Monday, December 13, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent- A 2010

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

Text: Matthew 11:2-11
Theme: The Example of John

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is patient with us in our frailty. And we should think here firstly not of frailty of mind or body, but of spirit. Jesus Christ was born into human flesh so that our flesh, our sinful nature, would not totally overcome and destroy any hope that our souls could live. Jesus, who was spirit, assumed a body and lives in that body, so that we with mortal bodies might be gifted with His immortality. Advent and Christmas are about these truths.

Our Advent gospel today relates to us the situation of John the Baptist- the voice of the one who calls to repentance. We find Him in prison. His end was near. Have you ever considered why Jesus didn’t rescue John from being beheaded by Herod? This Messiah who calmed the sea, healed the sick, passed through the crowd and even raised the dead, how simple of a thing to free John the Baptist from prison. His own cousin was unjustly cut down by the arrogant and ruthless ruler. Jesus could have prevented it. After all, He raised His good friend Lazarus. But it was not part of the divine plan.

The situation with John was different. His case was a preview of martyrdom. His was a unique place in the history of Christianity. He did not have to wait as long as some for his heavenly reward. He was zealous and passionate, but there was no thought for personal safety or worldly indulgences. John had no interest in the satisfactions and glories associated with the common pursuits of humanity. He didn’t seek to leave an inheritance to his descendants, bolster his standing in the community, or while away his days occupied in hobbies. His single endeavor was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. In this regard he was uncompromising.

John the Baptist could have relented in relation to calling Herod to repentance. He could have thought to save his own skin first and justified it as an opportunity to go on with his ministry. But he wouldn’t “keep his options open” for selfish reasons. In this regard He is an example of true sacrifice and an encouragement to us. The sinner in us tends to want to negotiate for our own self gain. Consider the incident with Caesar Augustus. After his victory over Antony at Actium, Caesar came back to Rome in triumph. Among the huge crowd who greeted him was a man who had a bird that he had taught to say, "Hail, Caesar victorious!" Caesar was impressed and bought the bird for a large sum. Then someone got Caesar aside and whispered to him that the man had another bird that was just as talented. The man was summoned and Caesar asked for a demonstration of what the other bird could do. The man declined, but Caesar insisted. When the bird was produced it said, "Hail, Antony victorious!"

God will not be impressed with our efforts to hedge our spiritual bets. We cannot deceive Him. He reads the heart. The penitent soul knows this and that is why the church added the words of Psalm 51 to the liturgy, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”1 We continue to entreat the Lord to do what we can never and could never do for ourselves: purify our hearts. He does not fail us. He freely and fully forgives our sins. Christ didn’t suffer humiliation, shame, and death because you were able to rectify your own sins. He didn’t conquer death and rise from the grave because there was another way for you to gain eternal life. Your baptism stands as a testimony to God’s initiative to rescue you from certain calamity. Satan is restrained and hell barred in your life because He did these things for you.

Despite his fortitude, John the Baptist was still prone to the temptations and struggles of the sinful nature. Prison was tough. John had no direct contact with Jesus and so had to rely on second-hand reports. John perhaps wondered why Jesus wasn’t more heavy- handed in judgment. So he sent his own disciples to enquire of Jesus’ activities. “Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.’”2

Perhaps, you feel like God has left you in the lurch; in your own dark prison like John. Perhaps the hope Advent and the expectation of Christmas is more of a burden for you than a time of peace and celebration. Your Saviour knows just the right time. Remember our epistle today, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”3 Do you think it is only coincidence that this passage is appointed for the Third Sunday of Advent? Whether farmers here are waiting patiently or not we’ll let God be the judge. The bigger picture of course involves the kingdom of Christ and His spiritual harvest. It is an ongoing harvest that will one day come to a dramatic finish.

In the Lord’s Prayer we petition God for His kingdom to come. And though we may typically pass right over the meaning because of our familiarity with it, it’s likely that when most people reflect on it they think of the time Christ will return to end the world. Advent bids us to be prepared for this coming event. But if we’re not careful here we can draw the wrong conclusions about how God works now. You see, we don’t sort of wait in limbo- scurrying about with our affairs while glancing suspiciously out of the corner of one eye for signs God might be preparing to visit.

Consider how Luther teaches about this petition in the catechism. “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”4 It’s sort of a different way to think of the coming of God’s kingdom. Normally we’d think of Jesus’ glorious return with angels and the end times events that will precede it. Indeed, that is how it will be. But God’s kingdom also comes in the here and now. It comes whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit creates and nurtures faith in the human heart. It comes whenever the words of absolution cheer your soul. It comes whenever you receive his sacred body and holy blood. For the individual believer these things are far more important than when Christ will come again. May the God of strength fill you with the single-mindedness of John and the hope and expectation of Advent. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Advent
12 December 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 LHS, p.13
2 Matthew 11:4
3 James 5:7-8
4 Luther’s Small Catechism

Address to Catechumens, Dec 12, 2010

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

Text: Hebrews 13:5
Theme: God Will Never Leave You

Dear candidates for confirmation; Ben, Joel, Shannon, and Levi,

The marvelous thing about Christianity is that even when we fail, God forgives; even when we mess up, God gets it right. He makes things right through Jesus. And he does it for eternity. That’s what the Bible calls grace. Your whole Christian life is about living in and understanding this grace.

It is unlikely that any of you remember your baptism because you were all baptized as infants. It’s unlikely that any of you remember being born either. You were also born as infants. But not remembering being born doesn’t change who you are. You have a birth certificate, it has your name on it and it tells you who you belong to. It says who your parents are. You didn’t decide to be born. God gave you parents and He gave you to them.

As an infant you didn’t decide to be baptized either. God gave you new life when the Holy Spirit gave you the gift of faith and made you part of the family of the true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But you did decide- or at least agree in some sense- to prepare to make a public confession of your faith on this day. You came each week to study the Bible and the catechism to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word and faith. In other words, your presence here shows that you think it is important to identify yourself with the Christian faith. It’s nothing to take lightly. You are soon to make a promise; a public promise to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Bible as you have learned them through Luther’s Small Catechism.

Now maybe the time has been, or will come when you are struggling at school, with friends, or at home. Maybe others have ridiculed you for your faith- these challenges won’t go away as you get older. You may wonder about the purpose or meaning of your life and how things will all work out. But you have a God that can do more than you could ever imagine. And God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”1 Christ died for your sins.

Today is only one day in your Christian journey. It’s an important day, but only one day. And if I, or the church has given you or your family the impression that everything is now done and dusted, that we’ve crossed all the i’s and dotted all the t’s, if you see this a hoop you’ve now successfully jumped through, then I have failed you. This is just one step along the way. It’s not a coincidence that Christianity was first called “The Way.” The way is Jesus every day of every week of every year.

When you make your promise today you will be invited to take greater responsibility and have greater privileges in the life of the church. It begins today with receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion. I encourage you to be in God’s house to receive it regularly, seriously, and cheerfully. I encourage you to live joyfully the life of faith the Holy Spirit has given you. And may God bless you from this day forward as you journey with Him to the time and place you will meet the Saviour face to face. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Advent
Confirmation Sunday
12 December 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Hebrews 13:5