Sunday, April 26, 2015

Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy


Truly, Truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into have sorrow now but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.  John 16:20-22

Whenever Jesus utters His trademark "truly, truly," as He does 25 times in St. John's gospel, you should put down your iPhone and pay careful attention, very careful indeed, because Jesus is here speaking Truth into the face of deception!  Injecting light into the darkness of this present age, and O how we need that beauteous, heavenly Light.

Things appear to us to be a certain way as long as we live in the shadows.  Joy seems ever fleeting, tears ever present, but that is only because we are spiritually dull, but Jesus tells it like it really is.  "Truly, truly ... your sorrow will turn into joy."

Yes, we are spiritually dull when it comes to the things of God, but when it serves the interest of our bellies, on the other hand, we can be razor sharp and overcome every obstacle.  Today, after centuries of scientific progress, we are standing at the threshold of a technological revolution that may well turn all previous history on its ear.  One, that if we use carefully, and remember to give thanks, can be received as a "first article" blessing from the Giver of all good gifts, but if we are not careful, people will mistake it for heaven on earth and lose what is most important because Jesus warns, "What does it benefit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?"

This is why we must always submit to the tender ministrations of mother church, why we must make Divine Service, the thing in which we are presently engaged, the focal point of our week and build everything else around it, because apart from the gifts we receive here every 8th day, we must always shrivel and die.

The disciples were mystified by what the Lord said to them that night.  We are no brighter.  "What does He mean by a little while? " they wanted to know, and the Lord's answer is ever the same, "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."

What is this "little while" that the Lord had in  mind?

Jesus was referring to the impending death that He would endure on behalf of all men to atone for the sins of all, none excluded however soiled or unworthy they might make you feel.  The Lord's bloody sacrifice expiates them all, propitiates them all, and provides remission to all who trust this death and are baptized into it.  In Christ God accepts the cop as well as the criminal; the Pharisee as well as the tax collector; the homosexual as well as the heterosexual, but both must repent.  Both must reject their sin.  Both must believe the gospel of peace and embrace the way of life.

The Lord was also referring to His resurrection when He would see them again face to face, then they would understand all things!  Then they would find inexpressible joy and abiding elation that nothing can ever take away.

Now this message about "the forgiveness of sins" may seem ordinary to us, but only because we are spiritually dull, or self righteous, or because we don't comprehend the jeopardy we are in without it, but ask any pastor who has ministered to people in their dying moments and he will tell you that when the time comes, nothing will be more precious to you than the words of Jesus, "your sorrow will be turned to joy."  Nothing more soothing than the pledge that God will not exact the punishment you deserve for a lifetime of rebellion, that He will not consign  you to the Lake of Fire, but that you will soon see your Savior as He is, and in that encounter, you will become like him!

Or ask any chaplain who has ministered to people who suffer crushing fear and sudden loss.  Nothing calms the shattered heart like the certain knowledge that what you are suffering is not God's punishment, but that "in a little while" your sorrow will be turned to ineffable joy that will never leave you nor forsake you.

Now these words that the Lord spoke to the disciples the night in which He was handed over are just as applicable to us as they were to the disciples.  To us who live in the "little while" between the Ascension and Second Coming, it doesn't always seem so little, but again that is only because we are spiritually dull.  

The forces of evil did a victory lap when Jesus was secured to the cross, when the spear opened his side, and blood and water flowed into the ground (Adam).  Now they could get back to business as usual, oppressing the weak, inflating their egos with vain glory, and their pockets with extorted money.  In the mean time Simeon's predicted sword was flaying the Blessed Virgin's devoted heart, and the petrified disciples were having the worst day of their lives, but this isn't just a nice story about "once upon a time," dear Christians, because as God's children we too live under the shadow of the cross, and as long as we do, we will suffer illness, disappointment, temptation, epic failures, swinging back and forth between self-loathing and self-justification -- neither of which is a Christian virtue.  We will suffer due to our own sins, those of others and many times because that is just the way the dysfunctional world is, and what little joy we do manage to attain, short of Christian joy, Eucharistic joy, Baptismal joy can be taken away, but the promise Jesus makes in today's gospel bolsters us, shields us, and fills us with jubilation on this Jubilate Sunday.

Truly, truly I say to you ... you have sorrow now but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.  Amen

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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