Monday, August 6, 2012

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2012

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

Text: John 6:30
Theme: “Show Us A Sign!”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Human beings can be thick-headed. That’s one reason worship involves a recitation of those things which are most essential. The practice of repetition is also necessary so Satan does not dislodge basic truths from our hearts and minds. The danger exists that repetition can lead to insincerity, apathy, or laziness. But the problem here is not with the repetition itself but the interest of the parties involved. Familiarity with God’s word is necessary to expand our understanding of God’s revelation. We can’t think critically from a biblical world view if we aren’t well-versed in the basic truths of God’s will.

Conviction must be wedded with communication. If we don’t believe in God’s truth we won’t be inclined to defend it. If we don’t understand it we won’t be able to. St Peter ends his second epistle with this encouragement, “Dear friends…be on guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”1 Defending against error and growing in our Christian knowledge are not optional for the believer they are part and parcel of living the faith.

The short answer to why the churches in the West have largely been in decline for some time is that people don’t believe that Christ has any relevance or will impact their lives to any significant degree. Is this the fault of the church or the individual? Or both? It doesn’t matter how long names have been inscribed on church membership rolls and rosters. It doesn’t matter what family or sentimental connections existed with the church in the past. God will not sit in judgment looking into any membership directories. He looks into the heart. And there will be no case of mistaken identity.

There was a student who once made a mistake of identification. He was in the college chapel and, looking at the order of service, groaned aloud. The middle-aged lady next to him asked what was the matter. The student replied, "It’s the preacher. He’s my director of studies. I have to go to his lectures and he’s the dullest man alive, utterly boring." "Oh," said the woman, "Do you know who I am?" The student looked at her and said he didn’t. "Well," said the woman, "I’m the preacher’s wife!" The student said faintly, "And do you know who I am?" "No," said the professor’s wife. "Hallelujah," said the student

It’s only with na├»ve misunderstanding that we think we can avoid God’s notice in the same way. God’s law allows no escape, no excuse, no defense. As a sinner before God, an idolater, an adulterer, a thief, a slanderer, a scorner of God’s truth and wisdom you can never get away with being someone you’re not. Our penitence never rests on the hope that not all our sins will be discovered- especially our worst ones. There is no spiritual plea-bargaining. Yet the beautiful paradox of the gospel is that our identity as sinners does become lost in Christ. We might even say that the Father ‘mistakes’ us sinners as righteous people because we are hidden in the wounds of His Son. It’s no accident or ommitance but the miracle of God’s compassion.

The identity we have in Christ confers on us a higher calling. Life should not be absorbed by the concerns of the temporal sphere. What does Jesus tell the crowds today? “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” Then they asked Him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”2 Dear friends, there is no greater undertaking than belief. The faith you are gifted with in baptism is a living and active reality to be nurtured and guarded your whole life through. It’s perhaps not hard to believe in a deity with great power but to believe in the Sent One, the Christ, is something more altogether. The faith of the crowd was not godless but it was Messiah-less, Christ-less. They sought food but not forgiveness, provision but not repentance, temporal blessings but not eternal pleasures.

How do they react to Jesus’ words? They asked Him for a miraculous sign. They said then they would believe in Him. People do the same thing today. They make their trust in God conditional on the evidence. Does He seem to be answering my prayers in the way I’d like? Does He meet my demands? This is, of course, not real faith at all. He has given us a sign: He was crucified and on Easter morning the tomb was empty. Could we ask for a greater miracle than complete sacrifice followed by victory over death!!! The Father’s love for us is so profound He did not spare the life of His own Son but gave Him up for us all. Yes, God has ‘proved’ Himself. And He will again when Christ comes again in glory.

But not everyone wants to see a miraculous sign from God. Many are comfortable in their state of fallenness. Better the devil you know than face the unknown. The Medieval story is told of two beggars; one was lame, the other blind. They happened to be caught in a procession carrying the relics of St. Martin and were afraid that if they were cured they would be deprived of their charity. So the one who could see but not walk mounted the shoulders of the one who could walk but not see. They hurried to get beyond range of the saint’s miraculous powers. But the poor fellows were too late and were healed thus losing their guaranteed livelihood.

They thought they’d be happy to be left well enough alone. Our selfish independence draws us to the same desires. Yet sooner or later we discover that being left to our own devices and strength is the last thing we want. You are not alone in your faith. You are not alone in your struggles. And you are not alone with the Saviour either. The Holy Spirit gathers God’s people into community. The Bible says, “There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.”3

In the coming weeks Jesus will remind us that He is the Bread of Life, the food that does not perish. He serves us with His own imperishable body and blood from this very altar. We’ll find at the end of John Chapter 6 many turned away from Christ because His teachings were too hard to swallow. Still today many wonder how the Almighty God can be present in the simple things of water, bread and wine, and words. The barrier of human logic can only be broken down by the Holy Spirit. God invests these things with His power and holiness. St. Peter gave the response which is still the only appropriate one, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”4 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
5 August 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 2 Peter 3:17-18
2 John 6:27-29
3 Ephesians 4:4-6
4 John 6:68