Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2011

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

Text: Matthew 16:28
Theme: Christ’s Kingdom

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The preaching of sacrifice and humility will always be met with resistance by the triumphalist. Peter had a grand vision and somehow it seemed Christ had lost it. The human mind cannot conceive of victory through defeat. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot understand the nature of Christ’s work. Why would the Messiah, the very Son of God willingly submit to death by crucifixion? Jesus would not use force to try and achieve reconciliation. Only sacrifice could accomplish it. Peter did not yet understand this and therefore Jesus’ rebuke of him was sharp, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”1

Worldly, self-centered interests define sinful humanity. Human nature seeks advantage at the expense of others. These are the things of men Jesus spoke of. Now Peter was not secular-minded or a disloyal disciple. But he radically misunderstood the necessity of Jesus’ Passion. He was ready to share in Jesus’ institution of a worldly kingdom then and there. He thought he had attached himself to the right person. Would it now come to nothing? Yet his heart and will were more in line with Satan’s than Christ’s. Can we confess it’s any different with us and the building of our kingdoms?

The big picture is easily lost sight of. To act like we can live autonomous lives is a deception. The greater conflict of good and evil is not something we can ignore. It existed long before we came onto the scene. True and false, right and wrong are not simply theoretical constructs that can be negotiated and changed according to the whim or discretion of those who have the power or will to redefine them. Evil occurs not only when have been personally wronged and are easily convinced. Evil exists in the absolute sense as opposition to the will and work of God. As such, only God can accurately define what evil is.

Many secular-minded people have lost all regard for truth and absolutes. The postmodern mind tends to regard truth only insofar as it doesn’t conflict with personal feelings or opinions. Then truth will take a backseat. Christians easily fall into this temptation. When emotions are allowed to validate moral or spiritual truth the eventual result will be chaos and anarchy. When truth is relative there is no basis for trust.

A woman offered a brand-new Porsche for sale for a price of ten dollars. A man answered the ad, but he was slightly disbelieving. "What's the gimmick?" he inquired. "No gimmick," the woman answered. "My husband died, and in his will he asked that the car be sold and the money go to his secretary." The man was understandably suspicious of her motive. It defied logic. Yet to her it was not only reasonable but necessary- the details of all relationships involved notwithstanding.

We easily project such suspicion of motive onto God. Can it be that His claims are true? Does He really have no self-interest? Does He really have concern for little ole me? Dear friends, God’s motives are not our motives. Christ extends unconditional compassion to sinners with no self-interest, no gimmicks, no hidden charges, no strings attached. He does it not because He is obligated to us but because that’s who He is. He seeks sinners. He loves the unlovable. This is only Good News to sinners. The healthy need no physician. But to the repentant believer the perspective is completely transformed. Our foils and frailties are not thereby eliminated but now have purpose and they keep driving us upon the mercy of Christ like waves on the beach.

The one who is rudderless can follow the lead of others for a time, but only in Christ is the destination secure. The one who is grieving can find reprieve in fond memories and the kind words of others but only in the promise that Christ resurrects is there comfort and peace. The one who is lacking value and purpose in life can be occupied in an endless number of distractions, but only in Christ is a sense of significance found. The one who hungers and thirsts to be truly loved and understood can search endlessly for just the right person to meet their needs, but only Christ satiates the starving soul. The one in bondage to sinful desire can seek all different measures to cope, but only Christ can set free. Who are these people? You needn’t look very far. You need only a mirror.

Christianity can never be associated with an attempt to explain away the existence of evil or define it as extreme expressions of violent behavior or social or political inequality. The fear of God is lost when the fear of evil declines. The central work of Christ is then eliminated. His sacrifice is a triumph over evil not only because He rose in defiance of death’s power, but also because He robbed Satan of his rationale to accuse the human conscience. Once the wrath of God was appeased at the cross the devil was out of ammunition. Peace with God was made at the cross. No debt was left outstanding. The Scripture says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”2 He now fires only blanks but still strikes fear into the hearts of those not clothed with the armor of God.

At the conclusion of today’s gospel Jesus tells His disciples that they will soon see the coming of the kingdom3. They had envisioned an earthly temple. But the temple He spoke of was His body4. They would see the institution of the kingdom. The death of God’s Son was the breaking of death’s power. His resurrection was the source of life recreated. Heaven is nothing less than immortal existence in the company of the Trinity accessed through the Son.

So in the resurrection of Christ the kingdom has come. In the ascension of Jesus the kingdom has come. In the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the kingdom has come. Each time the same Spirit creates faith in an individual through the means of grace the kingdom comes. When the baptismal water is poured the kingdom comes. When the Lord’s Supper is administered the kingdom comes.

It is a fundamentally misinformed hope that looks for a kingdom at Christ’s return that is different from what He instituted at His death and resurrection. The kingdom that we seek is His same rule through grace and love. Yes, He will come again in glory, sin will be destroyed, and we will be transformed. But the Saviour we now have by faith is the same One we will then have by sight. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
28 August, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 16:23
2 1 John 3:8
3 See Matthew 16:28
4 See John 2:21