Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ANZAC Address 2011 (April 25th)

When human beings recognize their mortality they more easily understand the precious gift of life. They more readily consent to those words of Scripture that say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21
Today we remember those who were taken away in the service of duty. We are blessed by their sacrifice. The official death toll for Australians in the war at Gallipoli is on record at 8,709. It’s a small number relative to the whole conflict but its symbolic significance is immense. Gallipoli has united the collective consciousness of two nations. It is a rallying point for the remembrance of those who were willing to die that others might live. It was the beginning of a new appreciation for the efforts of those who have fought in every engagement since that time down to the present day. It now stimulates the young to value the lessons of history.
The untold horror, the indescribable pain, the secret grief borne by those who sacrifice was supreme is often left hidden to protect the loved ones who remain. They carried to the grave their sufferings so that those at home could be spared. God defends the vulnerable in such ways. Some may choose to sit in judgment on the wisdom of engaging conflicts of the past. Prudence certainly demands such critiques. But the honour and valour of those who fought must never be surrendered. The collective strength of society depends on it. Remembrance can serve to remind us how things were so we better understand how we want them to be.
It is no small treasure that the free peoples of the world defend. Humanity bears the image of its Maker. With that image comes privilege and responsibility. But the privileges of stable and democratic society can breed indifference in subsequent generations. Freedom does not come by chance. Democratic government is a gift of God. It is never to be taken for granted
If we are to remain free it will not be by apathy or weakness. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The cost is sacrifice. When men prize their affluence more than their autonomy they are no longer free. When they value entitlement more than they cherish freedom then indifference threatens to rob them of excellence. When personal interests take precedence over the well-being of society, especially the most vulnerable- the unborn and the elderly- then human dignity and democracy come under attack. Today we honour those who fought and died defending such ideals.
We entreat the Almighty God to grant us the courage to defend true freedom, the generosity to share it broadly, the compassion to distribute it gently, and the humility to never let privilege lead to the oppression of others. Above all may He give us a heart for our fellow man that mirrors the sacrifice of His own Son. Only in this way can we honour the freedom and peace achieved by those in the past and extend it to generations to come.
We have this promise, “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11
Pastor Darrin Kohrt
Concordia & Outlying Lutheran Churches

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Third Sunday Of Easter A (2011)

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

Text: Luke 24:31
Theme: “Their Eyes Were Opened.”

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

We must drink deeply from the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will bring us to the Incarnate Word only through the prophetic word. The road to Emmaus was a journey to the source of salvation. In the breaking of the bread1 Jesus opened the eyes of two distraught followers. They were blessed by the presence of the risen Lord. The same gift is granted to those whom the Holy Spirit draws to the communion rail. Every Sunday we celebrate Easter. With each communion we celebrate the benefits of His death and resurrection.

There were only forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. What was the chief purpose of that time? The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were a prelude to His enthronement. No longer bearing the burden of sin He not only showed Himself alive, He gave them a preview of the unrestricted freedom of heaven. Instead of thinking of the post-resurrection appearances as an opportunity for Jesus to prepare His followers for His leaving it’s better to think of it as a preparation for heaven’s coming. Christ ascends but the grace of heaven descends. His enthronement in heaven doesn’t signal His bodily absence, but the establishment of His real presence especially in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Christ is present with His people.

Now in our epistle reading today St. Peter gives this advice, “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”2Such advice is completely counter-intuitive to our natural way of thinking and what we are taught by the world. People naturally seek to put down deep roots in this world. They busy themselves building earthly kingdoms. They work hard to construct legacies so they can be honoured and remembered. They relish in praise and compliments for their achievements. They look to retire satiated with self-satisfaction. But to what purpose and for what end?

The thoroughly materialistic person must find this life an end in itself. How else could one try to live meaningfully? Religion is sometimes brought into the mix as a means of balance and adornment. Perhaps it is used as a hedge to solicit or keep God’s favour or as an outward show of morality. Though in increasingly secular societies associations with Christianity are becoming more of a liability to one’s social standing than an asset. Already the wheat is being separated from the chaff. From an unbelieving perspective there is no need for repentance, only cause for regret. There is no concern for one’s status before God.

Believers see things differently. Life is fragile, but eternity is secure. Mortality is not natural, but a consequence of sin. Guilt is not a theoretical concept or a psychological tool, but a genuine call to repentance. Fashionable legacies are not our concern. The greatest thing anyone can pass on to the next generation is their deep and humble appreciation of the grace of God in Christ. To keep this from appearing as a trite religious platitude may not seem easy. But actions speak louder than words. Therefore we seek to excel in compassion, humility, and service to others. But above all we cling to God’s revealed truth and order our lives accordingly.

We live in the tension and dynamic of sin and grace. Because we’re always prone to overstating our abilities, or giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt in our life of cross-bearing we are always brought back to our need to be justified and forgiven. Christian living can never take on a life of its own. It can never become detached from the power, source, and gift of new life or it immediately collapses into legalism. Remember, the law judges not only the honesty of our intentions but the purpose and success. The more diligently we strive to obey the law, to follow Jesus’ footsteps, to aspire to moral uprightness, the more glaringly obvious it must become that we are sinners. If, however, we start to feel a sense of self-righteousness that we’re doing pretty well then we’re already losing sight of our need for grace.

The law can never move us along the path of true holiness. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. Certainly the law can and must curb, check, and guide external behavior- it must do this much like civil law for the safety and stability of society- but the law can never begin or assist inward renewal or sanctification of the heart. Truly humble efforts to follow God’s will can only be motivated by the Holy Spirit. Either grace prevails from start to finish or the judgment of the law remains.

Answering the concern of some that grace would then be used as an excuse to indulge Paul answers rhetorically, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”3 We never make light of God’s compassion. But we never claim to deserve His mercy either. Dear friends, the treasure of the gospel is so precious it far exceeds all the riches material or otherwise of the whole of humanity. The forgiveness of sins freely bestowed is valuable beyond all human feats. All else can be sacrificed; life and limb, property and possessions, and still nothing is lost when one has the righteousness of the crucified and risen Lord. It is this that Satan tries to take from you for a pot of stew. And if he cannot deceive you for such a price he is willing to levy far more expensive resources.

The Christian already reigns in victory in heaven. Believers participate in the triumph of Christ’s resurrection. But we claim no conquest on earth, - insofar as sin is still our foe- because that victory remains hidden in the life of faith. We are beset with guilt but we are forgiven. We confront Satan though Christ has disarmed Him. We struggle against our own sinful nature though the Spirit has freed us. Baptism both plunges us into these things and secures for us the certainty of the final outcome.

But God does not forsake us in the here and now. The Scripture says the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”4 Luther says this is especially true when the Christian is “performing his proper function, which is to confess or to suffer for confessing.”5 Here we have some marvelous insight into how God sustains His people as they bear their crosses. The proper vocation of a Christian is to confess in word and deed. Each Christian has many vocations- father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, employer, employee, etc. - over-arching and underlying all of these is the privilege of bearing the name of Christ. The baptismal life is a confessing life. We have peace in the world, but not with the world.

“Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”6 People don’t like to be strangers in their own homes. But this existence is not our true home. This truth is a necessary consequence of the resurrection. This universe will not be salvaged. It will be destroyed and merged into the new creation. This truth runs parallel to our own salvation. The law will never reform our sinful natures. In Christ, the Spirit makes us new creations: Forgiven, freed, treasured for eternity. The Scriptures continually prepare us for this reality. “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”7

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
+ in nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday Of Easter
8 May, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See Luke 24:35 2 1 Peter 2:17
3 Romans 6:1-2 4 Romans 8:26
5 LW26 p. 385 6 1 Peter 2:17
7 Jude 24