Friday, April 6, 2012

Maundy Thursday 2012

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

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Theme: Sacred Sustenance

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

There are no coincidences with God. The idea of coincidence as a surprise synchronization of seemingly unrelated events simply reveals human inability to see the whole picture. God doesn’t suffer from such limitations. What happens for us sequentially can happen for Him simultaneously. We are subject to chronology. He enjoys the freedom of eternity. But we should not conclude therefore that God is aloof. He does not confine Himself to some parallel universe. And we should not reason that because there are no coincidences for God we governed by some fatalistic determinism. God has not abandoned us to chaotic and unpredictable forces.

But apart from His mercy what we are ruled by is sin, decay, and death. When we abandon God we are exposed to wickedness. We are easy prey for Satan. The Holy Spirit allows this so that He may convict the heart of selfishness, arrogance, and unbelief. As we commence this sequence of holy days let us remember our own sin is a sickness unto death. Let us with new resolve come with penitent hearts and humble minds.

Dear friends, Jesus was not given to novelty. In the Divine equation the shedding of blood equals forgiveness. So the timing of Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper was not happenstance. He was observing the annual Passover celebration with His disciples. Year after year, century after century the Passover lamb was consumed in remembrance of God’s deliverance from slavery. The lamb’s blood gave protection from the avenging angel and its meat nourished God’s people. God ratified His covenant with blood. Now Jesus would execute the new covenant.

He memorialized His death by giving the first portion of the divine inheritance. Jesus said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”1 In doing so He declared an end to all blood-letting. He announced that the sacrificial system was now obsolete. The Bible tells us that at the dedication of the temple alone Solomon sacrificed twenty-two thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats2. Innumerable are the sacrifices that happened over the centuries. All of those were superseded by the one sacrifice of Christ.

The Scripture says, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.”3 “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.4

It is this very life-giving blood that is offered to you. Though the world mock it, the unbeliever despise it, and the skeptic shun it; is to the Christian the most sacred participation available to us in this life. Holy Communion is tied intentionally and inseparably to the forgiveness of sins. It is a means of grace. And it is the means of grace that most closely connects the believer to His suffering and bloody sacrifice on the cross.

Baptism is incorporation into Christ’s death and resurrection. As such it involves a transfer from Satan’s dominion to Christ’s kingdom. The Lord’s Supper then sustains life in that kingdom by continually gifting the believer with the favour won by His sacrifice. It involves a tangible affirmation of God’s reconciliation in Christ. Humans have a limited capacity for love. The inclination to forgive is not a natural human tendency. But Christ is an endless reservoir of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Forgiveness is the power and fruit of the crucifixion.

It is not a private treasure but the currency of exchange among us. Circumcision marked reception into the Israelite community. Membership in the community qualified one to participate in the Passover. Baptism marks reception into the Trinitarian community. Membership in the community qualifies one to share in the Eucharistic feast. The parallels are intentional and the latter supersedes the former. But everything happens in its appropriate time. Participation in Holy Communion involves a public confession of truth. Not all are yet ready to confess. Not all are yet ready to participate. The Holy Spirit must mature us so that our faith is child-like but not childish.

Gathered there, in that Upper Room were twelve disciples- soon minus one. How does the Saviour model for them not only their ministry but their mindset, their ‘heartset’ toward every human being? The task of the one in lowest position is undertaken; He bends to bathe their soiled feet. The Immortal One who condescended in His Deity now stoops in His humanity. The Redeemer who lifts sinners from death and decay bows down in humility. He who is alone to be worshipped kneels to serve. Their King is now their domestic; their Lord acting as their slave. Here He shows them in modesty what it means to be robed with His majesty. His splendor is expressed in simplicity.

Uncertain and soon to forsake their Lord they would nevertheless carry His light into a dark and pagan world. All but one would be martyred for the cause. Through the Holy Spirit the apostles began a transformation of the world. But it wasn’t achieved by first acquiring status or capital with the world. God doesn’t require showy things of you either. He requires humble things. He doesn’t demand pretentiousness but godliness. He seeks not a flashy Christian appearance, but an honest and respectful demeanor. He asks you to reverence Him through service to your neighbour. He wants you to walk in step with the Spirit and not be controlled by the pace of the world. He knows when you are tempted by fads so He has given you the permanence of His truth. He knows when you are lacking self-worth so He has honoured you with the bestowal of His name. He knows when you are plagued with self-doubt so He has supplied you with the merit of His Son.

Just as Jesus’ self-giving of His own life in the Sacrament of the Altar was not based on novelty, so too His fulfillment of redemption. The world needs salvation not innovation. Christ did not come to design a new strategy for an old problem; the conquering of sin doesn’t necessitate invention. He came to offer the only solution, the one planned and purposed from the beginning. He came to re-invest life with immortality. He came to restore the image of God to humanity. He is the new Adam, the firstborn from the dead, the Resurrection and the Life. He is your Sovereign. You are safe in His care. That promise is sealed in blood. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Maundy Thursday
5 April 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 26:28
2 See 2 Chronicles 7:5
3 Hebrews 10:11-12
4 Hebrews 8:12

Monday, April 2, 2012

Palm Sunday (from 2005)


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

Text: Matthew 27:11-54
Theme: Where Time and Eternity Meet

Dear Followers to Calvary,

People often reflect upon the past with a combination of sentimental fondness and regret. They often understand the present as something to simply get through, something to survive. And they often face the future with a certain amount of anxiety and fear. These tendencies are to a significant degree the result of the frailty of humanity and the uncertainty associated with it. As Christians, we have both the challenge and privilege of understanding the past, present and future in relation to Christ. God is eternal. He dwells outside of time. He transcends time. Christ, as God, does too. But Christ, as the one who has also taken on human flesh and lived in historical time, merges and integrates time and eternity. On this Palm Sunday, our focus is not so much to be drawn back in time to the events of those days, as it is to understand how those events are part of present and future reality. The death of Jesus Christ was an historical event. But the meaning and power of it are an eternal present. His death and resurrection are not merely events that continue to shock, interest or inspire people. They are events that continue to give life to the dead.

So how, in the context of the Passion of Jesus Christ, can we understand the past, present and future? We do well to begin by remembering the Scripture that says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”1 Yesterday, the past; people do tend to be forgiving towards the past because there is truth in the phrase, “time heals all wounds.” Yet we still harbor anger and regrets that can fester and cripple us. As Christians, we need not merely cope with the problems of the past by hoping time will erase our memories. We can truly forgive and make a new start. We can express sorrow, but take confidence that Christ resolves even things we no longer have opportunity to address. The past must always serve as a mirror. Whether regarding what God has done or what we have done or failed to do, the past is for our learning. We learn the dynamics and consequences of sin so that we are warned not to repeat. The Scripture says regarding such things, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.”2 We also learn from the past of the abiding grace and mercy of God towards His people. At His trial and crucifixion, the Palm Sunday shouts of “Hosanna!” were but a distant memory. Jesus Christ has reconciled the past for us. It is not our place to live in it, or relive it, but learn from it.

Concern with the present is what consumes us on a regular basis. The pressures of daily existence, of making ends meet tend to put us in survival mode. In survival mode we are less likely to learn from the past or consider wisely the future. We can become so wrapped up in the present that it controls us. We find ourselves just trying to get through the next day. It is both a delight of Satan and a craving of our sinful natures to be enslaved to our present needs and desires. But the believer lives continuously, lives presently in a state of grace. Not only was God with us in the past, not only will He be with us in the future, He is with us now. God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is not with us as a remote observer. He is with us in His full power to intercede, to create, to destroy, to sustain, to comfort. What is remarkable about this is that God actively and dynamically dwells with sinners; yet only in and through and because of Christ. Because the Father forsook His Son, we are never forsaken as His children. On the cross Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”3
So that He could say to His disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”4 Christians are not in bondage to the fallen creation, they are free to serve the Creator.

The pressures to live in the present are often matched by anxieties about the future? What if this happens? What if that happens? Will I be protected from this or prepared for that? These common questions must be left to the care and wisdom of God. Worry is a sin because it betrays a lack of confidence in the Almighty. Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear……For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”5 And the apostle says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”6 Christ has laid out the future and He will not fail to bring us safely into it.

Dear friends, as a believer, it is a profound privilege that you live your life in time under the auspices of eternity. Time and eternity are not really comparable. Time is of the finite creation. It will cease. Eternity is undiminished fellowship with the triune God. We are creatures that are elevated to share with the Creator because sin is vanquished. We are time-bound beings freed for eternity. That is the import of everything Christ came to do. It is the meaning of today’s Scripture, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life….When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was the Son of God.”7 He was and is the crucified, risen and living Lord for all eternity. At the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the dimension of time was reconciled with eternity. The entire created sphere was reconciled with the eternal realm. And regardless of how many days this earth will exist, the crucifixion will always remain the portal to eternity. And this portal is opened wherever and whenever the gospel reaches and changes the heart, wherever and whenever the forgiveness of sins is received in true faith, wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit works through baptismal water, wherever and whenever the body and blood of Christ is received in humble trust. For in all these things, but in these things alone do we receive Christ alone for our timeless salvation.

Indeed, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”8 He is the crucified and living one. Therefore when St. John looks into heaven, he sees this profound and magnificent sight, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.”9 Let us raise our hosannas on this Palm Sunday, for He has put to death our sins for eternity.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Palm Sunday
Sunday of the Passion
March 20, 2005
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Hebrews 13:8
2 1 Corinthians 10:11
3 Matthew 27:46
4 Matthew 28:20
5 Matthew 6:25-32
6 Philippians 4:6-7
7 Matthew 27:50-52, 54
8 Hebrews 13:8
9 Revelation 5:6