Sermon for 5th Sunday of Easter – 5.15.22

+ 5th Sunday of Easter – May 15th, 2022 +

Series C: Acts 11:1-18; Revelation 21:1-7; John 16:12-22

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Two Kinds of Theologians”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Did you know that the church this morning is full of theologians? You might not think so. You might not consider yourself a theologian. But it’s true. Whether you’ve been to seminary or not, written great tomes or not, everyone has thoughts about God; everyone thinks something(s) about God. Everyone is a theologian.

 

The question isn’t how great, famous, or learned of a theologian we might be, but what’s our theology.

 

Looking at the Scriptures, and looking at fallen humanity, Martin Luther wisely observed that there are really only two kinds of theologians or two kinds of theologies in the world. Luther called these two different, contrasting theologies, a theology of glory and the theology of the cross.

 

A theology of glory expects the Christian life to be total success, having all the answers, winning all the battles, and living happily ever after. A theology of glory is all about my strength, my power, and my works.

 

The theology of the cross, by contrast, sees God’s greatest success revealed in suffering; His victory in the defeat of the cross. The theology of the cross is all about Christ’s strength made perfect in weakness, his power revealed in dying and rising.

 

A theology of glory says that when I am happy, healthy, and prosperous, I know God loves me. A theology of the cross says that God comes to me in my weakness and suffering and makes them his own on the cross.

 

Or to put it another way. A theology of glory wants Easter without Good Friday; the theology of the cross, however, doesn’t go around the cross to find God’s glory, but sees God’s glory in Jesus’ cross.

Or, to use Jesus’ words from John 16, a theology of glory desires joy without sorrow; a theologian of the cross, however, confesses that present sorrow gives way to future joy.

 

Here in John 16, Jesus gives his disciples, and us, a marvelous lesson on the theology of the cross.

 

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. 

 

Present suffering, future glory. The cross, then resurrection. Sorrow, then joy. That’s the pattern for us theologians of the cross.

 

Paul says it this way: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Paul knew suffering. His life was marked by suffering – imprisonments, beatings, rejection by his own people, expulsion from the synagogue, antagonists and false teachers, congregation problems, health problems – you name it, Paul likely experienced it. Paul lived the theology of the cross.

 

So did St. John, exiled to the island of Patmos. His churches were under siege. Christians were being tortured and martyred. False teachers were worming their way into the churches deceiving Christians with their seductive lies. The fabric of society was coming apart at the seams. Government was corrupt, the family was weakened, immorality reigned. Everyone did whatever they thought was right in their own eyes. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

 

John lived the theology of the cross too. And in the midst of suffering, and for those who suffer, he points us to joy in Jesus who makes all things new. “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.” Sorrow turned into joy.

As Jesus looked deeply into the faces of His disciples that night in the upper room at the table, He saw uncertainty, fear, doubt, sadness. Jesus was speaking of His impending death and resurrection. In a little while, they would no longer see Him. The stone would be rolled in front of his tomb and He would be seen no more. The world would rejoice as the disciples wept. They would be sorrowful. But their sorrow would turn to joy.

 

“Again, a little while, and you will see me.” They did see Him, risen from the dead. Good Friday anguish turned into Easter morning joy with the news, “Christ is risen”. And all the darkness and death of that previous Friday was swallowed up in joy and light. Jesus was alive.

 

When Jesus says, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy”, Jesus isn’t saying that we’ll have so much joy in this life that we’ll forget all our sorrows. Or that joy is so going to cover up that sorrow, that you won’t have time to feel bad. No. Joy in Christ is not a distraction or gimmick. It’s Jesus actually addressing the very things that cause us so much pain, and grief, and sadness.

 

Luther described this life as a “vale of tears,” a valley of sorrow, what Psalm 23 calls “the valley of the shadow of Death”. There are certainly days where that rings true. Joy in this life feels fleeting. Peace seems temporary. Laughter seems to fade. We weep over our sin, our sinful condition, what sin has done to this world we live in. We weep over the hurt and harm that has been done to us and that we have done to one another. We weep over broken friendships, broken families, and broken lives. We weep over the state of the church, over the theologies of glory that have removed the cross from Christian lives, congregations, and doctrine. We weep over the loss of loved ones as we say farewell to them. There seems to be no end of sorrows in this life. Where, then, do we find joy?

 

In a word, Jesus. True joy is found in Jesus who takes all our sorrow, suffering, and sin upon himself and dies and rises for you. Joy in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Joy even in the midst of suffering.

 

Whatever it is that hurts. Whatever that is that makes you cry. Whatever it is that is too overwhelming to deal with. These are the very things Jesus went to the cross for. These are the very things Jesus died for. Jesus didn’t give these words to make us forget our sorrows. Jesus gave us these words so that we would know that it is okay to feel our sorrows. It’s okay to shed our tears. It’s okay to mourn our dead. It’s okay to cry out in our pain. Because those are the places where Jesus goes. Those are the things Jesus bears. Those are the times Jesus promises not to leave us alone.

 

For the same Lord Jesus who carried our sorrows on the cross, still dwells with us in our sorrows and our crosses. And this, he promises, will be turned to joy in him, in his cross, in his resurrection.

 

And in Jesus, your sorrow will turn into joy.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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