Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: The Miracle of the Seed
Theme: Mark 4:26-32

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Change is a condition of mortality. The progress of decay notes the pathology of sin. Sin robs us of permanence and stability, while holding out an elusive promise- the illusion of independence. Life is always in a state of flux. Outcomes are always pending. The marking of a goal completed is quickly replaced by the pursuit of yet another. The future is always somewhat uncertain; therefore, the present can be uneasy. Whether it involves relationships, education or careers, it seems as if, in this life, we are always striving but never quite arriving at where we want to be. Yes, we do mark milestones; births, graduations, weddings, retirements, but then life still goes on. Such is the reality of our existence, until death. There is no permanence. The only permanent reality to this earthly life is change. We often embrace this change because we are always seeking something better. We have the hope of something more permanently good.

The failure of this endeavor in the ultimate sense- this unrealized hope- is intended by God to drive people to look elsewhere. Jesus Christ is the end of change. Christ came to reclaim His creation. He brings permanence. He is permanence. He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”1 Nothing else will endure. Nothing else ultimately matters. When Jesus sent out the Twelve apostles He said, “Proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’”2 Only that kingdom is unchanging. He also sent out the 72 missionaries saying to them, “Go!”3 Go and call people to repentance. Go announce God’s judgment against sin. Go with the message of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. Go and bring the message of light and life to a dark and dying world.

Today’s parables teach about the mystery of God’s kingdom using the common realities of sprouting seeds and growing plants. The current relevance to us is obvious. Jesus is talking about the seed of God’s word and the growth of faith. The kingdom of heaven grows only through the preaching of Christ and Him crucified. This is the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to convert the human heart. No additions, deletions, embellishments or augmentations. Christ crucified. Period!

Faith is a gift engendered through Word and water and Spirit and sustained through Word and bread and wine. In this way Jesus Christ is present with His people to forgive and redeem and restore. Satan is subdued, sin is vanquished, angels rejoice, the saints are at rest. All depends upon the grace of God. Truth is the foundation of His grace and forgiveness is its expression. By the grace of Christ, the church lives, without it, she dies.

Grace has been the currency of the Christian Church since its inception and even before. Adam and Eve were promised a Saviour. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Moses’ was led by Christ in the wilderness. David reigned on a throne gifted to him in the stead of the coming Messiah. The New Testament church is built upon the teaching of the apostles and prophets who tirelessly made known the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. We are part of the continuous succession of the generations of believers. Our purpose corporately and individually, regardless of our vocation, is to go, plant the seed of God’s word and live the life of faith.

Where seed is not sown, no plants will spring up. Where plants are not tended, no harvest will be gathered. The mission of the Church always involves the planting of the seed of the Word of God and tending to the life that springs up. This mission is not some auxiliary function of the church. It is not a mere pious option towards which financial resources may be directed. Planting and cultivating are what the church is about or it is not the church of Christ.

And still all depends upon the grace of God. This is clear in the parables today. God’s grace works through us, yet still retains its character as His power and gift alone. St. Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”4

Satan always opposes these spiritual ‘agricultural’ endeavors. Dear friends, if you give Satan an inch he will take a mile. We are the children of God, His baptized, so the devil targets us. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”5 We are not enslaved to this world and yet we are constantly tempted to indulge ourselves at the expense of the kingdom. One of the sins of our culture is not the availability of wealth, but the misuse of it. The devil aims for the weak points in our faith. But the Lord Jesus says, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”6

All depends on the grace of God. The fields before us are ripe for harvest. In our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our own nation, across the ocean, even within our own families’ countless souls are without the forgiveness of sins and salvation in Jesus Christ. Yet, God’s word gives us this encouragement, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of faith.”7 We have the promise of God’s power. We have the promise of reward enjoyed by all the saints. We don’t always see the seed sprout or even the harvest, but we leave that to God. When the seventy-two returned, Jesus said to them, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”8 On Good Friday Christ wrote them down with the blood of death. On Easter morning He closed the book with His triumph of life. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
17 June 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 13:31 2 Matthew 10:7
3 Luke 10:3 4 1 Corinthians 3:6-9
5 Galatians 6:7-8 6 Matthew 6:31-33
7 Galatians 6:9-10 8 Luke 10:20

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Christian Burial of Ron Auricht 12 June 2018

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

Text: John 14:6
Theme: Vibrant Life

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Ron, and especially you, Ruth, Joyleen, Rosalie, and Valerie, his daughters;

The place prepared for Ron Auricht- in heaven- is now occupied. He has been released from all care and anxiety of our fallen existence. He enjoys vibrant and abundant life. He has received his inheritance, one that can never perish, spoil, or fade. Thanks be to God that He has called His servant home! Ron is in the glorious presence of almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saints and angels. It is our privilege to meditate on this truth.

Reflection on the death of a Christian brings into close proximity two realities that are otherwise so dissimilar they would never be faced at the same time. The pain of separation or loss. Death separates us from loved ones, so this is unavoidable. And the joy of knowing that person has been crowned with everlasting life. Death is the gateway to a vibrant and glorious existence. So, sorrow and joy are juxta positioned in a very unique way. But it is a biblical way.

The Holy Scriptures are full of accounts of how believers down through the ages dealt with dying; their customs, their practices, their struggles, their hopes. The Israelites grieved for Moses for 30 days1. When Jesus arrived at the deathbed of Jairus’s daughter professional mourners were already on the scene2. King David’s grief for Absalom was so incapacitating that He had to be rebuked by his high officials3. Customs and practices changed over time. But the fundamental belief did not change. The core conviction remained unaltered. The same hope endured and does to this day. The same God who grants life here in time promises to resurrect His people to eternal life. It’s not a simple formality that Christians confess (as we will in few moments) belief “in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting”4.

Of course, the need to cope with the trauma of death at all means the cause must be recognized. That cause is sin. Sin eventually brings decay and death to the body. If left unresolved it also brings death to the soul. Death is one of the consequences of punishment for rebellion against God. Many in our day deny there could be any such cause for concern, but the Bible speaks comprehensively about this truth. Mortality is something all people understand intuitively. But that doesn’t mean we’re keen to tackle it, just as sin is something we know intimately but are not capable of mastering. It is far too powerful and dangerous. Ron Auricht knew horses too. That was the way of farm life in his early years. But the things we know aren’t necessarily the things we can control. Fortunately, us mortals are not left to solve what only divine power manage.

Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s grace; the very substance of divine love. Everything stands or falls on the truth of Jesus’ sacrificial work for sinners- our salvation by grace, through faith. If grace in Christ is a fantasy, then existence itself comes unhinged. If divine love is a fallacy, then ultimate meaning is shattered. If God’s promises are hollow, then hope is finally lost. If the resurrection of Christ was only pious legend, then eternal death prevails. But, dear friends, Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. The grave could not hold Him. Death could not bind Him. Hell could not subdue Him. Satan could not silence Him. Jesus 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.”5

When he was a young man Ron was inspired to become a missionary. But the expectation for the eldest son in those days was to stay and work the land. Ron accepted this reality. He was faithful in his vocation working the Mallee soil to provide for his family and beyond. Still, the interest in spreading God’s word remained with him right into his later years. Of course, not becoming a missionary didn’t mean that Ron wasn’t actively witnessing to his Christian faith. Ron and Glenda were not casual Christians. They were deeply involved in all the activities of the congregation, committed to supporting it, and faithful in their attendance in God’s house.

Ron’s talents and treasures were employed to the same end. He held most every position in the church at one time or another. Ron loved music. He was gifted with a powerful voice. He didn’t sing simply for personal satisfaction. Moments ago, we sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in tribute to the 40-some years Ron taught Sunday School. The words are just as true today as they were the first time he sang it with the young ones in his class. And that’s exactly the point. The love of God is unchanging. As we heard earlier, He has given His baptised an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade.”6

Anyone who knew Ron well at all knew that his Christian faith wasn’t a private matter. He had a deep concern for the spiritual well-being of others. The love of the crucified and risen Saviour is offered to all people and Ron earnestly prayed that all would embrace it. Only the divine promise can give true peace to the soul. Reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, liberation from shame, release from regret are achieved only through God’s bestowal of the merits of Christ to us frail humans. In Christ the roughest edges are made smooth, the deepest pains are relieved, the harshest offences are resolved. Anger gives way to peace. Fear is replaced by serenity. Sorrow transitions to joy. It seems impossible- given the experiences of life that jade us- that these things could really come true. But that is the reality of Christ’s redeeming power.

Dear friends, and especially you, Ron’s family, the scars of grief are not so shallow that they can be healed by a few cosmetic clichés. The complexity of grief is not easily simplified. Humans are complicated creatures. There aren’t any shortcuts. Yet the strength needed to manage it properly is never in doubt for Christians. The separation is only temporary. Christ spent only three days in the grave. If we cling only to memories of the deceased then that relationship is frozen in time, locked in the past. For believers, grieving is forward-looking. Our time on this earth is but a passing moment compared with eternity.

Ron is now in the timelessness of God’s presence. Ron received his wish in the end- a blessed wish- to close his eyes in sleep and open them effortlessly to behold the face of God. And so, the words of the apostle have come true for him that say, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”7 Except that Ron does see Him now and He will never be lost from his sight. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Ronald Victor Auricht
12 June 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See Deuteronomy 34:8 2 See Matthew 9:23
3 See 2 Samuel 18:33, 19:5-7 4 The Apostles’ Creed
5 John 11:25-26 6 1 Peter 1:4
71 Peter 1:8-9

Third Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: Mark 3:20-27
Theme: The Intervening God.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Sanity is not a gift to be taken lightly. Cherish it. Apparently, some members of Jesus’ own family thought He was going crazy. Indeed, claims to the be the Messiah are always going to be provocative! Jesus was attracting huge crowds and His family was becoming concerned. So, they planned an intervention. Marks tells us, “When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’”1 The religious authorities suggested He was possessed by Satan. Evidence was growing that He was more than just a religious zealot. A volatile situation was brewing. But performing an intervention on Jesus, even by those who thought they knew Him best, would be no easy feat. Perhaps you’ve asked yourself at one time or another “Am I the only one in this situation who isn’t crazy?” “Or, am I the only one that is?” Imagine, then, how Jesus felt! Only He had perfect knowledge of the truth.

The accusation that Jesus was an agent of the devil certainly raises the level of tension. Just imagine how differently the scene might be perceived today. Modern skeptics doubt or flatly deny the existence of Satan. They deem him to be a relic of the ancient or medieval past; a fabrication of religious superstition. They swiftly dismiss him along with his dominion called hell. It’s embarrassing for many, or at least, unfashionable, to engage in public discussion that recognizes his existence.

But it’s no use wringing our hands over such unbelief. The Holy Spirit must teach the truth about demonic spirits to unbelieving souls. Trying to offer tangible proofs will not be convincing. It’s worth considering, though, that as our society becomes more overtly secular, more people are trying to fill the emptiness in their lives through various ‘spiritual practices’. These range from palm reading to channeling of angels, fortune-telling to attempts at contacting the dead. Current trends say we should expect to see a growing interest in occult-related practices right across the board. In the expanding emptiness and uncertainty there will be many opportunities to convey the presence of the Messiah who is Immanuel- God with us.

Today Jesus makes it clear that denouncing the Spirit’s work is a serious matter. He could hardly say it more plainly, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”2 It’s an understatement to say that this declaration is confronting. It’s like punch in the gut to all who think they might malign the work the Spirit with impunity. So, why does Jesus use words with such decisiveness and finality? The stakes are high because the consequences are ultimate. The Holy Spirit is the agent by which the human heart is convicted of sin and comforted with forgiveness. To allege that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan is a contradictory claim. Why would a servant of the devil be driving out demons? Jesus rebukes them forthrightly, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”3 Then He says, “No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry of his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man.”4

Christ was referring to Himself. Jesus carried off Satan’s possessions. That is, He redeemed sinners from the influence of the devil according to the apostolic description, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”5 The weapon of Satan’s defeat was the cross. Jesus did not conquer the devil in a physical confrontation. (Though his defeat has physical implications for believers) The victory was gained through Jesus’ perfect obedience and willing sacrifice. He did it for us and for our salvation. He was crucified. He rose. He lives.

Satan has been conquered. Jesus is restoring the fallen creation. Jesus did exactly what no one else could do. He bound Satan, the strongman, and plundered his house. The father of lies could not outwit the keeper of truth. The ancient dragon could not out-duel the immortal Son. The betrayer could not seduce the faithful one. Remember the time in the wilderness. “The tempter came to Him and said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’”6 But Jesus did not yield. The devil could not push Jesus off the road to the cross. He could not lead Him on a wrong turn or blockade the road. At the crucial moment, when Jesus hung there with the fate of the world in the balance Satan made one last attempt, saying through his agents, “Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him.”7 But all the devil’s attempts were in vain.

Still, Satan will ply his trade until the Second Coming of Christ. Many are willingly or unwittingly his followers. The Scripture says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”8 All are called on to renounce Satan’s works, something we first do in baptism. The same verse finishes saying, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”9 Jesus has done that by atoning for our guilt. He has done that by absorbing the wrath of the heavenly Father against sin.

Dear friends, you have God’s forgiveness in Christ freely and fully, here and now. You don’t have to wait until the day of judgment to find out if God will grant it to you. And this forgiveness is not limited by Satan’s accusations of “This person is not deserving look at all the terrible things he has done!” You need not worry about having some partial or conditional forgiveness. It’s a delight of the devil to limit the comfort of forgiveness and the peace of mind it brings. But Christ has come to destroy the devil’s works. You are God’s baptized child and Satan has no authority to challenge your claim in Christ’s inheritance. He has no authority to question why you are welcomed to dine at the Master’s table.

Our account began today with the family of Jesus attempting an intervention. They had no real hope, of course. Christ was actually the One doing the intervening. The Son of God was now present among the children of men. He was breaking into people’s dark and wayward lives with light and truth. He was halting illness. He was repairing brokenness. He was renewing what was decaying, reconditioning what was declining, reviving what was dying. He was restoring hope. He will continue to do these things. They are previews of eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday After Pentecost
10 June 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 3:21 2 Mark 3:28-29
3 Mark 3:23-25 4 Mark 3:27
5 Colossians 1:13-4 6 Matthew 4:3
7 Matthew 27:42 8, 9 1 John 3:8

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Second Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: 1 Samuel 3:1
Theme: The Precious Word

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The word of God is precious. It’s worth cannot be calculated in human terms. The Psalmist writes, “The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold.”1 How valuable is God’s word? We might get closest to the mark by simply asking the question, “What price can be put on eternal life?” It is only through the Scriptures that we know of Him who is the Word-become-flesh Redeemer. Only through Jesus, the keeper of the true word do we have eternal life. He has robbed death of its power and Satan of his fury through His own death and resurrection. St. John gives us this description of the Saviour from his heavenly vision, “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.”2

Dear friends, through His word, Jesus THE WORD interacts with all people of every time and place. Today Samuel responded to the Lord’s call saying, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”3 It’s an appropriate attitude for every believer. The Scripture says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”4 Through the hearing of God’s word the Holy Spirit opens hearts and minds to receive the truth. For many it happens initially in baptism. Yet, receiving God’s word is hardly a one-off necessity. The word is to our spiritual life as food is to the stomach and as air is to the lungs. Without the word faith will wither and die.

The story of Samuel is remarkable from the start. Hannah, his mother, dedicated him to the Lord out of grateful appreciation that He answered her prayer to have a child. As soon as he was weaned she took him to the temple where he became an apprentice of Eli, the priest. Today’s account describes Samuel’s ‘baptism of fire’. The Lord entrusted Samuel with a serious message. The very next day, young Samuel would become the bearer of God’s word to the mature Eli. It was a word that Eli did not want to hear. It was a word of judgment for the sins of his sons who were wicked priests. Eli had done nothing to restrain them. The Lord’s word soon came pass and Samuel grew to be a prominent prophet of the Lord.

It wasn’t uncommon that the first word a prophet had to carry was a word of judgment. Only God’s law can convict the conscience and bring people to a proper recognition of sin. Without such conviction need for the gospel, desire for God’s forgiveness will not happen. Humans are too adept at justifying themselves. Proficiency at justifying one’s self is always at the top of the agenda for individuals who seek to live independently from God’s truth and will. Together, such individuals seek to establish the same approach in society. Believers should not be surprised.

The secular world will always have an agenda. Its agenda will always be driven by the desire for self-promotion and self-indulgence. It entails the quest for power, money, popularity, prosperity, and security. Pursuit of the agenda involves practices of dishonesty and inequality. The agenda is based on human measures of value and worth. The requirements which allow this agenda to be pursued do, in some measure, overlap with the will of God. A degree of order and stability is needed in society and God tasks government with this responsibility. God wants a peaceful and orderly society. He also wants one in which not only the truth of the gospel can be freely accessed, but also the fundamental parameters of His will are respected. Moral foundations and the well-being of the vulnerable are at stake here.

The world’s agenda is relentless and always pushes forward (or, in the sense of humanity’s well-being, backward) until checked by God’s judgment or revised by the gospel’s transformative power. The church can have no misgivings about her task. Perhaps the church has become naïve or apathetic because society in the past generations has been generally amenable to both Christian teaching, and, more significantly for the civil realm, respectful of the divinely created order. The blessings of the past should be recognized. But the values of society in the past do not necessarily predict the future. Past assumptions about morals, values, and the purpose of life may no longer hold for the average person. In human terms, we are likely to begin feeling lonelier in society. Christians must honestly assess where they’ve been led astray by worldliness and repent.

Samuel became one of the most significant prophets in the history of Israel. So revered was his integrity that the Lord once said to Jeremiah, “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would no go out to this people.”5 Samuel faithfully declared God’s word throughout his ministry. We are thankful that God still provides ministers to publicly communicate His truth. But, dear friends, every Christian has the privilege and responsibility of giving witness to the love of God in Christ. St. Peter encourages us saying, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their salander.”6

You see, the Christian who speaks the truth, speaks with the greatest authority. This is so because the believer speaks in the name of Christ. We should always stand in awe of and never underestimate that power. It is not our power, but Christ’s power. It does not cultivate arrogance within us but humility. Those who wield the greatest power are also in need of exercising the greatest humility. In proportion to one’s influence must be the diligence in avoiding the abuse of that power. Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them…not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”7 Rulers are not necessarily greater sinners than common people when they fall, they’re likely to affect more people though. Christians are frail vessels carrying great promises and authority. We are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Dear friends, the word of God is precious. It carries promise, hope, and life. It is Christ’s word and the Spirit’s instrument. It is never hollow. It is never false. It is never outdated. It is never impotent. At the time of Samuel, the word of the Lord was rare. Scarcity of God’s word could happen again sooner than we think. Oh yes, there are lots of copies (though plenty of translating still needs to be done) in print and in electronic storage systems. More copies of the Bible exist than at any point in history. But having something archived is not the same as possessing it as living truth that shapes and forms one’s life. God’s word is not an historical relic. It is living and active.

When we have God’s word we have the Holy Spirit at work. The Spirit has no other agenda than to connect people with Christ. He was hung upon the cross to pay price for your sins. He rose again on the third day to open the gates of heaven for you. The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ- which we have in the promise of absolution, the water of baptism and the body and blood of Holy Communion- means we have the blessings of the Holy Trinity. What a privilege it is to say with Samuel, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”8 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Pentecost
3 June 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Psalm 19:9-10 2 Revelation 19:13
3 1 Samuel 3:10 4 Romans 10:15
5 Jeremiah 15:1 6 1 Peter 3:15-16
7 Mark 10:42-43 8 1 Samuel 3:10

National Thanksgiving 2018

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

Text: Philippians 4:6
Theme: Thankfulness In Changing Times

Dear friends in Christ;

The world is changing. It is challenging to be thankful, even optimistic in times of uncertainty. Consider the words of one author, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”, so wrote Charles Dickens in his famous novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ set against the background of the French revolution.

King Solomon offered a caveat to the human temptation to overreact to change. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”1 So much for human affairs. The love of our God, however, is unchanging. It stands the test of time because He is both the author of time and He exists outside of time. Jesus Christ, immortal, eternal, is not subject to the corruptibility of sin. His mercy is never exhausted. His grace is never outdated.

Today we celebrate national thanksgiving. We don’t live in a society that really encourages people to cultivate attitudes of gratefulness. Complaining is more fashionable and more prevalent. The content of mainstream news is overwhelmingly negative. Something about human nature is revealed in this reality. Grumbling is an innate human quality. We don’t have to be taught to grizzle, it comes very, very naturally. Original sin has it’s very routine and habitual manifestations and whinging is one of them.

The biblical narrative is full of examples too. Even the Israelites who witnessed the mighty power of God part the Red Sea and deliver them from slavery in Egypt were soon murmuring when they lacked the comforts that accompanied them in their time under tyranny. Only one of the ten lepers that were healed returned and gave thinks to Jesus. No wonder the apostle Paul is obliged to say, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”2 God doesn’t call on us to explain our ingratitude, but to repent of it as we do all sins.

For the Christian, thankfulness is not so much characterized by a series of specific episodes or even habitual practice, but an attitude; a posture of response in relation to the God who gives. He gives liberally, causing the sun to shine and the rain to fall even on unbelievers. All benefit from God’s providence whether it is recognized or acknowledge. How much greater, then, are His promises and blessings to those who believe?

The context in which the CPW’s work today is changing also. That’s true in public, private, and Christian schools. Secular ideologies are gaining influence. Some are fundamentally at odds with a biblical worldview. Society is not only becoming sensitive to allowing the overtly Christian message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to be aired in public spaces, it’s also becoming unhinged from a basis of morality that had been widely accepted by previous generations. One doesn’t need to be Christian- or have any religious affiliations at all- to hold that certain truths are knowable, objective and universal. The design of nature, the protection of the vulnerable, and the well-being of community ought never be sacrificed to the supremacy of individual choice and the freedom to deconstruct the fundamental units of stable society. Children are often vulnerable.

These are grave concerns, but they also bring opportunities. While Satan works to push selflessness and sanctified common sense out of the public square, new spaces will be opened in the lives of those who become disillusioned. This alone is a reason to give thanks. The Holy Spirit never rests on His laurels. He seeks always to bring people to the promised rest of sins forgiven and the confidence of knowing the judgment of God has been resolved in the death of Jesus. That is the highest and holiest reason for true thankfulness. All other reasons must be filtered through this divine sieve.

At the base of the capstone of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C are inscribed two little words in Latin, ‘Laus Deo’- “Thanks be to God! The words cannot be read by people on the ground and few would probably take notice if they could see them. Yet, they stand as a testament to the convictions of those who believe that someone with greater power is behind even the greatest human achievements. The tower of Babel was built with the collective ingenuity and effort of human designers. Yet, what was its purpose? The ark was built by one small family, but its designer was God. For what purpose do we build monuments and legacies today? What are the motivations. God’s purposes are always for our eternal good.

So, in prosperity and in adversity we give thanks to God. Which is more difficult? It is an age-old struggle. Proverbs chapter 30 says it this way, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.”3 Satan burns the candle at both ends in hopes of getting to the anchor of faith and tearing it loose from its central moorings. But believers have, in baptism, “The shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”4

Probably every age is prone agree with Charles Dickens and say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Humans can never be free from the vicissitudes of life. The cliché is true: Everyday is a gift. God gives more abundantly than we could ever imagine. We are told the current pace of change is astounding by many historical measures. But this doesn’t alarm the Lord of the church. Jesus Christ still offers forgiveness, life, and salvation to those living in darkness and the shadow of death. He has conquered by His death and resurrection. He has made the sacrifice. He lives and rules. That reality cannot and will not change. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews encourages us with these strong words, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful….”5 After all, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”6

+ In nomine Jesu +

National Thanksgiving Service
27 May 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Ecclesiastes 1:9 2 Philippians 2:14
3 Proverbs 30:8-9 4 Ephesians 6:16
5 Hebrews 12:28 6 John 3:16

Holy Trinity (B) 2018

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

Text: John 3:17
Theme: To Save, Not Condemn

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God’s love cannot be restrained. It can be epitomized. That is, seen in its perfect representation as it is in the person of Jesus. But it can’t be controlled. It can’t be regulated. It can’t be quantified by any human measurement. God’s love can’t be governed by any techniques we possess. And it can’t be reproduced by us in like quality. Christ’s love takes the sting out of death. His grace gives peace to the burdened soul. His love unexcelled. And whether we live one day or a hundred years on this earth we are privileged to benefit from that love beyond what we could ever deserve.

Today, on Trinity Sunday, we are privy to a conversation held between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus. It wasn’t a trivial chat. It was an episode of catechesis in which the divine Son of God explained some of the deeper spiritual truths to a mortal son of Adam. It contains one of the most well-know verses in the Bible. “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”1

Trinity Sunday allows us the opportunity to reflect a little more deliberately on the nature of God’s existence. The almighty God, who exists as one divine essence also exists in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This reality is not tangible to us, but it is clearly revealed in the Bible. We know it by faith, not by sight. It’s not our concern to dissect finer details of this core biblical teaching. Suffice it to say, all three ecumenical creeds of Christianity- the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian- all go to great lengths to emphasize this truth. We are not free address God any way we please and we are not at liberty to casually misrepresent how He has identified Himself to us. But again, a broad intellectual grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity is not our goal at the moment; to even utter God’s name properly is a response of faith. It doesn’t require cognitive thresholds. The newly baptized infant can do it because it is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus, an educated man, struggled to understand how a person related to God and His kingdom. His perspective was warped, and that’s a lesson for us. In our self-indulged, self-focused society it may not readily occur to us that the importance of a single human life within the context of the universe could be considered miniscule. No one is indispensable in the grand scheme of things. The world will go on without us. Also, the reality of sin determines that human life on this earth will be very temporary indeed. The Bible teaches us to size up the matter with these words, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass.”2 And again, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; and let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.”3 Such statements should prevent us from making a very high estimation of ourselves. We are sinners and the Holy Spirit calls us to repent.

But, dear friends, the marvelous mystery of the mind and will of God is that He makes the very highest estimation of us. Or, put more accurately, He invests us with the highest value because He invests us with the very life of His Son. God makes the un-valuable priceless. God makes the worthless invaluable. He loves the unlovable. He does this not as an afterthought, but from the very start as part of the design of His creation. Creation is the first consequence of God’s love. Your life is not simply the result of biological forces that drive the continuance of the human race. You are not here by chance or happenstance. You are not a mere biological statistic. The Bible says, “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”4 And, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”5

Still, the love of God with which He has created us is only an image of the love with which He has redeemed us; and this too with an eternal love. We can hardly grasp the profundity of this truth, as described, for instance in Ephesians one, “He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.”6 On the cross Jesus Christ made us sacred objects of divine love. His blood shed there was more than a sufficient price to cover the sins of humanity. But His atonement was not generic. He died for the same unique souls He created. You are one of those souls. The Holy Spirit would have you know that “God so loved the world” means, “God so loved you.”

You are also one of the souls the Holy Spirit has gathered into this sacred entity called the church. Jesus makes it clear in His conversation with Nicodemus today that His life would be given for the sins of the world, but every individual person must be born of water and the Spirit. Spiritual life in baptism is not a generic thing either. The Holy Spirit calls you by name and bestows on you the name of God Himself. Just as every child in a family is unique, so it is in the household of God.

The reality of our unique existence within this mystical fellowship called the Christian church also has very practical consequences. We are something integral and complementary within this communion. There is a marvelous diversity here that God orders to achieve His purposes. He uses us to support one another and the greater mission of His kingdom in the world.
Your life is a living sermon. Even if you do not plan to, you are bringing a message to the community in which you live and the people with whom you interact. What do people learn from the witness you give? Others watch how we conduct ourselves publicly and privately. God uses these interactions as opportunities to show humility, give support, offer care, and uphold the truth. Satan, of course, seeks to poison our interactions, with falsehood and suspicion, cold-heartedness and arrogance. St. Paul says it tenderly and touchingly to the Corinthians, “You yourselves are…written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”7

Jesus Christ embodies the love of God. The Father sent Him to save, not condemn. He does this not with hollow words, but with deeds. His blood was shed. We have access to it at the Lord’s Table. His body was raised. He was vindicated in the Spirit’s power8. The same power will raise our bodies also. We will be freed from sin; freely to fully enjoy the life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

27 May 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
Holy Trinity

1 John 3:16 2 Isaiah 40:6-7
3 Psalm 39:4-5 4 Psalm 139:16
5 Jeremiah 1:5 6 Ephesians 1:4-5
7 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 8 See 2 Timothy 3:16

Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: John 16:13
Theme: The Guide of Truth

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The Holy Spirt has one goal: To reveal Jesus Christ. Pentecost is not simply a notable episode in biblical history. It is an on-going reality. We are in a continual season of Pentecost. That’s true even during the liturgical seasons of advent, Christmas, lent and Easter. The Holy Spirit is never idle. He doesn’t exist in some restful state, conserving energy until called upon to spring into action. The Spirit is dynamically at work, tirelessly occupied with advancing the fruits of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Think of how Luther explains the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come.”1 “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”2

The Holy Spirit is distinguishable from the other members of the Trinity; but is inseparable. Acting always in concert and with united purpose the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seek to bring forgiveness and life to a world mired in sin and subject to the penalty of death. You are baptized into the Spirit’s name just as certainly as you are baptized into the name of the Farther and the Son. Jesus said, “All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you.”3

The word of God is the weapon of the Holy Spirit. St Paul calls it the “sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians chapter 6. Hebrews chapter 4 says this, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” With the word the Spirit kindles the light of faith in dark and unbelieving hearts. With the word He sets forth the truth to minds blinded by falsehood. With the word He guides lost souls out of the labyrinth of self-absorption and sets them on the narrow road to eternal life. With the word the Spirit strengthens the weak, calms the anxious, brings joy to the sorrowful, and frees souls trapped in guilt with the forgiveness secured at the cross. Everything the Holy Spirit does brings glory to Christ, and through Him, to the Father.

Jesus says today that when the Holy Spirit comes “He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin.”4 Here we see the Holy Spirit wields the word of God’s law to bring people to repentance. He has impeccable accuracy. In a criminal line-up of suspected culprits God makes the correct identification 100% of the time. Not that identifying sinners is a difficult thing! The Scripture says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”5 And again, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”6 Yet, God’s discernment goes beyond just a general knowledge that we are all sinners. He knows precisely what makes us tick. He knows our hidden jealousies, our secret lusts, our thinly veiled vanities. He knows which expressions of idolatry we are particularly drawn to. He also leads us in our daily struggle against temptation. It is not possible to resist temptation apart from the help of the Holy Spirit. It is not possible to have a single, pure, selfless motivation apart from the Spirit of truth. But the will of a believer seeks to cooperate with the will of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith denotes a real change in a person’s heart and attitude, otherwise it proves to be hollow.

The miracle of Pentecost is claimed by some skeptics to be an embellishment. But, dear friends, if God could create the entire universe by speaking only a single word, is it too great a thing for Him to gift the apostles with the ability to speak in other languages so that the gospel might be heard? If He could speak light into the cold darkness of space, is it too hard of a thing for Him to kindle the light of faith in darkened hearts? The Bible says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”7 And that’s the be all and end all of His agenda.

Jesus Christ went to the cross so that you might be freed from death’s power. Your guilt, your shame, your liability- rightly charged to you because of your sin- has been completely wiped away by His atoning sacrifice. The Scripture says, “He forgave us our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.”8 The cross was God’s altar of sacrifice on which the pure Lamb had His own blood shed for the transgressions of the world. There at the cross evil exhausted the full measure of its strength, Satan emptied His entire bag of tricks, and hell unleashed its pent-up fury. The Son of God hung there listless and limp. But it wasn’t enough! On the third day He rose again from the grave. Death could not hold Him. Satan was served notice. The war was won. Jesus Christ lives and rules eternally. That truth will never be altered regardless of the direction the world goes.

In Luther’s day God worked a mighty reformation in the church. It was understood then that the church is always in need of reforming. Our age is no different. Only the Holy Spirit can fan into flame the passion of the faithful. He does this in the dynamic of our fellowship together and in context of our personal lives. The Holy Spirit is your comforter. He is your helper. He is your advocate. He is your intercessor. Nothing lies beyond His ability because He comes with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father Himself.

Maybe you need strength to make it through the next hour, wisdom to consider your next decision, encouragement to make it through the next week. The Spirit possesses all of these gifts and gives of them freely. He does it publicly in this place when we are blessed with the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ, are fed with His body and blood, and are strengthened by our communion with one another. The Spirit continues to speak faith into our hearts and hope into our lives. The greatest miracle of Pentecost wasn’t that the apostles could suddenly speak in languages foreign to them. The greatest miracle was that people who were foreign (estranged from) to the love of God in Christ had the gospel implanted in their hearts. The same miracle still happens today. Thanks be to God!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Day of Pentecost
20 May 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 6:10 2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 John 16:15 4 John 16:8-9
5 Romans 3:10-11 6 Romans 3:23
7 2 Corinthians 4:6 8 Colossians 2:13-14