Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Unchanging joy in an ever changing world. . .

Sermon for Easter 5C, preached on Sunday, May 19, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    There’s one constant in life: it’s constantly changing.  Everything changes.  Nothing stays the same.  A quick look through history proves that fact.  Our world changes.  Societies and cultures change.  Our values and popular morality change.  We change: our thoughts and opinions; our bodies.  Sometimes change is good and we should recognize that.  But there’s also times when change isn’t so good.  It can be painful and hurts.  During these times we may feel a loss, we may begin to despair, thinking there’s no hope for the future.  But there is hope, because even in the midst of all sorts of change, the Spirit of God gives you an unchanging joy. 
    We often don’t do well with change.  It’s not something we usually enjoy.  Sure, there are times when spontaneity and a little change can spice up our lives, but for the most part, we’re creatures who like things to remain the same.  Look at where you’re sitting right now.  Isn’t that the same pew you always sit in?  We want things to stay the same because there’s comfort and certainty there.  We feel safe in the same old same old. 
    But nothing stays the same old same old.  Our world and culture changes.  Just listen to anyone from an older generation talk about the good ol’ days.  These days are often brought up as they bemoan the current state of things.  The world isn’t like it used to be, it’s much faster now.  We’re always on the go, moving from one thing to the next.  The traditional values that marked our culture are different.  No longer are Christian morals the norm.  Now, everyone gets to decide on their own what’s right and wrong.  In this new world, it can be hard for us to see a future, at least a positive one. 
    But our world isn’t the only thing that changes, our personal lives change, and these changes are often the most painful and sorrowful.  Divorce, loss of job, the diagnosis of cancer, deployment and change of station, the unexpected death of a loved one, even the expected death of a loved one, all of these change our lives in many and untold ways.  When they happen, we don’t know what to do.  The uncertainty of the future rocks us to our core.  
    The disciples were about to experience this type of massive change.  In the Upper Room, before Jesus was betrayed, He told the disciples about changes that would come.  He said, “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” (Jn 16:16, 20).  With these words, Jesus was telling them about His crucifixion, and that this change would make them sorrowful. 
    After Christ’s arrest, His sham trial, and public execution, the lives of the disciples were changed; their future uncertain.  Just think about it, the prospect of going on without Christ, their Lord and Teacher.  The disciples were filled with sorrow as they contemplated going on without the One they lived with for three years, the One they saw perform all sorts of miracles, the One who promised the coming of the kingdom of God.  And yet, this change wouldn’t ultimately be for their sorrow, but for their joy!
    Hear again Jesus’ words.  “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” (Jn 16:16, 20).  Jesus not only foretold the disciples sorrow, but He also promised them joy.  Their sorrow would be turned to joy, in Christ’s resurrection.  And not just any joy, but a joy that would never be taken from them (Jn 16:22).
    This joy is a constant joy.  This joy is an unchanging joy.  This joy is a result of Christ’s death and resurrection.  On the cross Jesus defeated all sin.  He overcome the disciples’ sin, the world’s sin, your sin.  He shed His blood to cleanse you.  And with His resurrection He won you everlasting life.  Jesus’ death and resurrection, this is a constant that never changes.  Jesus death and resurrection is a fact of the past, never changing.  He died once for all, and the life He lives He lives to God (Rom 6:10).  This redemptive fact affects your life: your past, your present, and your future.  Because of what Christ has done for you, God gives you the promise of life. 
    The joy of everlasting life that God has given you, that joy is your’s right now, at this very moment, even in this world filled with change and sorrow.  This joy isn’t a forced happy joy that never feels sorrow or pain.  This joy doesn’t super-glues an artificial smile on your face.  No, this joy recognizes the pain and sorrow in our world.  But this joy also knows the certainty of salvation.  This joy recognizes with confident hope Christ’s promises fulfilled.  And this joy rejoices knowing that the forgiveness of Christ and His promised everlasting life can’t be taken from you.  These are certain realities based on Christ’s death and resurrection, and no matter what you’re going through, nothing can change that! 
    The constant changes of life can bring us to tears.  We can feel lost and adrift in an ever changing world, uncertain what tomorrow will bring.  We can be filled with sorrow; and yet, at the same time, we have a joy that is unchanging, a joy that’s certain and true.  This joy is based on Christ and His death and resurrection.  It’s founded on His promise salvation.  No matter what twists and turns life throws your way, you belong to your Savior.  And the unchanging joy of everlasting life in Him, that is a gift that belongs to you.  In Jesus’ name...Amen.   

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