you now, and will come to its fruition.  Believe.  Be patient.  Trust the Lord.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

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