Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

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

Text: Luke 12:21
Theme: Riches of God

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christians trust in the Creator, not the creation. They worship the Redeemer, not the unredeemed. They follow the Spirit, not the unspiritual. Christians are stewards of possessions, not slaves to them. They place the goals of the eternal kingdom above those of the temporal realm. They pursue Christian community, not personal legacies. Christians fear the wrath of God, not the anger of men. They bow to the sacrifice of Christ, not the demands of Satan. They revere the word of God, not the philosophies of humanity. Christians are heavenly citizens on an earthly journey, not earthly citizens with permanent residency. The things we treasure are heavenly, not worldly; eternal, not temporal, permanent, not fleeting.

But these realities are by no means tangible to the naked eye. In all these things, we are always becoming, not existing. We are always struggling, not resting. The scriptures say it this way, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”1 This truth is definitive of the Christian life. It is at the heart of our comfort, but the cause our angst. Faith is where the rubber meets the road. It separates us from those who have no final hope. The Book of Hebrews has that great definition , “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”2 As such, faith involves something above and beyond ourselves. It is a divine operation. We want to know and see and touch and taste and feel. We want tangibility and concreteness. God gives us words and water and bread and wine. He gives us the story of a cross and an empty tomb.

It seems to be preciously little for us to cling to. The world seems to offer reassuringly much for us to indulge in. We crave certainty and our experience seems to show us what is certain. But we misread the evidence. What appears to be, is not really what is. For but a few months, years or even a lifetime, what seems to be so much offered us from the world is but a speck from the perspective of eternity. It is nothing at all. We are hard pressed to focus on “today” and take no thought for the Last Day. Christ warns, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”3

Christ warns, but Christ comforts and reassures. What can we need that He will not provide for us? With such assurance He sent out the first Twelve. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”4 Jesus sought to calm the anxiety of His disciples and strengthen their faith. The disciples were worried about how they would be provided for while proclaiming the kingdom. Earthly possessions and comforts were already becoming a distraction. As soon as earthly possessions and comforts become a distraction from the kingdom, the desire for them must be repudiated. The temptations are too great. Christ says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”5

What are the sources of our treasures? To where do our hearts run? Physical comforts are God’s concession to weak and frail people. But He will not allow them to cause weak and frail faith. We cannot replace the Giver with the gifts. We cannot confuse the creature with the Creator. Through His incarnation, Christ has redeemed and sanctified the created world for believers. We may enjoy the fruits of the creation. But Christ has not sanctified or sanitized sin. He has destroyed its power. Had it been possible to sanitize corrupted creation, had it been possible to reform sin, He would not have to have died. But He says, “I am making everything new.”6 He has already been gifting that newness to us. In the sacred meal He gives us His blood of the new covenant, at the baptismal font He grants new life. Therefore St. Paul can say emphatically, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”7

But the “old” still clings to us in this life and that is what is ours to give. When we come into His sanctuary and gather before God in worship, we have only one thing to offer Him, our sins. We come to offer God our sins. Our sins are the ONLY thing we offer directly to God. We do not impress him with our piety or our intellect, our money or our enthusiasm. God needs nothing. “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountain, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it,”8 says the Lord. Before God we are nothing but beggars. Only our sins are properly ours.

But we are entrusted with much that is the Lord’s. When we walk out of the sanctuary, we offer everything to our neighbor. And precisely in offering everything to our neighbor are we offering ourselves to God. We give money not because God Himself needs it, but because the kingdom must be maintained and extended. We pray and volunteer and work, because we are the Creator’s instruments to serve His creation. When you go to work on Monday morning you should think of yourself as a member of the body of Christ extended into that place. You are a representative of the worshipping community in your vocational community. You provide in the secular realm, a contact with the sacred. It is a serious responsibility and privilege. People must know that there are realities of a far greater magnitude to attend to than just the day-to-day events of their earthly lives. You may not see tangible results, but that is part of the reality of living by faith. God will accomplish the results.

The Bible says, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”9 And about the believers of old it says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth”10 We are privileged to follow in their footsteps. The promise of the crucified and risen Christ has been fulfilled. We look forward to its final consummation in heaven. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 August 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 2 Corinthians 5:7
2 Hebrews 11:1
3 Luke 12:40
4 Luke 12:32
5 Luke 12:34
6 Revelation 21:5
7 2 Corinthians 5:17
8 Psalm 50:10-12
9 Genesis 15:6
10 Hebrews 11:13

(Note: This sermon delivered on the Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, August 22, 2004)