Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter - Jubilate: John 16:16-21

                                                                                                Easter 4
                                                                                                Jn 16:16-22

            Today, almost one in three babies are born by Caesarean section - 31.9% of births.  That percentage his risen greatly since 1970 when only 5% of births were C-section.  This has caused some concern because studies have indicated that 19% is about the upper limit for C-sections to be a positive factor for healthy outcomes.  Beyond that, the overuse of C-sections begins to yield difficulties.
            A number of explanations have been provided for the increase in C-sections.  One is that we have much better fetal monitoring today, and so are far more aware about changes in the baby’s condition.  Yet because doctors have this information, they may be more sensitive to changes than they need to be, and thus quicker to decide on a C-section.
            Another explanation is the litigious age in which we live. When the outcome is not good in a natural child birth, the obvious question becomes: “Why didn’t the doctor do a C-section?” Doctors may be more inclined to do C-sections because it makes clear that everything possible was done and protects them against lawsuits.
            Finally, C-sections give mothers more control.  Rather than waiting on the unknown timing of labor, they can schedule a date for a C-section and make all of their other plans accordingly.  For Amy and me this sounded really good when she had the twins. She was scheduled for a C-section because Matthew was breach.  We got up thinking that we had a leisurely day to make final arrangements before the twins were born the next day.  But when Amy’s water broke that morning it was off to the hospital for the deliver – whether we had planned on it or not.
            This trend toward C-sections means that fewer women today experience what Jesus uses to describe the time in which we wait for his return.  He talks about the sorrow a woman has when the hour has come for her to give birth.  Amy certainly experienced this when she gave birth to Timothy.  Yet as our Lord says, when it was done there was joy that a baby – her first – had been born into the world and the difficulties didn’t matter anymore.
            Our text is found in the portion of John’s Gospel that is usually called the Farewell Discourse.  It was the night when Jesus was betrayed and our Lord and the disciples were on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus began to tell them that he was going way, but that he would then come back.  He was returning t the Father.  Jesus said, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”
            The disciples were confused and distressed by what Jesus what was saying.  In our text Jesus again says, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  Some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father'?’  They were saying, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about.”
            The disciples were confused. They didn’t understand, and Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him about what he had stated.  So he said to them, “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.” Jesus’ departure would be a source of sadness for the disciples.  By contrast, the world would rejoice because it would be free continue as its own god, ignoring the Lord who seemed to be absent.
            That’s the way it is today.  Jesus has ascended – he has withdrawn his visible presence.  I don’t see him.  You don’t see him.  The world doesn’t see him.  The difference is that the world concludes that because this is so, Jesus is just a myth.  The claims made about him aren’t true. He is not the way, the truth and the life.  He is not the only way to salvation.
            Instead of believing these claims, the world rejects and attacks those who do. The very clear message is that polite people don’t talk about religion in public.  A person certainly does not speak if he or she is going to make any absolute truth claims about Jesus. Do that, and you will experience exactly what Jesus described in the previous chapter when he said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
            Our response as we live in the world is often silence. But this is wrong. That is fear, not faith.  Our Lord doesn’t deny the difficulty of living in a sinful world when we are not of the world – when we haven born again of water and the Spirit as the children of God.  Instead he tells us what the future hold.  He gives us hope.
            Jesus says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
            Jesus tells us three things. First, you have sorrow now. Suffering and hardships because of Jesus are simply part of the Christian life. That’s just the way it is. If you don’t think so, then we need to talk because you are doing something wrong.
            Second, you will see Jesus.  We pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”  We do because we want Jesus to rescue us from sin and all that it has done to this world.  We want Jesus to appear in power and might and glory so that every knee will have to bow and confess that he is Lord and God. We want Jesus to vindicate us before he world for believing and trusting in him while the world heaped scorn upon us. Jesus says that he will return and do these things. 
            And third, our Lord says your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.  His return will bring joy that has no end.  It will bring a joy so great that, like the woman who has given birth, we no longer remember the pain and difficulties of the present. This is the hope that we have.
            It is a hope that is grounded in this season of the church year that we are celebrating.  It is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ ascension is part of one big upward movement that begins with his death.  His glorification begins at the cross, because it doesn’t end at the cross.  Instead, this saving work that Father gave him to do is a work that leads inevitably to resurrection; then to ascension; and then to return on the Last Day.
            Jesus came to do the Father’s will.  In the next chapter, he prays: "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
            Jesus accomplished his work.  He cried out, “It is finished” as he died on cross as your Passover lamb. Because he shed his blood for you, God’s judgment passes over you and you suffer no harm.  Now, Jesus has risen from the dead and he gives you the eternal life that has already started in our Lord.
            At the end of this chapter Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  By his death and resurrection Jesus has overcome the world.  He has given you peace.  You have peace with God.  You have the peace of knowing how all of this turns out.
            Its result will be joy.  In his resurrection Jesus has already won!  His resurrection is the beginning of your victory.  Jesus has returned to the Father as the exalted Lord.  He completed the work that Father had given him to do.  You already now receive those benefits because Jesus has overcome the world. 
            And Jesus assures you that when he returns in glory you will have nothing but joy.  You will have a joy so great that it will drive out all memory of the present troubles; a joy that you will possess forever.  As Jesus says in our text, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”




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