Monday, May 11, 2020

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen. . .

Sermon for Easter 5A, preached on Sunday, May 10, 2020.

    Though few of us have actually sung the words, every one of us has thought them.  "Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrow. . . Nobody knows but, Jesus."  And those who read my Facebook page, Tweets, and Instagram feed.  Because we love to complain and misery loves company!
    Troubles touch the lives of everyone and troubled hearts keep us up at night and weary during the day.  There are those who would try to tell you Christians do not suffer from troubles in life or troubled hearts.  In fact, I believe it is just the opposite. Christians face not only the ups and downs of this mortal life and a world set against Christ and His promises, Christians also face the constant temptation and trials of the devil.
    If we are honest, we will admit that there are days when we are so low, the best we can do is go through the motions.  Like robots, we mask our feelings and trudge on through.  But our Lord Jesus knows the score.  He has heard the litany of our complaints and experienced the trials and troubles of life first hand.  He has not only listened to our prayers for clean hearts but also for the joy of our salvation to fill our empty lives.
    These words were spoken in the conversation Jesus had with His disciples in the Upper Room.  Were His disciples were also troubled.  Of course, they were!  Jesus had just told them that He would be betrayed by one of them, suffer the agony of the cross, and die for the sins of the world.  The context of His words is minutes from it happening.
    Were they troubled?  You bet.  If this was going to happen to the Son of God, what was going to happen to them?  If Jesus dies, where is their future?  If their tomorrow was going to look like the one Jesus had spoken of, they were not sure they wanted it to come at all.
    Well, guess what.  We are just like them.  We have yearned for the day when our lives would return to normal and now the news is warning of another corona virus spike.  Just when we thought it was safe to get a hair cut or eat a bite out, we are left wondering if we ever want to go out again.  Are we troubled?  You bet we are.
    Jesus does not ignore our fears but speaks directly to them.  He does not simply say “Let not your hearts be troubled” or “don’t worry.”  He does not dismiss our fears.  He says “Believe in Me... Trust in Me...”  We might wonder how believing and trusting in Jesus will change what threatens us.  The disciples wondered that too.  Many years ago I visited an older man in the hospital.  He was dying whether he was in the hospital or not.  I comforted him with the hope of the resurrection and eternal life.  His response was “Pastor, I know when I die I will go to heaven but I don’t want to die!”  If Jesus cannot assure us we have the today we want, we are not sure we want to settle for an eternal tomorrow and if He can help at all.
    But that is the point.  It is precisely BECAUSE Jesus has suffered, died, and risen again, that we have a today and it is only because He died and rose that we have any future at all.
    What sin did was not only to steal your future,  but to steal your present.  He left you alone in sin, alone in fear, alone in pain, alone in sorrow, and alone in death.  But Jesus has come to take on our sin, to address the power of fear, to carry our pain, to suffer in our sorrow, and to die the lonely death so that we might pass through death to our eternal life.
    Jesus has something to give us because He died our death and because He lives the life death cannot steal.  He predicted His death and resurrection not to give His disciples another things to worry about but to bring an end to their fears.  Because He lives, we live.  We live now the life that job loss, family turmoil, grief, fear, and even viral pandemic cannot over come.  And we live today the beginning of the new and eternal life that can never be taken from us.  It all began in baptism.
    Sin has stolen our sense of perspective.  The troubles that follow Christians come from the belief that this life is the most real life of all and that if this life is not pretty close to our dreams, we have lost something we can never regain.  But it is just the other way around.  The most real life of all is that life that death cannot overcome and this is the life we have in Christ.  To lose everything in this life but to have eternal life is not to settle for a consolation prize but to get everything that matters.  To live is Christ and to die is gain, said St. Paul.
    Like Thomas we ask “But how, Lord? When, Lord?”  The answer is faith and trust.  We do not need to know the next day if we know eternity.  We do not need to see the path through tomorrow, only to know the One who forged that path to eternity.  Sure, like Philip, we want signs and proof but we have THE sign in the cross and THE proof in the witnesses who saw the risen Lord.  That is what Jesus is saying: 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.
    Troubled hearts are not overcome by answers or signs or good surprises or improvements in the fight against COVID 19. Troubled hearts are overcome only by trusting in Jesus and having faith in His death and resurrection.  When Jesus tells troubled hearts to believe in Him, He is not distracting us from how real our suffering is, He is pointing us to joy and peace that is more real than our pain.  The reason peace passes understanding is not because it is not real.  It passes understanding because of the suffering, death, and resurrection of One has come the hope and peace sturdy enough for a world to know and rejoice in.  In the name of our blessed Savior, Amen.

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