Monday, July 19, 2010

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

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

Text: Luke 10:39
Theme: At the Lord’s Feet

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The Word of God speaks for itself. The church has the command to proclaim it without spin or manipulation. When proclamation gives way to the gimmicks of commercial-style appeal then the church’s message degenerates into a conversation about the advantages and liabilities of a marketable Jesus. Christ becomes a “religious commodity” with a negotiable value to prospective buyers. In this approach people are taught to put a valuation on Christianity based on expected returns. Undoubtedly sinful human nature can never be completely free from this temptation. The tendency we have to make risk versus reward assessments even in spiritual things marks us as fundamentally fallen and self-serving creatures. The sinful heart looks to use others- with the exploitation of God Himself being no exception- to its own advantages. For all such approaches and activities we are called to judgment.

The Gospel is not a philosophical theory waiting for approval from like-minded individuals. Its truths are valid regardless of the prejudices and presuppositions people maintain. The Word of God acts upon the hearer. An encounter ensues in which the human heart and will are confronted with the revelation of God’s will. This exposure to God’s word is the critical event. Because God’s word acts upon the whole person and not only the intellect, people of any age and in any condition can be drawn into a relationship with Christ through the gospel.

In the sacrament of baptism God’s intention for that individual is revealed. God intends to receive that person as His child. The Holy Spirit grants the gift of faith and through the medium of this faith the person trusts God for his or her well-being. Through rejection, negligence, and apathy this trust can be broken and the faith lost. But through renewed exposure to God’s truth a person can be brought again to repentance and faith. Faith is not a static possession, but the dynamic of a living relationship.

It is in this reality that believers have their identity. The question is not whether (or even to what degree) the relationship with Christ affects one’s life in tangible and concrete ways- the evidence must be there or the person’s faith is called into question- but rather the nature of how such faith is expressed. How do I bear my cross in this context? How does my faith relate to that situation? How can I best follow God’s will in this matter? These questions and countless others characterize the challenges believers face every day. And how blessed we are to have such great freedom in these matters. Grace allows us to follow God’s will to the best of our ability without fear of retribution. Sometimes we make poor decisions and even sinful ones, but through repentance and faith God guides us back with His wisdom and compassion.

Consider the distinction Jesus makes between Mary and Martha today. We would do damage to the text if we tried to demonize Martha while attempting to elevate Mary to sainthood. Martha too is a believer. Yet Jesus clearly chastises her for being distracted while commending Mary for being focused on the right priority at the moment. Even the importance of providing hospitality cannot overshadow the necessity of receiving the instruction of Christ’s word. The former must flow from the latter, that is, only in being hearers of God’s word can we properly be doers of it. It would be wrong for Mary to be deprived of the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet in order to help Mary with the meal preparations.

The lesson, of course, remains applicable. We cannot divorce the source of our faith from the activity that flows from it. To offer our money or other material resources or even our time and energy to the work of the kingdom but to show little or no interest in growing in the knowledge of His truth betrays a misunderstanding of how our faith is nurtured. A marriage relationship isn’t complete when one party simply supplies material goods to the other. Our relationship with Christ involves the continual receiving of His gifts, chiefly; forgiveness, life and salvation. Without this lifeline our actions will become hollow or self-serving.

Remember that the context of Luke’s gospel at this point involves the proper way to receive and treat those itinerant missionaries that are sent in God’s name. Certainly the messenger of God should have his material needs attended to, but more important still is the reception of the teaching he brings. The best way to receive Christ is not to first serve Him, but be served by Him. To receive His blessings is the highest way we can honour and worship the Trinity. God desires to give and the greatest insult we can deliver is to spurn what He offers us.

An understanding of worship is relevant here. The primary activity of worship is God serving us. He consoles us, calms us, forgives us, instructs us, equips us, assures us, enlightens us, crucifies us, and resurrects us. He reminds us of our baptismal identity and feeds us with His holy body and precious blood. You come to leave your sins and go carrying His forgiveness. You come worn down by earthly trials and leave refreshed by heavenly blessings. You came beset with falsehoods; you leaved freed by truth. You come with pain and leave with healing. You come conflicted and leave in peace. You came with sorrow and leave with joy.

Then everything you do in response to His love- your financial offerings, your prayers, your witness to His truth, your helping of those in need, your commitment to the dissemination of His word, your visitation of the sick, your investment of time and resource in growing in His knowledge- flows from your confidence in His unconditional compassion. In His presence Christ would have us to be imitators of Mary. In our witness in the world the industriousness of Martha should be emulated.

Dear friends, Jesus Christ is the subject of God’s word and you are the object. The relationship the Holy Spirit creates and the promises He makes through that word are neither trivial nor temporary. The Scripture says, “He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”1 And again, “We know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.”2 Because Christ is your Saviour sin and death no longer have mastery over you either. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
18 July 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Colossians 1:22-23
2 Romans 6:10