Monday, July 30, 2012

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2012

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

Text: Ephesians 3:20
Theme: More Than We Ask

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God promises new beginnings.

Whether 60 years of dedication is a sufficient effort we leave to the Lord to judge. But we are certain that during those years He has blessed the Ladies’ Guild- and through them His wider church- to a degree that only the Holy Spirit can fully assess. We refrain from glorifying the past but we rightly honour it. Perhaps more importantly we learn its lessons so that we might apply them to new challenges.

People change. Interests change. The priorities of the past don’t always have primacy for the future. It is always the task of each generation to determine if new emphases or priorities better serve the kingdom and the well-being of God’s people. The diligent cannot evade such assessment. The passion and participation of believers in the activities of the church has waxed and waned over centuries and even millennia. And we must give the devil his due. He is cunningly adept at what he does. He devises many distractions.

It is the tendency of human nature that times of material prosperity often see spiritual poverty while the greatest temporal hardship can cultivate the desire for sacred treasures. Affluence stands before the church as a great challenge to the mission of the gospel in our times. And how will it be addressed? Do we fuss and fret over trivial things while God’s Word is neglected? Do we invest great energy and resource in furthering our personal agendas and opinions while divine truth and its implications are set on the back burner?

In 1917 Russian Orthodox Church bishops were having a meeting that came to a heated debate with fusing and feuding. A few doors down the street another meeting was going on. The Bolsheviks were together plotting the overthrow of the Czar. Revolution was in the making- the beginning of what we now know as Communism. But what was the church arguing about while the Empire was crumbling around them? Candles, how tall were they to be?

Dear friends, the greatest need of human beings is no different today than it was when the guild began or 1000 years before: rescue from the guilt of sin and eternal condemnation. Does the call to repentance ever become obsolete? Is the current generation in any less need of God’s forgiveness than the last? Consider the daily news. Godlessness is pervasive. Recently a man who claimed to be the Joker gunned down movie-goers in cold blood. It is but the latest example in a long and sinister history that extends right back to Cain’s murder of Abel. We all have more than a little of Cain’s blood running through our veins. He inherited it from his father Adam. How deep is the darkness that lurks in the soul of humanity? Though we may deny it or cover it up God sees the darkness and deprivation. Unchecked it always brings harm to others.

But God does more than sees. Into our dark and dangerous world descended the Redeemer- God in human flesh. Today’s gospel reading is the well-known account of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. It was a small preview of what the Son of God would soon provide- immortal food. The account concludes with this interesting note. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.”1 It’s an intriguing turn of events! The humble preacher- envied by the Jewish rulers and under the watchful eye of the state- is to be made king by popular demand. It’s an insight into how the crowds generally perceived Jesus. Could He not have ridden this wave of popularity to gain leverage with the authorities?

But His kingdom is not of this world. The love of God is finally realized not in its role of mitigating the effects of sin but in eliminating the need for alleviation altogether. Yes, God satisfies the hungry, heals the sick, comforts the brokenhearted, guides the lost, accompanies the lonely, calms the distressed, and renews our hope. He does this by intervening in our adversity with the remedy that carries us through danger and hardship. In this life we will always be beggars. We will always need Christ’s mercy because we are always sinners existing in a state of fragility on the precipice of collapse.

But Christ has achieved for us an existence in which “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”2 His love is sacrificial and humble. Yet it is a conquering love. He was crucified so that you could have access through His blood. In His resurrection that blood- the blood of the New Adam now runs in your veins. That is the consequence of your baptism. In Christ we have life in a dying world. Should all earthly pursuits be ended we are no worse for eternity.

Today we pause to recognize what has ended. We grieve. 60 years of activities for the Bookpurnong Ladies’ Guild have come to an end. Sometimes, especially in circumstances like this, we may wonder if all the dedication and effort was worth it. What was accomplished? Who was impacted? What legacies were established? We leave these things in God’s hands.
Examples have been set. Seeds have been sown. God determines the harvests.

It’s like the little girl who was being punished by being forced to eat alone in the corner of the dining room. The family paid no attention to her until they heard her pray: “I Thank you Lord, for preparing a table for me in the presence of my enemies!” She knew the 23rd Psalm. And in this case she deemed her family- who undoubtedly taught it to her by taking her to church and Sunday School- to be her enemies. Now that is quick, concrete, and practical application of the Scriptures.

Today, like every Lord’s Day, is a day for giving thanks. How does the apostle Paul often conclude his discourses? With a doxology- a liturgical expression gratitude to the Redeemer. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”3 It’s not that remarkable to state that God is able to do more than we ask. But how staggering is it that God is able to do far more than we could ever even conceive of or imagine! The collective imagination of all humanity is a drop in the ocean compared to the ingenuity of the Almighty.

God promises new beginnings. They are not always the ones of our choosing. Above this, He promises an existence in which there is no decline or decay at all. The only books that will be closed will be the annals of death. The unmediated presence of Christ will involve a captivating newness absent of all sin, death, and decay. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”4 He has blessed us in the past and He will not fail us in the future. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
29 July 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 6:15
2 Revelation 21:4
3 Ephesians 3:20
4 Hebrews 13:8