Jubilate (Easter 4)
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
April 29, 2012
Central Passage
John 16:16-22
(Confirmation Sunday)
+ John 16:16-22 +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be full of sorrow, but your sorrow will turn to joy.  It would be hard to find a better reading for Confirmation than this because Confirmation is both the vow to love in the face of death and the blessing of God to grant joy to those who walk the narrow way of love.
There is some truth to the saying that if we could all love one another a little better, then we’d all be a little happier.  Love covers sins, bears no grudge, and keeps no record of wrongs.  Love upholds the beloved.  If we could all love one another a little more, life would go smoother.  But that’s because the one who loves decreases so that the beloved might increase.  If you loved everyone as you ought to love, it would kill you, just as it killed your Lord.
In this world the one who loves weeps and laments because love is not the way of the world. For love is of God, and the world knows not the things of God nor can it.  So it has taken what is of God and has profaned it.  Just as it always does.  Man and woman are of God, created in His image, yet the world says they can re-make that image so that man is who he wants to be and woman is who she wants to be.  Yet both receive their being from God.
The world has profaned love and turned it into an emotion.  But love is not an emotion.  Love is duty.  And as any soldier can tell you, loving one’s country often costs one his life.  Doing your duty will kill you.  Yet that is the narrow way, the way that leads to life.
It’s not that doing your duty gains for you eternal life, your love doesn’t save your soul, but love is still the narrow way and the narrow way leads to life.  The narrow way is built not on your love – on your duty – but on the love of Christ, on Jesus’ duty.  And unlike you and me, Jesus’ love is complete and full, without guile or malice. His love is perfect love.  And by His love – by His duty – you are saved.  Now you, His disciples, walk in His way for He is the Way.  So St. John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God and everyone who loves knows God, and he who loves not knows not God for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7-8).
But the world would have you believe that love is an emotion.  So that in order to be in love or to be loved, one must seek a feeling.  And when that feeling is gone so too is love. So people lie and say they got a divorce because they fell out of love.  In truth, they divorced because they did not love, which was their duty.  But marriage isn’t the only victim of the world’s lie. Many a Christian would believe that if their pastor was more loving then church would be better.  They seek a feeling, not love.  For love is the fulfillment of one’s duty. And if a father can tackle his son to save him from being hit by a truck, then a spiritual father can also tackle his children to keep them safe and out of harm’s way.
But if the child doesn’t see the truck, or care that the truck is coming, he will think the father mean and unloving because he bruised his knees and scraped his elbows.
And with the lie that love is an emotion, a feeling that can be sought and cultivated, like a flower, but is bound to wither and die, comes another tragedy.  The death of joy.  Joy isn’t an emotion either.  Joy describes what perfect love creates.
Perfect love creates perfect relationships, it creates joy.  In this life we cannot love perfectly as we always put ourselves first.  So we cannot have true joy in this life.  We cannot have perfect relationships with God or with man.  So our joy is not full.
We want to love, and so we buy flowers for our wives or cook dinner for our husbands. But when they don’t notice, we hold it against them.  That’s because we love ourselves far more than we do our wives and husbands.  We love our children and want to find joy in them, but we wince when they ask us to do what we think is boring or trite, and we shove them off to TV or to their friends and the world where they are bound to be abused and mistreated.  But that’s because we love ourselves more than we love our children.
But we have glimpses of love and joy.  Like when a mother gives birth to her child.  No matter the pain and difficulty of labor, when her little daughter is laid on her breast and the small fingers hold hers, there is joy.  We might do better to call it contentment.  She is content in her daughter and her daughter is content in her.  There is no disappointment, no fear, even, just joy.  It is fleeting, to be sure, but is there.  It might be the best picture in this life we have of what joy actually is.  Which is most assuredly why our Lord used a woman in labor as His metaphor to us in this life.  There is seldom a more diametrically opposed event than labor and birth.  Excruciation, unrelenting pain and agony followed by joy and contentment.  All the while the mother loves her child, doing her duty.
For now, Christian, you have sorrow; brought on by your sin and the sins of others.  There is no avoiding this because we are by nature sinful and unclean.  Your joy is not complete because your love is self-serving.  You have lived as if God does not matter and as if you have mattered most.  Your love for others has failed.  Right now you weep and lament, waiting for the day when the labor of this life will come to an end and you will be reborn from the grave into eternal life when your love will be whole and your joy will be complete.
And while it is now and your love and joy are wanting, you work, like a woman in labor, looking forward to the day your baptism is complete and the grave gives birth to your new life in Christ.  Now you do your duty even though it hurts and causes pain and draws blood.  You love God even when it costs you your life, even when it means you must give up worldly goods and pleasures. And you love your neighbor even when it costs you your wallet and your comfort.
It is impossible to love as we ought.  It is impossible to do as our Confirmation vows demand; to support this congregation and church with blood, sweat, and tears, even when friends fail and the going gets tough.  We all abandon one another, even if we are bodily here.  For as love is of the will, so hate is from the heart.  Yet there is a blessing in such vows because God is always blessing even when the labor is most intense.  The blessing is that when we suffer much for His name’s sake, when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, when we are beaten and left for dead, He will bear us home.
Faith, hope and love abide.  Soon the child will be born.  Soon the grave will give birth to the sons of God.  Soon the pain will be over and the labor will end.  Soon there will be joy.
Grant this Lord, unto us all.
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +