Sunday, July 22, 2012

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2012

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

Text: Mark 6:34
Theme: Christ of Compassion

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Countless are the souls freed by the compassion of Christ. Yet not a single one remains nameless in His kingdom. The Church calendar today celebrates the festival of Mary Magdalene. An early follower of Christ, she supported His itinerant ministry out of her own means. Indebted to Him for freeing her from evil spirits, she became a devoted follower never deserting Him, even at the cross. Mary was among the women who hurried to the tomb on Easter morning. She was the first to cling to the risen Lord. She now lives in the church triumphant; the gathering throng arrayed before the Lamb on His throne. Her life is a beautiful example of restoration and hope.

Biblical examples of the people Jesus helped are fine, but perhaps you’re thinking; “When will Christ have compassion on me?” How long do I have to suffer? How long do I have to wait? When do I get relief? Perspective is essential to our piety. Often the most basic truths are the most commonly overlooked. There is no inherent contentment that you are entitled to. You do not possess life by your own power or your own right. God, by wisdom and mystery far beyond our knowing, has granted you life. Unplanned, uninitiated, unearned, unmerited, and with no cooperation from you the Almighty has gifted you with body and soul, breath and intellect. He has endowed you with the capacity to relate to Himself and other human beings. He supplies you with everything to sustain your earthly life. Your very existence depends on His uninterrupted provision. This is a remarkable truth.

More remarkable still is the fact that God hasn’t left you to wallow in the sinful selfishness that can lead only to physical and eternal death. Our brief time on this earth becomes a very small consolation prize if eternity is forfeited. Never dismiss what it means that sin separates us eternally from God. Never overestimate the power you have in spiritual things. The Lutheran reformers remind us, “Without the Holy Spirit human hearts have neither the fear of God nor trust in God nor the faith that God hears, forgives, helps, or saves them.”1 Therefore, never underestimate the value of hearing the Word of God. The apostle says “…the gospel…is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”2

Dear friends, the human tendency is either to sideline God altogether or make Him into something He is not. What shapes your image of God? Is it public opinion? Is it personal reflection? Is it formal training? Is your conception of God based on the truth of the Scriptures or some compilation of fashionable speculation? Those who would have God on their own terms will have Him only as an illusion and finally in judgment. Never confuse the sincerity of your belief with the object you put your trust in.

You may sincerely believe 120 kms per hour is a safe speed for you to travel through town but your sincerity will carry no weight when the law is enforced. You may sincerely think if you avoid going to the doctor you won’t be diagnosed with any illness but once the ambulance visits your sincerity will prove irrelevant. You may sincerely believe that God is a distant deity unconcerned with human affairs but reality will be very startling once you meet Him face to face. Dear friends, sincerity is no substitute for truth. Sincerity relates to the integrity of your feelings and intentions. But it can be misled and misplaced.

In Christ we see God as He really is. Not trendy in the world’s eyes. Not one who indulges our selfish appetites or caters to our personal agendas. Not one who overlooks our jealousies, hatreds, and insecurities. Not preoccupied or distracted. Rather, fully engaged in the complexities of His creation. He has assumed our flesh and bone that we might be children of the Father. He has endured suffering and death- punished for our transgressions- in order to make us participants of His immortality. He has broken the power of death. He has disarmed the Deceiver. He has established a holy community.

You are baptized into fellowship with the Holy Trinity and into communion with the saints of the apostolic church“…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”3 What do the Scriptures say about this marvelous mystery? “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!...we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”4

While you wait to see Him as He is you now witness to Him as you are. That includes all of your warts and wrinkles, your short-comings and insecurities. Bearing the cross does not begin only after all of your problems are sorted out. Imperfect as you are, you bear the life of God to others in every capacity to which God has called you. Though the Holy Spirit leads you in a mighty struggle against your sinful tendencies within and your unseemly actions without; He still uses you to be a purveyor of His love and peace?

But where will we find the strength? We are so characteristically the people of our gospel today: Like sheep without a shepherd. We certainly cannot carry on with our own resources. No amount of discipline will bring us to the goal. Are you anticipating the spectacle of the games in London or are you tired already of hearing of the feats of Olympians? Yes, you too are an Olympian, as the apostle says. But you are not a robot. You are a human being. You will tire out. You will wear down. You will become wearied, fatigued, drained and exhausted. Yet you possess a strength that is not your own. It is gifted to you. It is given as you need it.

That is the very reason you are here. You know you are a sinner in need of forgiveness, a patient in need of healing, a rebel in need of restraint, a pauper in need of provision, a drifter in need of direction, a weakling in need of strength. Here Christ meets you in the very condition in which you come just as He met the helpless, the hapless, the sick and infirm by the Sea of Galilee.

Here you come to the banquet that serves the food of immortality. It is food only for sinners. Holy Communion is not for those who are resolute in their self-sufficiency. Those who brashly present their own virtue as the basis of admission to His altar of grace can only receive it to their judgment. Luther notes that the “holy sacrament is of little or no benefit to those who have no misfortune or anxiety, or who do not sense their adversity. For it is given only to those who need strength and comfort, who have timid hearts and terrified consciences, and who are assailed by sin, or have even fallen into sin.”5

Dear friends, Christ does not leave us guessing. Our hardships refine us and prepare us to better appreciate His mercy. But He leaves us in no doubt about His intentions. When will He have compassion on you? The Scripture says, “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
22 July 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Tappert 225, 6
2 Romans 1:16
3 Ephesians 2:20
4 1 John 3:1-2
5 Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writing, p.248
6 2 Corinthians 6:2