S-1493 3SOE/3B 4/19/2015 Hymns: (O) #354; (S) #204; (C) #205
Texts: Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49
Theme: “Fullness of Joy” (Psalm 16:11) Antiphon
Question: “What is it that fills your heart with joy?”
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is the Antiphon: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
People of the Cross, you and I know from personal experience that life is not always fair or pleasant. We know first-hand the anguish, the agony and the affliction this world offers. We know all too well and have experienced hurt and harm, sorrow and sadness, death and destruction. And yet, we have the sure and certain hope in God’s eternal promises.
Throughout all of Holy Scriptures we have these golden nuggets that help us in the hours of terror and turmoil. Listen to the Author of Life who moved different Bible writers to share with us food for the soul so that we may rejoice; in spite of what we experience daily.
Isaiah said: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken” (25:8). Paul in His Resurrection chapter stated: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). The Apostle John wrote these precious words: “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4); and Jesus Himself said: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. (John 15:11) and again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20). These are the promises that will carry us on the journey of life and especially through hardships and even death. And it was David, the Psalm writer, who by the Holy Spirit penned these words: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
What is that brings joy to our hearts? What is it that gives the fullness of Joy? David gives the answer, “In Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” Our joy comes in knowing the Savior intimately. In His presence, around His Word, and His life-giving Sacraments there is fullness of joy. At His right hand there is pleasures forevermore.
This doesn’t mean that we will not suffer, endure hardships or live the peaceful life we wish and long for. Far be it from the truth. The world we live in is filled with all kinds of trials and tribulations. However even in these moments we are not alone. For Christ has promised that He will be with us ALWAYS! There are no exceptions! (Matthew 28:20). PAUSE.
Last week in my sermon I shared with you the story of the Louis Zampeirini who was a POW in WWII. You may not recognize the name, but you have heard of the book and movie “Unbroken” that tells his story of survival even against the worst odds:
Today, I like to share a bit more about him and the fullness of joy that filled his and his parent’s hearts. After being captured by the Japanese, he was treated with cruelty, tortured, starved to the point of death and his parents hearing nothing of his fate for over 2+ years. Finally something gave them a reason to hope and have the fullness of joy.
On August 20 while in POW camp Naoetsu, a radioman read the signal of the fast blinking lights of the plane above: “THE WAR IS OVER!” In seconds masses of naked men were stampeding out of the river and up the hill. As the plane turned loops above, the pilot waving, the POWs swarmed into the compound, out of their minds with relief and rapture. Their fear of the guards, of the massacre they had so long awaited, was gone, dispersed by the roar and muscle of the bomber. The prisoners jumped up and down, shouted, and sobbed. Some scrambled onto the camp roofs, waving their arms and singing out their joy to the pilot above…In the midst of the running, celebrating men, Louis stood on wavering legs emaciated, sick and dripping wet. In his tired mind, two words were repeating themselves, over and over. “I AM FREE! I AM FREE! I AM FREE!” (pp 312-313).
Though the war was over, Louis didn’t return home till sometime later. On September 9, Pete (his older brother) was startled awake by a hand on his shoulder, shaking him vigorously. He opened his eyes to see one of his friends bending over him with a huge smile. Trumbull’s story had appeared in the Los Angeles Times. The headline said it: ZAMPERINI COMES BACK FROM THE DEAD.
When his family heard the news, two of the sisters ran to church and gave thanks. As His mother Louise stood in his room cleaning and preparing it for his arrival, blinked away tears, singing out, “He’s on the way home. He’s on the way home. From now on,” she said, “September 9 is going to be Mother’s Day to me, because that’s the day I learned for sure my boy was coming to stay.” (pp 330-331).
I am certain, had we been there on September 9th, we would have seen the fullness of joy in the hearts of the Zamperini’s and all of the parents’ of the POWs. For that is indeed a blessed thing to have your loved ones with you. PAUSE.
Now I beg you to travel with me to Jerusalem. It is the Sunday after the dark Friday when the Savior was put to death on the cross. On that Sunday evening two disciples Luke tells us were on their way to Emmaus.
These disciples were heart-broken, in anguish, in pain and suffering at the death of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. Their feet were heavy. Their eyes were teary and their hearts were filled with sorrow… But isn’t that the way it is with life in a sinful world? We only look to the end of our nose? We let our eyes overpower our ears. These Disciples had heard the promise of resurrection, but they wouldn’t believe. They heard the testimony of the women, but wouldn’t believe! These followers of Jesus didn’t know joy because they refused to believe God’s clear Word of promise! But something happened that night that changed their lives forever and filled them with joy.
Along the road a companion walked with them and revealed to them from Scripture that He is the risen Lord. The One who was dead has come back to life again as He promised. The One who was nailed to the cross and placed in a tomb has opened the grave and swallowed death forever. And they were full of joy because they were in His PRESENCE.
What is it today that keeps you from knowing the joy of the resurrected Christ? Are you too focused on the diagnosis of a doctor? Maybe you are being tempted to listen to the society that says God’s Word is too old fashioned and that maybe we ought to “lighten up a bit?” Are you so worried about outliving your money that you forget to live for Christ? Are you someone who looks at a grave and sees an end and not a beginning? These and a number of other things are sins that steal our joy. We take our eyes off of Christ and His Word and we see nothing but fear and death. We may as well be in Zamperini’s hopeless prison camp!
But because Christ is risen everything changes for us too! As His beloved children, we are brought here by the Holy Spirit to see with eyes of faith, hear with ears of faith, and touch with hands of faith the One who was dead and is alive forevermore—Jesus the Christ. In Him, through Him and on account of Him we have fullness of joy. Because He lives we can sing the victory songs: CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
No matter what we face and experience. No matter how much the devil throws at us. No matter how many trials and hardships we go through, we can be confident of this one thing, with Jesus by our side, we have fullness of joy.
The fullness of joy comes to us because of what He has accomplished in His death and resurrection—forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. As Isaiah told the Israelites so long ago, I say to you today: “The Lord has swallowed up death forever; and the Lord God has wiped away the tears from your faces and He has removed your reproaches. For the Lord has spoken.”
Today, we can say with David, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” How blessed we are because, in Him we have the fullness of joy today and always. Amen
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA