A Little Message of Joy!

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 6C, May 5h, 2013

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“Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” [John 16:24]

NOTE: The congregation has just sung the following verses of Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice.”

1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice, with exultation springing, and with united heart and voice, and holy rapture singing.  Proclaim the wonders God has done, how His right arm the vict’ry won.  What  price our ransom cost Him!

2. Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay; death brooded darkly o’er me.  Sin was my torment night and day; in sin my mother bore me.  But daily deeper still I fell; my life became a living hell, so firmly sin  possessed me.

3. My own good works all came to naught, no grace or merit gaining; free will against God’s judgment fought, dead to all good remaining.  My fears increased till sheer despair left only death to be my share;  the pangs of hell I suffered.

4. But God had seen my wretched state before the world’s foundation, and mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation.  He turned to me a father’s heart; He did not choose the easy part but  gave His dearest treasure.

The sermon hymn that we just sang, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” is a beautiful hymn, but if we do not finish it this morning, that is if we stop at the 4th verse the message really doesn’t give us much to be joyful over.  So, a little later, we will sing the next 6 verses as part of our message, our little message on joy.

Haydn, the great musician, was once asked why his church music was so cheerful, and he replied: “When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen, and since God has given me a cheerful heart it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.”

So our desire this morning is to leave here knowing that we have true joy; a gift from God that can only come from God.  If we understand this truth, we will not have to pretend to be joyful, but we will rejoice and trust that God is our champion who fights for us, no matter how contrary to this truth things may appear.

In our gospel reading this morning (John 16:23–33), things did not appear very joyful there in the upper room as our Lord and His Holy Apostles prepared to depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas would betray His Master by leading the temple guards to arrest Him in secret.  Jesus knew what was about to happen, but He also knew that after the betrayal, in His arrest, suffering, and death, all things would become clear to the apostles and the disciples.  They would see that it really is true that the things that the devils and sinful men mean for evil, God turns into good.

So Jesus says to them, “In a little while you will no longer see me; and then in a little while you will!  Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall sob and wail, but the world will rejoice.  You will be filled with sorrow, but your sorrow will become joy.”  [John 16:16-20]

Very soon, in just a few short hours, the first part of Jesus proclamation would become crystal clear.  They would see him beaten, hung on a cross, suffering, with death the final outcome.  Most of them would abandon Him there at the cross and one would deny Him completely.  “In a little while you will no longer see me.  In a little while you will sob and wail.”

Imagine, something that you have staked your entire past, present, and future on is ripped away; that was plan A and you have no plan B!  You have been left alone, lost, hopeless, and you seem to be damned by God.  That is what our sermon hymn is communicating to us in the 2nd and 3rd verses.  Listen to those words again:

“Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay; death brooded darkly o’er me.  Sin was my torment night and day; in sin my mother bore me.  But daily deeper still I fell; my life became a living hell, so firmly sin possessed me.  My own good works all came to naught, no grace or merit gaining; free will against God’s judgment fought, dead to all good remaining.  My fears increased till sheer despair left only death to be my share; the pangs of hell I suffered.”

That is the true nature of one who has not been baptized, but it is also the true nature of a person who has walked away from their baptism.  They are prisoners of war so to speak.  Satan has them trapped in the chains of sin; their sin and the sin of the world.  The more they try to escape the hold of sin, death, and the devil, the tighter the chains bind them.

But how does a person try to escape without Jesus?  Well, they think that they can do it through there own good works of course; by trying to be a good and noble person; by trying to be compassionate and considerate, outside of God’s blessings through Jesus Christ.  Well what is wrong with that; good is good isn’t it?  And to that question, God answers, “No!”  Outside of Jesus Christ, all of our good works are like filthy rags!  But, if you are seeking glory only in this world, it will be at the expense of glory in the next.  And mark these words, there is a next; there is another place that you will live forever after your time here is through.

For those who hear the gospel call and ignore it, or for those who have heard and for a little while believed, but latter walked away from the call to trust, follow, and believe in Jesus in search of other things, Jesus says that the little while where they will no longer see Him or experience Him is now.  It is a dark time of sobbing and wailing.  But if you will hear and believe what He says next, He promises that you will once again rejoice!

“Again, in a little while you will see me and your sorrow will become joy.”  This is precisely what verse 4 is saying; listen: “But God had seen my wretched state before the world’s foundation, and mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation.  He turned to me a father’s heart; He did not choose the easy part but gave His dearest treasure.”

So how can we have this loving heart of God the Father?  By receiving His Word, which alone gives us His dearest treasure, His Son, Jesus Christ!  Please sing with the me, the next five verses of our sermon hymn:

5. God said to His belovèd Son: “It’s time to have compassion.  Then go, bright jewel of My crown, and bring to all salvation.  From sin and sorrow set them free; slay bitter death for them that they may live with You forever.”

6. The Son obeyed His Father’s will, was born of virgin mother; and God’s good pleasure to fulfill, He came to be my brother.  His royal pow’r disguised He bore; a servant’s form, like mine, He wore to lead the devil captive.

7. To me He said: “Stay close to Me, I am your rock and castle.  Your ransom I Myself will be; for you I strive and wrestle.  For I am yours, and you are Mine, and where I am you may remain; the foe shall not divide us.

8. “Though he will shed My precious blood, me of My life bereaving; all this I suffer for your good; be steadfast and believing.  Life will from death the vict’ry win; My innocence shall bear your sin, and you are blest forever.

9. “Now to My Father I depart, from earth to heav’n ascending, and, heavn’ly wisdom to impart, the Holy Spirit sending; in trouble He will comfort you and teach you always to be true and into truth shall guide you.

10. “What I on earth have done and taught guide all your life and teaching; so shall the kingdom’s work be wrought and honored in your preaching.  But watch lest foes with base alloy the heav’nly treasure should destroy; this final word I leave you.”

This morning Jesus declares to you, “In that day (that is the day of your salvation), you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” [Vs. 23, 24]

Now here is where our joy is full and complete.  What is the greatest thing you could ever ask of God?  Is it money, fame, or fortune?  No, but isn’t it the complete forgiveness of your sins?  Isn’t it having the absolute assurance from God that you are at peace with Him and have nothing to fear?  This is God’s will for all people; this is what He wants us to ask of Him.  He loves all sinners, baptized and unbaptized.  For the unbaptized, He wants nothing more than that they should turn from their evil ways and receive His Son’s love and grace, within the waters of baptism.  For the baptized who have walked away, He wants nothing more than they would return to the Lord their God, because He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  And for those of us who are still trusting in His Son Jesus Christ, seeing the remedy for our sin, which is the cross applied to us through the washing of water and His Word, nourished in the meal of forgiveness at His Holy table, and reassured in the Holy Absolution of forgiveness, He wants us to have our joy fulfilled.

Imagine the joy the disciples were increasingly filled with after Easter morning, when time after time, their resurrected Lord appeared to them.  Imagine how their despair and hopelessness was replaced with joy and confidence; a confidence that declared with the centurion at the cross: “Surely He was the Son of God!”

Dear friends in His Word this morning, you have heard Jesus speak Words of peace and encouragement to you.  You have heard the Spirit of truth once again declare to you.. “You are forgiven.” I pray that these Words will not only bring you peace but also joy.  I pray that through God’s forgiving love your frown brought by fear and worry, would be turned into the smile of peace and confidence: “(You know) a smile costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive it without impoverishing those who give it. It happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None are so rich that they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits. It fosters good will in a business, it creates happiness in the home, and it is the countersign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble.” —Henry H. Evansen

This morning God in His Word is smiling upon you; I pray that you will do the same towards each other and your neighbors this week, simply because you know that for Jesus sake, God loves you. I ask all of this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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