Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the fourth Sunday of Easter, 5/3/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Jubilate Easter4 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the fourth Sunday of Easter, click here.
If you’ve ever traveled with young children, you know that they have a very strange sense of time. To them, a day is like a thousand years, especially when you’re travelling by car.
And, so, saying to a child, “in a little while,” only seems to encourage more attempts at the question: “Are we there yet?”
We often respond without really thinking; or we simply pass the question off as childish. But there is something deeper, more grown-up to be learned from them.
This encounter with Jesus only appears in the Gospel of St. John. And it was in his first letter, you may recall, that John went out of his way to refer to his congregation as “little children.”
For St. John, everyone was like Nicodemus, because everyone was in need of new birth – a birth that plunges us into the font as into the very death of Jesus Christ Himself; and a new birth that then pulls us forth with Him and in Him, as from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday.
Baptism, in reality, is Jesus’ answer to death itself. That’s why our resurrection starts in the water.
And when we are resurrected that way; we do not come out of the fount as mature adults who “get it,” or who “understand” everything the way adults think they understand things. Instead, we come forth the way Adam and Eve first came forth. We come forth as children.
And this is not a demotion. As you know, there’s a certain innocence to being a child. Children trust. Children hope. Children care. Children love.
And, most of all, children live every single day – imagining what it’s like to be a grown up, yes – but ever-content living in a child’s world.
It’s the kind of world where time is measured by “sleeps” not by clocks, and where we wait impatiently for exciting adventures, for family trips, birthday parties, for loved ones to return home, or to go back to church;
Only to experience what seems like eternal joy, when those things are finally given to us.
In a child’s world, the struggle is short, but the joy is forever.
All too often, though, you and I get big and we get smart. And we begin to measure our days with watches, not with “sleeps.”
We suffer from adult troubles, adult fears and adult sins. It’s the kind of life where the struggle is long and the joy seems short-lived.
But the way of the Kingdom of God, the way of union with our Father, is a child’s way. And so Jesus says to us today:
A little while, and you will not see me,
and again a little while, and you will see me…
because I am going to the Father. verses 16, 17b
He says this to us today, not to demean us, but to put things into proper perspective. What our Lord wants for all of us, is that we would be like children again; always waiting in eager expectation – “are we there yet?!”– but not lying awake at night watching the clock. Because the door to the Kingdom of God is child-sized.
We would be big, but Jesus has made us small. In the font, in His Word, by His death and resurrection, Jesus has made us humble enough to live under His care, and under the care of our mother, the Church.
To do as He bids us to do, without fear and without regret; to measure time, not with watches, but with liturgies and seasons and fasts and Feasts.
He’s made us small enough to look back up at Him, the child of Bethlehem, all grown up, and see in Him what it means to be fully human again, what it means to be God’s child, what it means to be created in His divine image.
And so to you, His very own children, Jesus says today:
Your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you. verse 22b
As St. Augustine said,
This little while seems long to us, because it is yet going on:
[But] when it shall be ended, then shall we feel how little it has been. St. Augustine’s Homily 101 on John
A little while, and now you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall see me. verse 16
For the kingdom of God belongs to children and, by the mercy and loving kindness of Jesus Christ, it belongs to us as well… and it shall only be a little while.
To this Lord Jesus Christ, be all glory, honor, and worship,
for this little while, and unto the ages of ages.