15 May 2011

Homily for Jubilate 2011

[Isaiah 40:25-31 / 1 John 3:1-3 / John 16:16-22]

Jubilate Sunday, and so lots of joy running all around the service today.  The Introit kicks it all off with summoning all the earth to shout for joy to God, singing the glory of His name, giving to Him glorious praise for the marvelous works He has done!  We asked in the Collect for the gift of perpetual gladness and eternal joys.  In the first reading, God reveals Himself as the one who doesn’t get tired, worn down, or worn out, and who then gives power – His power – to the faint, the weary, the exhausted, to all who wait for Him.  And when we throw it together with the Epistle and Gospel reading, the waiting for Him takes on new meaning.  We wait for Him who, when He appears, will make us like Him for we will see Him as He is, and this gives us hope, strength, courage and joy.  He’s coming again, and in the meantime, we get to wait for Him in the knowledge that we ARE children of God, really and truly; thorugh Jesus we have a Father who loves us and if the world thinks we’re nothing special, too bad for the world.  It’s wrong.  It will see how wrong it is about us, on that Day.  So joy!  And then right into the Gospel, where Jesus talks about sorrow turned to joy.  About how His disciples won’t see Him for a bit, but then will see Him, and when they do, He says they will have a joy that no one will be able to take from them.  Was He speaking resurrection day – Easter – or Parousia, the Day of His appearing?  Yes.  Where Jesus shows up, there joy.  Joy for His own.  His joy given to them.

He was born in a Lutheran parsonage in Germany.  He grew up to be a heathen, and very famous heathen philosopher.  Friederich Nietzsche.  He made such a telling comment:  “You Christians,” he said, “you lost the world when you lost your joy.”  Youch!  If there’s one thing that’s clear from the pages of the New Testmaent it is this, that when the Gospel came, it came with joy.  

Think of it!  When the Good News was first announced by the Angels on Christmas Eve, how did the Angels characterize it?  “Good news of a great joy for all people.”  The birth of Savior, the gift into our flesh of the Eternal Son, born of Mary.  And the joys didn’t stop with His taking on flesh and blood for us.  Oh, no!  More and bigger joys.  For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame.  And what joy was that?  The joy of being the ransom that set free a world from sin, from death.  The joy of presenting His elect before the Father as His brothers and sisters.  The joy of naming you His very own in the waters of Baptism.  The joy of whispering into your ears the word of His forgiveness.  The joy of feeding into your body His undying body and blood as the gift, guarantee and sign that your sins are gone – answered for whole and entire – and that you now have a life planted inside of you that proved stronger than the grave.  You will live with Him in His joy forever.

Joy overflowing!  And yet Niezsche grew up in a Lutheran parsonage and somehow he missed out on all the joy.  How is possible?  

Understand this, people loved by God, the joy of which the Lord is full is a joy that you cannot manufacture, you can’t make it up on your own.  You can’t will yourself into being the sort of person like St. Paul who would wake up after being unjustly jailed and beaten and start rejoicing and singing hymn of praise to the One who allowed to suffer for the holy name.  How on earth does one become such a person of overflowing joy?

It comes only and always as Gospel gift.  It comes always and only from the Good News of the Great Joy which is now yours.  Yes, you say, very Pollyannaish, Pastor.  There are sorrows out here.  Heartaches galore.  Broken promises.  Broken hearts.  Sick bodies.  Aching joints.  Fractured relationships.  Empty bank accounts.  Maxed out credit cards.  Worn out parents and grumpy kids.  It’s all fine and good for you to rattle on about joy, but my life right now is stressed and sad.  

Ah, dear one!  Did you hear what Jesus said:  “You will have sorrow now.”  He doesn’t deny the sorrow of your life in this age.  Nasty, awful, wicked things happen.  Tragic unspeakable sadness befalls.  It does indeed.  But the key is when He said:  “but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

Oh!  Did you hear that?  He takes hold of your sorrows, your tears, your pains, and He turns them into joy.  How can He do that?  Well, think of it.  Hold onto these three important points.   First, He really has wiped out all your sin by His death on the tree.  He answered for it.  It’s over and done with.  So the shame and the debilitating guilt – that’s wiped right out.  Second, He really has wiped out your death.  Yes, if He doesn’t come first, you will die.  But that’s no biggy.  He’s punched the hole right through death’s stinking gullet and you waltz right through it into His Kingdom.  But third, He’s handed you a promise that He is actually working all things together for your good – to bring you blessing, to see you to your place at His throne.  Sometimes you even get to see how it all works out here, and then you want to laugh for joy at how God pulled off what you would never even have dreamed of.  I call those the Joseph moments – that moment when Joseph’s brothers knelt before him and he lost it.  All the suffering for all those years and wondering what on earth God was up to and where the fulfillment of the promises was?  And lo and behold, God had it all covered every step of the way.  Every suffering of his life was building toward this glorious moment when he got to forgive and provide for his brothers and father.  But sometimes, maybe most times, we don’t get to see our Joseph moments.  The Lord never promised we would in this life.  But He still promised we would see it from the light of the Kingdom, and when we do it will be Joseph’s story all over again.  The heartache, the pain, the grief.  When we see Him, on that glorious day, it will all be joy.  Shining bright! 

The Supper is a constant joy booster. It’s here that the Lord Jesus goes on in His quiet way giving strength to the weary and power to the faint. It’s His promise and guarantee to you that you will see Him again and that when you do, you will see the truth that everything, absolutely everything, worked together to bring you blessing. So how can we not be joyful when we know the ending? Let the tears stream down now for the pain and the grief, but never for one second forget how it will end – you with the saints and angels standing before the throne of God and the Lamb; you clothed in the white garments that He won for you by His suffering and death and that He clothed you in at your baptism; you joined together with all the family of God, never to be separated again forever; you singing and giving glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages! Amen. Joy, my friend! Joy eternal. Amen.


Anonymous said...

To the disciples in the Upper Room
Jesus said that they would see Him
in a little while...He meant the joy
of seeing the Resurrected Christ
after the grief of His death/burial.

To the disciples of the 21st century
Jesus says we will see Him in a
little while...He means the joy of
seeing our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ on the Last Day when He comes
in all His glory and majesty after
the grief and sorrow of our present

Terry Maher said...

How is it that Nietzsche grew up in a Lutheran parsonage -- in fact set out on his university career to become a Lutheran pastor -- and missed the joy?

Not that he didn't see it written of in a book, the Bible, because he saw none of it anywhere else but in the book. Not in church or the people in it, only in a book which apparently is disconnected from life, and lives.

So he concluded the words in the book are just that, words, designed by people who have no joy in this life to excuse their failure and invent an imaginary later life in which they will.

William Weedon said...

Yup and how unspeakably sad. I may be wrong on this, but I think that it is a lot hard to miss the joy if you live in the Church liturgy, for it holds the joy out to you constantly as your very own - week by week, some new aspect of that joy is lifted up, proclaimed your own. But in Nietzsche's day, the Lutheran Church had all but forgotten that heritage, and the joy did indeed seem only a bookish thing - a memory, perhaps, from another day. I look at the faces around me as we sing the Celtic "Alleluia" and I'm thinking: the joy of the resurrection shines. Alice (closing in on 90) was almost dancing with it today - I caught it in the corner of my eye as I sang along too.

Terry Maher said...

You may find it interesting, even amusing -- but I hope not a piece of post Vatican II malaise to be politely ignored -- that when I was doing my dissertation (1980), it was my assessment of Nietzsche that his real problem vis a vis Christianity was, that he was raised in Lutheran errors in theology, not liturgy, rather than the unbroken Christian faith, and that therefore his conclusions were correct if Lutheranism is indeed Christianity. IOW he only drew Lutheranism to its logical conclusion.

William Weedon said...

Well, I think it's accurate about the Lutheranism *he knew.* But not the Lutheran confession of the faith which he did not have any living experience of.

Terry Maher said...

At the time, I saw no difference in the Lutheranism he knew and Lutheranism period; actually, I thought he saw Lutheranism more clearly than anyone, and thinking it was Christianity, rejected it.

16 years later, I professed the faith of the evangelical Lutheran church, especially as taught in the Small Catechism.

And, in case Herr Schuetz is lurking about, the more I saw that the aforementioned unbroken Christian faith at every point dispels Nietzsche's Lutheran misconceptions of it, the more I saw that the postconciliar RCC no longer taught it either.

And in fact never had. So that profession in 1996 meant that both Nietzsche and I were quite mistaken about what either Lutheranism or Christianity are.

Becky said...

My son called me at 5:30 Sunday morning when he was on his way to work. He was NOT feeling joy and needed a pep talk from his mom. I did my best, but when one's child (no matter how old) is feeling down, it sure permeates the parent's emotions too. Hence I was at early service to hear EXACTLY what I needed to hear. If this keeps up, I just might show up for church again one of these days. :)

joel in ga said...

The Supper boosts joy. Simple fact but worthy of repetition. And of weekly celebration.