Easter 5c, 2013
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read, from St. John chapter sixteen.
Ask any craftsman and they will tell you how much work it is to ply their trade. Hours of labor, callouses on the body and the mind. It doesn’t matter if the trade is woodworking or cars or computer programming, the bottom line is time and work.
Ask any creative type, and they will tell you very much the same. Music, art, dance, writing, the answer is still there. There is no replacing real, hard work. Ask our musicians who prepare our services week after week and they’ll tell you.
The same could be said for sports, or war, for good things or evil, for small acts of great care and large, sweeping works of history. But perhaps we should even use Jesus’ example of the ultimate creative endeavor: motherhood. In the midst of it, motherhood is, well, it’s a lot of painful work. Especially the actual process of birththing a child. There is, as Jesus put it, “much sorrow” behind giving birth. It hurts. But there is joy that a life has been brought into the world. Paul would later use the same analogy to say that all of creation is in the pains of childbirth, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.
So if this is the picture, childbirth, of our journey to heaven, then why is it that we are surprised when the Christian life is painful and fraught with peril? That is the question our risen Lord puts before us this day.
We are strange, fickle creatures when it comes to matters of faith and life. It is easy to look down upon others as lacking wisdom or understanding because they have not “paid their dues”, yet not one of us would exclaim with St. Paul that we truly “rejoice in our sufferings.”
Why is it that we are so inconsistent when it comes to the Christian life? We are Christians, and yet act shocked when we suffer. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and eternal life, and yet live our lives as if God did not matter and we mattered most.
The answer, of course, is sin. Our sinful nature always wants things NOW. We always want things when we want it, the way we want it, and exactly how we want it. So Jesus’ talk this morning about “a little while” comes as a bit of a shock to our system. When you are in the midst of sorrow and heartache, your world becomes small. Everything, everything, centers around your hurts. You can hardly believe that there is anything beyond what you are feeling right at that moment. It is very hard to imagine that others suffer as you do. That is the nature of suffering and hardship, and that is why it is such a trial for Christians.
So what Jesus does for us this morning is give us a little lesson in time management. Oh, I’m not talking about time management like the world thinks of it. In the world, managing time really comes down to making every instant count for the most it possibly can. To the world, because time is short, everything has to happen right away, and every instant must be squeezed of every last bit of energy.
But it is not so in the kingdom of God. What Jesus does is point us to this simple, beautiful reality that all things are in God’s hands, even time itself. What may feel like an eternity here is in the scale of things, a little while. Your hardship is as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to the sons and daughters of the King.
That is the miracle of what our Lord gives to you this day. He gives you the gift of time. That doesn’t mean you have an extra hour in the day to dedicate to the hamster wheel of life as we know it. No, what Jesus is saying is that you don’t have to be on the wheel at all. He is saying that there is a new heaven and a new earth that is coming (Rev. 21:1). Jesus hear holds up this great and glorious picture of what will happen to time itself. “Behold, I am making all things new,” He says.
So what does this mean for you here and now, dearly baptized? It means this. Jesus Christ has forgiven you all your sins and drawn you into His loving embrace. Your old way of life, the way of sorrow that means trying to eek out a meager existence, where you can barely cling to what you have, far less get ahead, that way is coming to an end. For now God dwells with His people. God Himself will wipe every tear from your eye, and even that greatest time-enemy of all, death itself, death has been destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“It is done!” He says. “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:4–7 ESV)
This is what is going on at the altar of God here time after time, week after week. It is as if heaven itself were opened and we get a glimpse into the eternal portal of life with God. Here, in this Sacrament, time is consumed and everything is one great eternal now. Now God dwells with His people. Now you are at peace with God, for God is at peace with you. Now Jesus delivers you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Now the new song of salvation rings forth in all the world.
So come, you who are wearied by the changes and chances of life, come to the Table. Come, you who time seems to have crushed beneath its great weight, and God will make all things new. Come, for in a little while all of this will be over and the new heavens and new earth will be revealed once and for all. Come, it is all for you. Come, for all things are new.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.