This week our readings begin with a passage from Lamentations which may sound familiar to those who love the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Even in our laments God is glorified, though the trials we face are hard and our suffering is real. Our hope is in the Lord of heaven and earth, who loves us as a Father and speaks Truth to us, even though we may not understand or want to hear things like Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament or It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
We are not good at waiting for the good things the Lord has in store for us, but The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. We know that we are in God’s kingdom already, and not yet. We are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared. How we struggle with anxiety, temptation, and our sinful nature, even though we already have God’s Holy Spirit and the assurance of our salvation through our Baptism! We long for the time when our struggles will be over – when we will see Jesus, and our hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away our joy.
And yet, when Jesus says He will see the disciples again and they will have a Joy that no one can take away, He is not speaking of heaven – He is speaking of His resurrection. In the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection God shows that He keeps all of His promises, that nothing He has spoken is too wonderful for His mighty arm to accomplish. God has shown His unfathomable love for us by the sacrifice and triumph of His Son, and we already know that no matter what we might face, He walks with us all the way. Only when by His grace we have faith, can we understand what James means when he writes something else we find hard to hear:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Lamentations, chapter 3, verses 22-33:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
The Epistle lesson is from 1 John, chapter 3, verses 1-3:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
The Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Easter is from John, chapter 16, verses 16-22:
“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.