Sunday, May 10, 2020

Christ's Assurance in Uncertain Times

Below you'll find, first, the entire online worship service from Living Water Lutheran Church of Centerville, Ohio. Then, the text of today's message. God bless you.

John 14:1-14
We're now some weeks into the need for sheltering-in-place and social distancing because of the coronavirus. Even as some businesses start to re-open, we know, especially those with children and those who, like me, are in multiple at-risk categories, that the new normal under which we've been living will continue for some time to come.

We may find that discouraging, even when we understand the wisdom my nephew posted on Facebook this past week, “For the record, the virus doesn’t just go away because you’re tired of being inside.” 

My Catechism students tell me when we gather each week on Zoom, “I miss my friends.” 

And people who fully understand why we can’t go about our lives as usual still wonder when there will be testing, contact tracing, and a vaccine, things that will allow them to go to work again. 

One pastor said this past week, “I’m tired of giving sermons into a computer camera.”

To all of us, Jesus says today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1) 

Now, if this is all that Jesus had to tell us, we might dismiss these as hollow words. But Jesus gives us substantial reasons for why our hearts need not be troubled, why we can believe in Him in any and all circumstances, even when we face death itself. In fact, in today’s gospel lesson, John 14:1-14, Jesus gives us four good reasons for why our discouragement should give way to hope and confidence that can only come to those who believe in Him.

Jesus’ words today come from His farewell discourse, spoken to His disciples--His followers--on the night before He was betrayed and arrested, the day before He would offer up His sinless life as the perfect sacrifice for human sin. 

Although Jesus knows with perfect foresight the suffering that awaits Him, His thoughts are not about Himself but about the disciples who will soon watch Him die. He wants to comfort them. 

He wants to comfort you today too. 

So, Jesus gives us here four assurances that will allow us to live with untroubled hearts as we believe in Him.

Jesus’ first assurance is in verses 2-3: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

The believer in Jesus lives with the daily assurance that no matter what, even beyond death itself, there is a place prepared for us. Whether it’s in the midst of a lethal pandemic here or in the perfect face-to-face fellowship with God that we will one day enjoy in eternity, Jesus has a place for us. Our place is with Him

He has a place for us now when we come to His table, when He speaks His life-giving Word to us, when we pray to the Father in His name. 

And Jesus will have a place for us when we die and, like Jesus before us, the Father raises us up to live with Him forever. Jesus has a place for us and it’s with Him. That’s His first assurance to us today.

Jesus’ second assurance for us today is in verses 4-6 of our lesson: “‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Here, Jesus assures us that if we know Him, we will always know the way to go, even when we feel lost or discouraged. We go to Jesus

That’s because Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is the way to a life filled with the forgiveness, love, and presence of the God Who made us and has the destiny of the universe in His hands. 

Life in this imperfect world presents its detours; Martin Luther talks about, “false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins…” But when Jesus is our way, we have the way through sin, death, and darkness to God Himself. Jesus is the only way to the salvation, eternal life, and wholeness that God alone can give.

Jesus’ third assurance comes in verses 7-11: “‘If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.’”

Jesus says in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” When you know Jesus, you know the true God Whose love for us destroys the power of sin, death, futility, doubt, and discouragement over our lives and lifts us up to life with God.

Jesus’ fourth assurance comes in verses 12-14: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Jesus tells us that when we believe in Him, trust in Him, He will do His work through us. Because from His place at the right side of the Father, He can dispatch His Holy Spirit to work in all the billions of baptized Christians who seek to serve God and to serve others in His name, Jesus does greater things now than He did while He walked on earth. 

On top of that, every Christian can pray in Jesus’ name, meaning that we pray according to His will and His character, and see His divine love and power unleashed in the lives of those for whom we pray.

It’s amazing to witness what God can do when we trust in Christ. This past week, I’d just completed one of the midweek Facebook Live Bible studies. I was sure that it had gone horribly. I was sure it had been a total disaster. Then I read some of the comments people sent. “Tonight was a very comforting way to end my day!” one person wrote. “Thanks for tonight. Had a few hours of ‘woe is me’ today but feeling good now,” said another. “So reassuring,” wrote another. To the extent that those comments were true, it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the Lord Who promises to do great things through those who trust in Him.

So, you and I as baptized believers can live each day with confidence, hope, and assurance because of the crucified and risen Jesus. Because of Him, as we turn from sin and turn to Him in trust we know that we have a place with Him, that He is the Way to the Father, that He is the Truth on Whom our lives can be built, and that He gives us a life with the Father that reflects the glory of God Himself. That includes times like these of a pandemic, sheltering in place, and social distancing. Jesus tells us today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” 

This week, may He help us live with untroubled hearts as we trust in Him: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen

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