EASTER 5 C

DATE OF SERMON: 
Sunday, April 24, 2016

DOWN ALMOST EVERY AISLE OF THE SUPERMARKET,

ON PAGE AFTER PAGE OF ADVERTISEMENTS

IN MAGAZINES,

ON BILLBOARDS AND ON TELEVISION SCREENS

THERE IS ONE WORD THAT APPEARS OVER AND OVER:
NEW.

 

EVERYONE CLAIMS TO HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO OFFER.

THERE’S A NEW AND IMPROVED DISHWASHING SOAP—

THERE’S A NEW POWER BOOSTER IN LAUNDRY SOAP—

THE LATEST TOOTHPASTE HAS A NEW BRIGHTENING AGENT.

 

WE ARE LITERALLY BOMBARDED EVERYDAY

WITH PROMISES OF THE NEW AND IMPROVED—

PRODUCTS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO CHANGE AND ENHANCE

OUR LIVES.

 

WHILE MANY OF THESE PRODUCTS DO, IN FACT,

BRING IMPROVEMENTS—

VERY FEW OF THEM MAKE THE DRAMATIC DIFFERENCE IN LIFE

THEY CLAIM TO MAKE.

 

IN THE SECOND LESSON FOR TODAY, JOHN SHOWS US HIS VISION

OF WHAT HEAVEN WILL BE LIKE—

AND HE USES THE WORD NEW TO DESCRIBE IT.

 

HE SEES A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH—

COMING DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN.

HIS VISION PIERCES BEYOND TIME INTO ETERNITY—

TO THAT TIME WHEN HEAVEN AND EARTH HAVE PASSED AWAY.

IT IS A TIME WHEN ALL TEARS ARE WIPED AWAY—

WHEN THERE IS NO MORE DEATH—

AND WHERE ALL THINGS ARE MADE NEW,

AND ALL TEARS ARE WIPED FROM OUR EYES.

 

IT’S A VISION OF A WORLD WHERE CHRIST LIVES IN THE MIDST

OF THE PEOPLE—WHERE HE IS WITH THEM—

AND HE GIVES THEM TO DRINK OF THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY.

JOHN SPEAKS THIS WORD TO CHRISTIANS WHO ARE SUFFERING

A GREAT DEAL—

CHRISTIANS WHO ARE UNDERGOING PERSECUTION—

WHO ARE LITERALLY PUNISHED FOR BELIEVING IN CHRIST.

 

HIS WORDS ARE MEANT TO ENCOURAGE AND STRENGTHEN

THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING.

BUT THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO BE MERE WORDS—

THEY SPEAK OF A REAL PROMISE AWAITING THEM

IN THE FUTURE.

 

WHAT JOHN REMINDS THEM AND US OF HERE IN THIS TEXT

IS THAT GOD HOLDS THE FUTURE—

AND THAT IT ENDS NOT IN SORROW, SADNESS AND DEATH—

BUT IN LIFE THAT IS TRANSFORMED AND MADE NEW—

WHERE THE PRESENCE OF GOD TAKES AWAY

ALL PAIN, ALL SORROW, AND EVEN DEATH ITSELF.

 

BUT, THE TEXT ALSO REMINDS US THAT WE LIVE NOW

IN THE “NOT YET”.

WE MUST PASS THROUGH THE PORTALS OF HISTORY—

WE MUST LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE WORLD AS IT IS—

AND WE MUST ULTIMATELY DIE.

 

THE VISION JOHN HAS OF HEAVEN IS ONE

THAT IS UNFOLDING AND EVOLVING IN GOD’S OWN TIME.

IT IS NOT YET COMPLETE.

IN THE MEANTIME, WE LIVE IN THE PROMISE

OF THAT COMING DAY.

 

TODAY’S GOSPEL TAKES US BACK TO HOLY THURSDAY—

TO THE NIGHT IN WHICH JESUS IS BETRAYED.

AND HERE, JUST AFTER JUDAS GOES OUT TO BETRAY JESUS,

OUR LORD SAYS THAT NOW HE IS GLORIFIED.

 

HE SAYS THIS KNOWING FULL WELL WHAT LIES AHEAD.

HE MAKES THIS CLAIM IN THE FACE OF THE COMING CROSS—

AND THE AGONY OF HIS DEATH.

HE KNOWS THAT IT IS ONLY BY PASSING THROUGH

HIS DEATH THAT HE WILL BE RAISED UP TO NEW LIFE.

HE TELLS HIS DISCIPLES THAT WHERE HE IS GOING,

THEY CANNOT COME.

 

EVEN OUR LORD CANNOT STEP AROUND THE PAINS OF LIFE—

HE CANNOT AVOID DEATH—

BUT HE MUST PASS THROUGH DEATH TO LIFE.

 

THESE TEXTS REMIND US OF WHAT LIES AT THE HEART

OF THE EASTER MESSAGE.

THE EASTER MESSAGE IS NOT A MESSAGE THAT SEEKS TO AVOID

LIFE AS IT REALLY IS.

THE EASTER MESSAGE DOES NOT TRY TO DETOUR AROUND

THE REALITY OF SUFFERING AND DEATH.

 

RATHER,

THE EASTER MESSAGE PROCLAIMS THE BOLD GOOD NEWS

THAT IN THE MIDST OF OUR SUFFERING AND EVEN OUR DYING

OUR LORD IS WITH US—WE ARE NOT ALONE—

AND THAT HE WILL RAISE US FROM DEATH TO LIFE—

THAT HE WILL MAKE ALL THINGS NEW—

AND THAT WE WILL DWELL WITH HIM IN THE NEW HEAVEN

AND THE NEW EARTH.

 

BUT WE MUST BE CAREFUL THIS MESSAGE DOES NOT

BECOME FOR US SIMPLY A PIE IN THE SKY BY AND BY MESSAGE.

FOR OUR RISEN LORD REACHES OUT TO US

IN THE MIDST OF OUR LIVING AND DYING—

HE SEEKS TO TRANSFORM THE LIFE WE ARE LIVING NOW—

NOT BY PROMISING US THAT WE WILL NOT KNOW

SUFFERING, PAIN, OR DEATH—

BUT THAT IN THE MIDST OF OUR LIVING AND OUR DYING—

HE IS WITH US.

 

WE ARE GIVEN THE ASSURANCE THAT IN THE WORD OF GOD,

IN THE SACRAMENT OF HIS BODY AND BLOOD,

IN OUR LIFE OF PRAYER,

AND IN OUR FELLOWSHIP WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST—CHRIST IS WITH US—

THAT HE GIVES US STRENGTH, NOT SIMPLY TO ENDURE—

BUT TO OVERCOME AND TO LIVE IN HOPE AND EXPECTATION.

EASTER PROCLAIMS TO US THAT CHRIST IS RISEN—

THAT HE HAS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN—

THAT HE HAS GONE TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR US—

THAT HE WILL COME AGAIN AND TAKE US TO BE WITH HIM—

BUT, THAT IS NOT ALL.

 

IN THE MEANTIME—IN THE NOT YET—WHERE WE HAVE TO LIVE

OUR LIVES DAY BY DAY—

HE IS WITH US—HE STRENGTHENS US—

HE HOLDS US IN THE HALLOW OF HIS HAND—

AND NO MATTER WHERE WE GO OR WHAT HAPPENS—

HE IS WITH US.

 

AND NOW HE TURNS TO US, AS HE DID TO HIS DISCIPLES

IN THAT UPPER ROOM THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS DEATH—

AND GIVES US A NEW COMMANDMENT—

NOT JUST SIMPLY THAT WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER—

FOR THAT COMMANDMENT WAS ALREADY GIVEN—

BUT THAT WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER

AS WE HAVE BEEN LOVED BY HIM—

WITH A LOVE THAT GIVES ITS VERY LIFE

FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS.

 

AND THE PROMISE OF EASTER IS THAT WHEN WE SO LOVE—

AS WE HAVE BEEN LOVED—

OUR LIVES ARE MADE NEW—AND WE HAVE A FORETASTE

OF THE LIFE TO COME.

 

THAT FORETASTE COMES TO US HERE AT THIS TABLE

WHERE OUR LORD IS WITH US—AND HIS LIFE FLOWS THROUGH US—

AND IT IS ONLY BECAUSE HE LIVES IN US

THAT WE CAN INDEED LOVE AS WE HAVE BEEN LOVED,

AND SO BECOME THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD.  AMEN.