Monday, May 16, 2011

Fourth Sunday Of Easter A (2011)

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

Text: John 10:3
Theme: The Lone Voice

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The Holy Spirit reigns in a believer’s life. He does so with constant grappling to revitalize battle-weary souls. The sinful nature is powerful. At times it lulls us into a false sense of security. At other times it overcomes us with apathy. The Spirit revives what unbelief and unruliness suppress. He does this by gifting us with Christ. The divine law can pester us, harp at us, nag us, burden us, and even crush us. It can drive us into a corner or wrangle from us some desired outcome. But it can only do this in the face of resistance.

The law can never inspire proper, godly motivation. It can never grant freedom or hope. Only the gospel can do this. If we remain under the burden of the law one of two things eventually happen: We are driven to despair because we see no hope; or we become self-righteous- if not outwardly, at least inwardly- because we believe we have accomplished the laws’ demands. Either way is a dead end. But the Scripture says, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”1

Often in Jesus’ teaching, His examples and parables, He refers to Himself as more than one part of the analogy. Today we see Jesus is both the gate for the sheep and the shepherd of the sheep. He is both the portal to eternity and the One who brings us there. His analogy is simple but that makes it no less relevant or important. It was not uncommon for a number of flocks of sheep, consisting of perhaps 40 or 50 each, to be kept in the same walled pen together at night. In the morning each shepherd would come and take his sheep to pasture. Our Scripture says, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”2 The sheep, though mingled together at night would follow the voice of their particular shepherd in the morning. A strange voice they would not follow.

The spiritual intention is clear: The dangers are many and the competition is fierce. There are many thieves. There are many false shepherds. There are many alluring voices- temptations and ideologies. Though we endure the dark hours of this life mingled with the evil and selfish-minded of the world, the Holy Spirit draws us to the light of Christ. His voice pulls us through His word. The Scripture says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”3

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.”4 Christ is the gate. He is the door. He is the portal. He is the way and the truth and the life. We cannot pass from here to heaven except thorough Him. We cannot access eternal pastures except we be guided by the Good Shepherd. He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”5 Believers have a full life because they life by faith in Christ. We have a complete life because the holiness of Christ is an extensive covering for sin, an absolute shield against Satan, and a comprehensive protection against the assaults of the world. But we are still in the fray.

Contrary to what we are often taught, a life of ease is not an inalienable right. The comfortable decision is not always the most selfless or most godly decision. The path of least resistance is not always the course of purpose and meaning. We must penetrate beyond the mundane and the profane as we consider the import of living as Christ-bearers in a fallen world. We must always have high and holy purposes.

How can you rise up and enter into the fray each day? How can you face the conflicts of family, the pressures of work, the struggles of health? How can you face doubt, skepticism, and despair? How can you keep from losing sight of meaning and purpose, of objectives and principles? Fix your eyes on the cross. Tune out the demanding voices of the world. Centre your life on the means of grace and everything else will come into order accordingly. Note again the description of early Christian communities, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”6 The Holy Spirit promises forgiveness, comfort, and guidance through the word and sacraments. It’s not a protocol for happiness or success per se. And it certainly doesn’t mean life will be easy or carefree. But it gives a security to which this world is blind.

The integrity of the Christian Church is founded on the apostolic teaching. It is nothing less than the message of the world redeemed by Christ. It is the truth of a broken and sinful world rescued by its Creator. Those who love the truth will not be denied by Him.7 Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.8 Those who come in remorse over their sin will never be turned away. We must learn to pour out our hearts to the Heavenly Father who is eager to hear our prayers. The Psalms are full of such petitions as is the whole of Scripture. The Spirit says in Isaiah, “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers you.”9

Yet instead of beseeching God we often fret and agonize. We waste needless time in worry. We look for secular answers and human help. Our calls for aide are too frequently misguided, like Larry and Elmer who got lost while hunting in the woods. Trying to reassure his friend, Larry said, "Don't worry. All we have to do is shoot into the air three times, stay where we are, and someone will find us." They shot in the air three times, but no one came. After a while, they tried it again. Still no response. When they decided to try once more, Elmer said, "I hope it works this time. We're down to our last three arrows." Yes, we will wait in vain for human assistance when divine support is required. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you,”10 says the Lord.

His deliverance begins with our baptism. His sustaining power is given through His body and blood. His cheering word greets us with the forgiveness of sins. These are gifts of life, essential because we know what we face. Death creeps up on us. You know it. You feel it. The loss of capacities; the frailty of body and mind; the realization that previous skills and energies will not be recovered. These bitter realizations are often denied by us. Or we make light of them because we can’t bear to face them. We begin to live vicariously, indirectly through the lives of others- children, grandchildren, the young and promising. To some extent this is God’s blessing to sustain us. The vigor of the young gives joy to the fragility of the ageing.

But it does not spare us from the truth. We cannot be saved by the actions or intentions of others. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son of God has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”11 Christ’s is the only promise that can carry us through the final gauntlet of mortality. Only the One who has conquered death can convey us straight past eternal death. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Little lambs are tucked safely into His fold. Believers are transferred from the community of the redeemed to the community of the glorified; from earth to heaven. But it is the same community. In heaven we will fully appreciate what it means to live in complete harmony and mutual love with the Good Shepherd and His sheep. Amen.
+ in nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday Of Easter
15 May, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 10:4 2 John 10:3
3 John 6:44 4 John 10:7
5 John 10:10 6 Acts 2:42
7 See Matthew 10:32, John 18:37 8 See Matthew 5:6
9 Isaiah 30:19 10 Psalm 50:15
111 John 5:11-12