Monday, January 17, 2011

Second Sunday After Epiphany A (2011)

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

Text: John 1:34
Theme: “This Is The Son Of God”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

It is impossible to reconcile Christianity with a materialistic understanding of the universe. There can never be harmony between humanism and divine revelation. That is, all efforts to merge the teachings of the Christian faith with a secular doctrine of existence are futile, ignorant, and/or dishonest. To downplay or ignore the distinctions is a breach of integrity on the part of believers. We might call such endeavors acts of equivocation. This quite simply involves obscuring the facts to suit ones aims at the time.

Equivocation is the tool of political debate. It can make someone sound like they’re on the same page when really they’re not. It’s a way to remain evasive and it comes to us quite naturally. How easy it is to hesitate, to fudge, and to remain elusive when we are challenged about our beliefs! Wavering comes easily to the sinful heart and mind. To suggest, for example, that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is to equivocate. To question whether Christ is the only way to heaven or whether He is just one among many is equivocation of a very rank order.

Dear friends, we can neither reach consensus with Satan, find agreement with falsehood, nor come to acceptance of sin. Our sinful passions and desires cannot be rehabilitated or re-directed; they must be crucified and destroyed. We should never entertain the notion of getting comfortable and merely ‘coming to terms’ with our sins. Rather we daily seek God’s forgiveness in humble repentance. Certainly we accept that we are sinners- and Christian maturity involves an ever-deepening loathing of this reality- but this never involves surrender to our sinful ways. It’s not without reason the Scripture tells us to put on the full armor of God.1 It’s not for the purpose of negotiation or surrender.

Could the apostle say it more unequivocally than this! “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”2 Then he goes on immediately to say, “We are the temple of the living God.”3Christ Himself, through the Spirit, dwells in the believer and the church as His body. We are His holy habitation and He permits no co-habitation with the forces of darkness.

Today’s gospel speaks of the humble origins of the Christian community. The “one, holy Christian and apostolic church”4 began with a small group of fisherman. That is not to say that the Christian Church just sprang up out of the blue. For many centuries God had blessed His people and His providence had made of Abraham a great nation. Through cycles of unfaithfulness and even apostasy on the part of the Israelites God remained trustworthy. Then when the “time had fully come”5 Christ was born. John was sent as His forerunner. On this Second Sunday after Epiphany we are back at the Jordan River where John makes public introduction of Jesus’ for the first time, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”6 There was an immediate response. Andrew heard John and the text says, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.”7

And thus we see from the beginning that Christianity is characterized by its missionary outlook and activity. The Christian faith does not spread by introspection but by the deliberate proclamation of the gospel and the cultivation of faithfully following in Christ’s footsteps. John the Baptist said, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”8

The Christian’s life consists of testifying that Jesus is the Son of God. This happens in the midst of the struggle and grind of your daily life. People come to learn something of your faith by the way you prioritize your life. We inevitably build a reputation even without thinking about it. Henry Ford once said, “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Your reputation is based on what you have done. It is an expression of the past activity of your life. Every day you make decisions that affect your life and the lives of others. Your integrity and faithfulness become the basis by which others regard you. There is no way to opt out or remain completely undetectable. Any contact we have with others influences them in some way. Our charge is to remain faithful even when it involves sacrifice and personal loss.

And when our reputations aren’t too stellar, we need not lose heart because they can be changed. Remember Paul who was once a persecutor of Christians. After his conversion it took some time and effort to overcome his previous reputation. But soon people recognized his passion, commitment, and faithfulness and he became one of the most well-known and influential figures in the history of the church.

God opens opportunities for us to engage people in discussions of truth. There was an atheist who had an old tree in his backyard. During a storm the tree fell on his neighbour's house. The atheist called his insurance company to see if he was covered. His insurance agent was a thoughtful Christian man, and knew about the atheist's lack of belief. With this in mind, he gave the following response to the atheist: "If your tree fell over because it was dead, we cannot cover this expense; you will have to pay the repairs on your neighbour's home yourself. However, if the tree fell because of "an act of God" your insurance will cover it. So, which one do you consider it to be?"

Dear friends, God is faithful, but His reputation among many people is often one of aloofness, judgment, and apathy. People often don’t see God’s blessings for what they are. In fact God often appears to levy unnecessary hardship on us. Bearing the cross tempers our faith. We live in and through Christ. His earthly life was not glamorous or self-indulgent. Ours can be no different. Because we cannot yet participate directly in His glory we cling to His word and sacraments. Through them the Holy Spirit bestows us with His grace. He gives us peace that transcends the chaos of the world.

Only God’s truth in Christ cuts through the rhetoric of the secular world. The gospel stands as the unalterable proclamation that God’s definitive revelation to mankind is embodied in Jesus Christ, His suffering, death, and resurrection. The enormity of that reality can never be overstated. Jesus, the Christ, the One beloved of the Father and anointed by the Spirit appeased the wrath of God, crushed Satan’s power and dispensed with sin’s condemnation of all humanity in one fell swoop. He severs you from the devil’s grasp, He parts you from your idols, and He promises you eternal blessings. This He has the power to do because He is risen from death and lives and rules for all eternity. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Epiphany
16 January 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See Ephesians 6:10-17
2 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
3 2 Corinthians 6:16
4 The Nicene Creed
5 Galatians 4:4
6 John 1:29
7 John 1:41-42
8 John 1:33-34