If the task and responsibility of a Christian is to hear and learn the Word of God—not some or part but the full counsel thereof—then some days and chapters and verses will be more difficult than others.

Here’s what I mean.

Thus says the Lord in today’s Old Testament lesson:

“It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came…From all your idols I will cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:22, 25).

Generally, we’re taught that God is acting for our sake,  for our benefit. So to hear that—in this chapter and verse—He is acting for the sake of His holy name, not for our sake—because we, His people, profaned His holy name, cursing and swearing—that should cause us to think at least a few deep thoughts.

Is God’s name hallowed among us?

Or—do we profane His name still?

Did He—Does He—Will He—ever do the same again?

Act not for our sake—but to vindicate the holiness of His great name?

Some chapters and verses, like this, are more difficult for us to hear—because of the rebuke.

St. Peter writes in today’s Epistle lesson:

“The end of all things is at hand…Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:7, 12-13).

The sufferings of Christ are no one’s wishlist items.

Who wants to suffer hatred while confessing the truth?

Who wants to be hated by basically everyone because you have a different idea of who God is and what He’s doing?

But the way St. Peter writes, such suffering is not only possible but eventual for us.

He says, “Don’t be surprised by the fiery trial.”

And that’s difficult to hear, too.

As is what Jesus says in today’s Gospel lesson:

“They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2).

That hour is coming for all Christians.

And—for some—that hour is here.

We just don’t like to admit it.

If the task and responsibility of the Christian is to hear and learn the Word of God—and it is—then some days and chapters and verses will be more difficult than others.

Here’s what I mean.

Thus far, I’ve selectively quoted from the lessons appointed for today.

Old Testament lesson, Epistle, and Gospel—they’re full of warnings and what we might easily consider to be bad news.

But—thus also says the Lord in today’s Old Testament lesson:

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you…And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:26, 27-28).

Doesn’t that sound better?

Don’t we like the conclusion a lot better than the action before it?

St. Peter concludes today’s Epistle lesson this way: “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).

Who doesn’t want to be blessed by God?

Yeah, yeah, he talks about being insulted, but the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us.

Finally—some good news.

And in today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness” (John 15:26-27).

Wow.

Every Christian will get to bear witness about Christ, will get to take what the Holy Spirit has delivered and share it with another.

We get to be the instruments God uses to bring people into the faith.

There’s nothing better—nothing more important—nothing nicer than that.

How awesome!

But if the task and responsibility of the Christian is to hear and learn the Word of God, the difficulty is hearing both warning and promise, rebuke and responsibility, and learning to rejoice in the Word of the Living God—who says both.

The proper work of God is to help, save, and comfort.

Not because of who you are but because of who He is.

“The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, because he is love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, because he always speaks the truth. These two things, truth and love, sustain us Christians throughout our lives” (Rev. Andrew Preus).

Thus says the Lord in today’s Old Testament lesson: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that [the Lord] is about to act, but for the sake of [His] holy name, which [we] have profaned among the nations…And the nations will know that I am the Lord…when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (cf. Ezekiel 36:22, 23-25).

The Lord your God is not content to leave the world to unbelief—but convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, judgment—that His name would be kept holy among us—that all who call on the name of the Lord would be saved—that through the seeming folly of what we preach, God’s holiness, and goodness, and lovingkindness, would be vindicated before their eyes.

That is to say, He will create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. He will sprinkle us with clean water and put His Spirit within us, and cause us to walk in His statutes, and be careful to obey His rules.

He will call us out of darkness and into His marvelous light to be His peculiar people.

And He will be our God.

That’s the full counsel of God for today’s Old Testament lesson.

Well, a summary of the full counsel of God.

But do you see?

“To lecture about sins without mentioning threats is not to teach the Law but to abolish it” (Martin Chemnitz).

And to preach or to know the warning of God apart from the comfort He provides, is to be without the blessing God bestows on all who believe.

St. Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

The Lord your God doesn’t abandon you to fiery trials. Rather, you are blessed: the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

But no one has the Spirit of God and is not tested.

St. Peter also writes: “[And] in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

That’s the full counsel of God for today’s Epistle lesson.

Or, a summary.

Do you see it?

Nothing strange is going on when you share in Christ’s sufferings or are insulted for the name of Christ.

That is as it is and as it should be for all those redeemed by Jesus Christ the crucified—

Who says, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

This is specifically about the Apostles, the first pastors of the church, who were literally with Jesus from the beginning.

But this is also, generally, how the Holy Spirit works.

He proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets and the Apostles.

And, thus speaking, bears witness about Jesus.

And you also will bear witness, because you have received the Light of the World.

No one who has received the Light hides it under a basket—but rather places it at the entrance of His home so that all who enter there may see—and hear, and believe, and be saved by—the Light of the World.

This is the full counsel of God:

Jesus says, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:1-4).

We aren’t surprised at the fiery trial, when it comes upon us.

Nor are we offended that God would act to vindicate His name.

Rather, we rejoice in the full counsel of God.

Who cleanses us of our idols.

Gives us His Holy Spirit.

Blesses us, who call upon His name.

And keeps us from falling away.

Let all the worlds give answer: Amen! So let it be.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Exaudi (Easter 7), 2021
John 15:26—16:4
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Today, Jesus teaches us to pray.

“Ask, and you will receive” (John 16:24), He says.

But if you’ve ever asked and not received, you’ll wonder whether Jesus is lying or you lack faith.

Because when we say, “Ask, and you will receive,” we mean it as an if/then statement.

If you ask for help, then I will help you.

That’s how we operate.

We don’t just do good to others.

We wait for them to ask.

If/Then.

Thank God that’s not how God operates.

When Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive,” He doesn’t mean “If you ask, then, you’ll receive.”

And experience has taught us this all our lives.

Ask God for a million dollars. Ask for all the time in the world, for good health, safety, and the hymns you like.

Ask for everything. Anything. And all of it in between.

If you ask, and nothing happens, then we have to answer the question of what, exactly, Jesus means.

Either He’s lying, God is vindictive and sinful, and we lack the faith to speak to Him—or—Jesus means it differently.

We know better than to think Jesus says we get everything we ask for, and yet He plainly says, “Ask, and you will receive.”

If you’re sick, “Ask, and you will receive” at least sometimes sounds like a satanic lie.

To one who constantly hears “No,” “Ask, and you will receive” feels like deliberate unkindness.

To every faithful, cross-bearing Christian who happens to find himself in the midst of sorrow and trouble, “Ask, and you will receive” sounds like God doesn’t listen and doesn’t care.

That we ask, that we need, that we pray, and that God doesn’t always give us what we ask for, makes us wonder why Jesus would say, “Ask, and you will receive.”

It’s obviously not true!

Unless we understand Him correctly.

Jesus doesn’t mean “If you ask, then you’ll receive.”

But He does mean, “When you ask rightly, you will receive, and, indeed, it’s already yours.”

Because Jesus doesn’t teach us only to ask.

He teaches us to ask in His name: “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23).

That’s what He says, and this is something we understand quite well.

Kids ask for things in Mom’s name all the time. They implore Dad on Mom’s behalf saying, “But Mom said…”

And if Mom said it, then, fine.

But moms only say certain things.

To ask for something in Mom’s name is to ask for something that she’s already said.

And to ask for something in Jesus’ name is to remember what God has said and to ask for it.

We do this all the time.

We say, “Jesus says…”

We remember His Word, and we ask Him to fulfill it.

It doesn’t matter what comes after “Jesus says…”

As long as He actually said it, we know He means it for our good.

Even the work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin is for our good—because He moves right along to convict us concerning righteousness—that we would bask in the righteousness of Christ.

Like a Mom to her children, Jesus only says certain things.

He doesn’t tell you to trust in money. He doesn’t tell you that you’ll always be happy.

He never promises those things.

Nevertheless, it’s comfort unending for all who believe that anything we ask in Jesus’ name is already ours by faith.

Because when you ask “in Jesus’ name,” you’re asking  “according to the Word of God,” what God has already said.

So what do you ask for? What can you ask for?

What does Scripture say? What does God say?

What does God guarantee? What does He promise?

He doesn’t promise wealth.

Jesus told the rich young ruler to “sell all that you have and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21).

You cannot serve God and mammon.

Jesus attacks Mark’s idolatry, because God demands faith. He doesn’t promise wealth, because wealth isn’t necessary for salvation.

Nor does God promise health.

Health isn’t necessary for salvation.

Every leper cleansed, every Deaf who heard still died.

Lazarus died twice.

Regarding earthly things, Jesus promises nothing except hatred, tribulation, and daily bread.

And about our daily bread we have to be honest.

God could give us all so much less than what we have, and He would still be giving us this day our daily bread.

Jesus says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

He says all of this to teach us.

Don’t let it go in one ear and out the other.

Don’t wonder when the sermon will end.

Don’t wonder if you can still get a good deal on Royals tickets, or Cardinals tickets, or Cubs tickets, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Rather—wonder if you believe God.

If you hear Him and do His will.

Jesus says all this to teach us, and out of mercy, to save us.

If you look at Christianity anywhere in the world, you’ll see trouble.

Abroad, Christians are being murdered—simply because they’re Christians.

On April 17th, ISIS published a video of the execution of Nabil Habshi, a Coptic Christian. He was kidnapped in November, and the kidnappers demanded the family pay over $100,000—not as a ransom—but as a tax levied against non-Muslims in states governed by Islamic law.

The Quran teaches Muslims to kill the infidels (that’s me and you) if they won’t convert to Islam or live in humiliating submission, paying such taxes.

Would you convert? Would you pay the tax and submit? Would you keep the faith even unto death—as you confessed you would when you were confirmed?

Since our daily bread doesn’t regularly include an escape route away from the Muslims who seek to kidnap our children and kill us, those are rhetorical questions, impossible questions, but the exercise is a good one.

Does your Christianity stop when you leave church?

That’s what your government wants.

For some of us, our representative to congress tried to pray and failed—attempting to do so in the name of false gods and not knowing how to say, “Amen.”

For all of us, our president tried to speak on the National Day of Prayer and failed to mention God at all—which surprised exactly no one.

But let’s not fool ourselves—they’re as devoutly Christian as a broken doorknob and just as helpful.

The fact is, you won’t always get what you ask for.

If you pray for health, or safety, or a godly politician, you may not get what you ask for.

Take heart—it’s not because God doesn’t love you.

Jesus says: in this world you will endure hatred and tribulation. No one wants that, but you can’t always get what you want.

The fact is, God is very clear about what His will is for you.

The will of God isn’t an uncertain thing.

He desires the world’s salvation.

He desires your salvation.

And in Jesus Christ He has accomplished it.

Thus says the Lord in Matthew chapter six: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”

That is, ask for these things in Jesus’ name…

“…And all these [other] things [clothing, food, and shelter] will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Thus says the Lord in Hebrews chapter thirteen: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for [the Lord] has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; [for] what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

The will of God is clear.

He desires your salvation.

The forgiveness of your sins.

And your life everlasting.

And He has accomplished it in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus says: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

To pray—to ask in Jesus’ name—is nothing more than to trust Jesus—to trust His Word and His Work.

To trust—and know that His blood overcomes sin, death, and satan.

To trust—and know that trust is reckoned to you as righteousness.

“Take heart,” [Jesus says], I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He says all this that, in Him, you would have peace.

Grace to you all—and peace—from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Rogate (Easter 6) Sermon, 2021
John 16:23-30 (31-33)
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Saint Matthew Lutheran Church—Ernestville, Missouri

Jesus says, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20).

What does this mean?

You will weep and lament.

You will be sorrowful.

And the world—not you but the world—will rejoice.

But that is just a little while.

Jesus adds: your sorrow will turn into joy.

The “little while” that’s mentioned is both comfort and warning.

Today’s Gospel lesson anticipates the certain, Christian joy of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, but there’s something else here that we need to talk about.

So it’s not just, What does this mean?

But also, Why does it mean that? Or, What else does this mean?

I’ll give you two other examples.

You hear Matthew chapter eighteen quoted a lot. That’s where Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).

If I ask ”What does this mean?” someone will answer that if no one else shows up to church but you and the pastor—you still get Jesus.

And you’re right.

Jesus isn’t a revivalist preacher, a televangelist, or the pastor of some megachurch—which is to say, Jesus still shows up even if more than two or three don’t.

But if I ask “What else does this mean?” what would you say?

In truth, Matthew 18 isn’t even about God’s presence when church attendance is low.

Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault. If he listens to you, you’ve gained your brother. But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you, that the charge may be established by two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (cf. Matthew 18:15-20).

The real context of Jesus’ words there is forgiveness and judgment—how Christians are to deal with sin and each other.

If a Christian, with and by means of the Word of God, calls you to repentance, listen to him.

But if you don’t care…

If those given the care of your soul, through God’s Word, call you to repentance, listen to them.

But if you don’t heed that warning…

If the congregation practices what is historically called “church discipline,” following what Jesus says, of course, turn from your ways and live.

That judgment is as valid as though God Himself has said it—and, speaking through the congregation, He has.

That’s the context of Matthew chapter eighteen, and so we have how we use that verse, and we have the proper context of the verse.

The same words are both comfort and warning.

What it means to us—and what else it means.

I’ll give you another example of this, again, using words with which we’re all familiar.

Job writes, “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:23-27).

What does this mean?

Of course Job is confessing his faith in the Redeemer. Of course this is a marvelous confession of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Of course it is.

But what else does this mean?

What does Job say next?

What is the conclusion of everything Job is saying?

No one knows.

Now, you know I’ve studied the book of Job.

I can’t seem to stop talking about it.

But before I studied it, like everyone else, I knew the famous words from chapter nineteen, but I didn’t know the final words from chapter nineteen.

Job adds: “If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ be afraid of the sword,for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment” (Job 19:28-29).

Job makes what may be the single most wonderful confession of the resurrection of the body contained in Scripture—but he makes it in the context of warning his friends regarding the coming judgment.

We commonly use those verses at funerals and at Easter.

But Job, himself, uses those verses to confess faith in his Redeemer, certainty regarding the resurrection of the body, and as a call to repentance for his friends who are far from faithful.

The same words are both comfort and warning.

And so there is some urgency here.

From Matthew, from Job, and from Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel lesson, there is some urgency regarding the coming judgment.

There is comfort—and there is warning.

Jesus says, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20).

As the disciples did when the Lord was crucified, you will weep and lament. You’ll have your share of fear and of foreboding because of what is coming on the world.

You’ll live as exiles, strangers in a strange land.

Hated and misunderstood by those who hate or misunderstand Jesus.

You’ll weep, and you’ll be flummoxed and confounded by the world’s rejoicing. So many appear to do so much and all so much more easily than you.

That’s the warning.

But—you have a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.

And so—your sorrow will turn into joy.

That’s the comfort.

Our Lord and Christ bore the sins of our fallen race, heel bruised, in order to beat down satan under even our feet, that we, and all believers in Christ, would be called conquerors.

That’s the great reversal.

And—said elsewhere and throughout Scripture but unspoken in today’s Gospel lesson is the second, implied reversal.

Jesus says, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20).

And then—what of the world?

Where two or three are gathered, or two or three thousand, if they’re not gathered in Jesus’ name, purely teaching the Gospel and rightly administering the Sacraments, that’s not the Church.

That’s the warning.

With some urgency, then, we should aim to get the message right before we get the message out.

To remove the beam from our own eyes before we help our brother with the speck in his.

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she’s delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21).

So how do you want to say this?

There is but a little while to wait, and that is both warning and comfort.

We all have much to endure, but—

“At the last [your Redeemer] will stand upon the earth. And after [your] skin has been thus destroyed, yet in [your] flesh [shall you] see God” (cf. Job 19:25-26).

If that’s more than poetry…If that’s more than what’s engraved on the rock outside…If that’s more than man’s word alone…

If you love the Lord your God—and your neighbor as yourself…

If God is with you…

And there is a coming judgment…

Then you need to care about what’s meet, right, and salutary…

You need to care about godly things, not worldly things.

Turn off the tv.

Stop fornicating.

You may weep and lament.

And the world may laugh at you.

But your sorrow will turn into joy.

Jesus says, “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).

That’s the comfort.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Jubilate (Easter 4) Sermon, 2021
John 16:16-22
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Here our true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursèd tree—
So strong His love—to save us.
See, His blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us.
Alleluia!

God is always doing the same things.

He hasn’t always done them in the same way, but He’s always been doing the same things.

Before His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus defines the work of God like this: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8).

God has always been convicting the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. That’s a perfect summary of everything that God has done, is doing, and will do.

When the Scriptures teach that God is love or that God is slow to anger or merciful—though it may sound strange to our ears—that’s just another way of saying that God convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

But we must reconcile the fact that those things appear and are received and understood very differently by different people.

God is always doing the same thing.

But not everyone believes or understands it.

We know, from practical experience, that “mercy” doesn’t always mean “nice” and that what is merciful to one may not be merciful to another.

If an animal is suffering terribly, it might be the merciful thing to put it down or have it put down. As stewards of God’s creation, created in God’s image, we tend to what He’s given us.

But if another steward is suffering terribly, it’s merciful to bear with him in his suffering, to remind him of the truth of the love of God.

That may not alleviate the suffering of this life, but it most certainly helps prepare for the life to come.

God is always doing the same thing—He’s always preparing us for the life to come. And you will enter into everlasting life well-prepared—or not. You will enter into everlasting peace—or not.

God works to the end that you would be prepared for the end.

Still, we must reconcile the fact that what God does is received and understood very differently.

Jesus says, “[The Holy Spirit will convict the world] concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:9-11).

In the Inn and House of the Church, in the Ark of the One True Faith, God is saving the world.

He causes the world to be convicted of sin. He melts our hearts of stone by the dirge of His Law.

The contrite bones that God has broken rejoice, and our merciful Lord remembers our sin no more.

The Holy Spirit is at work in the Word of God proclaimed to convict the world concerning sin. Not that the world would be condemned but that—through Christ—the world would be saved.

The Holy Spirit is at work in the Word of God proclaimed to convict the world concerning righteousness.

The Lord is our righteousness, but we occasionally forget our fear of God, take His bountifulness for granted, and lean on our own understanding.

So our God and Lord has taught us to pray: Hallowed be Thy name to remind us all that God’s name is holy.

Your name may be holy in town. It may be written a dozen times in bronze. But it is the cruciform name of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—that saves.

Not yours.

All other names fail.

The Word of the Lord—His name and His righteousness—endures forever.

And the Holy Spirit is at work in the Word of God proclaimed to convict the world concerning judgment.

The ruler of this world is judged.

We’re not waiting to find out how it all ends. Law and Gospel is not a half-preached two-part sermon.

We know how it ends—that’s why we sometimes take God and the time of our visitation for granted, intentionally sinning a little, now and then, for the enjoyment of it, careful to think, in the back of our minds, that we can always repent later.

That foolish lack of urgency and preparation will surprise you when the watchmen on the heights are crying: “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”

The ruler of this world is judged, and as soon as the last adult convert to Lutheranism confesses the faith, as soon as the last baby to be baptized receives the sign of the Holy Cross both upon his forehead and upon his heart to mark him as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, as soon as God saves the last name that’s written in the Book of Life, He won’t wait anymore.

Consider, now, the work and Word of God.

He convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.

In the Church, we hear His Word with joy.

We confess our sins, removing the plank from our own eye that we may then help our brother with the splinter in his.

We confess the faith. In our prayers, in hymns, and in daily conversations that may make that one grumpy, grouchy family member of yours a little more grumpy and grouchy.

We hear and believe the Gospel, and we receive both pardon and peace. In this life and in the life to come.

Inside the Church there is life.

But outside the Church, where the Word of God is trampled underfoot and snatched away by birds, where faith is scorched by the sun and choked out by weeds, outside the Church there’s only vanity leading to death.

God will send—into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels—all those who do not believe and live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to these words again:

Here our true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursèd tree—
So strong His love—to save us.
See, His blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us.
Alleluia!

Inside the house, the Old Testament Christians eat the lamb that was given for them, and they receive the full benefit and protection of that bloody sacrifice.

Death is swallowed up by death.

But outside the house, in unbelieving Egypt, a few die—but all are in peril.

All are reminded that there is a God who fights for His people.

“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

God is always doing the same things.

Hear them—receive and believe them as He desires—and you will have peace—now and forever.

So feast on Christ this Easter day.
The Word of Grace has purged away
The old and evil leaven.
And all our souls upon Him feed
Christ is our food and drink indeed!
Faith lives upon no other.
Alleluia!

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Cantate, 2020
John 16:5-15
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

How many of you have ever been called pessimistic or negative? Are you a Negative Ned and Nancy Nay-sayer? Or a Debbie or Donnie Downer?

Something deep within our fallen pessimism tells us that when Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16), it’s like a doctor saying, “This will only hurt a little bit.”

We don’t believe it.

We live in a drive-thru world—buying now and paying later. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch commercials.

We like hymns with three stanzas, and, thank the coronavirus, Pastor’s sermons are only one page long.

Godly patience is a virtue that we rarely exhibit.

Joseph was betrayed, jailed, and forgotten.

Job, sinner though he was, endured.

The disciples, with Jesus’ body in the tomb, waited.

Those were all “little whiles.”

For Joseph, years. For Job, months. For the disciples, days. All eternal-feeling “little whiles.”

It may have seemed like God was slow to help Joseph. Slow to speak to Job. And even slow to visit and relieve the disciples, but “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The Lord remembered Joseph. He—finally—spoke to Job. And Jesus came to His disciples on the evening of that day, as promised.

Despite fear, worries, betrayals, and self-quarantine, Jesus came and stood among them speaking peace into existence as light from darkness.

Since then, the Church endures her “little whiles.”

When are yours? They don’t have to be virus-related.

Slow internet? When you have to repeat yourself? When a child won’t nap?

When do you shut the door, as the disciples did, in fear? From your spouse, from your family, from your friends, from your children? When do you hide?

We usually handle the initial onslaught of evil—the devil, the world, and our flesh—fairly well.

Our faith is trained. We pray and hope. Good!

But when the “while” part of the “little while” settles in, when we realize that we might have to live with this, with suffering, with consequences, limitations, broken trust, and maybe even a sad future, we get scared.

Ask the widows. Ask those in prison.

Ask the parents of hospitalized children.

We experience the broken and dying aspects of life.

But do we know that the world is broken and dying because it is at enmity with God?

Inmates know this. And widows. And the cancer ward.

Joseph—and Job—and the disciples—these all learned to hope in the Word and promises of God.

“Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), Jesus says.

And it’s as if He says, “I’m with you in the little whiles and the long little whiles. You will see Me again. I’m coming back. I’ll keep My Word. Believe in Me unto life everlasting.”

We know that Jesus says, “…A little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).

We must wait.

But the only way to wait is to be ready.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

He comes to you by means—proclaimed, poured, and given and shed. That you would be comforted.

You (or your children or your spouse) may suffer for the rest of your life. You have peace here and now in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

You may lack. You may doubt. You may fear.

But the perfect love of God casts out our fear.

When you sit before the Lord, your cup runneth over.

You have no lack.

St. Paul says it this way: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5) [in Holy Baptism].

So we rejoice. And and endure. And wait in the Lord.

Patience is a gift from God, a fruit of the Spirit that abides in the Christian.

It’s part of the good conscience that God gives His children.

Part of the clean heart that God creates in us.

Wait on the Lord and His promises.

And not yourself.

What Jesus says is true: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:21).

So we pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”

We wait for the Lord.

And we live for our neighbor.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Easter 4 (Jubilate), 2020
John 16:16-22
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt