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He Turns Sorrow into Joy

April 30, 2023; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Easter 6 A. gruendonnerstag.jpg

He Turns Sorrow into Joy


Rev. Kurt Lantz Easter 4 Psalm 147:1-11

April 30, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON



Dear outcasts and broken-hearted,


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


Do you remember the childhood wonder of watching for the first time someone at work in the kitchen? The counter is crowded with various powders and liquids. The goings on are the same as in a mysterious laboratory, but the setting is quite different. It is warm and cozy instead of cold and sterile. It is familiar and not strange. There is wonder but no fear. Yet the same things are happening. A little of this powder gets added to a lot of that powder; some of this liquid is mixed with some of that. It is all stirred together into a sticky mix and placed into the oven. And a little while later out comes a birthday cake.


The first time you see it happen there is a lot of confusion and questions while things are being mixed together and then a whole lot of joy when the finished product comes to the table. The next time there is great anticipation and you want to get your hands in the mix as things are being added and stirred and poured, because you expect that in the end there will be the joy of a sweet treat. And as the wondrous baked goods keep being produced time and time again, you take less and less interest in the powders and liquids, the mixing and the stirring. You stop watching and you’re not interested in helping in the kitchen anymore. Yet you still want the birthday cake in the end.


Let me suggest to you that as you enjoy eating the birthday cake, you should never lose interest or attention in the baking process that brings it about. And it is not only important to pay attention to the ingredients and measures, but to realize that the context plays an important part. The home kitchen is different from a laboratory or even from an industrial or commercial kitchen. You know that it makes a difference whether your birthday cake was bought at a store or made by your mum. Even if the icing is not all smooth and the lettering is somewhat crooked, the home-baked cake means more. It gives more joy. Those are the details that keep our interest in the home-baked desserts. They are what makes the process worthwhile, what makes us want to poke our head into the kitchen when we hear the clattering of bowls and pans.


Today’s Psalm (147:1-11) encourages us to praise the LORD for providing food. It is even quoted in the Small Catechism’s teaching on Daily Prayers, which shows us how to give thanks following our meals by saying. “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good. His love endures forever. He gives food to every creature. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love” (Luther’s Small Catechism. Part II. Returning Thanks, citing Psalm 136:1, 25; 147:9-11).


Because food finds its way to our table every day, we can lose interest in how it gets there, sometimes even losing sight of the warmth and care of those who prepare it. Not only did caring hands mix the ingredients and place it in the oven but, as our psalm reminds us, the unfailing love of the LORD is behind it all. He provides food for all creatures, beasts and ravens. But even though He provides food for all, that does not mean there is any less love and care in His preparing it for us. His delight is in those “who put their hope in His unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11). The LORD finds delight in those who depend upon His provision, just like a home baker sacrifices their time mixing and stirring and washing up because there is delight in those who hope for their confections and joy in their cakes.


Today’s Psalm makes a connection between the LORD’s provision of food for all creatures and His building up of Jerusalem. There is a similar wonder in watching both a baker and a builder. Like a baker mixes powders and liquids to create a cake, so a builder puts together wood and stone to build a city. That, too, is a wonder—to see a stack of boards and a pile of bricks become a house, a shelter, a home for a loving family where they will sit down together for meals and enjoy home-baked birthday cakes.


Our wonder is all the greater when we remember the materials that the LORD uses to build up Jerusalem, the city of His people, the place where they are sheltered and brought together under the eternal King, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the building of His Church with rather shoddy material, indeed. He builds it up with people who are far from perfect. “The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (147:2-3). He cleanses those hearts from hurts and abuse, forgiving their sins, taking away their guilt and shame. He gathers those who have been scattered into a family as their loving heavenly Father, interlocking them together with one another through the fellowship in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.


As with home-baking it is important to remember not just the process and the materials used, but also the context in which it is all put together. It is a setting of warmth and love, not a place that is sterile and cold. It is a place where people are brought together in order to experience the joy of receiving the gifts of the LORD at His table. Yet what makes that place (the Church) to be that way is not the decor, or the furniture or appointments. They convey warmth and light only insofar as they portray the gracious unfailing love of the LORD who is builder and provider. It is important to remember that this also takes place in the context of “His unfailing love.”


It is a wonder of His love that He takes shoddy people like us, who have been scattered away by society and discarded by the world. As St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26). We have been cast aside as old and useless religious curmudgeons, clinging to out-dated ideas of ordered social constructs. We are pushed off to the side for believing that there is a God; that He created us male and female; that He has commandments for us to follow so that we might live under His provision and care.


The world looks at us as defective material. Our hearts are broken and brittle, like the bricks from the parsonage retaining wall I took to the landfill. They crumbled in my hands and so they were not good for anything. We crumble, too, under the pressure of those who lay burdens on us too heavy to bear. We cannot even hold the weight of our own sins. But our loving LORD rescues us out of the junk pile and gathers us together for His building. He heals our broken hearts and binds up our wounds with His unfailing love. And it is a wonder and a marvel that He constructs us into the beautiful building of His Church, the holy city where not only do we dwell, but He is pleased to dwell with us.


Even if our life in the Church starts to look mundane to us when the pageantry of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil start to lose their wonder, we can never forget the context in which these beautiful rites and ceremonies take place. They happen in the Lord’s house, a place that is warmed by His presence, and lit by His love. The regular routine of gathering plain elements of water, bread, and wine, in order to dispense to us the holy and righteous life of Christ; to build us into His city; to provide for us food for life eternal, is an outpouring of His love. And He delights when we put our hope in that unfailing love.


The words of our Gospel reading for today (John 16:16-22), Jesus spoke in the upper room on the night when He was betrayed into the hands of those who would kill Him. We read those words of Jesus even as we celebrate the finished product of Easter, like we would take time to remember where our birthday cake came from as we enjoy it at the end of a great meal. What went into the mix so that we could celebrate this Season of Easter for fifty days? What is so special and precious about it that we repeat this same meal every Sunday the whole year through?


On that night when Jesus instituted the Holy Supper His disciples were surely full of wonder, and more than a little confused. You can hear it in their questions and in their silences. The Passover meal had its own particular rituals of bitter herbs and cups of wine and broiled lamb. It had its foundational significance in God’s love for His people by which He delivered them from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 12). But Jesus, through His teaching and actions on that night, was doing things differently. It made His disciples watch and listen with wonder, like the first time you watched someone baking in the kitchen or building a house in your neighbourhood.


The disciples didn’t quite understand what was happening. They didn’t know what the end result would be. Jesus washed their feet and turned their Passover meal into something new. He took the bread and when He had given thanks (possibly with the words of today’s psalm) He broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And after supper He took the cup and when He had given thanks He gave it to them saying, “Drink of it all of you. This cup is the new testament in My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”


A mom or dad, aunt or grandparent baking a special dessert might have to encourage exasperated little children who are tiring of helping in the kitchen, so that they begin to realize that the end result will be worth all that stirring they have to do. And so Jesus spoke to His disciples, anticipating their confusion and exasperation, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20). They would listen to Jesus talk to them that night for hours. They would watch Him do things that they did not understand. They would sorrow as He was taken away, abused and mocked and beaten and killed. They would see Jesus baked in the oven of the wrath of God against the sins of mankind as He died forsaken on the cross. But on the third day there was a surprise in the upper room at their evening meal. They saw Him again, alive and victorious. Their sorrow was turned to joy.


In remembrance of Jesus we celebrate the meal that He prepared for us. And we are not merely joyful about eating His body and drinking His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We also remember the love that provides the context for all of His blessed gifts. You know that when you ask for the secret ingredient that makes the homemade dessert taste so good, the answer is “love.” There is some truth to that. It tastes better because we know it was made for us by someone who loves and cares for us and wants to give us something to bring joy to our day. They sacrificed time and effort so that we would know that we are loved.


Likewise as we continue to celebrate Easter through these fifty days and every week, we do so remembering that the meal we share together was prepared with the unfailing love of the LORD. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). He has gathered the scattered and healed the broken-hearted as a people who hope in His unfailing love. And we have that love in this meal, which Jesus prepared with His great sacrifice so that we might not remain in the sorrow of our sins, but have the joy of forgiveness and everlasting life in His unfailing love.


The love of God for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection is the context for what He provides for us here in this place. Keeping that in mind we continue to rejoice to keep the feast of the Easter Festival. Keeping that in mind we rejoice to help out in the kitchen and the sacristy. Our preparations for social lunches take on richer meaning, and we delight in those who find joy in our provision. Changing the water of the baptismal font, and washing up the communion vessels are not just two of a long list of mundane tasks that need to be repeated over and over again each week. They, and everything that is done to prepare for the Divine Service, display the love of God flowing through His house as He continues to provide all that we need for this life and the next through the love that builds His Church and feeds His creation—the love that is shown to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the love that turns our sorrow into joy.



The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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