Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Resurrection of Our Lord 2012

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

Text: Mark 16:8
Theme: Deferred Joy

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

The women fled from the tomb trembling and bewildered! An empty sepulcher hadn’t crossed their minds. An angelic greeting was not on their agenda. Their Lord was dead and though shock had perhaps not yet given way to acceptance and grief unplanned encounters only confused their thoughts. They saw where His limp body had been laid. They were certain to find Him there. They were visibly shaken and hurried off.

Jesus lives! But that was by no means the first conclusion reached on Easter morning. Christ eventually turned the despair of His followers into joy. He served notice that death no longer has the final say. Today is Easter Sunday, the Sunday of Christ’s Resurrection. It is the highpoint of the Church Year. Here our faith stands on God’s greatest intervention in the human demise. The anchor of hope, the bedrock of certainty, the foundation of joy all rest on Jesus’ triumph over death. Sin is disarmed. Satan is silenced. The Crucified One lives! Through your baptismal faith you live in Him. God has not come to visit but to dwell permanently with His people. The resurrection of Christ is the power and preview of God’s life among us.

What does the apostle say, “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”1 Appropriately, these truths are the heart and centre of our creed. To the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection He said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”2 The living God, the truth of the resurrection confronts the same skeptical minds today. Only the message that the Crucified One lives can overcome the greatest sin: The sin of unbelief.

Of course we shouldn’t get the idea that at Easter the desires of the sinful nature simply cease even for the Christian. We are always looking for legal protection for our favourite sins. Then sinner is always happy when the law of the land affords protection for things deemed offensive to God. And the more sophisticated we become the more ‘spiritually legitimate’ our defense needs to be. What greater argument then that Easter gives us license to take liberty with God’s law? Suddenly too, the examples of the great figures of old are called on for justification. Moses permitted divorce. David committed adultery. Lot abandoned his daughters to homosexual offenders. Our indiscretions must surely be trivial in comparison? Soon we are putting far more effort into searching for vindication than we are for absolution. Repentance is much easier if we think we have already mounted a reasonable defence! But it is a game of vanity.

Easter doesn’t mean we’re no longer sinners. It means we have forgiveness and a new power to face temptation. Cycles of sin and selfishness are always in danger of controlling our behavior. We become filled with frustration and that leads to anger, then anger gains the upper hand and it ends in regret. We become filled with fear and that leads to anxiety, then anxiety gains the upper hand and it ends in depression. We become filled with doubt and that leads to skepticism, then skepticism gains the upper hand and it ends in unbelief. We become filled with selfishness and that leads to addiction, then addiction gets the upper hand and it ends in abuse. And the scenarios are as endless as our sinful natures are perverse.

How can things change? How will deaf ears be opened? How will hardened hearts be broken? How will selfishness be controlled and unrighteousness overthrown? Not by any power or persuasion of human cleverness or ingenuity. He doesn’t legitimize our ways. He says, “Go…and leave your life of sin.”3 How? His truth is not static information. It has surgical precision and divine power. The Holy Spirit conforms the believer to the living Christ. He is the pardon for abusers, the scapegoat for addicts, hope for the despairing and calm for the wrathful. He is peace in times of turmoil and certainty in times of doubt. In the security of His salvation we can live sacrificially for others.

During the Revolutionary War in America a young officer in the British army became engaged to a young lady in England before embarking with his regiment. In one of the battles of the Revolution the officer was badly wounded and lost a leg. He wrote to his fiancé telling her he was disfigured, maimed, and so changed from what he had been when she had last seen him he felt it was his duty to release her from all obligation to become his wife. Though heartbroken he was sincere. The young lady responded with no less a noble answer. She dismissed all thought of refusing to marry him because of what had happened in battle, and said she was willing to be his bride if there was enough of his body left to hold his soul!

Dear friends, life can be bruising. We accumulate wounds and scars. We may even tire of our own sinful ways. We may be weary of the burden of guilt and remorse. But God has hidden all of our infirmities in the wounds of Christ. Your guilt has been baptismally buried. You are fed with the food of immortality. Satan cannot overcome you. Christ’s resurrection prevents it. Sin cannot enslave you. You live in Christ’s freedom. You are His bride and He will resurrect your spent and battle-ravaged body to be like His glorious body. How short the time really is until the fever of life will cease!

There was a little girl whose home was near the cemetery and in order to go to the local store she had to follow a path that lead through the cemetery along the graves. But she never seemed to have any sense of fear even when she returned at dusk. Someone asked her “Aren’t you afraid to walk through the cemetery alone and in the dark?” “Oh, no,” she replied, “My home is just beyond and the light is always on.”

The Scripture says we have no enduring city here4. Yet we need not fear for our home is just beyond the cemetery. There beams the brilliant countenance of Christ. The dawn of Easter will never fade. The Father spreads His canopy as an eternal fortress. The Holy Spirit permeates the heart of every saint. St. John, who beheld it most clearly recorded what he heard; “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”5 Thanks be to the risen Christ who reigns eternally. Amen.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
+ in nomine Jesu +

The Resurrection of our Lord
Easter Sunday
8 April, 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
2 Luke 20:38
3 John 8:11
4 See Hebrews 13:14
5 Revelation 21:3-4
6 See John 1:29
7 Job 19:25-26

Monday, April 9, 2012

Good Friday 2012

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

Text: John 19:18
Theme: Crucified Not Simulated

Dear saints of the Crucified,

The passion of Christ was relentless at every level. His suffering was physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. It was gut-wrenching, agonizing, torturous, and excruciating. The Jews blasphemed Him. The soldiers beat and mocked Him. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. Pilate abandoned Him. Finally, the heavenly Father turned away His divine gaze. In this abject loneliness He was swallowed by death. It was a foul scene.

For some time now our virtual images of death have been sanitized. Cartoon characters are slain repeatedly but re-appear later in the script no worse for the wear. Movie heroes are mortally wounded but return to live happily ever after. Gaming conquerors are assassinated continuously yet start afresh with the next contest. That doesn’t mean the death scenes often depicted in movies and high definition gaming aren’t excessively gruesome and brutal. The negative effects of exposure to such violence- even for the intent of entertainment – are increasingly well-documented. Yet certain fundamental aspects of reality are being omitted or misrepresented. The inescapable finality of death; the sense of injustice; the termination of any opportunity or hope of restoration; the numbing sense of loss; the complex range of human emotion- all these are circumvented or anaesthetized by carefully controlling the parameters.

Real death is the decisive illustration of complete loss of human control. It is the stunning consequence of separation from God. “When you eat of it you will surely die,”1 notified the Almighty to Adam whom He had made in His own image. Death is not natural. It was not that way from the beginning. There can be no agreement between philosophies which view death as a biological necessity in a cyclical universe and the Christian doctrine of immortality. The two teachings are diametrically opposed.

That doesn’t mean the world doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of decay. The world seeks to mitigate suffering, and litigate injustice. It hopes to improve and make the best of circumstances as they are. Christians too pursue these goals. But the motive and perspective are different. Unable to completely deny the immortality of the soul the world consigns such concerns to private interests, pacifying its collective conscience with a blatant universalism or unapologetic appeal to complete annihilation. Either the human soul must somehow-at death- pass on to greater vistas or be completely obliterated in every sense of the term. Pure skepticism compels one to believe that life simply ceases to exist. This is the necessary end game of the modern ‘triumph’ of reason. For the pure materialist there must be empirical evidence. Nothing else will suffice. Few indeed are any creedal affirmations of any existence resembling hell.

Perhaps the simulations of fatality that saturate our society are the result of a culture of death? There are certainly liabilities. Think of how the mind is conditioned by those characters that so easily return. The ease of it all deadens the conscience and defers the need for a real Saviour. There are many ‘revivals’, but NO resurrections; many ‘resuscitations’, but no actual re-creations. The ‘resuscitations’ are so commonplace so as to skew the mindset of whole societies and completely alter it for individuals. Death becomes a game- of sorts- perhaps the ultimate game, but an amusement, contest, and diversion nonetheless.

Reality is something different and more daunting. Death reeks. It takes no prisoners. The death of Christ was not virtual; it was vital. There was nothing sanitary about it. Yet through it the world was purged of sin. The body of Jesus- His humanity and divinity swallowed up the accumulated depravity and decay of the world. Like a black hole that pulls in everything near and compresses it into a dark abyss, the crucified Son of God was a magnet for my sins and yours, the greatest and the least, the darkest and the most exposed, every ungodly thought, word, and deed and the corruption of our fleshly inheritance. At the cross sinners have reason to hope. There the darkest of powers is being overthrown.

But to remember the crucifixion as a matter of curiosity or even respect is not yet to be transformed by it. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”2 We often tolerate the Word but because our hearts are elsewhere we do not receive it. We honour it formally but reject it inwardly. St. Paul commended the Thessalonians, “We thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”3 Unless the Holy Spirit transforms through this Word we are only attendees observing rituals.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”4 By this He meant not that we must atone for our own sins to enter heaven but that heaven is found in the sacrificial life of Him who triumphed on the cross. Our sinful nature is buried with Him in baptism. To live baptismally is to hunger ever more intensely for His righteousness while bearing the opposition and inconsistencies of the world. The world demands tangible evidence of Christ’s power; the Christian lives by faith not by sight.

It is said the measure of a person is how they handle adversity. Is it not the measure of Christians how they handle the prosperity of divine blessings which often appear to be burdens and sufferings to the world? When illness strikes there is suffering. When relationships fracture there is suffering. When grief is sprung upon us there is suffering. When dreams are shattered there is suffering. When our faith is ridiculed there is suffering. In suffering the Christian finds identity in Christ and solidarity in anguish. Yet not as a simulation or virtual reality but as the way of the cross; as the journey to our permanent dwelling. St. Paul writes, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.”5Jesus’ body held the sins of the world. Your mortal frame holds the life of Jesus.

You cannot go back to the event of the cross, but the blessings of the crucifixion come to you in the body and blood of His sacred meal. This wellspring of life flows continuously at Christian altars fusing time and eternity. There was one death that mattered, one crucifixion that counted. It makes unnecessary any simulated or sanitized revivals to our current state of fallen-ness. It makes possible our true resurrection. Amen.

Good Friday
6 April, 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Genesis 2:17
2 1 Corinthians 1:18
3 1 Thessalonians 2:13
4 Mark 9:34
5 2 Corinthians 4:10-11