Return to Sermons | Home

“God’s Grief Counselor”
John 16:6-7


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Sixth Sunday of Easter—May 5, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Joe Berti had just finished the Boston Marathon when he heard and felt the explosions.  His wife was watching at the finish line, just a few yards from one of the bombs.  She was hit by shrapnel, but miraculously neither of them was hurt.  Two days later they were back home in Texas, and Joe was driving along the Interstate near the town of West.  Suddenly he heard and felt another massive explosion and flying debris hit his car.  At first he thought it was another terrorist attack, but later learned a fertilizer plant had exploded.  He’s the only person who experienced both of those explosions which rocked our nation that week.

It was a terrible week for Joe Berti and so many others.  In the days following such tragic incidents, the news reports always tell us that “grief counselors” have been brought in to help.  In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus and his disciples are facing a terrible, shocking, unspeakable tragedy.  The disciples desperately need a grief counselor, and Jesus promises to send them one.

They are gathered for the Passover meal in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday.  But a dark cloud hangs over what should be a festive occasion.  For this will be the LAST Supper of Jesus and his disciples.  Within the next 24 hours, Jesus’ disciples will witness and experience so many horrible things: His BETRAYAL by one of their own; his ARREST at the hands of their own people; his DENIAL by the leader of the disciples; his DESERTION by all the other disciples; his CONDEMNATION by the chief priests and ruling council; his TORTURE, and brutal EXECUTION by crucifixion; his DEATH upon the cross, and burial.

Months before, Jesus had told the disciples plainly, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  The previous week he had warned them again: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”  And now, this very night, he finally tells them ominously: “Everything that is written about me is coming to fulfillment.”

“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.”  As they gather for the Last Supper, Jesus’ disciples are filled not with joy but with grief, sorrow, sadness.  And, as we gather here for the Lord’s Supper, there are times—perhaps today—when YOU, for one reason or another, are also filled not with joy but with grief, sorrow, sadness.

The disciples were grieving that night for many reasons.  First of all, the man who is not only their Lord and Master but also their dearest friend has just told them he is going to suffer and die.  Perhaps, like the disciples that night, you too are grieving because of the loss of a loved one.

In a few weeks it will be 25 years since my father’s death from cancer.  Several years ago, us five children decided to send flowers to our mother that day.  I wasn’t really emotional about it until I decided on the wording for the card: “In Memory of Dad.  With Love from All Your Children.”  When I said those words to myself, I immediately felt a moistness on my cheeks as tears of grief began to flow again, like his death had been yesterday instead of over ten years ago.  Like the disciples, and me, are you too grieving because of the loss of a loved one?

“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.”  Jesus’ disciples were also grieving that night because all their hopes and dreams and plans were coming crashing down around them.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way!  Jesus was supposed to be welcomed into the city as the great Messiah.  By now, he was supposed to be seated on the throne in Pontius Pilate’s palace.  Instead, he would soon be standing before Pilate’s throne, on trial for his life.  Even though Jesus explained to his disciples that all this was really according to God’s plan, as foretold in the Scriptures, they were grieving that night because things weren’t turning out the way they thought they should. 

There are many times in our lives when we have it all figured out, the way we think things should go, but the Lord apparently has different plans, and things don’t go our way.  Like the disciples, are you too grieving because things aren’t working out the way you expected, because your hopes and dreams and plans are coming crashing down around you?

“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.  But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  Like Jesus’ disciples that night, we too are, at times, filled with grief, in our lives.  But, just as Jesus promises to the disciples, he also sends to US “God’s Grief Counselor,” the Holy Spirit, to comfort us, and give us joy and peace, even in the midst of our grief.  “I will send him to you,” Jesus promises.

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Word of God, the Holy Bible, as Jesus promised that night: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Word of God, assuring you that God completely forgives you all your sins on account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting men’s sins against them”;  “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”; “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins”;  “And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Word of God, assuring you that God is on your side: “If God is for us, who can be against us? . . .  And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Word of God, assuring you of God’s never-failing love for you: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid”; “I have loved you,” says the Lord, “with an everlasting love”; “Surely I am with you always.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Word of God as you mourn the death of loved ones, assuring you of the hope of eternal life and reunion in heaven: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. . .  And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” also comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  Paul says: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Peter says in today’s reading from Acts, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, assuring you that you are “born again” as a child of God: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” 

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, assuring your that all your sins are washed away: “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” also comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, which Jesus instituted for the comfort and strengthening of the disciples and us on that night when they were “filled with grief”:  “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you . . .  Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, assuring you that your Savior gave his body and shed his blood for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? . . .  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” also comes to you in Holy Absolution, forgiveness of sins pronounced in Jesus’ name by the Pastor or another Christian, as Jesus promised: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven them.”

Finally, “God’s Grief Counselor” also comes to you through your brothers and sister in Christ, through their kindness and compassion, help and comfort.  As Paul says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  And God actually wants to work through YOU to be his grief counselor in the flesh for others who are hurting.  As Paul says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”; “Therefore comfort each other and build one another up, as in fact you are already doing”; “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.”  As they gathered for the Last Supper, Jesus’ disciples were grieving for many reasons.  They were grieving because their dearest friend has just told them he is going to suffer and die.  They were grieving because all their hopes and dreams and plans were coming crashing down around them.  In the same way as we gather here for the Lord’s Supper, there are many of us today who, for one reason or another, are grieving.

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  Just as Jesus promises the disciples, he also sends to US “God’s Grief Counselor,” the Holy Spirit, to comfort us, and give us joy and peace, even in the midst of our grief. 

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Word of God:  “If God is for us, who can be against us? . . .  And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? . . .  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you in Holy Absolution: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins.”

“God’s Grief Counselor” comes to you through the kindness and compassion and help and comfort of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  And God wants to work through YOU to be his grief counselor for others who are hurting: “Bear one another’s burdens . . .  Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.  But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

The Holy Spirit: “God’s Grief Counselor”—for YOU.

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts