John 16:20-23a

Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me.

Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.


Most of us live our everyday lives – facing struggles and conflicts – some of which are of our own choosing, but most of which are things out of our control. At present the latter is my reality. We are living in difficult times and most of the things going on around me are beyond my control. Admittedly these are the things that often lead me to weep and mourn. The deaths of so many around the world from COVID-19, the impact the virus has had on our most vulnerable communities, and the deepening of the social, racial, and economic disparities that exist in our nation. Yet, today’s gospel gives me assurance that I will not be stuck in my feelings of anger, sadness, and grief.

Jesus told his disciples that there would be times when grief will be transformed to joy. He is referring to a joy that remains in the heart; joy that is deep and abiding. Jesus said at the end of v.22 that “no one will take your joy from you.” Nothing can diminish this deep-seated joy. And this is the very thing that makes it possible to have this joy even in times of great loss and sorrow.

While there is much to be sad about these days, this time has also brought out goodness and a sense of caring for one another. There have been caravans and parades of cars that drive by the home of our local centenarians offering well-wishes. Neighbors are shopping for those who have underlying health conditions who need to remain at home. Families who never ate dinner together are discovering after a few weeks of tension and adjustment, that gathering at the table together isn’t so bad. Zoom church services that allow members who rarely saw each other because they almost always attended services at different times, have deepened relationships. There are moments of joy. It is a joy that does not depend on having pleasant circumstances in life. Jesus never promised that we would not suffer, but he did promise to be with us always to lighten the load, soften the pain, and be a companion on the journey.

Today Jesus wants us to know and believe that after our difficult days, we also will experience new life. As we bring this Easter season to a close, let us pray for a faith vision to remember the Lord’s new risen life after his passion-death and for the trust to anticipate and discover signs of life-joy in our own pains. So even in times of pain and sorrow and grief, may we not overlook the presence of Christ where we will find our joy.

Faithfully,
Rose+


Almighty God,
give us such a vision of your purpose
and such an assurance of your love and power,
that we may ever hold fast the hope
which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.