The Christian Hope
May 6, 2017
Verse: John 16:20–16:22
Christ Lutheran Church
May 7, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Christian Hope
Truly, truly I say to you that you will weep and lament; while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn into joy. When a woman is about to give birth she has sorrow because her hour is come; but when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that man is born into the world. Likewise with you. Now you have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you! John 16:20-22
It’s hard to live in the world. Whether you strive to live a quiet, peaceable and godly life, or choose to live like a beast, life is filled with one sorrow after another. Many of you know that first hand, others will learn it soon enough.
You don’t have to look for trouble, it will find you. You don’t have to beat yourself with a whip, as was once done among ascetic Christians such as St. Therese of Avila. Because the “unholy trinity” of sin, death the Satan will provide you with misfortune and anxiety aplenty before this “poor life of labor” is over. (TLH #429)
If this is the case, and both Scripture and experience tell us that it is, is there an antidote? Is there a medicine, a cure, a shield against sorrow? Is there something other than “more of the same”? More of “man’s cruelty to man”? More anxiety? More regret? More frustration, pain and finally the grave: as your life dwindles, your frame withers and your senses fail one by one? Is there a good and true Promise of a brighter time, a better day, when we will no longer remember the things that now haunt us. When, “the fears that now annoy, shall be laughter on the morrow?” (Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus. TLH #409).
For those whose hearts are hardened against the cross and resurrection of Jesus the answer is, “No!”
For those who are not yet so hardened. Who have not yet been perfectly poisoned by the culture, and blinded the god of this world. Who have seen the occasional ray of divine light … the answer is, “I hope so.”
But for the baptized; for those who celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection not just on Easter but every Sunday at this holy altar … the answer is an overwhelming, “Yes”! The answer is: I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Christian church, the Holy Eucharist, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. This is the joy of Easter. This is the Christian hope!
For you see, what the Lord told his disciples on that “dark and doleful night,” to comfort and to sustain them, was not only for their ears only. But also for ours. Meant to teach the church until the end of the age that what by every measure looked like the End of all good things, of all hope, was actually the Beginning.
He made a promise to them, and to us, that was big enough, mighty enough, and all-encompassing enough to counter all the grief they would ever know. He promised them that though he was going away to the bitter death of the cross. Going away to settle the score of our sins. Going away to defeat death, and dethrone the Prince of this World … that though it would cost him his holy life … he would see them again, and that their hearts would rejoice with a Living Hope, that would never perish, spoil or fade away.
“I will see you again,” he said, “and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you!”
But the Christian hope is not simply a wish, dream or aspiration. Nor is it merely a notion that resides within our hearts and minds. But it is, instead, the very thing in which we are now engaged. It is the Baptized putting aside all earthly care in order to assemble in the House of their God. The House of Prayer. The Kingdom of Heaven. To be cleansed of their sins and raised to newness of life. To hear their Lord’s golden voice, sing his sterling praises, to experience the light, joy and comfort of the Kingdom of God here and now. Or in the words of the great 19th century author Fyodor Dostoevsky, “To touch other worlds.”
And though it is only a touch it is, none the less, a real touch as true as Faithful Thomas’. What we do here each Sunday is not simply an anticipation or preparation for the Messianic Banquet, but factual participation in it: albeit by veils and symbols for now. And it is our hope. It is our “balm in sorrow,” “our stay in strife.” It is the joy of seeing Jesus, that no man can take away! But things will not always be the way they are now: a taste only. Back and forth between the beauty of heaven and the travail of the world. This is what St. John promises us in today’s epistle when he writes:
“See what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
And so, let us thus purify ourselves Beloved. Purify ourselves by repentance. By true faith. By “abstaining from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) By a holy life. And by communion with the holy at his altar today. The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ that purifies you from every sin. Amen.