Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Verna Schubert Funeral 15 May 2018

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 11:25
Theme: Resurrection and Life

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Verna, and especially you, Everlyn and Jean, her daughters;

“Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”1 That was Verna’s confirmation verse, assigned to her some 72 years ago- but timeless. Verna no longer has to look forward in anticipation of the life to come. She now understands ‘godliness’ through actual experience; something we can only grasp by faith. Thanks be to our merciful Saviour, who has received her in to the divine presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saints and angels, and all the company of heaven. Light, joy, and peace are hers beyond description.

Verna is now “complete”. But we are left diminished. It can be no other way. Grief is the most human of all emotions. It rocks us to the core because it brings us face to face with our ultimate vulnerability. We are powerless to stop the separation death causes. It stings so deeply because humans are made in the image of God and at some level we know that God’s original purposes have been thwarted.

Jesus Himself wept. As He stood at the grave of Lazarus His compassion was evident for His friend and for humanity. Jesus knew He would soon call Lazarus forth from the grave. Only Christ could truly know and understand that this separation from Lazarus was only very temporary, and still He wept. In so doing He stood in solidarity with the entire human race. When the divine Son of God assumed our human nature, there was nothing that we are or experience that He didn’t also possess, save for our sin.

Yet, He took that sin and bore it all the way to the cross. Verna believed He did that for her. She understood that she was not master of her own destiny. She had her transgressions, her failures, her regrets, her scars. She carried burdens, and mourned shattered hopes that few, if any knew about. No one traverses nearly 88 years of life without causing hurt, whether on purpose, through ignorance, or by apathy to others. Some things remain unreconciled, and those that are can often be improved. Verna knew, that like all of us, she was a sinner in need of God’s grace.

The Bible says, “He who has the Son, has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”2 It may sound too simple. It may sound too preachy. It may sound like a stereotype. It may evoke scepticism, resentment, denial or apathy. But when we arrive at the threshold of mortality nothing is more important. It is all or nothing. The one who ‘has’ Christ, has everything. Those who go it on their own will end up with nothing. There are no self-styled ways of entering the presence of God. Nothing that we have accomplished, nothing that we have pursued, not the greatest of intentions will compile for us a resume worthy of storming the gates of heaven. Christ alone is worthy. He made the sacrifice. He paid the price.

Heaven is not a hypothetical place conjured up to give hope to those desperate to find an optimistic angle when facing mortality. Those who doubt the reality of life beyond the grave characterized by a perfected and vibrant existence need to take up their misgivings with the Man who came from there, submitted Himself to death in our world, rose from the grave and returned to that dimension of eternal bliss. And heaven is not in some distant, far off corner of the galaxy. It is as close to you as you are sitting to one another right now.

Verna was a straight-shooter. It wasn’t her nature to put on appearances. She called it as she saw it with no spin or embellishment. You didn’t have to guess what she was thinking or tip toe around her feelings. She never caused a fuss or expected special treatment. Her affections were genuine, and her loyalties were never divided. She was God’s lamb. The Shepherd says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”3 He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”4

It seems like a long time ago since Verna was baptized. She wasn’t baptized in the church because she wasn’t expected to live. The mortality rate of twins was much higher in those days. But the Lord almighty had other plans. He saw her through the difficult early years arming her with resilience and determination. The promise and power of baptism doesn’t lose one iota of vitality or validity as the years roll on. In fact, Christian maturity involves growing into the depth and breadth of God’s baptismal promise. The Bible says it this way, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”5

Verna is in that glory now. When we reflect on the death of a Christian, grief doesn’t end in despair or loss of hope. Rather, we anticipate a reunion. In the midst of sorrow, we can be filled with gratitude for the blessings that were. We look forward to what will be. And what will be is described in this way, “The trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable.”6 And again, the Scripture says, “Dear friends, now we are children God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”7

Now, it’s impossible to describe how magnificent this will be. We will be raised to a state of existence in which we will enjoy the life of God unencumbered by any of the circumstances of this fallen existence. No burdens, cares, or anxieties will be experienced. We won’t be subjected to pain, exposed to danger, or otherwise occupied with any distress. Beholding the vision of God will be enthralling. Thanks be to God that Verna now wears the crown of life. She is at rest; a vibrant, sublime rest permeated with unending joy. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Verna Dorothy Schubert
15 May 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Timothy 4:8 2 1 John 5:12
3 John 10:27-29 4 John 11:25
5 Colossians 3:1-4 6 1 Corinthians 15:52-53
71 John 3:2

Seventh Sunday of Easter (B) 2018

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Acts 1:9
Theme: Ascended and Enthroned

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

The narrative the Holy Spirit has given us is never inconsistent with the character of God. From the first word of Genesis to the last sentence of Revelation the account of God’s presence and work in the world is a coherent unity. Saving knowledge of the true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, comes to us only in the record of Holy Scripture. Any attempts to play the nature of God off against the biblical accounts is like sawing off the branch upon which one sits. There may be only a small disturbance when the sawing begins, but a big crash when it is completed. God remains true to Himself and true to His word.

Thursday marked the occasion of the ascension of Christ to the Father’s hand of power. Forty days after His resurrection from the dead He was lifted up to heaven. Jesus ascended bodily to the Father’s throne in the presence of His disciples. They were near Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Angels were present, indicating the importance of the event. The disciples were still confused. Jesus gives them correction and comfort. He then receives His coronation. His journey of sacrifice was ended.

The church confesses the ascension in its creeds. The ascension is not an afterthought, an event tacked on to the chronology of the crucifixion and resurrection. It is, rather, the culmination of His work of redemption. He now rules at the Father’s side and makes intercession for His church. But we do not believe God is an absentee landlord. He does not deliver decrees from distance demanding obedience from His subjects. He is not an aloof ruler that occasionally intervenes in human affairs according to His whim.

God has not left us to fend for ourselves. Pentecost looms, but the ascension is not a handover from Jesus to the Holy Spirit or from Jesus to the apostles. He has already said to them, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."1 Jesus is Immanuel- God With Us2! His reach is not limited by His enthronement in heaven. He is present wherever and whenever His word and sacrament are. His presence isn’t a projection in the minds of believers. He is the incarnate one; always near to His people. When the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people,"3 the apostle understood that the Saviour was at His side.

There is no place God is not. It’s important to understand, though, that the omnipresence of God does not mean we have unrestricted and generic access to Him. The truth that God is everywhere does not mean He is available to us according to our preferences. Saving contact with God only happens through His chosen means. That’s why regular contact with God’s word is so vitally essential. Today Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of His followers saying, “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.”4

His truth is the be all and end all of reality itself. His truth calls us to account for our sins, brings us to repentance, and shapes us for lives of service, and comforts us with heavenly blessings. This happens as He transforms us from the inside out. When you answer that question, “Do you confess that you have sinned, and do you repent of your sins?” Do you think God is just targeting some lapse in your self-control that resulted in lying, cheating, and stealing? Restraint is necessary primarily for unbelievers. He is targeting the deeper motives of your heart. God is not a parole officer keeping a list of your “petty offences”. He is a master surgeon operating on the cancer of your idolatry. Restraining the outward transgressions doesn’t cure the inward motivations. But when the heart and conscience find security in the grace of God the actions will follow.

The Lutheran Confessions say it this way, “Now, the Decalogue [Ten Commandments] requires not only outward civil works, which reason can in some way produce, but it also requires other things placed far above reason, namely, truly to fear God, truly to love God, truly to call upon God, truly to be convinced that God hears us, and to expect the aid of God in death and in all afflictions; finally, it requires obedience to God, in death and all afflictions, so that we may not flee from these or refuse them when God imposes them.”5

Faith means that your conscience wants to know and do God’s will even if your heart is enticed by selfish desires. Faith means the conflict against temptation is always engaged. Not that we live in some state of perpetual anxiety over the constant presence of temptation. We have peace that passes all understanding6. If we are being assaulted by Satan’s schemes, or refined by the Lord’s discipline we can be assured that our faith is active. A person with a dead faith cares nothing about following God’s will, flees from Divine discipline, and avoids every sort of pain and heartache the world can throw at us. Avoidance of discomfort is at the top of most modern agendas. Evading pain is not only a top priority, it is nearly considered to be an inalienable right.

Dear friends, as people of God, we live in the world, but we are not of the world. You have worries, cares, frustrations, and challenges. You are occupied with disappointments, fears, and doubts. You may struggle with being dependent, despondent or depressed. You may be apathetic or lack empathy. You may not feel any different from the average person of the world. Yet, God’s holiness is not far removed from you. There’s no burden He cannot lift. There’s no darkness His light cannot penetrate. There’s no sadness that cannot be wiped away by the immortal life He brings. We dine at His table. We are cleansed by His blood. It’s our privilege to share His hope and light.

Jesus died and rose again to atone for the sins of the whole world. His grace has no conditions. His mercy has no prerequisites. His compassion is not restricted according to any human criteria. If you could contribute anything, even in the smallest measure, to your own salvation, the entire premise of the gospel would be overthrown. If you could climb part of the ladder, pay a little of the debt, or carry some of the burden, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ would be undermined and overthrown. That means your baptism is not a conditional promise. Yes, it can be despised. It can be torn to shreds like tearing up $100 note. When God’s promises are despised we scorn God Himself.

Yet, just as tearing up that $100 note does nothing to the authority that issued it (the central bank), so too, God in His character (His power, grace, and wisdom) remains unchanged by human fury or folly. God is, of course, pained when people rebuff His blessings. The Scriptures warn about grieving the Holy Spirit7. Still, God remains true even when every human is false. He remains faithful even when we lapse from the faith. He remains constant in love even when our hearts grow cold.

Today mothers are also recognized all around the world. What a tremendous privilege it is helping to bring life into existence. But the status of motherhood is under attack. Not respected as it once was, Christian mothers are in greater need of support from the wider network of Christian people. Life is sacred to God. He blesses its conception, its nurture, and the Christian’s entire pilgrimage to eternity. Mothers are not discretionary. They are His indispensable means of giving love and care, identity and purpose to His children.

Jesus is ascended. But He is not absent. He rules patiently and tirelessly until the appointed time for His return in glory. He doesn’t leave us short-handed or in suspense. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Seventh Sunday of Easter
13 May 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 28:20 2 See Matthew 1:23
3 Acts 18:9-10 4 John 17:17
5 Apology IV 6 See Philippians 4:7
7 See Ephesians 4:30

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Peg Ziersch Funeral (11 May 2018)

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 14:6
Theme: The Way, Truth, and Life

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Peg, and especially you, Karen, Michael, and Andrew, her children;

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”1 That’s what the word of God says, and it is now true for Peggy Ziersch. She is free from all frailties, infirmities, and cruelties that beset us in this life. The happiness she now knows is beyond words. When St. Paul had a glimpse of paradise he said that he “heard inexpressible things2. So, while we grieve, we also give thanks to our gracious God that Peg is now privy to these things.

Reflection on the life of any Christian is both a cause for gratitude and an occasion learning. The lessons to be gleaned from Peg’s life are many and colourful. God blessed others through her in humble, authentic, humorous, and yes, sometimes maddening ways. Life was challenging throughout most of her early years. She was born with no silver spoon in her mouth. Her mother died when she was not yet three. Yet, she persevered. Peg understood hard work. Frugal, resourceful, determined; she was never wasteful and always generous. She was never idle. There were always things to do on the block, and the cows always had to be milked. Still, time was made to be in the Lord’s house and Sunday was the day around which the rest of the revolved.

In her later years, Peg lamented how drastically times had changed and how many were falling away from the faith. Those who attended Bible study with her were always in for a treat. Feeling humble and inadequate she still made her queries and comments with bravery. She had an uncomplicated but deep desire to understand God’s word. Deeply influenced by the weight of God’s law and legalism in her early years, she longed to find comfort in the freedom of the gospel. She grew to appreciate God’s grace. How many times did we hear Peg say, “I shouldn’t be asking this, but…” or “What’dya reckon?” or “That’s a little bit naughty, don’t you think?” About those she thought God had been more than fair to she often said, “They had their chance.”

Peg didn’t really like to talk about death. Undoubtedly, she wasn’t fussed about any particular arrangements for her funeral. But her hesitation may have also been an expression of the intrinsic human fear of dying. The tendency of our current culture is to trivialize and sanitize death. We glorify it in the cinema and the gaming world, desensitising young and impressionable minds to the real finality of death. In virtual reality the characters are blown up or shot down, but in the next episode or next round of the game, they’re back again as good as new. We make death seem trivial. The living, breathing, flesh and blood world we live in is not that way. We also tend to sanitize death by our frequently sterile way of dealing with it. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’.

But that does nothing to solve the dilemma. Death is the unalterable consequence of sin. No human can overcome it. Peg had a deep concern for the spiritual well-being of others. She knew that she was a sinner in need of God’s grace and in that regard, she was no different than anyone else. The Bible allows for no exceptions when it says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead."3 No one can stand at the judgment and account for their own sins.

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the sacrifice that covered the sins of the world. No one can get to heaven in any other way, for He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”4 But no sinner is beyond the reach of His mercy. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”5 And again, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”6 Therefore the Bible says,“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, - who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”7

When we leave this mortal life the Scripture tells us, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’" 8 Peg longed to be made new. She looked forward to the restoration of her sight, the restoration of her hearing, and, in the end, the restoration of her mind. But most of all, like all who hope in the Lord and look forward to the fulfilment of His promises, Peg anticipated with great eagerness being perfected in righteousness. Self-deprecating and always dismissive of her worthiness, it was beyond her wildest imagination to picture herself robed in the perfect holiness of Christ. Yet, she knew she was a baptized child of God and that counted for something. She confessed her belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Dear friends, there aren’t any shortcuts for grief. There is no inoculation program that makes one immune to its influence. Not that grief is shameful or something to be avoided. It is a necessary pain. It involves the recognition of human vulnerability in its most absolute context. We feel the pain of separation and we are powerless to stop it. Life is torn from us and we understandably feel the loss even if we were preparing for it. Yet, Christ does not fail to make good on His promises. He says, “As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”9 Peg has made that transition. She has traversed the inscrutable abyss and her soul has been escorted into the kingdom of immortal light. There a sublime peace reigns and immeasurable joy permeates the very fabric of all existence.

It was my privilege to be at Peg’s bedside when she drew her last breath. It was about 10 minutes before midday. A couple of carers had just left the room a short time before. I assured Peg that the forgiveness of her sins was an absolutely unshakeable truth. The Good Shepherd was about to receive His lamb into eternal pastures. Crucified and risen, His immortal life was about to be hers. She turned her head slightly to the right and the angels quietly escorted her soul into the presence of the divine. But we can safely assume the atmosphere in that dimension was also one of great joy and fanfare. No believer is received into heaven without great celebration. Though Peg was exceptional, she was no exception. Peg has been crowned with life. She is at rest. Her peace is profound. Her joy is immeasurable. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Peggy Ziersch
11 May 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Psalm 115:16 2 2 Corinthians 12:4
3 Acts 17:30-31 4 John 14:6
5 John 10:27-29 6 John 11:25-26
7Phillipians 3:20-21 8 Revelation 21:4-5
9 John 5:21-24

Monday, April 30, 2018

Fifth Sunday of Easter (B) 2018

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 15:1-8
Theme: Vine And Branches

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

God is not an object of examination. He is the creator and sustainer of all things that exist. Our experience of God’s presence and power, whether through the mediation of word, Spirit, and sacrament, or more indirectly through the many aspects of His creation, cannot be encapsulated in a single facet of interaction. Imagine trying to appreciate the intricacies of automobile design or the sophistication of civil engineering by simply driving your car a short distance down the road? Imagine trying to comprehend the full capabilities of your smart phone by making a single call? Can husband and wife truly understand each other after a few days of marriage? (It’s more likely they’ll be baffled for a long time to come!) It’s no different with the incarnate Lord Jesus, who bears the very image of the Father and sends to us the Spirit. In the constancy of divine love- through adversity and prosperity-we begin to apprehend the immensity of God’s life. We can really only make a start here; it will be consummated in eternity.

Still, believers already have eternal life as a present possession. Our Saviour assists us in understanding these things through another very tangible analogy today. Jesus identifies Himself as the true vine. It’s an agricultural illustration that remains very relevant to us. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”1 He says, “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”2

Pruning is a necessity. But it’s painful. Pruning has a purpose. Just as a viticulturalist doesn’t aimlessly slash the vines, the heavenly Father doesn’t randomly trim the fruit-bearing branches of our lives. Grape vines are pruned to promote the production of more fruit. As branches attached to Jesus, the True Vine, we are pruned for the same reason. What needs to be trimmed, of course, is all the growth that’s serving our personal, selfish agendas. The Bible says, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.”3 The fruit of a sinful heart includes all expressions of ungodliness and unbelief. Jesus says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”4

The pruning hurts most, of course, when our favourite depravities are severed from us. Those particular propensities of lust, greed, deceit, laziness, selfishness, meanness, cold-heartedness; or whatever they may be. Dear friends, it’s important to be brutally honest here. We might be quite happy to be called to repentance for sins in a generic manner. We’re masters at camouflaging our particular peccadillos. But when our pet sins are held under the spotlight the conscience quickly comes under duress. It’s exactly this type of pruning (and the Greek word means ‘cleansing’) that the Father undertakes for the purpose of bearing more fruit for the kingdom.

The vigor of our faith, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest asset we possess; bar none. Life is filled with uncertainty. We spend much time and resource trying to mitigate those risks we believe are most threatening. We fear dying, illness, and material loss. So, we purchase life insurance, health insurance, and property insurance. We fear theft, and accidents, and financial loss. So, we try to secure our homes, our vehicles, and our businesses. We fear broken and troubled relationships, poor reputations, and feelings of inadequacy. So, we try to protect our feeling and our images. Seldom are these fears irrational. Yet, it is often the case that some fears are overblown, while others are undervalued. When we are not consistently instructed by God’s Word priorities easily become misaligned. If we’re not heeding the voice of the Shepherd, we can be led in all kinds of dangerous directions. If we become detached from the Vine, we will not only cease to bear fruit, we will be severed from the source of life.

Our Lord makes the point quite directly when He says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”5 And again, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”6 Proper ordering of our fears, devotion, and hopes is essential. There is not a single scenario of pain or loss, fear or distress, hardship or tragedy that has been experienced, could be imagined, or will ever be conceived of that is too problematic for Christ to handle or too trivial for Him to care about.

The Holy Spirit is not inept. The arm of the Lord is not too short to save7. He can suddenly intervene in human affairs in dramatic fashion, but He normally wishes to use means. He uses people, with all their faults and foibles, to reach other people. The Spirit sent Philip to the Ethiopian today. Explaining the words of Isaiah, he catechized him in the truth of the Messiah and he was baptized. Lydia was a God-fearer and the Scripture says, The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”8 She too, was soon baptized, along with her family.

God is the potter; we are the clay. But, dear friends, no believer can be so broken that the Lord cannot use him or her to carry the message of hope to others. He uses broken vessels as His instruments to bring hope into the lives of others. A simple word of encouragement; a single act of charity may be all that’s needed at the time. You and I are His broken vessels. But we are also justified by grace, through faith. We are His baptized. We dine at the table of His wedding banquet. We are righteous and holy in God’s sight for Christ’s sake. Only in Him do we truly know love. Only through Him do we actually share love. As our Scripture says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world.”9

The victim of the cross is the indisputable master over sin and death. He rose again on the third day never to die again. He did it to rescue us from the terrors of hell and open the gates of heaven to all who believe. As long as we remain grafted to Him death has no power over us. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”10 But as Paul says, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”11 For it’s not we who do it, but Christ working in us. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday of Easter
29 April 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 15:5 2 John 15:2
3 Romans 6:12-13 4 Matthew 15:19
5 Mark 8:36-37 6 Matthew 10:28
7 See Isaiah 59:1 8 Acts 16:14
91 John 4:10-14
10 John 15:5
11 Philippians 4:13

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

ANZAC Day Address 2018

Anzac Day Address 2018

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
How can we understand such love? With words? With images? With reflections in the mind? With actions? If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many volumes of words do the graphic images of a single tour of duty speak? Soldiers rose up to fight. They laid down to rest. They stood at their posts. They defended their trenches. They mustered their courage. They surrendered their vigour. They rose again and again engaging the contest until they laid down in their graves. A snapshot of the casualties from the Great War alone is astonishing. Gallipoli, nearly 500,000 lives. Verdun, 1 million. The Somme, a million plus. And still the tally pressed forward. What can be said in the face of such slaughter? What words would be sufficient to numb the immeasurable pain and grief?
Words must be spoken. They have their time and place. Yet in a situation of profound poignancy, words are ill-equipped for the task. Those who returned from the horrors of war often said little about their experiences. We would be showing no disrespect if this gathering stood in silence for the duration of our purpose: eyes fixed on the cadets to concentrate our reflections on sacrifices made by their predecessors, hearts viewing the placing of wreaths as if adorning the very graves where the fallen lay, minds standing at attention when the trumpet sounds out the notes of the last post. In strategies of war words of communication can be essential. In strategies for reverence silence can be golden.

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the Great War ended. 100 years since the guns of WWI fell silent in November 1918. Few thought it could ever be exceeded. It was labelled as the war to end all wars. The hope was short-lived. Twenty-one years later the machinery of war roared back to life, and in its path, another trail of death. The destruction was staggering. Today we honour the fallen; of every conflict and every war. We enjoy privileges secured by the sacrifices of those who paid the highest price. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

It’s not our concern at this hour to pass judgment or lay blame on those decisions that may lead to war or make for peace. Arrogance, envy, ignorance, and apathy all play their part. Ours is a fallen world. Sacrifice, integrity, wisdom and mercy must predominate for peace to prevail. But it is our solemn duty not to forget. Clear memory must inspire resolute vigilance. Apathy never lays foundations that are worth building on, it never secures treasures that are worth keeping. Freedom and peace are not entitlements. They can just as easily be lost through indifference as through arrogance or ignorance.

There is a greater peace than can be achieved by the cessation of all human wars. Christ has achieved it and only He is worthy to speak into our silence. He speaks into our reflections. He speaks into our solemn observances. He speaks not out of ignorance or arrogance. He speaks because He understands the battle. He fought the cosmic war. He made the sacrifice. He carries the grief. He speaks like no other can. His words are life and hope. They are not hollow sentiments; they are empowered through death and resurrection. When the Son of Man comes in His glory no words of explanation will be required. Just as none were required when He hung listless from a cross. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”
May the merciful God, for sake of His Son give us the determination to pursue peace, the courage to value life, the means to protect the vulnerable, and the sense of reverence necessary to properly honour the fallen.

Merciful Lord God, giver and restorer of life, at this hour of solemn observance we recognise the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price. We commend to you our reflections made with the help of words and those silent meditations that rest deep within caring hearts. Bless those families and individuals affected by the legacy of conflict and war. Embrace them in Your love. Guide the leaders of our nation. Equip them with wisdom and arm them with integrity. Favour us with your divine love for the sake of Him who gave His life in sacrifice for all. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Easter(B) 2018

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 10:14-15
Theme: Shepherd and Sacrifice

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

God is the most important reality. Even lesser realities cannot be comprehended by a few simplistic descriptives. God is in His own category. Imagine trying to grasp the nuances of medical science or the complexities of theoretical physics by learning only a few basic concepts. It’s not surprising, then, that the Holy Scriptures use an impressive array of words and illustrations to communicate to us the God who reveals Himself in the person of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. We can never exhaust the Holy Spirit’s well of divine wisdom by but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t drink from it deeply.

Today our Lord identifies Himself as the good shepherd. His care of the sheep is intimate, powerful, authentic; and completely unique. He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”1 By implication, there are others who present themselves as shepherds; but they are imposters. The Good Shepherd does what no one else can do? The hired hand is, in fact, no shepherd at all. He does not care for the sheep, but for his own interests. In the time of danger, he abandons the sheep. The Bible warns extensively against following phony messiahs. “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”2 Again, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”3 And again, “False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect- if that were possible.”4

Now, we’re foolish of we think this advice is no longer relevant. Just consider how pervasive ideologies are currently deconstructing biblical measures of truth and falsehood even among Christians? Are we so brain-washed by politically-correct definitions of sin that we have virtually forgotten God’s divine law? Do we have greater fear and take more notice of the appraisals of social media than we do of the almighty God? Do we listen to the voices of the cultural elites more attentively than those of the Holy Scriptures and the Good Shepherd? Do we worry about being “on the wrong side of history”, more than the right side eternal truth? When our mortality is reached, there is only one judgment that matters. There’s no room for compromise here, only repentance.

Dear friends, we shouldn’t be so na├»ve as to think that assault on the truth only comes from without, either. Every believer must resolve the inborn inclination to seek the favour of God by somehow satisfying His expectations of obedience. Sheep are devious. You cannot satisfy the demands of the law by lowering the bar. The law of God cannot be manipulated. It is good and righteous and holy. Nor can the conscience be pacified by attempting to “raise the bar” in relation to the expectations of society. If you rise above the righteousness of ten thousand people before you, are you therefore holy before God? The Scripture says, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”5

If you seek to stack up a pile of good deeds which look impressive before God and others, be warned, that in the time of trial, Satan, your accuser will knock them down like a house of cards. Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."6 Instead, we take refuge in His mercy as our “mighty fortress” and our desire to obey flows from that organically. Faith resolves the conundrum of the law by trusting in Christ as the One who has already perfectly fulfilled it.

We really can’t understand this too well because the deception that we gain God’s approval through our own efforts is logical to us. After all, Christ is an example of godliness. He is the example, par excellence. None can surpass Him. No one is more moral. No one is more ethical. No one is more righteous. We all understand the phrase. “Lead by example.” But, when we reach this understanding, we have by no means arrived at the primary work of our Saviour.

Christ is an example in a way in which it is impossible for Him to be a prototype. It’s better to understand Him as a substitute. He is the means. Jesus does not set the example of how to climb the ladder to heaven. He is the ladder. He does not initiate a process that others can then follow. None can do what He did. Salvation is not accomplished through a master and apprentice type of paradigm. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus cannot be imitated. It cannot be repeated. Certainly, it was foreshadowed in the regular temple sacrifices in which animal blood prefigured the pouring out of Christ’s blood. But you cannot be a substitute for the sins of others. You cannot even atone for your own sins.

Yet, that’s not a reason to despair, but to rejoice. A cross was raised on a rubbish heap outside a city where a long-suffering God regularly met with His wayward people. A crucifixion took place there. It was an unjust, ignoble execution. It is there that perfect love drove out fear. There the divine wrath was appeased. As the Scripture says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”7 This Jesus rose from the dead under His own authority. In Him we are already raised in faith and look forward to the bodily resurrection.

The challenges that confront us from without and within certainly underscore the need for faithful Christians to support one another. Encouragement is one of the great blessings of gathering together as God’s people. The Divine Service is not an event in which disconnected individuals enjoy private exchanges with the Saviour. We have fellowship together in the sacred things by which God sustains His people. We are a specific community of the baptized. We attend a holy meal together at the Bridegroom’s table. We mutually build up each other by our presence in this place. The apostle says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all.”8

Christianity is neither a time-bound religion made obsolete by the progression of the centuries, nor a mythical paradigm that involves an alternative reality. Jesus Christ is the Master and Lord of time and space, of heaven, earth, and hell; of the past, present and future. The resurrection was not an imaginary occurrence that merely served to consolidate the resolve of those who only shared certain ideals with Jesus of Nazareth. As the apostle says bluntly, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”9
The atoning sacrifice of Jesus is not the basis for a philosophical dogma of social justice or a psychological tool for the alleviation of guilt. The Son of God, in the sacrifice of His body, gained the victory over the very real threats of death and hell. He showers us with grace and forgiveness.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. His care is hands on, but His work is cosmic. He is the only shepherd who was also the Lamb sacrificed on behalf of the flock. Only He can defend the flock against Satan, the preeminent false shepherd, the thief, the wolf, the dragon. Only He can lead the flock to eternal pastures. He fails in none of these tasks. Rejoice, sisters and brothers, we are His lambs. In Him we have life and we have it abundantly. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday of Easter
22 April 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 10:11 2 2 Corinthians 11:13-14
3 Matthew 7:15 4 Mark 13:22
5 James 2:10 6 Matthew 7:26-27
7 1 John 3:16 8 Ephesians 4:3-6
91 Corinthians 15:17

Monday, April 9, 2018

Second Sunday of Easter (B) 2018

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 20:19
Theme: “Peace Be With You”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

The sun rises each day by the command of God. The earth rotates and darkness falls. But the Son of God has risen, and He will never “set” again. The ultimate power of darkness has been vanquished. Satan still has his little hour. He frantically bustles about plying his deceptions as the Scripture says, “He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”1 He cannot win the war. Therefore, we join with the apostle “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us in the kingdom of the Son He loves.”2 “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.”3

In the hours and days following the resurrection, the reality of what happened didn’t immediately sink in for the followers of Jesus. Their anticipation of His resurrection should have helped them make the transition. Instead, their hearts and minds dulled by confusion and doubt, they had to adjust to their risen Lord as if they never expected to see Him again in this realm. For the Twelve (minus Judas), it was a particularly intense time. After all, at His arrest they all forsook Him and fled. Only John had the courage to witness Him on the cross. Guilt and doubt hung over them like a dark heavy cloud.

Jesus’ first words upon appearing to His disciples were, “Peace be with you!”4 These words were not a simple, cordial greeting, but powerful words of forgiveness. A countenance of reconciliation beamed upon them. Jesus restored His fallen followers. He showed them the marks from His wounds. The proof of His resurrection was indisputable. It was really Him. Now they would have forty days with Him before His ascension. Today Jesus bestows on them the power of the Keys for the benefit of the church. The Office of the Keys involves Jesus’ command to called ministers to publicly announce that forgiveness is either granted or withheld.

Every human being is condemned by sin and deserves present and eternal punishment for their transgressions. Recognition of this truth cannot but cause remorse and trepidation. If it does not, then the conscience is standing in denial or rejection of the truth. If we are unmoved by the prospect of punishment for our sins, then we are living with a false sense of security. The conscience cannot truly be at peace until it knows it is right with God. Denial of our guilt elevates ourselves above the need for Jesus’ sacrifice. We’re not called to make excuses, but to repent.

As believers we know that peace has been made for us through the blood of the cross. When the called minister of Christ says, “On behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ and by his command, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”5 Christ is saying to us, “Peace be with you.”6 Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

This peace is the security of knowing that death itself has been overcome. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”7 Louis XV, King of France, foolishly decreed that death was never to be spoken of in his presence. Nothing that could in any way remind him of death was to be mentioned or displayed. He sought to avoid every place, sign and monument which in any way suggested it. Apparently, he hoped that such avoidance would make the reality of death disappear. His over-inflated sense of self-importance and power also contributed to his skewed perspective. It was, of course, an exercise in vanity and futility. Christians need not live in such fear. We have the supreme comfort of His promises. “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”8

Dear friends, Jesus walked out of the grave bearing His scars. If you’ve made it to this point in your life without accumulating scars, then you have led an extraordinary life indeed. You might understandably consider yourself blessed. But scars are a blessing too. Scars are a reminder that we live in a world of sin. Scars are evidence that we have been in the fray and often they indicate a level of maturity in the faith. Remember, the first golf balls were smooth. After they became nicked up it was discovered that that they flew much further. Tiny scars made them much more aerodynamic. As living beings, being made “aerodynamic” is painful.
Satan will try to convince you that pain and hardship are evidence of God’s impotence or apathy. In fact, the Holy spirit is just refining your faith.

Still, because we are mortal we are vulnerable. And, so what do we do? We might be tempted to “purify” ourselves. But self-castigation won’t drive the “doubting” Thomas out of you. Doubt cannot be rectified by self-help procedures. The more you try to analyze your faith, the greater risk you run of intensifying your doubt. God never calls upon us to trust in our own faith. Certainty does not come from within. He tells us to trust in Him. The Holy Spirit alone is the master over doubt. The soul languishing in the darkness of doubt can be illumined by a single shaft of light beaming from the pages of Holy Scripture. This is how doubt is overcome. God is faithful.

The historical events of the resurrection may seem too distant to really grip our hearts and minds. The storyline may be intelligible to our intellects, while the power of it doesn’t seize our hearts. But it’s not our task to reconstruct the events of Easter with artificial hype. That might have a fleeting positive effect with a long term negative effect. It’s not necessary to visualize ourselves standing at the empty tomb; or being present when Jesus passed through the door. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”9 Focus on your baptism. That’s the portal through which the cosmos-changing events of the crucifixion and resurrection make a real impact for you. We don’t go back in time to glimpse the blessings, Christ brings them forward into the present.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He hosts us in the Sacrament of the Altar in real time and space. Christianity is neither a time-bound religion made obsolete by the progression of centuries, or a mystical paradigm that involves an alternative universe. Jesus Christ is the Master and Lord of heaven, earth, and hell. He says, “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”10 Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday of Easter
8 April 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Revelation 12:12 2 Colossians 1:12-13
3 Romans 6:9 4 John 20:19
5 LH p.7 6 John 20:19
7 1 Corinthians 15:55 8 The Nicene Creed
9John 20:29 10Revelation 1:17-18