Sunday, April 18, 2010

Third Sunday of Easter

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

Text: John 21:11
Theme: “The Net Was Not Torn”

Christ is risen!

Dear worshippers of the risen Jesus,

153! It is a very exact number. It was the number of large fish the disciples netted at the command of Christ after His resurrection. Yet the net did not break. The symbolism is important. God provides the harvest, and the resources, though strained, will not fail. Yet think of those Christ chose for the mission and the task they faced! Peter denied Him. Paul persecuted Him. Yet He made them into the pillars of the church. They were sent out into a world of godlessness and unbelief. We take for granted that it was a most unlikely beginning for the Christian Church to be where it is today. Such is the mercy and power of our Lord.

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most important events in the history of Christianity. God blessed Paul with the zeal, intellect, and determination to articulate the gospel of Jesus Christ to Jew and Gentile alike. A former persecutor of the church, He became one of its staunchest and most active defenders. Christ turned his passion for persecution into a zeal for proclamation. Paul, like Luther after him, had a deep sense of his sinfulness and that helped to facilitate a profound articulation of God’s grace.

Paul understood his failure. If you don’t know yourself in the capacity in which you have failed, then you don’t really know yourself as you are before God. Denial is an enemy of repentance and Christian maturity. When we are most vulnerable is also when we are most accessible to God’s living word. The moment you think the sin you have just committed is insignificant or trivial is the moment it becomes an offense that invites God’s wrath. For those who are unremorseful and unrepentant the pettiest transgression is no different than the most heinous crime. The righteous justice of God threatens immediate punishment. The issue is not the magnitude of the sin but your lack of fear that God is concerned with it. Never presume God’s leniency. Never obligate Him to be tolerant. To do so is to sit in His seat of judgment. Idolatry is never as offensive as when it is cloaked with piety.

However for the person who rightly fears God’s judgment even the worst sin becomes easily forgivable in Christ. The very sin which you are horrified to reveal God will thoroughly remit. He can lift the most troubling and taxing burden off of you as if it had the weight of a feather. The cross of Christ silences the accusations of Satan. He has no case- though the evidence is mounted against you- because the punishment has been rendered on Calvary. Your conscience finds refuge in the wounds of the Lord’s body. There we find every support and consolation in time of need.

But the best measure of your spiritual integrity is not how you turn to God when in dire need, but how you receive Him when you feel no such distress. Prosperity easily causes God to be viewed through a different lens. People then struggle to justify devoting time and resource to God. We should be careful not to offer God empty praise. God needs our hollow acclamations no more than we desire patronizing comments from a respected friend.

Dear friends, the question is not whether life is a string of successes, or a rollercoaster of accomplishments and failures as measured by worldly standards. Christians are not indebted to the schemes of the world. Society will inevitably measure each of us by its criteria of values but God cares nothing at all of the judgments of power-brokers, peasants, or peers. The Bible says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”1 And again, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”2 The value of your life is seen in the sacrifice of Jesus. All other assessments pale in comparison.

In baptism God “hides” your life in Christ. That is, this blessing is invisible to the reason of human intellect. It is nonsensical to the unbeliever. But it sets the believer in harmony with God’s new structure and order reconstituted in His Son. It incorporates into the mystery of the church- Christ’s body in faith. God leaves nothing to chance. Everything is vested with significance by the Redeemer of whom Paul says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen.”3 Only by the Holy Spirit can this be said; and it can only have meaning to believers.

Easter changes things. Three times did Simon Peter deny Him and so three times does Jesus question him. Jesus calls for integrity. “Simon son of John, do you truly love Me?”4 Christ knew the answer but the exercise was for Peter’s benefit. The Lord would not have Peter to dwell on his failures of the past. He would not have him hamstrung by the haunting memory of those Holy Week denials. The resurrection moves things inexorably forward. New hope, new life, and new perspectives are being granted. A new era has begun.

Jesus reinstates Peter. But the way ahead for the apostles would be difficult. All but John were martyred for the faith. The Word of God continues to meet with opposition. Rather than face it Christians are tempted to concede to the false teachings of the world out of fear or for the sake of peace. But the Living Christ says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”5

Christ is the victor over sin and death. His crucifixion and resurrection are the source of life. When it comes to the gospel God is the subject of all the verbs. God justifies. God forgives. God pardons. God declares you righteous and holy through the blood of Christ though you are by nature full of iniquity. He absolves you of all your offenses removing them as far away as the East is from the West. He frees you from the condemnation due to you by substituting His Son as captive in your place. He calls you by name.

The attention God gives to detail serves to remind us that not only does nothing escape Him, but that He concerns Himself with the smallest particulars. The Spirit who recorded the 153 fish caught in the apostle’s net is the same one who reminds us that He numbers the very hairs on your head. And the Psalmist writes, “All of the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”6 Thanks be to God that He leaves nothing to chance. Amen.

Christ is risen!
+ in nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Easter
18 April 2010 Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Romans 12:2
2 1 John 2:17
3 Romans 11:36
4 John 21:17
5 John 16:33
6 Psalm 139:16