How many of you have ever been called pessimistic?
How about negative?
And is there a Debbie Downer among us?
Something deep within our fallen pessimism tells us that when Jesus says, “…A little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16, emphasis added), it’s like when a doctor says, “This will only hurt a little bit.”
What I mean is, when we hear that, we don’t believe it.
We’re fast food people who buy now and pay later. We flip through channels during commercials and start watching something only to look at our phones.
We like hymns with four stanzas, not five, and if the pastor’s sermon has a third page, well, he can’t make me listen.
Godly patience is a virtue—that we rarely exhibit.
Imagine the patience of Joseph, betrayed, jailed, and forgotten.
Imagine the patience of Job, sinner though he was.
And imagine the restlessness—the agonizing wait—of the disciples when Jesus’ body rested in the tomb.
Those were all “a little while.”
For Joseph, years. For Job, months. For the disciples, days. All “a little while” that must’ve felt like an eternity.
We’re not patient.
But our Lord is.
It may have seemed like God was slow to help Joseph, but He was patient, using the evil intentions of others for the good of all.
It may have seemed like God was slow to speak to Job, but He was patient, and wicked satan fell into his own trap.
“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). That’s how St. Peter wrote it.
Jesus came to His disciples on the third day as promised.
Despite their faithless fear, their worries, and betrayals, Jesus came and stood among them speaking peace into existence as light from darkness.
Then, they saw Him for a little while, forty days, whereupon Jesus ascended to the Father.
Ten days later, another “little while,” they see Him again, if you will, in the flames of Pentecost.
Ever since, the Church endures its “little whiles,” those times when it at least seems like God doesn’t care or isn’t there.
When are your little whiles?
When are you least patient?
When the Internet’s slow? When you have to repeat yourself? When a child won’t take a nap but needs to?
When do you shut the door, as the disciples did, in fear? From your spouse, from your family, from your friends, when do you hide?
After a death? An unforeseen tragedy? A bad diagnosis? Maybe some random Tuesday?
We usually handle the initial onslaught of evil—the devil, the world, and our flesh—fairly well.
Our faith is trained.
Our prayers arise spontaneously.
We’re strong and hopeful.
God’s Word comforts us.
But when the “while” part of the “little while” settles in, when we realize that we have to live with this, with suffering, with consequences, limitations, broken trust, and maybe even a sad future, we get scared.
It seems too much—unbearable.
We grow tired of waiting.
Ask the widows.
Ask those in prison.
Ask the parents or children who sit in hospitals.
This world is broken and dying—we see that.
We experience it.
But do we know that the world is broken and dying because it’s at enmity with God?
The widows know this.
And a study of the life of Joseph—a study of the suffering of Job—a study of Christ—a study of these little whiles will all show us the widow’s hope: the promises of God.
The promises of God endure.
Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
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.”
The flames of Pentecost burn continually. They burn where God has placed Himself in mercy: in the proclamation of the Gospel, in the divine washing of regeneration, and in the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.
We’re not abandoned.
God is faithful.
He has not forgotten you.
You are never alone.
Simeon’s Song was true when he sang it—and it’s still true when we sing it today: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation…”
We know the saying: Hindsight’s 20/20. Foresight’s a myth.
But we also know that nothing is never not okay eventually.
We know that Jesus says, “…A little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).
But we also know the words of the prophet: “The waiting is the hardest part.”
I hate waiting.
But the only way to wait is to be ready.
And they only way you’re ready is if God comes to you, seeks, serves, and saves you.
Leaving here today, you will be ready to depart from this cruel world and to go to your reward, because here, God seeks and serves and saves you all.
He does that in the Absolution—proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through a sinful pastor who stands in the stead and by the command of Jesus.
This is the Divine Service—Gottestdienst—God’s service to us.
And having been justified by God—by grace through faith—you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks peace into existence as light from darkness.
You may suffer for the rest of your life, you have peace here and now, because you have the promises of God, the certain hope of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
You may lack and doubt and fear, but the perfect love of God casts away our fear and doubt.
Where you sit, your cup runneth over.
You have no lack.
There is glory in the midst of tribulation.
That’s what Joseph learned.
And Job. And the disciples.
And now you—you have glory in the midst of tribulation.
St. Paul says it this way: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that 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].
Patience is not my most obvious trait.
Patience may not be your most obvious trait.
But patience is yours.
It’s 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.
A part of the clean heart that God creates in us.
You may shed tears. You will.
And you will endure.
And with wisdom born from above you’ve come to this day, to see Jesus, as Simeon did, to receive God’s grace in His Word and Sacraments, to be strengthened and encouraged until the day you are relieved of these burdens, that glorious day when every tear is wiped away, and the good work begun in you in your Baptism is completed.
“Even youths grow tired and weary. And young men stumble and fall. But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31, NIV).
Those were my confirmation verses.
They were picked for me by the vacancy pastor who confirmed me because he knew I liked to build planes and that verse has the word “wings” in it.
But I’ve learned—and I hope you have, too—to wait on the Lord and His promises.
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).
Come, Lord Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Easter 4 (Jubilate), 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
This sermon is based upon one preached by Rev. David Petersen, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.