In That Day
Fifth Sunday of Easter (Cantate)
April 24th/25th, 2016
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
Excitement inspires storytelling. It seems to be human nature. When a group of people get off a roller coaster, they excitedly tell one another about their experience, recounting an experience they all just shared together. When a family returns from a vacation they can’t wait to share the pictures and stories with their loved ones. When a child is born, the mother and the father usually begin telling people immediately, through phone calls or Facebook posts, telling others their good news. When a child passes the test they’ve been studying hard for, or when their art project is chosen to be put on display, or when they make the team, they excitedly tell their parents. On most days that you ask, “How was school?” the answer you’re likely to get is, “fine,” or “ok.” But if the child is excited about something, you get a story. Excitement inspires storytelling.
The same dynamic can be seen in today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah. Much of the first chapters of Isaiah are filled with prophecies of judgment. The first few chapters of the book describe the terrible situation in Israel, detailing the sin of the people and painting a picture of how far they had fallen. The next few chapters prophesy God’s judgment, warning Israel of the punishment they were going to face for their rebellion and unbelief. In the midst of such destruction, God promised to provide a remnant. In chapter 10, God promises that although the Israelites had been like the sand on the seashore, only a small group of them would return to lean on him. The prophecy of the remnant serves two purposes. First, it demonstrates the wide scope of judgment that Israel would endure. It shows the depth of punishment that was headed their way in response to the depth of their sin. But even more so, the prophecy of the remnant shows that death and destruction are not God’s final word for Israel. Restoration is. He will preserve a remnant, and that remnant will one day return home.
The return of the remnant is the “that day” which Isaiah referred to in verse 1 of today’s reading: “You shall say in that day.” In fact, between Isaiah’s first prophecy of the remnant and today’s reading, the phrase “in that day” is used 6 different times to promise hope for the future. The message is: O Israel, the day of your destruction is coming quickly, and it will soon arrive. But the day of destruction is not the last day for you. There is also coming a day of restoration. In that day, the day of restoration, you will no longer look to foreign worldly powers to defend you, but you will trust in the Lord, and the burden will be lifted off your shoulders. You will no longer seek the wisdom of earthly rulers, but you will seek the wisdom of God and of his Word. In that day the Lord will recover you and you will be so filled with joy that you will respond with joyous songs of thanksgiving for all God has done. Like a person who cannot contain the good news they just received, you will break forth into song on that day, on the day of your redemption. Your excitement will inspire storytelling.
Isaiah’s message is mirrored by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. The events of today’s reading took place in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. Jesus had just finished washing the disciples’ feet and instituting a new commandment, that they love one another with the same love they had received from him. After those things, Jesus began to teach the disciples many things, including the text we read last week and the words we heard today that he was going back to the Father. When the disciples were saddened by this news, Jesus consoled them by reminding them that his departure wasn’t the end: he would return. As we heard last week, he compared their sorrow to that of a mother giving birth, and he comforted them with the analogy that just as a mother holding her child is so overcome with joy that she forgets the anguish of giving birth, so also the disciples will be so filled with joy when He comes again that they will not remember the anguish they will experience in his absence. The promise of that future joy will fill the Apostles with such joy that they will be inspired to tell others, even if it means their own death.
In both of these texts we have the reality of sadness and hardship overcome by the joy of restoration, which inspires telling the story. Such joy fills our lives as God’s children even today. For we who were enslaved to sin have been set free. We who have suffered under the crushing weight of a guilty conscience have been set free. We who have felt the grime of shame that sticks to our conscience have been washed clean. As long as we try to work out our own salvation, we are stuck in the day of judgment and will never make it to that day, the day of salvation. As long as we live in the excuses we make for our sin rather than confessing our sin, we will be stuck in the day of judgment. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sin, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And the joy of deliverance will fill our lips with words we can’t help but speak. We will say in that day, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were rightly angry with me, your anger turned away that you might comfort me.” The joy of such deliverance will inspire in us the song first sung by Moses and all the Israelites after they were safely delivered from Pharaoh’s army through the Red Sea, “The Lord God is my strength and my son, and he has become my salvation.” It is a song of deliverance, for we are the delivered people of God. The Israelites of old were delivered from Pharaoh in the days of Moses and from Assyria in the days of Isaiah. We are delivered from the truest enemies of sin, death, and the devil. We rejoice in that deliverance that we experience today, and look forward to the fullness of that deliverance that will be ours in the life to come. We indeed draw water each and every day from the well of salvation, drinking the living water of Christ himself so that we never thirst again. When the world would dry our mouths with the accusation of our sin and the reality of death, we drink long and deep the water of our Lord’s forgiveness drawn from the well of his Word. We are the delivered people of God, so we join in the song of deliverance: “The Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
We give thanks to the Lord, we call upon his name, we make known his deeds among the people, we proclaim that his name is exalted. The joy of deliverance cannot be contained. The joy of deliverance inspires us to see that story of God told over and over again. Excitement inspires storytelling. The joy of deliverance fills us as God’s children with the desire to share the story with others, to make known God’s deeds among the people, and fills us with a willingness to provide the necessary means for that storytelling to take place. We do that here by supporting the work of this church and school – giving sacrificially from our own personal wealth and resources so that there can be a building where the people of God can gather around the Word of God to receive the gifts of God, to hear the story, the truth of our salvation. We want to let this be made known in all the earth, starting with the little corner of the earth where God has placed us. So we support the current work of this church and school. We support the future endeavors, looking to the generations who will follow us, providing today the needed renovations so that they will have a place to come draw water from the well of salvation, a place where future generations can kneel at the altar of the Lord to be fed by him as we are fed by him today, a place where future generations can hear the proclamation of his Word as we are hearing it today. In a few weeks each member of St. John will have an opportunity to pledge their support to the Branching Out Initiative, which seeks to do just that. We will each have an opportunity to pledge our support so that this church and school can continue to make known God’s deeds among the people here.
But we never forget that it is the joy of the Lord that inspires these things, the joy of deliverance. Such a joy fills us with excitement, and excitement inspires storytelling, such storytelling as happens in this very church and school. May our Lord continue to fill us with such joy. May he continue to come to us in his Word to show us the reality and depths of our sin. May he continue to come to us in his Word to reveal to us the joy of our salvation. And may the joy of that salvation fill our speech. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitants of Zion, for great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel. Let this be made known in all the earth: the Lord God is our strength and our song, and he has become our salvation.
 Isaiah 10:20-24
 Isaiah 10:20
 Isaiah 10:27
 Isaiah 11:10
 Isaiah 11:11
 Isaiah 12:1,4
 John 16:5-24
 1 John 1:8-9
 Isaiah 12:1
 Isaiah 12:2; Exodus 15:2
 Isaiah 12:4