EASTER III – Jubilate Deo
Introit: (Psalm 66) O be joyful in God, all ye lands, alleluia: sing ye praises unto the honour of his name, alleluia: make his praise to be exceeding glorious, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. Say unto God, O how wonderful art thou in thy works, O Lord! Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies be found liars unto thee.
Collect: Almighty God who shewest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession; and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
OT Lesson: My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3.18-26)
Alleluia. (Psalm 111) The Lord hath sent redemption unto his people. Alleluia.
Epistle: Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy: in Christ Jesus our Lord. (I Peter 2.11-19)
Alleluia. (Luke 24) It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead: and so to enter into his glory. Alleluia.
The Holy Gospel: At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples: A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (St John 16.16-22)
Today’s Gospel reading comes from Our Lord’s final words to the disciples on Maundy Thursday. The immediate context is of course His crucifixion and resurrection. In a little while, just a few short hours, the soldiers will take Jesus away, and put Him to death. And the disciples will weep, they will fear, while the powers of the world rejoice over the fact that they have rid themselves of this Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, on the third day, the disciples see Him again, risen from the dead, and they rejoice. But He is also preparing them for His ascension. “A little while, and ye shall not see me … because I go to the Father.”
“A little while.” What does that mean? That was the disciples’ question, but it is also ours. How long is “a little while”? We have all heard it; perhaps our parents said it to us, in answer to our questions about some event to which we were looking forward. “A little while” may be very brief, or it can seem like an eternity. From the crucifixion to the resurrection was only three days, but for the disciples it must have seemed much longer. But then, just forty days later, again “A little while, and ye shall not see me: … because I go to the Father.” And although they expected Him to return again soon, that “little while” has stretched on for nearly two thousand years.
“Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” The world still rejoices while Christians weep and lament. There are persecutions still going on, churches bombed, Christians threatened, intimidated, and slandered because of their Faith. Many Christians are weeping and lamenting at this moment, as the world enjoys its persecution of them. “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” Does that not often describe our lives? This is not new; it has been the way of the sinful world since the Fall, where self-centred people desire to dominate and control others, who demand their own way at their neighbour’s expense. And do not we ourselves fall into this trap on occasion?
Although we are but strangers and sojourners in this world, so often we choose to live with a dual citizenship. We claim heaven as our home on Sunday mornings, but when we walk out those doors, we live as though this world is all there is. And then we wonder why we find it so hard to draw people into the Kingdom of God. The Epistle for today teaches us to train ourselves in godly virtues while we await the final restoration of creation; to endure life’s trials and temptations, and by so doing, give witness to the eternal joy of the resurrection. St Peter says that while our true home and citizenship are in heaven, God has given us this temporary journey here for a reason—to be His ambassadors; to show the world what His Kingdom is like and to draw others into it through the example of our lives.
When we focus on our own issues, when we lament our own misfortunes and how unjustly we are treated, we cannot see Jesus. But when you see Christ in all things, at all times and in all places, you will have joy—joy that no one can take away from you—for no matter what happens to you, Christ is yours, and you are His. The purpose of the Christian Faith is not to provide a temporary escape from the sorrowful realities of life. Rather, our Faith strengthens us and helps us to endure until that sorrow gives way to eternal joy. Present sorrows always seem like they will last a lifetime, but they fade in the light of eternity. St Paul writes to the Romans, “I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8.18).”
“Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned to joy.” For the Christian, joy is the result of seeing Christ. The disciples had presumably seen Jesus every day for the past three years. In a few short hours, He would be lifted up on a cross, then buried out of sight in a tomb. But it was just a little while until the disciples saw Him again—truly saw Him, risen and glorified. But it was again only a little while until they would no longer see Him, as He ascended to His Father’s right hand, and was hid from sight once more. But were the disciples sorrowful then? No, we are told that they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24.52).” How’s that again? Why were they joyful?
Joy is not a momentary interruption of sorrow, but sorrow is a momentary interruption of joy. Joy, however, does not cease during sorrow. It may be hidden or obscured, but only for a little while. The difference between happiness and joy is that joy also exists beneath the cross. Joy is not an emotion, but a state of being. Because of the resurrection, our mourning is always seasoned with joy. As S Paul assures us in I Thessalonians, “We do no mourn as others who have no hope” (4.13). That is to say, that through Christ the pain of life has become the pain of new birth. This is why the New Testament describes the cross as labour pains. As Our Lord says: “A woman, when she is in labour, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one can take from you (John 16.21).”
When we think of childbirth in reference to Our Lord we usually think about Christmas, but the imagery of childbirth here focusses on Good Friday and Easter. The passion and death of Christ are the labour pains. Easter is the birth of a new humanity. Revelation describes Jesus as “the firstborn of the dead.” When we participate in Good Friday and Easter through Baptism, we are born again, but we are also being born again. New life is planted in us in Baptism, but this life is not yet fully formed. As this life grows, we experience labour pains; and often the most painful things cause the most growth. The life within us is destined to break free from the confines of our mortal bodies, “in a little while.”
This helps us to put our lives into perspective. If you never think about pain and death and only focus on the positive aspects, your subjective emotional state may be more cheery. But you haven’t solved the problem of death; you have merely avoided it. Christian faith results in genuine hope and joy because, while it forces us to face our sin and mortality, it also enables us actually to conquer both. We face our tribulations “in Christ,” with the full assurance that we have already conquered the world through faith in Him. We must still live through all of the highs and lows in order to fully experience what it means to live “in Christ,” but the pattern of Christ’s life teaches us that the pathway to joy leads through the cross. If there is no confrontation of sin and no mournful repentance, then there can be no forgiveness or new life. The temptation to skip the cross is what Jesus resisted in the wilderness, and even in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion. But then we could have no joy.
We have eternal life within us through the resurrection of Christ. As the people of God we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world, looking to a homeland yet to come (I Peter 2.11-20). Though we are even now children of God, the fulness of what we shall be has not yet been revealed (I John 3.1-3), but “the Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him (Lam 3.25).” Our Lord assures us that the wait is just “a little while.” Though we must experience sorrow for a time, though we must live as aliens in a world that is at enmity with Christ, yet our sorrow will be turned to joy when we see Him. Because He is risen, we too have been raised to newness of life, and that little while of weeping shall be replaced with an eternity of rejoicing in the presence of Christ. “And no one can take your joy from you.”
¡Cristo ha resucitado!
Christ is risen!
Collect: O God, who by the glorious resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ hast destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
“The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13.20-21)”