Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sixth Sunday of Easter

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

Text: John 14:27
Theme: “My Peace I Give You”

Dear worshippers of the risen Jesus,

Human beings are hopelessly prone to doubting the reliability and affection of God. This is a primary expression of original sin. Though we may confidently or desperately seek security elsewhere, it rests on a false and fleeting foundation. The heart overcome by doubt can have no lasting peace until it rests in the presence of Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”1

Still, the influence of Christ’s kingdom in the world often seems weak and powerless. The dishonest often seem to prosper and the humble are disregarded. Many decades after the dawn of the modern age and the alleged progress of humanity, unrighteousness in the public and private sphere remains a way of life. If humanity can by some measures become more civilized and humane, it can never be freed from the pathology of unbelief. Sin reaps a harvest of condemnation, guilt, and finally death. None are exempt. God always intervenes in human affairs- at His discretion- as judge and executioner. This is the activity of His kingdom of power.

Yet it often appears God allows evil to freely run its course. The proof of God’s rule is not always openly observable. But the evidence is forthcoming. The submission to Christ of all evil powers and the exaltation in Christ of all the godly is to be realized- publicly witnessed by all that have the breath of life. This is the final outcome that awaits the world when Christ returns.

The gospel introduces a different kind of reign. It is not one of tolerance, but of restoration and renewal that begins with the heart. The gospel doesn’t “humanize” people in the philosophical sense. It doesn’t “moralize” people in the ethical sense. It Christianizes people in the spiritual sense. The gospel is counter-intuitive to human wisdom to the very core. Humans do not rectify their estrangement from God through any, special program, secret knowledge, or persevering effort. The more we search for any hidden goodness, undiscovered righteousness, or vestige of honourable intentions within ourselves, the further we get from God. The more determinedly we hold up our good deeds as evidence that we’re not beyond hope the more we offend the Almighty.

The gospel does not reward do-gooders for trying harder; it gives hope for those who yearn for God’s mercy. It feeds the spiritually hungry and quenches the thirst of those parched for forgiveness. It demands no pre-conditions and requires no bond for security. It is God’s free and unconditional love in Christ. It is the divine declaration “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”2 Christ justifies the ungodly and frees the penitent.

But the gospel never promises happiness in a human sense. It promises peace in a divine sense. And it doesn’t explain to us the specifics of why God allows suffering and heartache. Faith teaches us to accept our limitations. We should not be so arrogant as to speak for God on matters in which He has remained silent. Why does a young person die tragically? Why does illness strike without warning? Why do the faithful often suffer at the hands of the wicked? Why doesn’t justice seem to prevail?

Yet what seems like God’s “silence” is for our protection and well-being. Complexity can be clarified but not simplified. There are limits to our ability to understand. God’s wisdom and will supersede all the combined and accumulated intellect and experience of humanity. The Scripture says, “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as His counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way?”3

What seems to one person to be a blessing is to another a judgment. A woman has an abortion and finds relief from facing the stress of raising a child. Meanwhile, the child’s life is ruthlessly terminated. A person justifies having an extra-marital affair to meet their own needs, but the spouse is shattered. Even vices people think they can hide and keep to themselves- greed, addiction, indulgence, deceit- affect others at some point. God made us to live in community. Selfishness inevitably leads us to sin against others. The proper manner of relating to others cannot be left to human consensus. Sin and righteousness are not defined by human parameters. Jesus speaks authoritatively, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”4

Our society elevates convenience over thoroughness and expediency over planning. That which is practical often takes precedence over that which is right and true. We are taught to choose instant gratification over the consideration of stability and well-being. Truth is sacrificed on the altar of usefulness. Self-denial is avoided by the claim we deserve to spoil ourselves. Sacrifice is put in the “too hard” basket and thought to be unrewarding.

No wonder motherhood is so undervalued in modern society. A Christian mother is the active image of sacrifice and self-denial. But the culture of this age has little interest in these pursuits, seeking self-recognition and pleasure instead. The mother who teaches godliness to her children truly bears the cross of sacrifice and shows them proper love. The Christian church must be willing to defend the vocation motherhood as the highest calling from God a woman is blessed to receive.

No one can be exempt from struggling through the challenges and crises of life. The Holy Spirit not only gives us spiritual life, He sustains us in that life. It is a life of bearing the cross. Christians live in the midst of turmoil but are calmed by the voice of the Shepherd and steadied by the promise counsel of the Spirit. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”5

Shalom, peace, was a common Hebrew greeting. In Jesus it comes to its fullest expression. It is a monumental promise: Peace that the world cannot give. Peace which transcends, peace which stabilizes, peace that endures. You won’t find it in money. You won’t find it in career. You won’t find it in possessions. You won’t find it in marriage. You won’t find it in family. You won’t find it in fame. Yes, in these things you may well find some level of satisfaction and security. They may make your life more comfortable. But they fade with time and succumb to the passing of this age. Divine peace brings the blessing of heaven down to earth.

It is the gift of the One who ordered the cosmos from chaos, calmed the violent storms of Galilee’s sea, and withstands the fury of Satan’s rage. It is the peace of Christ. He is the one who forgives tax-collectors, absolves prostitutes, and frees criminals. He faced persecution, endured sacrifice, and accepted mortality. He eases your burdens, lifts away your guilt, and lightens your darkness. You have peace when you rest in Him.

The peace Christ gives was forged on a cross. This peace is the promise the triune God makes to you in your baptism. It is the peace that will attend our eternal existence. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Sixth Sunday of Easter
9 May 2010 Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 16:33
2 2 Corinthians 5:19 3 Isaiah 40:13-14
4 John 13:34 5 John 14:27