THE 5TH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.  So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying,  "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."  But Peter began and explained it to them in order:  "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me.  Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air.  And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.'  But I said, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'  But the voice answered a second time from heaven, 'What God has made clean, do not call common.'  This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.  And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea.  And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house.  And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter;  he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'  As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.  And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'  If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"  When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
 And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."  And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
 "A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me."  So some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'?"  So they were saying, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about."  Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me'?  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 joy.  When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.  So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
I saw my first butterfly this past week. If robins are a sure sign of spring, butterflies have got to be one of the sure signs that summer is on its way. Butterflies. They flutter. They float. They dance. They bring joy. It’s hard not to feel joyful and happy when you see a butterfly, but as they float away, the joy flutters off with them. How much joy in life is like a butterfly, bright, beautiful, but so fleeting, coming for a moment but soon fluttering away.
Moments of joy. They can be the simplest things, like a bright red ball you got on your birthday, a sun-filled day at the beach, a new puppy jumping up to lick your face, or they can be more momentous, like an engagement, “I do’s” said at the altar or your child’s first cry. Moments of joy are times when happiness so fills us, that for a moment no room is left within our hearts, our minds or souls for sadness. They come bubbling up. They spread a smile across our face, fill our eyes with light, and we are aglow with joy.
But then they flutter away. Their memory will fill us anew, but joy so rarely remains, like the butterfly, it may flutter by to please the eye and heart with its beauty, it may dance for a time around us but then it floats away. The disciples had known true joy with their Lord - to be with Him, to hear Him, to talk with Him. For three years He stayed and as John tells us that they beheld His glory, His beauty, as He opened their hearts and their minds to the truth, as He revealed the Father and His love to them.
But in the midst of that joy, there were also moments that caused them to hold their breath, moments that filled them with fear that this joy that they had found with Jesus was also fleeting, that it too, like all the other joys of the earth, would also flutter away. A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me. What did Jesus mean? A little while, and you will see me no longer? Where was He going? Was He not going to stay? Was He not enduring? Trustworthy? True? Was the joy that they had found with Him something that would come to an end also?
Their joy would be turned to sorrow. He was going away from them but only for a time. They would weep and lament. They would grieve while the world rejoiced, but then He would return and their sorrow would be turned to joy once more, a joy unlike any other joy in this world … a joy without end … a joy that no one could ever take away … a resurrected joy. Our Lord is talking about the cross. Indeed what sorrow filled the disciples hearts, when their Lord was taken from them and crucified and buried. But what joy filled them when He rose, when He defeated death, when He came back to them and promised, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the age.”
You see, that’s why Jesus said that they would have joy again and no one would ever be able to take it from them, because no one could ever take Him from them. The disciples went on from these Easter days and they didn’t have an easy time of it. For a little while they had many struggles, many sorrows, many trials. Everything didn’t always go their way but still they always had that joy in Christ, because they knew that they could lose everything, even their own lives, but their greatest treasure, their greatest joy, Jesus, was always theirs and would be their joy forever.
Do we have that joy beloved? Most certainly we do, as surely as we have Christ. Yes, we may not always realize it. We may not always lay hold of it. We may not always live in it. But it’s there. The Lord entered into death once. He was taken from us once. But never again. As He told us last week, nothing can snatch us out of His hand, and today He declares that nothing can take Him away from us either. He has come back from the grave never to leave His people again. He has ascended on high but yet He is always near, as He stands in the midst of us saying, “Take eat. Take drink. I am in you and you are in me. I am with you. I am enduring, trustworthy and true. I will not fail you.”
Joy, yes, it is ours, fully and completely in Christ Jesus - the joy of sins forgiven, the joy of life eternal, the joy of the unfailing love of God, the joy of having Jesus. Yes, it’s there, even though sin for a little while may leave us with sadness, sorrow and grief in our lives. But the little while of these things will soon be over, beloved, because the day is near when our Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death will be no more. Then all grieving, all sorrow will be gone, and that joy that lies hidden in each of us will burst forth like the dawning sun and we will live in it forever without end, when the Lord gives us a new life in the heavenly Jerusalem, where He will be our God and we will be His people.
And so indeed, beloved, the Spirit comes to us today with the gifts of Jesus: with the Father’s forgiveness in Jesus, the Father’s love in Jesus, the Father’s life in Jesus, to build us up in joy and to teach us to say in the face of sorrow, trial and grief, that as hard as these things may be, they are only for a little while, they will soon pass away and be gone for good because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And that, beloved is no butterfly joy because sin, death and hell cannot and so will not take it away from you. Amen.