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

Funeral for Robert Weetra (3 April 2018)

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

Text: John 3:16
Theme: God Loved The World

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Robert (Bob), and especially you; Flo,

God is the creator of life, and He receives it back to Himself. The God who made the universe and every creature in it is the same God who knows every human soul intimately. He values life above all things. The Bible says, “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”1 All the earthly days for Bob Weetra have now been completed. His journey among us has ended. But his time in eternity has just begun. As we gather today in grief, we also give thanks to the all-merciful God that Bob is now at peace.

There’s hardly a better time than Easter to reflect upon the death of a Christian. When the women went to the tomb on Easter morning Jesus was not there. They were met by an angel who told them that He had risen from the dead. Think of how stunned and dumbfounded they were! They had seen Him nailed to the cross. They knew His lifeless corpse was taken off the cross and laid in a tomb. They had come to prepare His body with the proper burial ritual. Now they find the grave is open and empty. Soon they would see Him face to face. Soon their hearts were filled with joy and love.

Dear friends Jesus’ resurrection proves that He has power over death. The devil could not defeat Him. Death could not hold Him. His own resurrection means that it’s a simple thing to raise believers. 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.”2 Unless Jesus comes back first, we all must pass through death. But it’s just a transition to the life beyond. God doesn’t leave us to work things out for ourselves. He sent to us His Son. “For 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”3

God doesn’t leave things to chance. He knows how powerless humans are. Once our relationship with God is severed by sin, only He can fix it. No one can ever be good enough, righteous enough, holy enough to impress God. We cannot make up for our own sin. Jesus paid the price when He was crucified. We are freed from the punishment we deserve because Christ took it. He died in our place and on our behalf. That’s the only way the gates of heaven could be opened. That’s the only way our relationship with God the Father could be restored. Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”4

Heaven is not a made-up, mythical place. It is another existence. It is on a higher plane. It is the place where God’s love permeates everything. It is an existence in which sin will no longer be present. There will be no hatred, evil, pain or distress. The Bible says, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”5 There will be light and joy and peace, and indescribably vibrant life.

Bob had an active life. He saw a fair part of this area of the world, working at Iron Knob, and later here in Loxton, and living several different places. Much loved, he was a great blessing to many people. God made many promises to Bob. Believers are part of a bigger family. They are given an inheritance in the heavenly kingdom. In baptism the Holy Spirit makes these promises to all believers. Spiritual blessings are more important than all the materials possessions we will ever have.

In this life, the greatest thing we have after God’s own love is the love of other people. No matter how many people God puts in our lives, each one is always unique. That means when someone dies, a very specific loss occurs. Grief is never easy. Flo, for you and others who were close to Bob, life will never be the same again. Someone irreplaceable has been lost. That leaves a gap, an emptiness that must be somehow dealt with and adjusted to. May our gracious God give you the love, comfort, and support you need.

God tells us to focus on His promises. Through Jesus He has proven how much human souls mean to Him. Remember Jesus’ own words, “For 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”6 Even when we are grieving, we can give thanks to God. Bob is now at rest. We need not worry about him anymore. The Bible says that nothing can separate believers from the love of Christ. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Robert Edwin Weetra
3 April 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Psalm 139:16 2 John 11:25-26
3 John 3:16-17 4 John 14:6
5 Revelation 21:4 6 John 3:16-17

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Resurrection of our Lord 2018

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

Text: Mark 16:6
Theme: Not There, But Here

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

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

Christ wasn’t there when the women arrived at the tomb. But He’s here with us. Jesus wasn’t there, that is, in the grave as a lifeless corpse on Easter morning. He strode forth as the Lord of Life. There is nothing some would like more-right here and now- than tangible eye-witness evidence that Jesus is back from the dead. Thomas wanted exactly that. He would not be disappointed. But, “Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."1 Faith is a venture into the darkness. God sees clearly things that are veiled to our sight. The Holy Spirit permits us to see through His eyes when we need to.

Today our deepest expressions of gratitude are in order. Our crucified Saviour is alive. Since artificial expressions of joy are hollow, we pray that the Holy Spirit would fill our hearts and minds with genuine joy and sincere peace. His resurrection means our lives have true meaning. Not one of us knows whether we have another day, another month, another year, another decade, or perhaps, for some of the littlest ones, even another century on this earth. It may be cliché to say that life is a gift, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was Russian writer and activist who was harshly critical of the communist party of the former Soviet Union. He was involved in active duty with the Red Army in WWII, being highly decorated. Later he was sent to the gulags- the Soviet labour camps- for his criticism of Stalin’s handling of the war. During his long stay in the labour camps he abandoned Marxism and eventually became an Orthodox Christian.

In the gulag was he on a program of hard labour and slow salvation. One day he felt like giving up. He felt his life could not make a difference. He sat down on a bench knowing that when he was spotted by a guard he would be ordered back to work and when he failed to respond the guard would bludgeon him to death. As he sat waiting, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly he lifted his eyes. Next to him sat an old man with a wrinkled, utterly expressionless face. Hunched over, the old man drew a stick through the sand at Solzhenitsyn’s feet deliberately tracing out the sign of the cross.

As Solzhenitsyn stared at the rough outline his entire perspective shifted.
In that moment, he knew that the hope of all mankind was represented by that simple cross - and through its power anything was possible. Solzhenitisyn slowly got up, picked up his shovel and went back to work - not knowing that his writings on truth and freedom would one day enflame the whole world.

Dear friends, the apostle Paul once described the importance of the resurrection in this way, “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”2 Now, think of what the apostle says here? If the resurrection hadn’t happened sin would remain un-atoned for. And, if the only reason we trust in Christ is to improve life in the here and now, then the situation is pitiable. Christ didn’t sacrifice His life to give us more creature comforts. The Bible says, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”3 There could hardly be a more appropriate time to repent of our malcontent than Easter.

But we are more than content. He provides for our every need, and, promises us bodily resurrection to our heavenly home. Eternal life is a present possession. It’s mind boggling to even reflect upon a life that knows of no pain, that’s unaffected by sin and decay, that’s not subject to boredom, tedium, exhaustion, or fear. A life overflowing with joy, and peace and bliss. A life where there’s no deceit or tragedy or harm. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."4 All of the limitations of body and mind will disappear. In perfect clarity we will enjoy the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saints and angels.

It’s certainly not the kind of world that’s tangible to us now. In what kind of a world do we now bear witness to the resurrection? It is becoming more like the First Century. The society is becoming deeply suspicious of Christian belief and practice. Faults and failings are held under the spotlight, contributions to the well-being of society are downplayed. Such suspicion is sometimes driven by ignorance, other times, by calculated bigotry. Christians should no longer expect to be respected by the wider culture.

Still, there are more differences between our current age and the First Century biblical context than there are similarities. The struggle for basic necessities is greatly relieved in the current culture of material affluence. “Time-poor” families still have more flexible time than ever to spend on recreation and personal pursuits. Few in the secular West literally live hand to mouth. Yet, many are stressed out, worn out, burned out, or otherwise fed up. Meaning and purpose seem elusive to many. The breakdown of family structure has left people searching for identity. In the mindset created by this environment the gospel is often a hard sell. The good news is often like the seed that fell on the rocky soil, like water on impervious ground, like audible words to the ears of the deaf, or printed words to the eyes of the blind.

The opportunities to be salt and light are becoming more clearly defined. Christians are a community of those who live through the One who died; and die on behalf of the One who lives. As the apostle says, “By the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”5 This is not some pie-in-the-sky religious jargon. It’s not some ideal for religious zealots that’s irrelevant to the average Christian. With the same certainty that Jesus is risen from the dead, and that we are flesh and blood, living and breathing beings, with that certainty do we know that we are called to reorder our priorities to be salt and light in a dark and decaying world. Dying to selfishness, we can see the world from a different perspective.

Dear friends, the resurrection doesn’t mean the trials of life cease to exist. You will have disappointments, heartaches, and pains. You will face testings and temptations. The Scripture makes this promise, “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”6 The first golf balls were smooth. It was soon discovered that a golf ball that was roughed up flew further than a smooth golf ball. In fact, a dimpled golf ball hit by a professional golfer travels twice the distance of a smooth one. Most golf balls have between 300 and 500 dimples. It’s the same in the Christian life. We accumulate “dimples” and scars in life, but God uses that to make us go further. Jesus emerged from the grave with the scars of our sins and He bears them for eternity.

Only the Holy Spirit can generate truly joy-filled Alleluias. Christ was crucified, but He lives. The same Christ who said, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”7, also says, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”8 Christ wasn’t there in the tomb on Easter morning. He was already filling the world with His love.

Life prevails! Darkness, doubt, and death do not have the final say. We must traverse the shadows. Sometimes they are long and foreboding. But Christ is light, and He cannot be extinguished. The rays of the Son will not fail to beam upon us. Jesus is risen from the dead. We join our hallelujahs with every believer in every place on earth and in heaven in symphony with those words with which enter the most holy place, “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we adore and magnify [His] glorious name, evermore praising [Him]...”9

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

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Resurrection of our Lord
1 April 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 20:29 2 1 Corinthians 15:16-19
3 1 Timothy 6:7-8 4 Revelation 21:4
5 Romans 12:1 6 1 Corinthians 10:13
7 John 14:2 8 John 14:18
9LH, p.16 (communion liturgy)

Good Friday 2018

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

Text: John 19:35
Theme: All or Nothing

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

“It is finished.”1 Just three little words (only one in the Greek), but they embrace the totality of the divine plan of redemption. The entirety of the Father’s love, the enormity of the Son’s sacrifice, the completeness of the Spirit’s affection; all are distilled into these last words of the Saviour. It was an epic journey; unique, peerless, and redemptive. What humans could never achieve in eons of combined effort, Christ did in this singular act of sacrifice. In one moment, God who dwells in timelessness, healed what sin’s sword has severed. God’s wrath was appeased. The debt of sin was pardoned. The ammunition of Satan was destroyed. Reconciliation was achieved.

It’s not so much at the manger, but at the cross that we see how precious life is. The heart-warming sentimentality of the stable is exchanged for the gut-wrenching spectacle of the crucifixion. There on the Hill of the Skull the holy Son of God is given in sacrifice for wayward children of Adam. Human life, in all of its filth, its darkness, and its depravity is deemed worth saving by God. How marvelous and mysterious that our God- who owes us nothing, but whom we depend on for everything- does not yield to the failure of humanity but perseveres in restoring life. He could have washed His hands in a much more righteous way than Pilate did and declare Himself through with the exasperating failure of humanity. Instead, we are redeemed.

Good Friday is an excellent time to reflect on what you value in life. Does the way you invest your time, energy, and resources align with your core convictions? Everyone’s life tells multiple stories. What stories is your life telling other people? Are they stories of selfishness, arrogance, or apathy? Are they chronicles of integrity, reliability, and honesty? Are they tales joyfulness, optimism, and hope. We are saints and sinners, so the complexities of our lives cannot be defined too narrowly. We can be as fickle as we are loyal, as hopeless as we are helpful. Undying devotion and manifest selfishness can be displayed in the same person concurrently. When all the fleeting things of life are stripped away, what permanent things do we hold on to? When hardship, or illness, or age, or finally, mortality robs us of both our pleasures and our possessions, what do we have that remains unshakeable? What do we possess that’s non-negotiable?

A prosperous entrepreneur was enjoying his success and good fortune as he neared middle age. Suddenly, his wife fell sick and died. Several years after the death of his wife, their two children were killed in an accident while travelling together. The next year he contracted a debilitating illness. He was forced to resign as CEO of the company and accept regular home nursing visits, so he could still live on his own. Over time, he adjusted to his diminished affluence and the limitations on his physical abilities. In the beginning he was bitter and resentful. God’s name was taken in vain. Surely, he thought, God’s cold-hearted compliance or apathetic ineptness must be at least partially to blame. Spiteful and angry, he regularly took out his frustration on others. Few people liked to be around him.

Then something happened. It was gradual at first. He started to notice how other people handled suffering; people of much lesser means, people without privileged backgrounds, people with lives also touched by grief. He reflected on how in the past he had turned a blind eye on the down and out. Some humility and remorse were conceived within him. He began to look differently at the meaning of life. Looking for truth, he recognized that many of his former convictions were hollow and false.

Dear friends, the truth is, God isn’t absent from suffering; He is right in the middle of it. Jesus hung suspended from the tree. Either it was a pathetic miscarriage of justice. Or, the suffering God is the greatest truth ever revealed! In the end, it’s all or nothing. Pontius Pilate cynically asked, “What is truth?”2 Jesus humbly provided the answer. Truth is not always where we think it is. Nothing more earth-shattering will ever be revealed than this truth: Christ crucified and raised for the sins of the world.

Idolatry has many altars on which the truth and wisdom of God are sacrificed. Truth is sacrificed on the altar of greed. In 2002 a British man named John Darwin faked his own death. He and his wife collected 25,000 pounds in insurance money and paid off their mortgage. He was discovered five years later and sentenced. New York man Raymond Roth tried to have his son Jonathan help him fake his death in 2012 but was foiled when he was picked up for speeding in South Carolina. The death of Jesus was not fake.

Truth is sacrificed on the altar of popularity. A study in Psychology Today revealed that less than ten percent of children in primary school consider popularity important, but by high school it was more than one third. How strong is the human need to be liked? Think of the dynamics of human relationships facilitated by social media. People mistake popularity with genuine love and care. Jesus cared nothing for popularity.

Truth is sacrificed on the altar of fear. King Saul feared David’s popularity with the people and that he would lose his throne. He became so obsessed about it, the matter consumed him for the rest of his life3. He hoped David would be killed by the Philistines in battle and devised schemes in hopes of achieving it4. How many foolish and harmful decisions are made every day out of fear! Jesus was not driven by fear.

So now, here at Calvary, we see the greatest irony and the greatest paradox. Truth Himself is sacrificed on the altar of the cross. But it is not done in vanity. He dies as the substitute for all of our lies and falsehoods. Not just our petty lies and our failures due to ignorance, but the sinister deceptions with which we try to appear as people we’re not before God and before others. “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”5 Nothing highlights the autonomous work of God as clearly as the crucifixion. Christ goes it alone. The Son of God immerses Himself in the darkness of our fallen world and single-handedly disarms Satan and defeats evil. The disciples didn’t even have the courage to stand with Him at the cross. At the cross we see the weight of sin. If sin were a trivial matter, it’s scarcely thinkable that Christ would have died. It was all or nothing, and Christ did not fail.

We might be tempted to quickly move on from the crucified Jesus. After all, who likes to linger in the macabre-ness of death? The victorious, resurrected Lord presents a decidedly more cheerful appeal. But dwelling on the crucifixion of Jesus is not a fixation on death. It is recognition of truth. The resurrection doesn’t render the crucifixion obsolete. It immortalizes it as the power by which forgiveness transforms unbelievers into children of God. This is what St. Paul meant when he said, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”6 In the crucifixion and burial of Jesus the power of Satan to accuse us over our sins, and the just wrath of the heavenly Father against our disobedience were laid to rest in the grave. Your baptism is a celebration of these victories, even as it is a source of strength in your daily fight against temptation.

The crucifixion was an all-or-nothing event. Everything hung in the balance. That’s not to deny the necessity of the resurrection. But if sin had remained un-atoned for, reconciliation with the Father could not have been achieved. The crucifixion and burial marked the end of Christ’s humiliation, but not the end of His servanthood. He not only understands suffering, He gives the ultimate hope and the final victory to all who trust in Him. Today can only be called Good Friday in relation to the benefit that resulted for us. It was all or nothing. Our souls weren’t left wanting. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Good Friday
30 March 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 19:30 2 John 18:38
3 See 1 Samuel 18:29 4 See 1 Samuel 18:17
5 Isaiah 53:5 6 Romans 6:3

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Maundy Thursday 2018

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

Text: Matthew 26:28
Theme: For the Forgiveness of Sins

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Not all meals are equal. Some are more significant because of the occasion. Fast food eaten on the go hardly compares with a wedding banquet. Some have more nourishing food than others. A meal packed with nutrients and substance will offer a different benefit than one containing hollow calories. The Lord’s Supper is a meal without comparison. It is a celebration of the Bridegroom’s love for His Bride, the church. He is both the host of the meal and its content. Received in faith, it promises both physical and spiritual blessings.

The Lord’s Supper is instituted in the context of the Passover. The Passover celebrated God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Christ was about to accomplish a new and greater deliverance. It was not the Red Sea or the Jordan River that would be crossed, but the threshold of heaven. It was not human oppression that would be overthrown, but Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Christ, the high priest would enter into the holy of holies according to the Scripture, “When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) - he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”1

So, gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room, He washed their feet, teaching them humility and servanthood. He dealt with the betrayal of Judas and the reluctance of Peter. Then, He transformed the meal of the Passover into the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Scripture says, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”2 In the intimate company of the Twelve, He gifted the church with this means of grace.

Dear friends, it’s important to recognise what we are dealing with here. The presence and power of Christ alone determine the validity of this sacrament. Neither our belief, nor our ignorance, nor our scepticism, nor our approval make God’s treasures what they are. Our misuse of God’s means of grace-the word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper- does not drain them of their power. Rejecting God’s gifts in unbelief only means we are condemned rather than forgiven, convicted rather than absolved. We should always be fearful, therefore, of making light of God’s truth. The Scripture says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”3 Rain can refresh a thirsty crop, but too much can drown it. It is still rain. Fire can warm the cold house or burn it down. It is the same fire. God’s holy presence means judgement for the unrepentant sinner, but mercy for the penitent soul. The same medicine can give life to the dying person or bring death to the living person.

Yet, we can have the greatest confidence in knowing that God will richly bless all who humbly seek His grace. The Father never turns away a child with a penitent heart. The Jesus who hosts us at the Lord’s Table is the same one who endured the gauntlet of suffering and death. God’s word says, “In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”4 And again the Scripture says of Christ, “…and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”5 There is no other means of access into the presence of the Father. But another means is not needed. The risen Lord has swung the gates of heaven wide open. The cherubim guarding the way back into the Garden of Eden have been relieved of their duty. The flaming sword has been sheathed6. In Christ, salvation is secure. He has risen. He is living. His blood makes it certain.

The thief on the cross was saved by it. The apostle and the peasant, the prince and the pauper, the politician, the drug addict, the petty criminal and the honoured citizen, the man of ill repute and the woman of stellar reputation, the courageous one and the coward, the rebel and the devotee, high and low, rich and poor, all, no exceptions, no exclusions, are cleansed by this blood. That includes you. It includes me. And all who are not remain unclean. That’s why the mission of the gospel is always critical. The terminally ill can’t heal themselves. Sinners cannot cleanse their own souls. That’s why the saints in heaven are described as the ones “who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”7

Now, what a marvellous, mysterious, miracle it is that this blood is gifted to believers in the simple but sacred meal of the Supper. The blood of the sacrifice is now the blood of the sacrament. The atonement has been made and no more blood need be spilled. But it is now the church’s treasure in perpetuity until Christ returns and escorts us to the heavenly banquet. It is pure, undeserved gift. It is grace supremely bestowed. Here, in this modest meal, the profundity of God’s love is present. It’s no wonder the apostle exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"8

When Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room, the crucifixion was only hours away. The disciples were still mired in the complexity of confusion. Jesus, however, understood exactly what He faced. Excruciating suffering awaited Him. His body would be pushed passed its limits. But it was even more harrowing for His soul. The dark loneliness of death would consume Him. He went forth into the darkness without flinching; the Holy One as the substitute for sinners. Tonight, we celebrate the fruits of His passion. He is the true Vine9. Our celebration isn’t a mere remembrance. It is a participation in the spoils of His conquering love. This sacred blood is given for you. This blood of the cross is the life-giving blood of the living God. It is vital food unmatched by any other blessing that sustains us. It is the medicine of immortality. Take and eat. Take and drink. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Maundy Thursday
29 March 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Hebrews 9:11-12 2 Matthew 26:26-28
3 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 4 Ephesians 1:7
5 Colossians 1:20 6 See Genesis 3:24
7 Revelation 7:14 8 Romans 11:33-35
9 See John 15:1

Palm Sunday 2018

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

Text: Mark 11:9
Theme: Expectations!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”1 He comes not in self-importance or in pomp and circumstance. He comes as the One “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!”2 He comes out of concern for every human soul. He comes because He must.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. It was hardly a regal entrance. He had no kingly retinue. Still, a long trail of miracles, signs, and wonders attended Him. He was locally famous. His miracles were incontestable. Herod wanted to see one and some Jewish leaders tried to attribute them to demonic power. On different occasions His disciples and the crowds had witnessed Him elude arrest and capture by the authorities. He did so not by hiding out, or by a show of force, but through the mystery of His divine elusiveness. Peter cut off Malchus’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus told him to sheathe His sword3. The time had come for the Son of Man to be glorified. His kingdom would not be bound to earth’s dimensions of time and space. Spiritual wars are not won in the same way physical wars are.

Palm Sunday primes us for the contrast and harmony between expectation and fulfillment. The peaks and valleys of Holy Week were extraordinary for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Hope, joy, doubt, fear, disappointment, grief, despair, surprise, astonishment, rapture, and elation are some of the emotions that filled the hearts and minds of those who witnessed the journey. The moment of truth was at hand. What would happen with this itinerant preacher from Galilee? On Palm Sunday expectations were high, by Good Friday they were all but dashed.

Expectations are something that must be managed throughout life. It’s healthy to regularly assess whether our handling of expectations is reasonable and godly. What are our expectations of God? What are our expectations of others? What are our expectations of ourselves? And what are these expectations based on? Now, it should come as no surprise to anyone that expectations are frequently unreasonable, misguided, and uninformed. Nor should it be surprising that expectations are often biased towards the one who anticipates a certain outcome. Owning this truth is to do nothing more than confess our own self-centredness; an obligation for honest Christians.

The starting point is, of course, our relationship with the God who comes to us in the person of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Many First Century followers of Jesus expected Him to institute a kingdom generally in line with their preconceived ideas. Instead, He accomplished something different but much more significant. All of our expectations in life will be fatally skewed if we don’t understand that Jesus came because we are sinners. The coming King calls us to repentance with good reason and we should expect nothing else.

Our knowledge of our own sinfulness would end badly if we didn’t also know that God doesn’t leave to fend for ourselves. We can expect that God is being true to His word when His Spirit opens our hearts to the promises of the gospel. The Bible says, “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”4 Maturity in life involves managing expectations in a godly way whether trivial matters are at stake or big issues are on the agenda. How do we react when our expectations aren’t met?

Two police officers in nearby towns set up separate ‘speed traps’ near their respective public schools one Saturday afternoon. In line with statistical averages both expected to nab a certain number of offenders over a four-hour period. Both knew a sporting event was taking place in the one town and expected celebrations to go on well into the night. The first policeman, in the town where the event was held, was surprised to catch only one offender. The second was even more surprised to note nearly every second person racing past the limit. The reason was due to an approaching hailstorm. The locals had a short trip to shelter. The others were desperate to reach their garages in the next town. Expectations of both officers were blown.

When He sees fit, God completely disregards the law of averages too. He blows our expectations out of the water. He can calm the storm, heal the sick, and raise the dead. God can cure cancer completely. But He might also choose to send it into remission or let it run its course. God can bring someone unharmed through an horrific accident, but He might also bring them to the day of judgment. In every case He is being just and holy even when we can’t see it. And God never acts inconsistently with His will as revealed in the Scriptures. We need not speculate about God’s opinion regarding anything to do with our ultimate welfare. We have it in His word.

Hopeful and expectant people waved palm branches and spread their cloaks on the road to welcome their Messiah into Jerusalem. By the end of the week He would be fixed like a criminal to that gruesome instrument of Roman retribution known as a cross. The people of Jerusalem cheered hosanna as He entered their city. It’s a plea meaning ‘Lord, please save us.” Hosanna is not part of the language of our age. Yet the truth it expresses is timeless. We might learn to find substitutes for biblical words like hosanna. Luther would be the first to say that God’s word must be made available to people in their language. But he would also be the first to insist the message itself not be changed. Cultures and societies will always be in a state of flux, but the unchanging Word of God transforms individuals within societies of every age. A ‘gospel’ that’s changed by the culture is no longer the gospel. We should expect that people of faith see the world from a different perspective and think, speak, and act accordingly.

Dear friends, the gospel doesn’t mean God has lowered His expectations of us. His will for us to live selfless, sacrificial lives doesn’t change. The gospel doesn’t mean that God has discounted the significance of sin. There is no schedule of depreciation for the cost of sin. The good news of Jesus’ sacrificial death is that the heavenly Father makes no concessions at all. He doesn’t lower His expectations. Christ meets them all. We are valued, freed, and forgiven, God’s incomprehensible mercy is the reason and nothing else. We are justified by grace, not by any efforts or accomplishments.

Jesus once referred to His passion as a baptism. He asked James and John (who were eager to share in His glory), “are you able…to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”5 The baptism of water and the Spirit that believers receive would be without power or lasting effect had Jesus not undergone His baptism of fire. Rejoice, sisters and brothers! Your baptism is vested with the strength and blessing of Jesus’ own passion and resurrection. You have forgiveness. You are at peace with God. In prosperity or adversity, you can be certain that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you6. He gives you, even now, a foretaste of the banquet to come when you receive His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. It is manna from above.

Remember, Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was a special celebration of reflection and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance from slavery and subsequent gifting of the Promised Land. The angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites marked with Lamb’s blood7. It’s no coincide that Jesus will now facilitate a new and greater deliverance at this time. Dear friends, what good is it for anyone to have their temporal life spared if their soul is lost for eternity? Christ comes to deliver from eternal death, hell, and damnation. Could there be a better reason to join the refrain, saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”8 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday In Lent
18 March 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 11:9 2 Philippians 2:6-8
3 See John 18:9-10 4 2 Corinthians 1:20
5 Mark 10:38 6 See John 14:3
7 See Exodus 12:23 8 Mark 11:9

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fifth Sunday in Lent (B) 2018

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

Text: John 2:21
Theme: Jesus Now and Forever

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Everything in God’s time. Birth, death, resurrection, each moment of each hour; all are in God’s hands. It’s the safest place our lives can be. Anyone who had been following the storyline of John’s gospel would recall repeated references to the fact that Jesus’ time had NOT yet come. To His mother at the wedding in Cana Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come.”1 To His brothers who asked why He wasn’t going up to the feast, Jesus replied, “My time has not yet fully come.”2 While teaching in the temple, the Pharisees could not seize Him because “His hour had not yet come.”3 It is therefore quite significant when Jesus says that His time has now come. It was time for the Son of Man to enter into His glory. That is, it was time for His suffering and death, His being lifted up on the cross4. Ransom from the powers of sin, death and Satan could happen in no other way.

So, in response to this request, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus,”5 comes an unexpected, but weighty answer. Jesus foregoes any pleasantries of polite discourse. He thrusts right to the heart of the matter. The time for curiosity is over. These Greeks may have considered Jesus to be a novelty, a rarity, or a marvel, but what matters now is that He is revealed to be the Saviour. We don’t know if these Greeks ever got to meet Jesus face to face. But we do know that if they followed Jesus during the week of His passion they would have been brought face to face with God’s undying love.

The reality is however, many people didn’t recognize God even when they saw Him face to face. But, He was veiled in humility. He seemed to be an ordinary man with some supernatural skills. Even after the resurrection many had doubts. So, we must understand beyond all confusion and doubt that no amount of human effort or ingenuity can persuade or entice someone to believe. No skill of argumentation, or perseverance of negotiation can bring a person to faith in Jesus Christ. The most carefully crafted and generously funded program will not accomplish it. The Holy Spirit alone, convicting the conscience through the word of law can convict people of their sins. The Holy Spirit alone, comforting the heart through the promise of the gospel can engender faith. That being said, we are in no way exempt from deliberately, purposefully, and genuinely making known the truth of Christ both to those who don’t believe, and to those who do. Witnessing is part of our normal activity. We are God’s people.

We’re still sinners, though. Concern with the present is what often consumes us on a regular basis. The pressures of daily existence, of making ends meet tend to put us in survival mode. In survival mode we are less likely to learn from the past or consider wisely the future. We can become so wrapped up in the present that it controls us. We find ourselves just trying to get through the next day. It is both a delight of Satan and a craving of our sinful natures to be enslaved to our present needs and desires. But the believer lives continuously and lives presently in a state of grace.

Not only was God with us in the past, not only will He be with us in the future, He is with us now. God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is not with us as a remote observer. He is with us in His full power to intercede, to create, to destroy, to sustain, to comfort. What is remarkable about this is that God actively and dynamically dwells with sinners; yet only in and through and because of Christ. Because the Father forsook His Son, we are never forsaken as His children. On the cross Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”6So that He could say to His disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”7Christians are not in bondage to the fallen creation, they are free to serve the Creator.

The pressures to live in the present are often matched by anxieties about the future? What if this happens? What if that happens? Will I be protected from this or prepared for that? These common questions must be left to the care and wisdom of God. Worry is a sin because it betrays a lack of confidence in the Almighty. Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear……For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”8 And the apostle says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”9 Christ has laid out the future and He will not fail to bring us safely into it.

Dear friends, as a believer, it is a profound privilege that you live your life in time under the auspices of eternity. Time and eternity are not really comparable. Time is of the finite creation. It will cease. Eternity is undiminished fellowship with the triune God. We are creatures that are elevated to share with the Creator because sin is vanquished. We are time-bound beings freed for eternity. That is the outcome of everything Christ came to do. It is the meaning of today’s Scripture, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be.”10

He was and is the crucified, risen and living Lord for all eternity. At the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the dimension of time was reconciled with the dimension of eternity. The entire created sphere was reconciled with the eternal realm. And regardless of how many more days this earth will exist, the crucifixion will always remain the portal to eternity. And this portal is opened wherever and whenever the gospel reaches and changes the heart, wherever and whenever the forgiveness of sins is received in true faith, wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit works through baptismal water, wherever and whenever the body and blood of Christ is received in humble trust. For in all these things, but only in these things do we receive Christ with all His blessings for our timeless salvation. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”11 That request has been answered. Now we see with the eyes of faith, then in full vision. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday In Lent
18 March 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 2:4 2 John 7:6
3 John 7:30 4 See John 3:14
5 John 12:21 6 Mark 15:34 (cf Psalm 22:1)
7 Matthew 28:20 8 Matthew 6:25, 32
9 Philippians 4:6-7 10 John 12:23, 25-26
11 John 12:21