While doing my prep work for this Sunday’s sermon, I ran across a quote which was very fitting for many men who serve in the Office of the Ministry. From Luther’s House Postils (volume six of the “Complete Sermons of Martin Luther”) page 90. Luther is preaching on this Sunday’s text for the one year lectionary
(John 16:16-22) “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 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. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Now here is what Luther had to say in his sermon on the text:
This [sorrow being finally transmuted into eternal joy] is something we should learn very well, so that we still have the right perspective in times of affliction and temptation, enabling us to say, I do indeed have grief now but it’s only for a little while and then this sorrow will be turned into joy. Especially do we need this attitude if we are in the preaching ministry. The devil and the world will never stop assailing you. If you speak the truth, the world rages madly; it begins to curse, condemn, and persecute, and you’ll have to endure scorn and mockery. And if the world can whip out its sword against you, it will surely do that too, with master devil joining the fray driving such poisonous, fiery darts into your heart that you will almost literally suffer a meltdown! When you experience this kind of tribulation – the world cursing and persecuting, deriding and laughing, and the devil also plaguing you – what will you do? Become impatient, give up the ministry, walk away from it all, even cursing? Not at all! Instead have patience, wait it out, take courage and say, So what? Didn’t my Lord Christ predict, “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.” But, He added, Your sorrow will turn into joy after “a little while.” Because He’s always trustworthy, never having lied to me about the “little” namely, that I do not now see Him and therefore weep and lament, so He will also not deceive me in regard to the other “little,” namely that I will see Him again and my heart will rejoice! And that’s why we need seriously to ponder His words when He describes this alternating between not seeing and then seeing Christ, being sorrowful and then rejoicing, weeping and then being cheerful!
If you know a pastor who is going through a tough time share this with him. For even his ministry is but “a little while”.
I would strongly encourage regular reading of Luther’s sermons for your own studies or devotional life.