Monday, May 16, 2022

If we have Christ, we want for nothing more...

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (C) preached on Sunday, May 15, 2022.

The day is coming when our prayers will ask God for nothing.  On that day, He will have given us everything.  Because we have this everything from His gracious hand, we will lack nothing and our prayers will only be thanksgiving for all that God has given.  But that is not today.  Today we come to the Lord with all sorts of lists and beg Him for all sorts of things we think we need.  We plead with Him that we cannot go on unless we get what it is that we have prayed Him to give us.  But, whether He gives us what we ask or not, we are not empty handed.  If we have Christ, we want for nothing and have everything we need.

In the Gospel Jesus promises that His disciples will not have to depend upon their memories or their instincts or their wiles.  He will deliver to them the Spirit of Truth to guide them from error into all truth.  He will make known the words of the Father Christ spoke.  He will guide them to where Christ is and equip them to speak as His witnesses before the world.  The promise to the apostles is also to us. The Spirit will keep on glorifying Jesus, giving to Jesus’ own people all that belongs to Jesus, and the people of Jesus will declare this Gospel to the world.  

I wish we believed it.  We come to the Lord with weak and wavering trust, uncertain if the Lord will keep His promise or if the Lord’s power is enough to sustain us and prevent His Church from defeat.  So we have done exactly that which Christ said.  We have wept and lamented as the world has rejoiced, making Christians and the Church a laughing stock before the world.  The Church has given up on Christ to do what He has promised and deliver His grace where He has placed it and substituted marketing programs for preaching and social clubs for the Church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus promised that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free but we have too often surrendered that truth to whims of the world and put our confidence in what we do instead of what He has done.

We find it so easy to surrender God’s eternal good for what is expedient in the moment, to swap out God’s promise for our own decision, and to worship the cult of desire more than God.  We ask and plead for God to do it our way, to give us what we think we need, to trust us to know best since we are here and He is in heaven.  We ask for stuff and for pleasure and for happiness.  We think we know what makes our joy full and complete and we want God to know it so that He can give us what we desire.  And we call it prayer.   God has already given us all we need.  He knows that this side of glory we will face want and need and doubt and fear.  He knows that our faith will be tested and tried by the enemies of His kingdom and by our own willful pride.  He knows that we live in a world filled with appealing lies and He knows how susceptible we are to these empty words.  So He promises us His Spirit – the Spirit of truth.

What does the Spirit do?  The Spirit unmasks the lies outside us and within us that play act as if they were truth.  The Spirit strikes from us any notion that we are here to win and then to punish our enemies and rule the world as gods and kings.  The Spirit brings us to repentance.  The Spirit empties our hearts of the pride that fills them so He might fill our hearts with love for God, the desire to be holy, and the trust that He who has given us His will also give us all things in Christ.

We nearly burst with frustration because we think the burdens of life too heavy and the clock too slow in delivering us from troubles.  But it is only a little while.  As short as this life is or as long as it can be, the days pass quickly and fade before the eternal.  Our weeping and moaning last only for a little while; through it all God is with us. Yes, we will have sorrows and our lives will seem to break under the weight of all our disappointment and pain.  Yes, we will feel empty and alone.  But this sorrow will turn to joy and our emptiness filled with a joy that endures forever.

If we have Christ, we have everything needful.  If we have Christ, then we have the Spirit dwelling in us amid trouble and trial.  We have the Spirit dwelling in us teaching our hearts to believe His Word.  We have the Spirit dwelling in us with the  power of truth against the lies we tell ourselves and the lies the world tells us.  We have the Spirit as hands to grasp the promise and turn our weeping into laughter, our sorrows into joy, and our disappointment into hope.

For now we will suffer with lack and want and need.  But none of these can derail the Lord’s work to keep us faithful.  None of what we lack can compare with what God has given to us in Christ.  We cry out, to be sure, but those cries have become the groanings of hope for a people who long for God to finish His new creation in us and deliver to us everything in Christ.  If we have Christ, we have all things.  Nothing in this moment and nothing in this flesh can stand against Christ and the power of His death and resurrection.  Nothing in this world and this life can threaten the Spirit’s work to build faith in our hearts and sustain us in this truth to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
In a moment, in the mystery of God’s work, a life is born in the womb of a woman. The child lives within her but in her but not the same as her.  Through the months the child becomes stronger and stronger until the body of the mother can no longer hold the child.  And then from the old, new life comes into the world.  Tears and pain give way to joy and deep contentment.  

And this is what is happening in you right now.  In the mystery of God’s work in baptism, a new life has been planted in you.  This life lives in you becoming stronger and stronger until your old life can no longer bear it.  And then, in the day of the Lord, the new life is fully there and the old is gone. Tears, pain, and struggle give way to pure joy and contentment.  You do not see the progress and pray the Lord to hasten the day.  But the Lord works all things according to His will and timing.  It is enough that You have Christ and His promise.  You ache and long for the day when the pain is done and the new creation complete within you.  But you have Christ, you have His Spirit, and you have His promise.  And this is enough.

You are not on your own.  You have not been left to your devices.  Christ is with You.  In His Word and Sacrament, He is working in you to complete that which He began.  You may not see it any more than a mother can picture the face of the child in her womb.  But God is at work in you by the power of His Holy Spirit.  Repent.  Rejoice.  Be glad.  Hope.  Believe.  Our anguish will not even survive to be a memory.  For now we want but then we shall be satisfied and what is empty will be filled for all eternity.  God in you, the hope of glory.  Amen.

No comments: