6th Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2016
“What is This World Coming To?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon is today’s Gospel lesson from John 16.
My dear friends,
What is this world coming to? Have you found yourself wondering that lately? As you watch the news or open your newspaper or log on to an Internet news site, it often seems like mayhem reigns and the world is falling apart. Case in point. This past week 8 people all from the same family were executed in Ohio. The victims ranged in age from 16 to 44. The assassins left 3 toddlers alive, but slaughtered the rest of the family. Why? More than likely, pot farming. What is this world coming to?
What are Christians to do, scattered throughout a pagan world that seems to thrive on hatred, violence, and oppression? What are Christians to do when we feel we are a minority, out of place, out of step, and running out of time? With the world unraveling all around us, what are scattered Christians to do? Pray! We can always pray with confidence because we come in the name of Him who has overcome the world.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus speaks His farewell discourse to the disciples. He has told them many things using figures of speech (v 25), that is, He has used concrete images to teach them higher, spiritual truths. He did so not to confuse them, but to build them up to endure the future. But there is no time left to explain those truths. For all too soon, the disciples will be scattered, panicked, and uncertain. Soon Jesus will be betrayed (v 32), which is exactly what happens once his priestly prayer is concluded (John 17).
Scattered, panicked, and uncertain. In a few hours that is just what they will experience. They will watch Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death. They will watch their friend, their teacher, their Savior, their Messiah, their hope, bleed and die. They could then truly ask, “What is this world coming to?” And Jesus knows this. And in this uncertainty, Christ reassures them. Christ assures them of His victory: “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (v 33).
It never ceases to amaze me how confidently Jesus approached and endured His passion. He knew exactly what would take place, he knew the extent of the horror, and even still carried it out so that everything forth-told would be fulfilled. When I was a kid, I had too many teeth and not enough mouth. I could either have expensive braces put on in a few years or the dentist could pull 6 teeth to make room. My parents went for Door #2! Pulling 6 teeth at once is too much for a kid, so I made 3 separate trips to have 2 teeth pulled each time. Imagine how I felt each time we headed to the dentist! Dread! Anxiety! Fear and panic! Most sinful people – well, maybe just me – drag their feet at the idea of unpleasantness: going to the dentist, dealing with the IRS, being reprimanded at work, confronting the addict in your family, having that test or procedure that you suspect won’t go well, etc. If Christ has overcome the world, we can be confident and bold about our futures!
Why, then, are we still so scared and panicked by the state of the world? Probably because panic and fear are side-effects of sin! Uncertainty about the future causes a crisis of confidence. Here’s the thing… if we’re predicting the future without remembering Christ’s words, then we ARE in trouble; if we didn’t have the certainty of the resurrection then we WOULD be left without hope! When life is full of doubt and uncertainty and hopelessness and pain, for the faithless not even 1000 books of scripture will help them; for the faithful, one word is more than enough.
Yes…we ask, “What is this world coming to?” Yes…we agonize about the future. Yes…we worry about the world. Yes…we wrestle with our country’s problems and upcoming election, our financial problems, our relationship problems, our health problems. But Christ tells us: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (v 33).
Remember, Easter is not just a date on the calendar that comes on the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21st. Easter is a state of mind. Religion – Christianity – is not about just what happened in the past. It’s about what God is doing for you today and what He’s doing in and for your future! Don’t ever, not even in your wildest moments of fear and panic and dread, fail to remember the significance of the cross and resurrection, for by them Jesus is able to say to each and every one of you, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (v 33) and that includes sin, death, and even the devil himself.
On May 2, 1982, 71 people became the charter members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. What were those people facing 34 years ago? There was trouble in politics. The President – Ronald Reagan – had been shot by John Hinckley who was found not guilty by reason of insanity. There was violence on the world scene. The British were at war over the Falkland Islands and the US wondered if we would get dragged into that fight. A beloved public figure had died. John Belushi from SNL fame overdosed on drugs. What is it we say? The more things change, the more they stay the same? I bet those people back in 1982 also wondered “what is this world coming to?” They stilled their souls through Word and Sacrament ministry, and we’re here today because they kept being faithful which is what we will strive for as well as we celebrate our sure and certain future in and through Christ. We don’t quit. We don’t panic. We don’t surrender. We pray. We believe. We serve. We wait. We hope.
The truth is…as a Christian, we have no need to be anxious about the future. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds your future. The next time you’re tempted to wonder “What is this world coming to?, rather than panic I suggest you pray – pray in the name of the One who has overcome this world for your eternal benefit now and forevermore. Happy anniversary Good Shepherd!