Jubilate, the Fourth Sunday of Easter: Joy in Life

Jesus Instructs His Disciples on Sorrow and Joy
Jesus bids farewell to his disciples and tells them that their grief will turn into joy, based on John 16:16-22. From Martin Luther’s Church Postils (Sermons), 1554.

Lessons: Lamentations 3:22-33, 1 John 3:1-3, John 16:16-22
Hymns: LSB 487, 459, 483, 466, 467, 548

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Today is known as Jubilate. It is the Sunday of Christian joy, as we continue to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Today’s Introit set the theme, based on Psalm 66:1-2, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth. Sing the glory of His name; give to Him glorious praise!” Our reading from Lamentations speaks of the mercies from the Lord that are new to us every morning, which is a cause for joy. Jesus speaks of joy that a mother will have when she delivers her baby. It certainly is a joyous day as we remember all mothers out there. And there is much joy in the Easter hymns that we are singing today, declaring that Christ Jesus has triumphed over death and the grave.

      Yet, our readings also reference sorrow and grief. The book of Lamentations was written by Jeremiah after Jerusalem was attacked and plundered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The city and the temple were leveled, and her people deported. Destruction was everywhere. In our Gospel, Jesus is with His disciples on Maundy Thursday, telling them that sorrow will enter their hearts as Jesus goes away to the Father. For He will be crucified the next day and the disciples will not see Him for a little while. The world will rejoice at His death. But in a little while, they will see Him again, for Jesus will rise gloriously from the dead. Mothers suffer great pain when they give birth. And many women have both joy and sorrow on this day, and some do not find this day to be joyful. Many of us can no longer send cards to our mothers this day, for they have passed away. Some of us wish our children could be with us or send us cards, but they have passed away. Some mothers and children are estranged and no longer communicate. Some women want to be mothers, but are unable.

      One major issue involving both joy and sorrow that made all the headlines this past week is the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If that first draft stands, then the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. I’m going to give you a Christian perspective on this matter. It is not a topic that we can simply dismiss as political and not theological. In fact, there are few political topics that can be separated from Christian theology.

      If something is the law of the land in our country, it must either be found in the Constitution or legislated and then signed into law. And even legislation can be limited by our Constitution. The judicial branch legislated abortion as the law of the land in Roe v. Wade 49 years ago as if it is somehow found in the Constitution. This is wrong. Even pro-abortion Justice Ginsburg knew that. Now finally, the court may recognize this error and overturn it, sending legislation concerning abortion back to the states. From not only a Christian perspective but also from a moral standpoint, it would be best for legislative branches to enact laws making all abortion illegal. After all, it is murder and a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

      Many try to deflect what is truly happening in abortion as they assert that abortions should be safe, legal, or between a woman and her doctor. But let’s set this record straight. Abortions are not safe. A baby is killed, and many mothers suffer emotionally after having an abortion. Many women are haunted for years about what that child would be like if she had given the baby a chance. Easy abortions enable our youth to violate the sixth commandment and refuse abstinence until marriage. Second, abortions are not legal in the eyes of God. And, as it is written, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:27-32). Finally, the notion that abortion is a woman’s choice or her reproductive freedom or between a woman and her doctor are also incorrect. Fathers cannot be kept out of the discussion. And plus, the choice is made when the sexual activity is done to become pregnant. If the mother did not consent, killing a baby still does not make it right.

      God creates life. He uses the mother’s womb. God has given women an extraordinary ability to bear children. It’s a miracle. Many women covet the authority God has granted to men as heads of households or having headship in the church or in other areas of life. But God has granted to women something more astonishing and important than headship—bringing a new human being into the world. And, as Jesus teaches, she has much joy when she sees her child.

      Having that child live is what God wants. He never condones the taking human life. If anyone in our church is ever faced with the possibility of having an abortion, please come and talk with me beforehand. Don’t assume that I’ll just judge or condemn. I’m here to teach and counsel. God sent me to show you His will and pray with you. Also, if anyone has ever had an abortion, know how the Church and God Himself treats those who have gone through it. The unrepentant have their sins bound until they are humbled by God’s Word and repent. The repentant are comforted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      For when Jesus went to the cross to shed His innocent Blood as the ransom payment for all sin, Jesus truly canceled out all sin. For Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What this means is that Christians can be completely forgiven of their past mistakes and regrets. When Christians who have supported abortion or received an abortion turn to God in repentance, confessing their sin, God forgives them. Their sin is washed away completely. God does not hold that sin against them. And, as Christians, we do not hold sins against our brothers and sisters in Christ who are forgiven by Christ. So, we do not dig up the past sins of others, nor do we maintain grudges against children of God. Instead, we forgive as God in Christ freely and graciously forgives us.

      After King David slept with Bathsheba, he did not seek an abortion for Bathsheba, nor did he try to put her away as if she or the baby are disposable. But he did try to cover up his sin by trying to get Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to sleep with her. When that failed (for he would not engage in pleasure while his fellow soldiers were fighting a war against the Syrians), David ordered Uriah to be placed in the front lines of the battle to die. In this, David coveted, committed adultery, and was responsible for murder. He remained secure in his sin, breaking the First Commandment. When the prophet Nathan called him to repentance, David composed Psalm 51—a portion of which we will soon sing as our Offertory. David prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” This joy comes from being forgiven by Christ. David first enduring the crushing burden of the Law, as he was brought to his knees in repentance. All self-security was gone. Then God raised David up with joy in the Gospel, absolving him of all sin.

      Often, our times of joy are preceded by times of sorrow. In Jeremiah’s day, the people had to go through the hardship of being destroyed by the Babylonians before they could experience the joy of God’s mercies which are new every morning and the joy of returning to the Promised Land. In our Gospel, Jesus spoke of the sorrow the disciples will face as they witness our Lord’s crucifixion. Then they will be filled with joy when Jesus rises from the dead. They will weep and lament when they face hardships from this life, but their joys will have no end when they join our Lord in the gates of Paradise. A woman goes through the hardship of childbearing, but then she is filled with joy as she holds her newborn baby. Parents go through much cross and suffering as they raise their children, but then they see the fruits as their children grow and learn, and eventually become adults.

      Those who have passed away have gone through the hardships that come as their bodies weaken and they face death. But then their souls go to be with the Lord, and they rest from their labors in joy. And when God has His way with us, accusing us with the Law, we can find ourselves being very sorrowful. But then God absolves us, acquitting us of our sin, and we are filled with joy having been reconciled to God.

       Our own country has gone through the sorrow of wrongly making abortion the law of the land without even legislating it. It appears we will now go through the joy of striking that law down. However, many will continue to militantly fight for the right of mothers to kill their unborn children. Some abortion groups are staging protests this Mother’s Day at pro-life Roman Catholic churches, blaming them for the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Battles will be fought at the state and federal level. We cannot withdraw from the discussion, claiming that we’re pro-life but we would never foist our view on others. That’s as ridiculous as saying that we are against theft, but we will never tell thieves to stop stealing. We must oppose those who support abortion by showing them how valuable life is and how important it is to uphold the sanctity of life. We must always bear in mind that God willed to create that life, and because of that, there is no such thing as an unwanted child.

      You see, our worth is determined not by what we think of ourselves or what others may think of us. Instead, it is determined by God. He sent His Son into this world to redeem us. Jesus died on the cross to give us life. We are precious in His sight. We are the apple of His eye. This reality includes those who are not yet born.

      And that brings us true joy. Joy in being forgiven. Joy in our Baptism. Joy in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. Joy in hearing the saving Word of God. Joy in being children of God. Our joy is grounded in the blood of Christ, by which we are washed and sanctified and justified. So, amid whatever sorrows we may face, Christ has triumphed. He is risen. Our joy shall have no end. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen