Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fifth Sunday Of Easter A (2011)

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

Text: John 14:10
Theme: The Father Working Through His Son

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The God who saves is the God who was crucified. All other interests in deities have a “use-by date”. Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Christ. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and directs people always to the crucified and risen Saviour. These foundational, biblical, and creedal truths are not abstract or only academic Christian teachings. They are the facts of how the triune God redeems and relates to the fallen world. Today, “Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’”1 Philip wanted to “see the goods”. The request to see the Father was a request for proof; a validation that the eternal glory of heaven was really in Jesus’ possession.

The skeptic in us has a profound desire to witness the unmistakable power of the Almighty. We’re not talking here about the godly desire to see the face of Christ and to rest in His compassion for eternity. Skeptical yearnings are not borne of faith that is content to let events in life unfold according to the mercy and wisdom of God. It is not the unconditional trust that the promises of God will be fulfilled. It is borne rather of the suspicion that God is too distracted, self-involved, or powerless to intervene even when it seems absolutely necessary. It originates in the doubt about whether Christ is the all-powerful Son of God. It is an expression of our doubt about whether God really knows or cares. Let Him prove it! Let Him give us a sign!

Dear friends, neither the completeness of your skepticism nor the strength of your faith can disprove or validate the existence of God. Do you want to see God? Do want to behold Him while still in your mortal, sinful flesh? Then do not search in vain for signs or premonitions. Do not seek to validate the divine presence through human avenues. An emotional reflection on the moment will not draw your soul deeper to God. Sentimentality will not prove His love. A contented sense of self-satisfaction is not an indication you are saved. Christ saves you. He does this alone, independently of your help. He declares the sinner righteous by grace; a blessing received through faith. Hear His voice. The Spirit speaks through the sacred writings.

The struggle of each and every person is his or her recipient status in relation to God. The rub involves our beggarliness. We aren’t worthy recipients. We can’t even make a valid case for charity. We are spiritually mendicant, destitute, bereft of any intrinsic or self-obtained capital; beggars. God’s demands drive us to an acknowledgement of our need for forgiveness. Recognize then, that the sinful nature in you is never readily satisfied with what God gives. God gives faith. He grants spiritual life. But we foolishly try to live by sight2. So when you try to move on from God’s gifting in Christ your assessment of these realities is always on shaky ground at best.

You see, far more certain than your own self-reflection on your faith- whether it is strong, or weak, clear or confused- is the fact of your baptism. The water was used. The words were spoken. The Spirit was present. More definite than your feeling of love (or lack thereof) is His compassion extended to you through bread and wine. The consecration occurs. The elements are received. Pardon is bestowed. More reliable than your varied attempts to give and receive forgiveness is His word of promise to the sinner through the minister, “Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

You will not find spiritual certainty in the zeal of your obedience. You will not find it in the depth of your knowledge. You will not find it in the purity of your emotions or intentions. You will not find it in the integrity of your witness. Yes, all of these are the pursuits of true believers. All are the effects of faith. They are the fruits of the Spirit. They are evidence the Holy Spirit is at work among His people. Only of the Incarnate One is it said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”3 His love is unfailing and unfading.

What does this mean for us now? Practicality often drives our schedules. We don’t have time for everything. But too often our priorities are misplaced. People often don’t have time for the things of God because they don’t seem useful. When the agenda of the church is driven by the limitations of practicality or demands to cater peoples’ perceptions and desires the priority of the gospel is easily lost sight of. The Good Shepherd is not governed by the sheep. We forget who is in charge. We even forget who our enemies are. We become confused about what is true and apathetic about defending it. In our less respectable moments we pursue self-righteousness rather than reconciliation.

Like the situation with Jim and his wife Louise who finally went on a long-awaited safari. But Jim’s mother-in-law insisted on going along. Jim could think of nothing worse than going on a trip with this battle-ax, but he was afraid to say no. One evening, Louise discovered that her mother was missing from their camp. She woke up Jim and insisted they search the surrounding jungle for her mother. Jim grabbed his hunting rifle and charged into the jungle with Louise. In a clearing not far from the camp, they came upon a chilling sight: His mother-in-law and a large male lion stood facing each other only a few paces apart. Louise cried, "Jim, what are we going to do?" "Nothing," he said. "The lion got himself into this mess; let him get himself out of it."

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit continually re-orientates the perspective of the believer. God is not your enemy. Your neighbour is not your adversary. In faith you see things that to unenlightened hearts and minds could make no sense. The work of Christ is decisive. The crucifixion was repugnant. It was revolting not only in regards to what confronts the senses- the sight, the sounds, the smells, the foulness of it all- but especially in regards to the higher sensibilities. The inhumanity of a crucifixion is palpable and offensive. It is the very antithesis of all that is to be considered sacred, high, and holy. The hallowed and holy Son of God is immersed in all that is abominable and abhorrent; the Son of heaven sieved through the gauntlet of hell. It is alsofor exactly this reason that the event of the cross is decisive. It is the definitive revelation of God.

Think deeply about this for you can never exhaust its blessing. Luther once said, “The cross alone is our theology.”4 Believers participate in the life of the crucified Deity, Jesus in-the-flesh, baptismally. The baptismal water is both our spiritual grave and womb. It is our portal to the death and resurrection of Christ. The divine command effects what it promises rescuing the believer from the domain of darkness and death and bringing him into the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who dwells in inaccessible light.5 Believers also participate in His life eucharistically. We ingest the very body and blood of Him who shed that blood to atone for our sins.

St. Peter reminds us of our extraordinary privileges, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”6 The Lord Himself makes this unassailable promise, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me…I am going…to prepare a place for you.”7 What greater comfort could we have? What greater motivation to live our time in view of eternity! Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday Of Easter
22 May, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 14:8 2 See 2 Corinthians 5:7
3 Hebrews 13:8 4 WA 5,176,32
5 See 1 Timothy 6:16 6 1 Peter 2:9
7 John 14:1-2