Monday, July 18, 2011

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost A (2011)

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

Text: Matthew 13:24-30
Theme: Divine Insight

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The witness of Holy Scripture is a chronicle of reverence for the aged. They are understood collectively as a living repository of wisdom. Each age must face the challenge of maintaining humility in respect to the generations that have gone before. Restraint of arrogance and genuine modesty is essential to the implementation of any new wisdom for the progress of society. The question is not whether each new age has more accumulated knowledge and information than the previous one. It nearly always has. The question is one of perceived superiority- moral, technological, sociological- or otherwise. Is the past devalued in light of the perceived superiority of the present? How does spiritual truth and reality fit into the picture?

The truth of God’s unchanging all-knowing-ness should be born in mind. At the dawn of a new day God is not more or less wise than He was previously. He is eternal wisdom. Christ is the embodiment of divine wisdom. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”1And of very practical importance to us is the parallel truth that His words, the Holy Scriptures, are not more or less valid or relevant in any era. Through the Bible the Holy Spirit always speaks to human beings who are fundamentally no different than people were in the past decade, the past century, the past millennia or since the fall of Adam and Eve. God always deals with sinners.

Today Christ speaks His divine wisdom in the form of another parable. The content is uncomplicated, but the reasons are impenetrable. The visible church is a mixture of believers and unbelievers, of wheat and weeds. It always has been so and always will be. Christ sows the wheat. Satan sows the weeds. They grow together until the Second Coming. God will sort it out at the final harvest. The weeds will be burned in the fire. How do such outcomes come to pass?

Human intellect is never a match for divine wisdom. The parable, among other things, is a warning against human arrogance. We cannot judge the hearts of others. We cannot look into the soul of another. God alone is arbiter and judge of the secret thoughts of the heart. We do however have the responsibility of judging words and actions. The claim “We shouldn’t judge,” (after all isn’t that what the Bible says) is too often used as an excuse to avoid standing up for the truth. Believers are accountable to one another. This is a necessary safeguard for Christian community. We are the body of Christ collectively, not individually. Our words, actions, and beliefs invariably impact and influence others. And the higher the degree of respect and trust generally the higher the influence.

Dear friends, no one but you is ultimately accountable for your spiritual well-being. You cannot pass the blame. Another person cannot believe or not believe for you. Yet the Christian’s greatest concern is always for soul of another. Of first priority are those means by which God creates and nurtures spiritual life. This is again the focus of our gathering in the Lord’s house today.

The practice of baptism is ancient. But each time it is administered the Holy Spirit works a new creation. The newly baptized is blessed with a new spiritual life of faith and brought into fellowship with the saints across the ages. Only by being made new do we participate in something ancient. Forgiveness is the transaction that makes this possible. Yes, Maddalyn, like all who are conceived and born into this world needs the forgiveness of sins. And Christ does not deny this to her. Her status before God is essentially no different than that of the most mature believer. She is in His favour through grace.

Now we don’t pretend to fully understand this mystery. How can it be that the simple act of using water in baptism does such great things? Luther’s explanation remains valid. “Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace.”2

The promises of Christ are life-giving because His life was given. Everything stands or falls on the consequences of this truth. If we ever pretend that we readily understand the gospel then we haven’t grasped the seriousness of sin and its effects. The historical facts may be simple enough. Jesus is born. He lives a selfless life. He is atrociously tortured and crucified. On the third day He rises from death and then ascends to heaven. These facts form the heart of our creed. Yet to have this man, this Lord- made- sinner, as your sacrifice, your substitute, your atonement; to have Him as your life because He succumbed to death to rescue you from eternal death; to face death with the singular focus that the cross is the portal to eternal life- that moves one closer to the gospel. And to move closer to the gospel we necessarily have to move further away from ourselves, our selfish motives and desires, our fear of losing power and control over our own agendas.

The Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”3 Is each day an end in itself? Or is it a means to an end? That is, do we crave and pursue only the satisfactions this life has to offer? Or do we long for the fulfillment of God’s promises and live accordingly. Here is where faith is constantly tested. God uses suffering to sharpen our spiritual eyesight. Christ promises a resurrection. Our trust rests in the certain fulfillment of His promise; a baptismal inheritance we already possess.

The Apostle Paul says today, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”4 People spend great energy and effort trying to avoid suffering and discomfort in life. This is natural human behavior. Pain makes life difficult and distasteful. Yet for the Christian it should never betray an absence of desire to be relieved of the burdens of this mortal life. Our concerns stretch far beyond the horizons of this temporal life.

It doesn’t mean we are relieved of our current struggles. But is does cast them in a different light and give them purpose. Do you feel your suffering is nearly unbearable? Physical? Emotional? Psychological pain? Perhaps you’re being choked out by the weeds or other countless assaults of Satan. The Scriptures do not make light of such suffering. God does not remain remote or aloof from human frailty. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.”5 When you partake of the Supper you partake of the Sufferer. The Spirit intercedes for us6, the bondage to decay will end7, Christian hope will not be left unrealized. Jacob’s vision of angels8 will be our reality. Christ has redeemed His people and He will gather them for eternity. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
17th July, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Hebrews 13:8
2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 Psalm 90:12
4 Romans 8:18
5 Hebrews 4:15
6 See Romans 8:26
7 See Romans 8:21
8 See Genesis 28:12