Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2012

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

Text: John 6:44
Theme: Raised at the Last Day

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus Christ is entirely above reproach. He was not merely well-intentioned. He was perfectly obedient to the Father’s decree. He actively pursued complete conformity to the Father’s will. This fact is more than just an aspect of His character. It is the exchange rendered to cover the deficit caused by our failure to heed God’s commands. The scripture says, “Just as through the disobedience of one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Christ) the many will be made righteous.”1 Ours is an attributed righteousness. It is not of our own making.

People pursue things other than God’s blessings. Individuals naturally (and by ‘naturally’ we mean as a result of inherent sinfulness) seek their own advantage first. Christianity cannot be taken seriously unless it is clear about the depth of corruption of humanity. No ground can be given up to those who contend for a humanistic ideal that is self-regulating. The law is always required to curb unrighteousness and keep order in the secular realm. More importantly, it is necessary to convict the sinner and prepare him or her for the forgiveness of the gospel. Dishonesty is common within the human race and it is often arrogant.

Two young engineers applied for a single position at a computer company. They both had the same qualifications. In order to determine which individual to hire, the applicants were asked to take a test by the department manager.
Upon completion of the test, both men missed only one of the questions. The manager went to the first applicant and said, "Thank you for your interest, but we've decided to give the job to the other applicant."
"Why would you be doing that? We both got nine questions correct," asked the rejected applicant.
"We have based our decision not on the correct answers, but on the question you missed," said the department manager.
"How would one incorrect answer be better than the other?" the rejected applicant inquired again.
"Simple," said the department manager.
"On question #5 your fellow applicant put down, 'I don't know.' You wrote, 'Neither do I.'"

We transgress God’s will and yet we dare to cry unfair. At least, we think, we deserve more consideration than the next person.

Today Jesus continues His discourse with Jews as He seeks to convince them that He is the Messiah. How will their eyes be opened? Christianity involves both revelation and mystery. God is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is not merely one window into a Deity that can be viewed from many different portholes. You can peer through all the fish-eye door viewers at a hotel with one hundred rooms and you won’t see into any of them. They only permit one-way vision. You must have your telescope, your microscope and your binoculars the right way around. Christ is the only view-finder into the kingdom of God. Nor is He just the most direct highway within a system of roads and networks all leading to the same destination. All other roads- even the roads paved with good intentions- lead to hell.

Revelation is a crucial foundation of Christianity. The crucified and risen Jesus is the definitive revelation of God. His sacrifice reveals to us His compassion for all people. Still, God and His ways involve mystery. People participate in the life of God only when the Holy Spirit draws them by faith. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”2 The word and sacraments are the Spirit’s drawing and forgiving agents. By His promise we are drawn and by His truth we are forgiven.

No one can pry into the mystery of why some people reject God and are ultimately not saved. Human logic cannot solve that puzzle. Those who are finally lost have no one to blame but themselves. The Bible discloses this enigma no further. It doesn’t mean however that those who are saved have themselves to credit. The matters are not comparable. The ability to end life does not translate into the power to give it. The redeemed have no life in themselves, only in Christ. Life is a gift and will always remain so.

It’s not always easy to see that life is a gift. We are often hard-pressed by the concerns of the daily grind. Yet we are stewards whether we wish to be or not. We are entrusted with resources. We are entrusted with the well-being of others. We are entrusted with time. Every day we prioritize our time, treasures, and talents. Yet we may travel frequently on the edge of hopelessness. We may tarry in the shadows of darkness and doubt. Our resources are stretched. Our capacities are limited. We may even doubt God’s compassion. God knows all this.

We have resources far beyond our personal thresholds. The Holy Spirit makes us participants in the commonwealth of the kingdom. It is not without effect that you were baptized. Nor is the sacrament you receive from this altar without effect. We are empowered in the lives God calls us to. The apostle says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgive you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”3

Believers are not secular ambassadors that happen to devote some attention to Christian interests. They are citizens of heaven that happen to be residing in a secular world. Do we view the church from the vantage point to the world? Or do we see the world from the perspective of emissaries sent by the church? Are the desires of the heart more in tune with the world or with the kingdom?

Most importantly we know the end game is not in doubt. Christ says today of the believer, “And I will raise him up at the last day.”4 We “look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”5 This is our confession because it is Christ’s promise. At the threshold of death your body will succumb to the ravages of this mortal life. You will fall. But Christ will raise you up at the last day.

Oh how the inequities and grand triumphs of humanity miscalculate the sweeping equalization of death. At the grave all pride and vanity is crushed and Christian hope reaches its fulfillment. Who will stand in the face of death’s terror and God’s judgment? Olympians will be defeated. Rulers will be dethroned. The rich will meet with poverty. The celebrated will receive no accolades. The famous will go unnoticed. The strong will be feeble. The energetic will meet with exhaustion. Intellects will be ignorant. Orators will be speechless. The self-confident will be faint-hearted. The glories of kingdoms, institutions, and accomplishments will pass like the evening shadow. Who then will stand? Only the one who is embraced in the immortality of the Redeemer.

Christ is living! If this is not central to our creed, the premise of our dogma, and the hope to which we press; if the teaching that the Son of God receives condemned sinners purely through mercy and desires that they participate in His vibrant life for eternity; if this is not the source of our purpose and joy for living; then we best rename ourselves as a charitable or social organization which exists solely for the improvement of present circumstances and do what we can before this life ends in darkness and despair. But Christ lives and so life, light, and hope rule the day of this short span even as they will certainly rule eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
12 August 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 5:19
2 John 6:44
3 Ephesians 4:32-5:2
4 John 6:44
5 The Nicene Creed