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Sermon for Easter 6

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Sermon for Easter 6

Augustana, 2010

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is from the Gospel for the 6th Sunday in Easter, John 16.  Jesus said, “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.” This is our text.

We are still in John 16 where we were last week.  Mere moments after Jesus speaks these words he’ll be headed out to the Garden of Gethsemane where he will be arrested and led off to Herod and Pilate.  All of this is fresh in our minds as a mere 6 weeks ago we were in Holy Week.  So in chapter 16 here, Jesus is preparing his disciples not only for his departure by the hands of the Romans and Jewish rulers but he is preparing them for his ultimate departure into the clouds on Ascension.  And so it is fitting that we have these verses these past two Sundays as we get ready for Ascension this Thursday.  This is the comfort Jesus leaves his disciples with as he prepares to leave them after spending 3 years with them.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” And, “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.” It’s good that we have both of these sayings together.  They help us to keep them straight in our minds.

First Jesus is not telling us we have a vending machine God.  Just name it and claim it!  You’ve heard me drone on about the prosperity preachers more than once.  They destroy true joy by preaching a gospel of material wealth and earthly joys.  And yet there is a part of us that says, why can’t I have a bit of that?  A little bigger house?  A little nicer car?  Not just two shirts, but three, on sale at our favorite discount store, right?  And Jesus said, “Ask, and you will receive, right?  “Lord, let me win the Powerball.  I promise I’ll tithe it!” By the way, I have yet to hear a story of anyone who won the lottery and experienced true joy.  There is a story about former members of our congregation here who won the lottery.  It was one of the older ones, not the mega millions kind there are today but it was still a sizable sum.  We have the bells for this church as a result of their donation.  No one here has told me that winning the lottery brought that family any real joy.  Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” I think that in there lies the key to this asking Jesus, that our joy may be full.  I don’t think this is some kind of super-spiritualist mind trick.  If we ask for it and still don’t get what we want we know that Jesus knows our need and when he fills that need we will know the need was filled and our joy is full up because Jesus filled our need.  That’s completely different than “Lord, let me win the Powerball.” Jesus is not a vending machine God.

This is also not entirely different from the way our moms treat us.  Most moms, and in fact I would say that when they’re at their best, are not vending machine moms.  It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and you’ve been playing outside and you’re hungry and you want a snack but what you want are the cookies mom is making.  “Mom, can I have some cookies for my snack?” “No, they’ll ruin your supper,” she says.  “Have an apple,” she says.” Because moms know the apple won’t ruin the appetite like a few cookies will.  Mom is not being mean.  She wants good nutrition for her child.  I’m thinking short term.  I’m thinking about how good those cookies smell.  Mom is thinking long term.  She wants me to be well fed, that my joy may be complete.  I’m not saying Jesus is like Mom.  I’m saying, often, moms can be like Jesus.

And would that it be all of us had moms who had our long term interests at heart and know us better than we know ourselves, perhaps even more so as adults, when the choices are harder and implications far more important.  So I think here is where the second saying of Jesus today, proves wise.  Jesus did not just say, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”   But he also said, “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.” How in the world are we going to have full up joy with Jesus giving us everything we need and still have tribulation and suffering?  How can you find true joy in the midst of true suffering?  And beware here, there are a few modern translations of the scriptures that uses words like difficulties or troubles, to translate this word.  As if, most of your troubles will amount to little more than toothaches.  No, this is full on tribulation, the same word used in Revelation by John to describe the oppression and affliction of the demonic and satanic on the people of God.  This is Job-style tribulation, not trouble.  So we’re looking for full joy and all comforting peace even in the midst of tribulation from the sick, sin-twisted, satanic world.  And we have it in Jesus.  He has overcome the world.  After his resurrection, after his conquering of sin and satan at the cross and death at the resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days on earth in his risen, yet glorified body before he ascended into heaven.  We have heard from those who saw him and heard from them who listened to and recorded what he said to them.  That’s what this week of Sundays is about, understanding just what it was that Jesus did before he ascended back to the right hand of the Father.  And while this is a glimpse at the glory that Jesus has accomplished for us, we remember when it was that Jesus said he had conquered the world—Thursday night.  Jesus said we should have full joy and we should have complete peace even in the midst of a sick, sin-twisted, devil-filled world, on the eve of his arrest and humiliating death on the cross.  He spoke of his victory over the world even before he accomplished it, even before he prays the cup to pass from his lips, even before Judas, one of his own, betrayed him and before the rooster crowed and Peter denied him.  This was more than Babe Ruth pointing toward the fence before a home run, this was He Who was present at the laying of the foundations of the world in the flesh telling his disciples, “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.”

To be sure, we will have tribulation.  The tribulation is real.  We don’t meditate away from it.  It is not merely a matter of changing our perspective.  The world that hated Jesus now hates you because of Jesus.  But do not be afraid.  Jesus does not teach us a method of detachment from the reality.  Rather, he dies to death, and suffers under suffering and is tried by tribulation and he overcomes.  He conquers.  He triumphs.  He has vanquished the world.  This is our hope even in the midst of true sorrow.  Don’t be afraid, Jesus has overcome the world.

Years ago, when I was young, my mom had me snowed.  I thought there was little of anything she couldn’t do.  And as I got older, of course, I found out that my mom was lust like all of us put into a situation of overwhelming responsibility, she was doing the best she could with what she had.  Sometimes, I think as we get older, we end up lumping God in with parents, and as we see how the sausage of life is made, we begin to think, well, God is just doing the best he can.  And as we learn to live with our troubles and life’s many disappointments and we sometimes even forget the long term view, the view that only God can see, the eternal view.  Jesus today clearly reminds us of that long term view.  He 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.” Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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