Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First Sunday After Christmas (A) 2013

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

Text: Matthew 2:13-23
Theme: Flight of the Newborn

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The shepherds depart. The angels ascend. The holy family retreats. The announcement of peace soon turns to a threat of danger. The celebration of Christ’s birth into the world does not long remain open for public participation. The Prince of Peace soon meets with hostility. It wasn’t long after Jesus’ birth that a price was put on His head. Wanted: Dead or alive- but preferably dead! King Herod, hopeful of help from the Magi, sought to terminate His young life. Why would Herod fear this child born not to royalty but to common Jewish people? What chance would this son of a carpenter have of coming to reign? Still, the prophecy had reached his ears and he was in no mood to take any chances.

Already the words of Simeon were coming to fulfillment, “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.1 The person and work of Jesus still causes great hostility because He is a threat to the power structures of the world and the way in which they operate. Yet His kingdom is not of this world. He comes to rule hearts, not command armies.

So, early in His life the Lord of Creation becomes a fugitive in a foreign land. Joseph is told by an angel to take the family and flee to Egypt. The hope of Israel, the deliverer of God’s people had to take refuge in the very place the Israelites had once been held in slavery for over 400 years. Reflecting on their exodus St. Paul reminds us, “Our forefathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”2 Now that same Christ returns as a child clothed in human flesh.

Jesus was fugitive from earthly rulers so that we might be freed from satanic powers. The Scripture says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”3 Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be placed under the law so that He might fulfill it perfectly; and do so on our behalf. He was perfectly obedient to the Father and we are credited with His holiness. In addition, all the prophecies of old have come to fulfillment in Him. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”4

Apart from Christ we are always fugitives from the law. There is no place to run to, no place to hide. All transgressions are transparent to God. We find refuge only in Christ. Dear friends, you can never be comfortable about meeting the requirements of the law. You can never be confident you have satisfied it. But you can be at peace. The law always condemns you; always finds you guilty. But the one who made entrance into the world through a dark little nook in Bethlehem has fulfilled it. He has not made the law obsolete. He has fulfilled it.

God knows when we try to play Him as the fool. We should never confuse forgiveness with apathy. Absolution is never a license to sin. Exoneration of guilt is never to be taken as evidence that fault was misplaced. Forgiveness, rightly received, never inflates the ego (as if somehow we deserved to be forgiven), but always cultivates humility. In other words, as a forgiven child of God I cannot debate or negotiate the necessity of divine pardon. The moment I do the sincerity of my repentance is called into question. We cannot feign ignorance or weakness; we are all alike condemned. A person of ego never fulfills the law of God or the law of love. The person of faith always does.

The person of faith always does because faith is a Spirit-given gift that anchors us to Christ who has offered perfect obedience on our behalf. Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice is more than just a supernatural but immaterial truth. The Bible says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”5

Freed from the ultimate fear we can forego our self-interests to serve others. Consider how Luther teaches vocation using the circumstances of the Bethlehem shepherds. “Who would have thought that men whose job was tending unreasonable animals would be so praised that not a pope or bishop is worthy to hand them a cup of water? It is the very devil that no one wants to follow the shepherds. The married man wants to be without a wife or the nobleman a prince. It is: ‘If I were this! If I were that! You fool! The best job is the one you have. If you are married, you cannot have higher status. If you are a servant, you are in the very best position. Be diligent and know that there are no greater saints on earth than servants. Do not say, ‘If I were,’ say, ‘I am.’ Luther wants us to see that God is pleased with whatever vocation we are in, no matter how lowly or seemingly insignificant it is. Luther continues, “Next to faith this is the highest art- to be content with the calling in which God has placed you.” The person who is godly in his or her vocation is not the one who always wishes they had someone else’s position, but the one who fulfills his own position to the best of his ability, to the benefit of neighbours and to the glory of God.

Dear friends, like our Lord Himself as an infant we are always fleeing the dark powers of this world. But we are neither running scared or helpless. Rather, through the Spirit’s power we are salt; we are light; we are vessels of mercy, we are beacons of hope to those caught in vicious cycles of darkness, addiction and despair. We are baptized for these very tasks. We are people of the incarnation. “To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”6 “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things.”7

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday After Christmas
29 December 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 2:34-35
2 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
3 Galatians 4:4-5
4 Matthew 5:17
5 Hebrews 2:14-15
6 Isaiah 9:6
7 Psalm 98:1

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Day 2013

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

Text: Hebrews 1:3
Theme: God, Christ, Love

Dear Worshippers of the Newborn King,

“God is love.”1 This is at once the most simple and the most complex truth that exists. It is also the most relevant truth. God is love. What does this mean? Christmas begins to give us a picture. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”2 Good Friday is the most vivid image. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”3 Easter is the celebration of its truth. “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…and God raised us up with Christ.”4 Only in eternity will it be revealed completely to our senses. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”5

Pure love is completely non-reflexive, that is, it never focuses on itself, but always upon another. It is never self-directed. Even God’s love within the Trinity is not self-directed. The Father loves the Son and the Son the Father through the Spirit.
Because God’s pure love could not be self-contained, it flowed out to creation. Human beings especially, as beings created in God’s image, were the recipients of God’s love. His desire was to have that love freely returned. It lasted only for a while.
Our sin necessitated a new expression of God’s unconditional love. Jesus Christ in the flesh is that expression. Jesus Christ, love incarnate, is the centre of Christmas. He is love. In baptism we are embraced in His love. In communion we are nurtured with it.

The rest of this sermon is in its entirety a quotation of Holy Scripture on love, false and true. I invite you to listen afresh to these words of the Spirit, hearing His voice not in the form of obligatory verses peppered throughout a sermon, but as the life-giving declarations of God. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world.”6 “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”7 “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and My people love it this way. But what will they do in the end?”8

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”9 “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.”10 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”11

“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”12 “Dear children, let us love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”13 “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”14

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear”15

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”16 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”17

“When the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”18 “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might have life through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”19
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”20 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”21

+ in nomine Jesu +

The Nativity of Our Lord
December 25, 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

11 John 4:16 2 John 3:16 3 Romans 5:8 4 Ephesians 2:4-6
5 1 John 3:2 6 1 John 2:15-16 7 Numbers 14:18 8 Jeremiah 5:31
9 2 Timothy 3:1-4 10 2 Timothy 2:22 11 Matthew 22:37-40 12 1 John 4:19-20
13 1 John 3:18 14 1 John 5:3-4 15 1 John 4:16-18 16 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
17 1 Corinthians 13:13
18 Titus 3:4-7 19 1 John 4:9-10 20 Romans 8:35 21 Romans 8:37-39

Christmas Eve 2013

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

Text: Luke 2:14
Theme: “Peace On Earth”

Dear Travelers to the Manger,

That first Christmas the news was announced by melodious, angelic voices, “A great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and ….peace.”1 Celestial beings heralded an event beyond earthly understanding. God had broached the dimensions of time and space. Christmas is about all things heavenly confronting all things earthly. In the person of Jesus, light meets darkness, good meets evil, grace meets sin, truth meets falsehood, life meets death.

There are many emphases of Christ’s presence that could be the focus of a Christmas discussion. This Christmas Eve, one particular word of the angels will not escape our notice: peace. “Peace to men on whom His favor rests.”2 How are we to understand this peace? Because of sin, there will always be conflict. Christmas is firstly and primarily about the resolution to the greatest conflict. Through Christ, every human being can have peace with God. It is this peace alone which is indispensable for our salvation.

The struggle that took place to win that peace is what fills our Christmas with the deepest and most mysterious love and drives our hope for the future. Underneath the Christmas tree in the Copper family home in Winona Lake, Indiana sits a token that symbolizes, in a very small way, the struggle to share that peace. Under their tree sits a prominently displayed piece of red cardboard. It says “Merry Christmas” and has clippings of the three wisemen on it. The cardboard card has been placed under the tree every year for 45 years. The Cooper’s only son had made the card for his father in school when he was a young boy. On his way home some bullies threatened to tear it up. Though not used to fighting, he fought them off to save this gift for his dad. His parents never knew until a neighbor told them what happened. And so in deep appreciation that only parents can know, that old card has been set in front of all others presents under their tree for nearly half a century.

There may be many gifts under our tree this Christmas, but all that matters is what we treasure in our hearts. Because of a great and cosmic struggle, a struggle involving the greatest sacrifice, we have secured for us an eternal peace. The prophet Isaiah gave lofty titles to the coming Messiah, “He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”3 Of the fulfillment of this prophecy, the New Testament says, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”4

Who could have guessed that we would have peace because Christ left the world with even greater humiliation than that with which He entered? The wood of His manger was made into the beams of His cross. His death was consistent with His birth. The King of Kings was not born in the temple palace. His subjects were not royal officials. No fuss was made over His needs. There was a celestial choir of angels to announce His birth, but only to lowly shepherds in the field. In just this way, God begins His great reversal of the world’s decay. In this humble way, as a helpless and vulnerable child He enters the kingdom of mature spiritual darkness. He comes as the Prince of Peace to a world of turmoil and division.

His is a divine power to change hearts and minds, to mend lives, to impart peace.
If there has been unfaithfulness in your marriage it can be restored with healing. If there has been falsehood in your words, it can be forgiven with repentance. If there has been bitterness in your heart, it can be drained of its potency. If there has been anger in your actions, it can be pacified with love. If there has been despair in your thoughts, it can be replaced with hope. If there has been doubt in your mind, it can be overcome by faith. It there has been selfishness in your life, it can be replaced with sacrifice for the Savior. There is nothing done that the Christchild’s forgiveness cannot undo. There is nothing lacking that His grace cannot supply.

Dear friends, our lives are never completely restored until the life to come. But we are in the process and we can have peace. Even as recovering sinners, we are called to add flesh to the words of Christmas joy and peace. At the manger Christ was born into our physical world to bring spiritual peace. At the baptismal font, we are reborn into His spiritual kingdom to embody that peace. We are given new life to address physical and spiritual needs. We are His agents to rescue souls and secure hearts. We do this as He did. Not with force. Not driven by self-interest or in hopes of recognition. Not to ease our guilt over some quota we think has been levied on us. Not with pomp and circumstance, but with humble bearing of our cross.

Dear friends, Christmas is not an excuse to indulge in excess, but an occasion to be immersed in essentials. The essentials are not expensive gifts, extravagant parties, and showy decorations. The essentials are purity of heart, integrity of will, and humbleness of mind displayed in gathering around the celebration of Christ’s birth. The true gifts of Christmas are not what we buy or construct or accomplish, but what we receive from His grace. The Christchild says, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”5

May your Christmas this day and the whole season through be filled with the abiding peace and joy that comes only from the Son of God born into human flesh. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christmas Eve
24 December 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 2:13-14
2 Luke 2:14
3 Isaiah 9:6
4 Colossians 1:19-20
5 John 16:33

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fourth Sunday Of Advent (A) 2013

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

Text: Matthew 1:23
Theme: New Birth For Life

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Everyone has ancestors. Christmas involves the reconnection of human ancestry to divine patronage. We all have- whether we are informed of the full details or not- a paternal and maternal lineage. If we pause to reflect on that our minds might be flooded with memories. Our mother was brought to birth by her mother and so forth before her. Our father was fathered by his father and so on before him. Christ is the lone exception. His Father has no father. Yes, we have the ancestry of Joseph, but God the Father is uncreated. He exists eternally, transcending time and space.

The birth of Jesus Christ involves the re-association of God with the human race. Christ stands in a unique position and the peerlessness of His existence can hardly be overstated. The fact of His full divinity and full humanity is the incomparable truth we celebrate in the humility of a feeding trough for animals. The Child born during Caesar-induced transit is the unchanging Lord of creation. At the mercy of world powers He brings a reign of divine compassion. Remote from the amenities of luxury, and removed from the privileges of position, His retinue is comprised beasts of the stable. Shepherds are His subjects. A manger is His throne.

This then, is the Redeemer of the world! Hear again what the angelic messenger said. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”1 Is this just a pious but fanciful wish? What do we need saving from? What are these sins? Are they general lapses in judgment or common failures of conduct God wishes to tidy up? Are the sins the Messiah came to address moral indiscretions or transparent transgressions? Are they outward expressions of fear, greed, anger, selfishness, cruelty, and disobedience? These realities are surely foreign to none of us and we cannot be excused.

But there is something more. Christ came for a deeper crisis. He knows you. He knows what makes you tick. The Father did not send His Son to demand artificial expressions of loyalty from wayward children. God needs nothing that we can offer Him. He came to make payment; to be the sacrifice; to appease the wrath. He came to suffer and die. Christ came to soften hearts of stone. He came to thaw frozen spirits. He came to draw the poison from the wound. He came to breathe life into perishing souls.

In the coming of Christ, God-in-the-flesh, Emmanuel, life itself has new birth. The womb of Mary nurtures the resuscitator of life. Yes, that means life’s own vitality, its power and virility, had become hopelessly subjugated to the death and decay of sin. Life under the domination of the fall does not press forwards vibrantly, creatively, and progressively. Rather it groans, it bends, it slows; it withers under the weight of bondage and the poison of iniquity. Without His intervention life would decompose and cease to exist. Yes, souls would live on but only in service to Satan.

Christ doesn’t merely make a guest appearance in a stable; He makes a home in human flesh. He grants us identity and purpose. The last thing Satan wants you to know is that your very existence only has ultimate meaning in relation to God’s eternal election of you in Christ. Paul said it most succinctly, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”2 And again he said, “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”3 You are God’s baptized child, resurrected spiritually even now so that you can live sacrificially until the day of your physical resurrection.

Now as individuals personally and as the church corporately we can aspire to embody His incarnational love. Yet we should never expect the world to receive this without reservation. Consider what Luther says in this regard, “Righteousness, holiness, power, life, salvation, everything the church has in Christ, are incomprehensible to reason and hidden to the world. If you judge the church by reason and outward appearance, you will err, for then you will see people who are sinful, weak, fearful, sorrowful, suffering, persecuted, and hunted down. But if you look at this, that they are baptized, believe on Christ, bear out their faith with godly fruits, carry their cross with patience and in hope, that is a true picture…”4

Are you riddled with anxiety? Are you plagued by doubt? Are you fraught with fear? Christ is your Emmanuel; God-in-the-flesh; your strength in frailty, your certainty in doubt, your peace in turmoil, and your refuge in times of fear. He walked in the shoes of humanity. He suffered the greatest indignity. He faced the harshest infirmity. He was a foil for self-made saints and a companion of sinners. He was a comrade of the downtrodden and an antagonist of the self-righteous. Most of all He was the sacrificial Lamb for the transgressions of the world.

The incarnation cannot be drained of its mystery. The Godhead- His entire power and majesty- fully dwelling in human form can never be fully grasped by us empirically, intellectually or emotionally. Yet you receive its fruits- its forgiveness and power- every time you receive His blood to your lips and body to your mouth in the Lord’s Supper. The lowly manger houses the exalted King and common bread contains divine food. Humble Mary cradles the immortal God and ordinary wine holds sacred blood. Faith welcomes an enigma reason can only despise.

Dear friends, it might be too late to curtail your Christmas commotion. Expectations are high and plans are set in motion that can’t be easily reversed. The credit card has been crunched. Busyness and bustle has you bushed. The tension and trauma can’t be tamed. Someone might be left out or neglected. You might fear it could be your fault. Perhaps you feel it might be you. Still, the window of opportunity does not suddenly close.

Remember- and when the Scriptures call us to remember they are not simply trying to jog particular sectors of grey matter that remind us of trivial data; they are beckoning us to rehearse, review, and rejoice- Christmas is not a fleeting flourish of indulgence. It is participation in the life of Him, once a child, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Water, the Bread, the Gate, the Vine, the Light, the Shepherd, and finally, the Resurrection and the Life. From earthy Bethlehem to heavenly Jerusalem He has prepared for His people an eternal kingdom. That kingdom will have the same angels and the same Son of God in human shape. But it won’t have stress. It won’t have fear. It won’t have irreconcilable relationships. It won’t have pain. It won’t have death. His kingdom will not end because the Child born in Bethlehem has permanently re-established the relationship with God’s people. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday of Advent
22 December 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 1:21
2 Philippians 1:21
3 Galatians 2:20
4 Martin Luther, 1532 sermon

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Second Sunday Of Advent (A) 2013

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

Text: Matthew 3:2
Theme: Present But Coming

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God speaks. Advents reminds us that His declarations have consequences. Yet God seems to take unnecessary risk with His communiques. He uses mere mortals to communicate His indestructible truth. Angels were not fitted for the task. Though privileged to deliver strategic announcements angels are not the regular servants in that capacity. God often equipped eccentric people to bear His message. The intriguing figure of John the Baptist is inseparably associated with Advent. His proclamation is the summation of all the prophetic voices of the past. He is the figure that straddles the Old and New Testament eras. Unconventional and undaunted he strides forth with the timeless message: Prepare the way; the Lord will come.

His message is direct and his actions are focused. He administers a baptism of repentance to prepare people for the coming kingdom. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”1 This truth has lost none of its relevance. The distance between the sinner and God is no different today. The chasm of sin is an impassible crevasse. Advent takes us back to the basics. The distance is covered only by Christ’s initiative and the Spirit’s work. For us this involves the journey of repentance and faith.

To believe God exists is not yet germane to your predicament. Your soul is in danger of exclusion from His eternal presence. The perpetual liability of humanity is the illusion of self-sufficiently. Somehow we think we’ll manage on our own. We’ll get through. We’ll mitigate the hardships of life with determined distraction, anaesthetizing intoxicants, or indulgent extravagance. We may end up jaded, depressed, sensationless, or ridden with anxiety. We may become ruled by fear, arrogance, or apathy. We think we’re coping, even flourishing, but really we haven’t faced the truth. The body deteriorates and the mind becomes frail. What happens to the soul?

The vicinity of the Jordan where John was baptizing was near to where the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land. Not coincidentally John is connecting the past with the future. He announces that God is preparing a new exodus. Centuries prior the Israelites were taken on a demanding physical journey during their desert wanderings. But the real journey was spiritual. It was an examination they did not pass. Grumbling and complaining they yearned even to return to slavery and finally committed idolatry by forging the golden calf.

Yet God did not forsake them. The work of Moses would be surpassed. Christ will break the yoke of sin by bearing it Himself. Freedom comes not by the outstretched staff of Moses but by the outstretched arms of the Crucified. The relationship to Abraham was also exceeded. Baptismal water is redemptive. Jewish bloodlines are not. Just as God can create ‘Jews’ out of Gentiles so too, He creates saints out of sinners. He makes light shine in the darkness and generates life where there is only death.

The paradox of Advent is that the coming Christ is already present. He is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End2. He is the same yesterday and today and forever3. He is the Coming One, the Advent Messiah, and at the very same time He is truly here. He chooses to be here in the bread and wine administered for the forgiveness of sins. And He is here in the bread and wine not through some pious aspiration of the heart or irrational acquiescence of the mind, but through the mystery of His promise to communicate Himself through His body and blood. He is here in the sacrament by virtue of His own oath and He achieves it with the Holy Spirit.

The omnipresence of God is one of the great tools of Satan. If we’re not informed enough in our Christian knowledge to make the proper distinctions then we are probably better off not referring to it. Of course there is no place from which God is absent insofar as He rules the universe with His power. He is sovereign over all His creation. But creation is not divinized. That is, God is not using creation as a whole to convict people of their sin or reveal the gospel to them. He is not lurking in the birds or the trees, the stars or the sea. He will not communicate His forgiveness to you in the beauty of a garden or tranquility of the river.

He can’t simply be found anywhere we wish Him to be. The intensity of our feelings cannot validate His attendance. You can construct an image of God in your mind- and many do. But apart from the parameters of Scripture it is only a fallacy. Oxygen is nearly omnipresent in our atmosphere but it will do you no good unless it comes in contact with your alveoli. These are the terminal structures of your respiratory tree where the oxygen enters your blood. You have about 700 million of them. Unless this exchange takes place you will die within minutes. In short, God’s saving presence is specifically located in the places He has ordained it to be. It is in the prophetic and apostolic word and it is in properly administered baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This truth has profound implications for the nature of the Christian Church. The gospel is not a private possession.

God has seen fit to entrust the unchanging message to hapless humans. Pastors are called to proclaim it publicly. He equips you too, a mere mortal to be a witness to His incomparable truth. He doesn’t require that you’re eccentric like John the Baptist. He doesn’t demand that you have the eloquence of Paul. He asks that you be faithful. There is no test you have to pass to qualify. He knows your weaknesses. He knows the temptations you are prone to. He will give you the passion that’s lacking, the knowledge that’s wanting, the generosity that’s missing.

St. Paul said today, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”4 Advent hope is conviction that the particularity of God’s presence in Christ will mean something fabulous in the end. God has ‘decreed’ it in person. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”5 This very Son died and rose for our salvation. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday of Advent
8 December 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 3:2
2 See Revelation 1:8, 17-18
3 See Hebrews 13:8
4 Romans 15:4
5 Hebrews 1:1-2

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday Of Advent (A) 2013

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

Text: Matthew 24:44
Theme: Constant Readiness

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Repentance has a deadline. And there will be no allowances for late submissions. The coming of Christ will be arresting. The full scope of life’s activity will instantly come to a halt. Both revelry and drudgery will end. Indulgence and poverty will cease. Activity and apathy will stop. Instantly, the window of opportunity will close. The curtain of history will be drawn. But the vista to heaven will be opened. And the dawn of eternity will penetrate the believer’s vision. Advent involves anticipation and preparation for this spectacular day.

Today is the beginning of a new Church Year. Advent is meant to jolt us out of our spiritual slumber. “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”1 The word advent means ‘coming’. Advent is a short season leading up to Christmas that primarily focuses on Christ’s coming in glory. The theme is preparation and repentance. St. Matthew says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.”2

So what was it like in the days of Noah? People had become habitually self-absorbed. Habits are good when they foster stability, godliness, and physical and spiritual well-being. They keep us grounded. Conversely, habits are destructive when they reveal and participate in the dominance of sin. God ordered the cosmos in such a way that its creatures were to live in rhythm with His design. The daily cycle of light and darkness, and the observation of the Sabbath Rest governed the routine of Adam and Eve from the very beginning. Sin threw that routine into chaos. No longer did Adam and Eve walk with God in the Garden in the cool of the day3. No longer did humanity follow its Maker.

Integral to the message of Advent is God’s impending judgment for sin. As we consider the gravity of Christ’s word we do well to block out all speculation about others and focus on our own need to repent. No one else will account for our sins. No one else’s circumstances matter. Still, it should not escape our notice that history is filled with foreshadowing and repetition. Humanity has been there before: Absorbed in the pursuits of this temporal life but completely oblivious to the coming judgment; dazzled by the lights of the world but teetering on the edge of the abyss. God rendered judgment.

No wonder St. Paul says today, “Let us behave decently…not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”3These words are nearly 2000 years old yet who can accuse the Holy Spirit of being outdated! Human nature hasn’t changed.

Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature, says the apostle. Let’s not kid ourselves, that’s a big ask in our media-saturated, consumer-driven society. At every turn we are blitzed with advertizing encouraging us to indulge. The seed is planted in the mind again and again. It is nurtured and cultivated. “Everyone else has it!” “Everyone else is doing it!” “Don’t miss out!” “You deserve it!” “You’re worth it!” Even the most basic things are promoted as “must have”, “must buy”, “must own”. This relentless agenda often governs not only our economic choices but our emotional and spiritual well-being. It can lead to anxiety and even contribute to depression. Christ assures believers that their worth and identity are in Him.

There are few things more unsettling than unpleasant surprises. We like to be prepared for every eventuality. Nice surprises are always welcomed, but unexpected adversity tests our resolve. Yet in the hour of trial faith does not dawdle. Faith is a gift sustained by the Almighty Himself. Believers survive the storms of life anchored to the Rock of Ages4 We can be inspired in our troubles by those who have gone before. Who can speak of the loneliness of Noah? How surreal to see humanity wiped away! Would decades of hostility and ridicule, while the ark was being built, ease the profound sense of loss? The Scripture says, “By faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”5 What about the agonizing grief of Job? All his children were killed and his prosperity ripped away. He did not know that later on blessing would be restored. How did he escape complete despair? Had his faith not already moved him to the future life? So too, our faith exists in the here and now but is buoyed by eternal promises.

The coming of Christ will disclose all hypocrisy. The packaging is no guarantee of the content. The book cannot always be judged by its cover. How many will be immersed in preparations for Christmas but never give a thought about Christ? The trappings are there but the substance is missing. It’s like a car without an engine, a bank with no money; a body without a soul. Jude says, like “clouds without rain…autumn trees without fruit.”6 And so too, a church without a confession of truth is merely a gathering of people without a higher purpose. Through the proclamation of God’s Word the Holy Spirit creates and nurtures living faith.

He promises to do this first in baptism. He does it not by some magical incantation but by speaking the Word of Life. He crucifies and makes alive. Today Addison has gone through a death and resurrection. Her life is now bound up with the Redeemer. She has been clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ. Her sins are washed away. And she is a fresh example in an ongoing succession of souls embraced by Christ’s love. She is also a new illustration of human frailty cradled by divine tenderness.

Advent is a call to reality. You are not a self-sustaining being. You are mortal. Christ is the self-existing source of life. He is immortal. You and I are sinners. He is holy and blameless. And yet He ends up being labeled as the most notorious of all sinners. This is the miracle of the gospel: The great reversal. He is accused. He is mocked. He is sentenced. He is condemned. He suffers, is crucified, and dies. And in so doing secures our salvation. You are acquitted. You are pardoned. You are cherished. You are spared the cross and rescued from eternal wrath. You have been spiritually resurrected by Him who is the resurrection and the life.

Everything a believer does can then be cleansed of duplicity. Your ‘doing’ flows from your believing. Love for God flows from vital trust in Him. It cannot be feigned but it cannot be suppressed either. Does the anxious parent not search for the lost child? Does the smitten groom not sacrifice all for his beloved bride? Do the redeemed people of God not overflow with gratitude and express it in their support for the kingdom? You cannot legislate devotion in the heart but neither can the true desires of the heart remain hidden.

Dear friends, Advent’s call to be prepared does not mean we are to live in a perpetual state of anxiety. The peace of Christ is otherworldly. God has re-created us to live rhythmically in Christ. This happens as we live liturgically within a worshipping congregation. It happens as the ebb and flow of our lives are governed by the certainty of God’s grace in Christ. It happens as our hopes, our prayers, and our pleas are directed to Him who gave His life for the world. Amen

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday of Advent
1 December 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 13:11
2 Matthew 24:38-39
3 Romans 13:13-14
4 See Isaiah 26:4
5 Hebrews 11:7
6 Jude 12

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Last Sunday of the Church Year (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 19:13
Theme: Reaching the Starting Line

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

You will see God face to face1. The Holy Spirit makes that promise. The majesty of God is presently hidden and His power mostly remains veiled. Satan wants you to believe that will always be the case. The devil uses both prosperity and adversity to propagate this myth. But he will not prevail. In the midst of the most severe trials Job exclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.”2 It is a fitting confession for this last Sunday of the Church Year. The end will come but for the believer things will just be getting started.

Meanwhile we have some preliminary matters to attend to. Viewing the Christian life as preliminary to the fully resurrected life may help to clarify our purpose in the here and now. It may help give meaning beyond the pursuit of personal, material, or self-centered goals. The analogy can’t be pushed too far. After all St. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”3 It is appropriate that we talk about reaching the finish line. Yet in another sense, we’re just striving for the starting line. The would-be Olympic contestant strives to qualify- aiming to reach the start of the contest. Similarly we can understand ourselves not so much as seeking to win, but seeking to qualify and participate in the victory Christ has already won.

In no sense does this mean that we’re trying to earn our way to heaven. Christ has secured this by His sacrifice. It simply recognizes that our running of the “gauntlet” of life; our tussle with Satan and sin’s power, our morality and frailty ends not in us falling in an exhausted heap at the end, but in reaching the start of a vibrant and indescribable future called eternity. Christ’s kingdom is so much more than we can imagine and we cannot measure it with the parameters were are familiar with. Therefore His kingdom remains misunderstood.

The initiation of Christ’s kingdom was originally interpreted as a defeat. When Jesus entered Jerusalem many expected His elevation to earthly power and an immediate impact on their lives. Instead, He was cruelly, and seemingly helplessly, nailed to a cross. It’s wasn’t until after His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit that they began to understand the nature of His kingdom. Even with the Spirit we remain poor students of such a lofty subject.

Anyone who buys into the characterization that Jesus only spoke in simple stories with obvious meanings hasn’t read very far into the New Testament. His parables sometimes leave us scratching our heads. Sometimes they are frank to the point of being offensive and other times shocking in their portrayals. Humility requires that every failure to understand rests with our deficiencies and not with the Lord’s apparent ambiguity.

We certainly can’t pretend to understand exactly all the connections Christ intends to make in the parable of the ten minas today. Yet certain things are clear. The man who was appointed king represents Christ. Some contested His rule. His servants are expected to be faithful stewards of the gifts entrusted to them. And there will be judgment for unfaithfulness with severe punishment to be rendered. Aside from the severity of the judgment on those who oppose His kingship the most surprising part of the parable is that the man who has only one mina is required to forfeit it to the one who already has ten.

Yet this only emphasizes a truth taught clearly throughout the New Testament: The one who has Christ has everything, while the one who has everything now will have nothing without Christ. Each servant was given one mina and told to invest it wisely. What does this mean for us? It doesn’t just mean putting our extra cash on deposit with the LLL. It means investing in people and their spiritual well-being. It means fostering relationships built on the truth of the Scriptures. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Yet we often do just the opposite.

Do you keep a blacklist of those who have offended you? Do you find reasons to tear them down or, at least, avoid them? Do you justify your actions by your sense of fairness or revenge? Do you want your pound of flesh? But who are you putting on trial firstly and fore mostly? When you sin against others you firstly sin against God. Do you charge Him with apathy or neglect? Do you accuse Him of unfairness? Do you keep up an appearance of piety but disown Him in your heart? Have you forgotten that you are the sinner? Let our repentance be driven by a genuine desire to know this forgiveness.

This parable is appropriate today because it reminds us in a very practical way that the events of the end times are happening continually. We’re referring here not to those cosmic events, natural disasters, upheavals, wars, famines, earthquakes or revolutions. Rather we are speaking of the contest for people’s hearts and wills, their allegiances, their slavery or their freedom. We are in the firing line and sometimes the shelling is more intense than others. We can’t pretend that we can remain detached from the tension, the temptation, and the testing that characterizes life as a believer in a profane world. Remember you are at ground zero. Ground zero is the point of impact.

Each time we are convicted of our sin and comforted by the grace of Christ the event that straddles time and eternity- His death and resurrection- impacts our lives. We can be assured we are already part of the future kingdom. It is a Pentecostal event because the Holy Spirit always attends the proclamation of the word. The word of God is the Spirit’s sword4. It is an incarnational event because only the Child of Bethlehem could redeem our flesh and blood through His own. “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.”5 It is a sacramental event because we are beneficiaries of His blessings through very tangible means: baptismal water, bread and wine communicating to us His body and blood.

The Apostle Paul says that the Father “has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”6 This is language of adoption and legal standing. Christ incorporates believers through their baptism into His kingdom. We are no longer consigned to the fate of the world; to darkness, judgment and despair. Baptism qualifies us to share in the inheritance- all the blessings of the kingdom of light. We will wear the crown of life because Jesus bore the crown of thorns. We are children of the light and participants in His resurrection victory. This gospel truth remains unintelligible to those who don’t have the eyes of faith. Therefore we always pray for the clear proclamation of the forgiveness, life, and salvation found only in Christ and work for the establishment of His church here and throughout the world.

Dear friends, you may be here today because you got around in time to get yourself here. But, unless you are here under false pretenses, you are really here because the Holy Spirit has gathered you here. This is not crazy religious babble. It is the mystery and power of God’s work in Christ. It doesn’t mean you’re a puppet. It means a living faith exists within you. In the end that’s all that matters. When you meet God in judgment all that matters is Christ’s payment for your sins. He has already won the race. He remains faithful to the end so that we can reach the starting line. Christ will come again but the end will just be the beginning. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Last Sunday of the Church Year
24 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See 1 Corinthians 13:12
2 Job 19:25
3 2 Timothy 4:7
4 See Ephesians 6:17
5 Colossians 1:19-20
6 Colossians 1:12

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christian Burial of Clyde Gray (21 November 2103)

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

Text: 1Corinthians 15:19
Theme: True Hope

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Clyde; Julie, Robyn, Andrew, and especially you, Janette,

Death is the ultimate test. I’m speaking now not about Clyde. His soul has already crossed that dimension into the presence of the Living God. I’m speaking about us who are left to reflect upon this matter. If divine promises do not prevail as our refuge now, when will they ever be relevant? If the word of God does not calm our fears, whose words will? Human sentiments have their place. And it is an important place. But they are of limited value. Our confidence and comfort rests with much greater authority. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”1 And so we believe that Clyde lives even though he has died. This truth alone allows joy to overshadow our sorrow.

We can, therefore, gather not in despair or resignation, but in reflection and even celebration. Yes, we must come to terms with our loss, grief can bind us; but Clyde has been released. As Christians we are privileged to acknowledge the peace and vitality he now enjoys. The casket contains his bodily remains. These will be resurrected and reunited with his soul on the Last Day. The resurrection is the bedrock of Christian truth. It is our reason for hope. Yet only the Holy Spirit can hearten us in this hope.

What is the nature of true hope? The apostle Paul says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”2 Hope is not a best-of-luck, shot-in-the-dark, cross your fingers and throw up a desperate prayer game of chance. Hope is not playing the odds or entering the lottery. Biblical hope is the patient but eager expectation of a promise to be fulfilled. Hope is a cousin to faith.

Now to be sure faith makes us vulnerable in one sense because it exposes us to the interests of God. In other words, our priorities are forfeited in preference to His. We trust He knows us best. We trust He is merciful. Hope is the expectation that our trust will not be betrayed. In another sense faith is the greatest certainty. It entails recognition of the clear evidence that we are frail, fraught with faults and foibles; and finally, that we are finite beings. We are mortal and our most passionate longing to transcend our limitations cannot change that fact. The search for the fountain of youth has always been in vain. Faith places us in the hands and at the mercy of the One who is almighty, immortal, and merciful.

Death is no small dilemma because it doesn’t simply mean that a human life has ceased to exist or that the spirit has magically passed into some mystical place. Death is part of the guilt and punishment for sin. The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death.”3And if that crisis isn’t resolved by the time of physical death then it continues into eternal death. We quickly see the magnitude of the problem. The criticalness of the place and work of Christ soon becomes clear. The gospel becomes paramount: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4

As we reflect on God’s blessings to Clyde in time and now in eternity we righty give thanks that all of his favourite earthly endeavors have not been forgotten, but excelled.
Clyde enjoyed the contest of sport. Now his race of faith has ended and he shares in the victory. He crafted his own home brew and liked sharing it with others. He now participates in fellowship with the whole company of heaven. He enjoyed vegetable and flower gardening. He now resides in the new Garden of Eden.

Clyde was a gentleman in every sense of the term. He was a gentle man, caring and supportive. He was never brash or domineering. And he was a gentleman- courteous and well-mannered. He was polite and genteel. He nurtured these qualities and they served him well. As a faithful husband and devoted father Clyde was a great blessing to all who knew him. The more one knew him the more he was valued. An unassuming man he never wanted a fuss made over him.

But extolling the virtues of the deceased can serve only one beneficial purpose: To encourage imitation of such qualities among us who still struggle through this Christian walk of life. The moment recognition of such virtues is taken to mean that some merit has been earned before God then a dangerous deception has been distributed. Clyde would have never wanted that. Christ has done it all. Only He was pierced with nails. Only He wore the crown of thorns. His life alone was a worthy substitute for others. Clyde was a sinner, like all of us. But he was forgiven. He was made worthy to enter into the presence of God by the Lamb whose blood covered his sins. He was saved by grace, and through faith freed from his sentence of condemnation. Baptized and redeemed he was God’s cherished child.

Clyde was a late-comer to this congregation and the Lutheran fold, but not to the faith. His presence was a quiet but stabilizing leaven for the body of believers in this place. It was our loss that we did not know him longer. Here he received the reassurance of the forgiveness of his sins. In latter days, as his strength declined, he received communion at the hospital services and finally in his private room. Clyde no longer suffers from pain or weakness. He has been vested with immortality.

Janette, no human is the master of grief. No counselor, no expert, no widow or widower, no parent who has lost a child, no soldier who has endured the war can claim that they are the doctor with the cure. We cannot because death graphically reveals humanity’s utter helplessness in the final measure. Grief is the most visceral trauma of humanity. Jesus Himself stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and he wept. He, the Lord of Life, who was presently to raise Lazarus from the dead! He wept over the power of sin to separate, to destroy, to open the abyss of loneliness and doubt.

But His power to unite and restore is greater still. Easter morning showed life had triumphed. Love had conquered. Death’s grip had been broken. Every moment of heaven is a participation in the resurrection. Clyde enjoys that now. He is at peace. Thanks be to God that in Christ our hope is never in vain! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Clyde John Gray
21 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christian Burial of Colin Kruger (18 November 2013)

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

Text: Matthew 6:33
Theme: First Things First

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Colin; Marilyn, Adrian, Debbie, and especially you, Sylvia,

King David says in his 139th Psalm, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”1 Colin has flown home. Guided not by homing pigeons but lifted on the wings of angels. Powerful and mighty how swiftly do they bear the departed soul into the presence of God! Colin is now held fast at God’s right hand. What remains before us is a shell; an earthy frame that will be resurrected on that great and glorious day. Thanks be to God that Colin’s race of faith has ended. He is at rest. He is in peace.

We gather now with mingled tears; tears of sorrow, tears of thanksgiving, tears of emptiness, and tears of hope. Draping the casket is a lifetime of memories. Transparent to the eye but vivid to the heart memories help to carry us through our grief. But regardless of how cherished they are memories cannot sustain our courage. There are no shortcuts in grieving. The heart, and mind, and will must come to terms with the most traumatic of human experiences. We can grieve with others but we cannot grieve for them. The dark path of grief is traversed only with the light of truth.

To reflect upon the death of another is to reflect on our own mortality. No one will sidestep the grave’s portal. Denial or apathy will accomplish nothing in the end. The hard reality is that physical death is the result of sin. Everyone must succumb to its power of decay. Everyone must face the power of sin’s condemnation. If reflection on death does not humble us and cause us to desire God’s mercy then we haven’t truly understood the gravity of what confronts us. What are a few fleeting years on this earth compared with eternity?

Time heals wounds and presses us ahead into the future. And it is not a future bereft of hope. Christians look to the future as a time of restoration and reunion. Without Christ that is not possible. Here the core Christian truth crushes all alternatives and allows no competitors. Without Christ’s resurrection- which was the validation of His sacrificial death for sinners- a funeral can be nothing more than a tribute to the person who once lived- but a hollow and haunting realization the end has come.

Without Christ hope is but an illusion. We know intuitively that death is final. As humans we don’t have the power to rise above this. We can only flee in denial, wallow in resentment, bathe in self-pity, or retreat to fantasy. We can live on in bitterness or depression. But the Holy Spirit proclaims to us a cross and the One who was nailed to it. He died as a common criminal and had He stayed dead that would be the end of the matter. But on Easter morning the grave was empty. Death had lost its sting. The power of sin had been broken.

Colin knew his sins were forgiven. He knew how they were forgiven. He knew why they were forgiven. He understood that he could never cover the debt of his own transgressions; that he could never merit God’s favour even by his best efforts or intentions. Colin, like all the saints before him, passed through the gates of heavenly solely on the merits of the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world. Grace is not our achievement or an obligation that is owed to us. Grace is a gift secured only by the sacrifice of the One who was holy. It is the fruit of a cross.

The proverbial ripe old age applies to Colin. He was blessed beyond many of his peers. He was a blessing to many. Only a week on from Remembrance Day it is appropriate that we pause to remember what Colin yearned to forget. And he has now forgotten. The trauma of war has vanished like a mist from his mind. Colin did two tours of duty in New Guinea in the Second World War. The men who fought alongside him and under his command know of his courage and valor. The rest of us can only express humble gratitude for the freedom they helped to secure.

Colin knew that the mercy of God meant that his life in this world could be lived in service to others. A faithful husband, a loving father, a trusted friend and loyal servant of his country and servant of his church Colin sought the welfare of others. He knew that life was full of temptation and opportunity that could shipwreck his faith. His confirmation verse was, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”2 Colin was no stranger to God’s house. He was a faithful and active member of this congregation. Here he gathered with God’s people where he cherished God’s pardon, was strengthened by His promises, and refreshed by His sacred meal. And when he became too frail to attend he gladly received Christ’s body and blood and the assurance of God’s unlimited compassion in his home.

The journey of faith ends at death. Colin no longer believes. He doesn’t need to. His baptism has been fully realized. He has received His promised inheritance. “In My Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you,”3 says the Redeemer. Colin has received what has long been prepared. He is no longer in need of our prayers. He now enjoys vibrancy beyond our imagination. Colin lives because Christ lives. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”4 “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”5

Sylvia, 68 years of marriage cannot be forgotten, or lamented, or in any way reduced in importance in the days ahead. But you need not despair. The Saviour we know in faith he now knows face to face. Released from His frailty Colin now breathes easily. He waits for you to join him in the final chapter. But he is not alone. He is in the company of the triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and all the host of heaven. Like the pigeons he once so carefully trained Colin is safely at home and he will travel no more through this veil of tears. He has received the crown of life. Thanks be to God for His immeasurable love! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Colin Kruger
18 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Psalm 139:9-10
2 Matthew 6:33
3 John 14:2
4 John 11:25
5 Revelation 1:17

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 21:10-18
Theme: The End: Destruction but Deliverance

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The Holy Spirit has a theatre of war. It’s not in some obscure mystical dimension. It’s not remote from the interface of our daily lives. He engages the struggle in your heart, in your will, in your soul. His weapon is the Word of God. His foe is Satanic. His goal is to cheat death. His authority was conferred through the conquest of a cross and open tomb. He vests water, word, bread and wine with the power to forgive. He seeks glory only for the One who redeems. His campaign must continue until the One who was slain returns in majesty.

So here we are in our little sector of the spiritual battlefield. Here we are in our unassuming corner of the world. But did you know this is ground zero? Or did you think you were residing in a ceasefire zone? Did you think that struggle became obsolete when you were baptized? When you were confirmed? Have you misunderstood the peace you have because of Christ’s sacrificial death for your sins to mean that Satan now has other things to do?

The Scripture says, “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.”1 Each Lord’s Day you return to the power and promise of your baptism in repentance not because evil desires and deeds have ceased in your life but precisely because temptation still rages. You kneel at the altar to receive the true body and blood of Christ not as a casual gesture to remind yourself the struggle has ended, but precisely because you need strength, peace, and pardon to go back into the fray.

Christ describes the fray today in apocalyptic terms. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places, and fearful events.”2 We might say the events of the end times are not for the faint of heart. I’m not sure where that leaves me! We need not discuss very long about how Jesus’ words have proven true again and again. The world will remain in turmoil. Don’t waste anytime speculating when the exact end will come or try to measure its signs. The end times began with Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Each day is one closer.

And each day brings the possibility that the followers of Christ will be put to the test. Persecution similar to that in the early Church exists in parts of the world today. Even where it is not overt subtle pressure is brought to bear. The warnings and promises of Christ are always relevant. Jesus says to His disciples, “They will lay hands on you and persecute you…You will be betrayed…and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of Me.”3 But then in the same breath, “But not a hair of your head will perish.”4 How can both be true?

Christianity involves grappling with this apparent contradiction. Satan wants you to think God’s protection of you is a hollow and deceptive promise. Our sinful nature too powerfully testifies to us that this physical, earthly life is all that matters. We cling to it with tenacity. If God isn’t overseeing your material prosperity then how can you trust God loves you? Doubt niggles us. Certainly it’s not worth risking life and limb to defend His truth- we wonder. Satan need not shout this at you; he need only whisper it in your ear.

Without being irreverent we must learn to defend against the masked impression that Christ- though well-meaning and compassionate- was the greatest fraud to ever live. Really it can be put in be no other way. If Jesus is not the very Son of God then is He not the greatest of all deceivers? The logic is parallel to St. Paul’s reasoning about the resurrection. “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead.”5If He is not the author of life and defeater of death then must He not be deceptive or delusional?

This is one of the great battlegrounds for the skeptic. It is accordingly the Holy Spirit’s theater of war. For the person who reflects as they stand aloof the question is “How can a supposedly gracious God let bad things happen to people?” In this case- other people. How could God let people die in the typhoon in the Philippines or in any so-called natural disaster? In short, how can death, destruction, and tragedy be reconciled with the claim that God is love? But for the person who suffers the pain of hardship themselves the question often becomes, “How could God let this happen- to me?”

Now the rubber really meets the road. So how do we witness? Here we quickly meet the limits of human competence. You can never reason a person who has been struck with tragedy- whether death, pain, or betrayal- into believing that God is nevertheless attentive and well-meaning. The Spirit must speak. It must speak nail-pierced, blood-drenched words. It must pierce the deepest darkness with a ray of divine light. That doesn’t make your witness unimportant. Your witness is to show others love, compassion, and sympathy; to show patience and be hospitable. But these are shown always as an expression of holding uncompromisingly to the truth.

Remember unchanging truth must be passed to each generation. We do well to consider this as we reflect on Christ’s imminent return. Such passing on is the Bible’s definition of tradition. The gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sins and for sinners is taught to new souls as “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”6 is lived and confessed by those who have gone before.

We’re not talking about just keeping the next generation from “going off the rails.” We’re speaking of forming mature believers who cherish how their life fits into the divine agenda in its totality rather than those who seek to fit a little bit of the divine into their own agenda with minimal loyalty. Is it a matter of prosperity or priority? Do we lack the resources or the resolve? Honest reflection quickly reveals the answer.

Dear friends, Christianity is not a game of chance. We are not playing the odds. It’s not a matter of hedging our bets reasoning “In case the Bible does prove to be true,” it’s safer to be on God’s side. The Almighty quickly sees through any so-called faith born out of carnal fear and self-preservation. Christ is the curator of souls. Only He holds the future. His promises are too good to be true- in human terms. But we cannot fathom what it means that death has been undone. The Scriptures take great pains to convey these truths like Isaiah says today, “They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.”7

Each Lord’s Day- like St. John8- you are in the Spirit because the Spirit is in Christ’s Bride, the Church. This is His theatre of war, here and now. But rejoice and do not fear “because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”9 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
17 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Galatians 5:17
2 Luke 21:10-11
3 Luke 21:12, 16-17
4 Luke 21:18
5 1 Corinthians 15:14-15
6 Jude 3
7 1 Corinthians 15:14-15
8 See Revelation 1:10
7 1 John 4:4

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 20:35
Theme: In the Age of the Resurrection

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Does God have secrets? Well, where would we start? Jesus once said to His disciples, “The secret of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables.”1 People like to know secrets. To couch something in terms of a secret adds a dimension or aura of intrigue. It implies access to privileged information. The marketing world has long been onto this tactic. What is the secret to losing weight while still eating everything you want? What is the secret to a happy marriage? What is the secret to a high-paying, satisfying career? What’s the secret to children who are obedient and well-adjusted; and on and on it goes. These are important questions.

Still, these passing particularities of life are more or less trivial in the bigger picture. The Christian is finally concerned with the establishment of Christ’s kingdom and the well-being of body and soul for eternity. As we approach the end of the Church Year we are mindful that one of the impenetrable ‘secrets’ of God is the hour of Christ’s return. But God does not keep secrets out of arrogance or because He enjoys seeing people driven to vain speculation. He always has our well-being in mind. St. Paul says today, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not become easily unsettled or alarmed…don’t let anyone deceive you.”2

At first glance this text may not seem to relate to the gospel reading. But both speak of the realities of the life to come. Jesus was approached by a group of Jewish religious leaders called the Sadducees. Generally well-off and part of the upper echelons of society they were somewhat of a counter-balance to the more legalist Pharisees. They did not believe in angels or the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees posed an almost absurd question to Jesus to test Him. Suppose a woman who was following the Levitical law of marriage3 had seven husbands die, all brothers, and all before she bore any children? Whose wife would she be in heaven?

Without downplaying the sanctity of marriage Jesus shifted the conversation to the nature and reality of heaven. Earthly marriage will be superseded in heaven by the union between Christ and His bride, the Church. Marriage in the here and now is a reflection of a higher reality. As with the angels, human marriage will not exist in heaven. More importantly, He affirms the resurrection.

Jesus was not revealing secrets but opening their minds to what the Scriptures had always said. By the time God met Moses at the burning bush the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years. But they were not dead; they were alive in God! Here Jesus makes a stunning declaration. Deceased believers have not ceased to exist. They do not reside in some type of spiritual coma. They are alive. They await the general resurrection of the dead. And they can no longer die!

Do you hear what the Lord is saying here? Death has been rendered powerless. God is the God of the living. This is the answer to the deepest human dilemma. Oh the grief, pain and loneliness of death. The separation it causes is one of the great adversities of human existence. Everyone must face it. For many it is the ultimate cause of despair. But in Christ death has been overcome.

Matthew tells us that the primary criticism of Jesus is that these Sadducees didn’t know the Scriptures. Or maybe they didn’t really believe them. “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”4 How appropriate is that critique today! There is such a widespread loss of confidence in the Scriptures that hardly anyone takes notice of it or sees it as a serious problem. Dare we admit that even many of the most ‘committed’ Christians today seldom worry about the integrity of biblical truth or the following of God’s will?

Do the Scriptures inform and empower our beliefs and actions? Or do we just use them to defend what we’ve already decided we’re going to do? We don’t need the powerful Word; we have prosperity! We don’t need the mystery of the Almighty’s creation; we have the answers of science. We don’t need to honour the sacredness of life; we have the convenience of abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. But when Christ comes, who will stand at His summons? Who will give account: The self-made millionaire, the scholar of evolutionary theory, the architect of secular social engineering?

Though the Sadducees were reluctant to believe God could raise the dead the greater threat to Jesus’ teaching was the Pharisees. They vehemently opposed the gospel. And they had far more influence over the common people; those who sought to be god-fearing, especially. And so it is that those controlled by the principles of secularism and the pursuit of innumerable idols will always replace God with other forms of security; but those who seek salvation through their own goodness assault the very reason for which Christ died. It is no small thing to attempt to rob Christ of His glory.

Dear friends, the temptation to which the Pharisees succumbed is a constant danger. A sanctified life is not about reaching a point where you feel that you’ve so gotten the upper-hand on your sins, your short-comings and your weakness that sin is no longer a major concern. There is no threshold where you become godly enough that forgiveness becomes an unnecessary formality. There is no baseline of civility and good-manneredness that can give you confidence that you’re keeping yourself in God’s good graces.

Rather, as you accumulate the scars of life, as you struggle again and again with your own temptations and doubts, your anxieties and fears- the more you see the power of sin for what it is. The more you recognize your own failings. Life is abrasive. It wounds and scars; not by accident, but because of the destructive force of sin. You cannot stand aloof from it. No one is an objective observer. And no one is exempt from bearing their own guilt.

The gospel confronts the darkness of unbelief and superstition but also the self-righteousness of those who either foolishly or ignorantly presume to contribute all, or in part, what only Christ can provide. Grace tolerates no augmentation. He hung alone on the cross. Only He could. He was crucified for you. He rose for you. You are baptized into His death and resurrection. You are fed with His body and blood. His mercy meets you are every opportunity.

We’re not playing a spiritual or religious game here. The absolution announced to you from the “called and ordained servant of the Word” is not merely some therapeutic ritual honoured for the sake of decorum. The keys are exercised as Christ’s instruments for binding and losing sins. Recall what the catechism says, “I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command…this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”5 The need for divine pardon never becomes obsolete. How appropriate and powerful are the words of the prophet Haggai, “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear…In this place I will grant peace.”6

God doesn’t have secrets per se. We might do better to use the term mystery. Christ is the perfect revelation of God’s compassion and glory. He is the crucified, scarred, but living Saviour. It’s just that the facts of our sinful condition prevent us from fully appreciating this truth. Hence the Holy Spirit gifts us with faith. Faith waits steadfastly and waits eagerly for these mysteries to be resolved. In God’s time they will. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
10 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 4:11
2 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
3 See Deuteronomy 25:5
4 Matthew 22:29
5 Luther’s Small Catechism, Confession
6 Haggai 2:4-5, 9

Sunday, November 3, 2013

All Saints' (Observed) 2013

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

Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Theme: Blessed!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Can you identify blessings when you see them? The answer probably seems both obvious and incontestable. We know what things we are striving for in life and the acquisition of these things is considered to be a blessing. Good heath, strong relationships, financial stability, a sense of satisfaction and achievement are common things people seek for a sense of well-being. Yet God would have us see a broader and deeper perspective.

In today’s gospel reading- containing the Beatitudes- Jesus speaks of being blessed in a way that is unfamiliar and even antithetical to our culture. It’s an appropriate focus for our celebration of All Saint’s Day. Falling on the 1st of November All Saints’ recognizes the faithful who have finished the race of faith and now wait in the presence of God for the consummation of all things. The Church is a living organism that stretches back through history to the beginning of time. Those in heaven await the gathering of all believers. We on earth await the return of Christ in glory as we prepare to meet Him at any hour. The crown of life awaits all who trust in Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is, of course, the final and ultimate blessing.

So what does it mean to be blessed? Does it mean being lucky or fortunate? Does it mean winning the lottery, surviving a near-miss catastrophe, or coming into some form of material prosperity? Does it mean being on the winning team or having good health in old age? The natural human tendency is to see only those things we enjoy as blessings. It is easy to label things that make our lives more happy or prosperous as godsends. Yet Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”1, etc., even, “blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.”2

Something deeper is revealed here. There is a conflict between our natural cataloguing of who or what we consider either blessed or unfortunate and what God reckons. The credibility of God’s promises cannot be assessed only by the tangible judgments we make. If it could be there would be no place for faith. The Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see how hardships are often the greatest blessings. Can you be blessed in the midst of illness? Can you be blessed in the midst of trial? Can those who lose their jobs, their livelihoods, their hopes and dreams and even their loved ones be blessed? Yes, often these experiences reveal blessings most clearly.

The truth is we are too often not on the same page with God? We make assumptions according to our opinions or feeling and not according to His Word. When it comes to the matters of sin and grace, life and death, our will verses God’s truth, there is no place for assumptions about what true blessings are. A man is walking down the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie. The genie says, "Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes." The man says "Great! I always dreamed of this and I know exactly what I want. First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account." Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand. He continues, "Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here." Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him. He continues, "Finally, I want to be irresistible to women." Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates. Never assume!

What we judge as good and valuable must always be measured against God’s revealed truth. To trust in our own appraisals is the very definition of sin. And designations aren’t reached by consensus or democratic process. There is strength in numbers. But this is a double-edged sword. As Christians we must be wise about how others embolden us in our sins. This happens at the cultural level and the individual level. How powerful is the claim,
“Everybody else is doing it?”

Even if every other person in the world insisted that it is acceptable to gossip, gossiping is still a sin because God says otherwise. If everyone else committed adultery as a matter of course, it nevertheless remains a harmful transgression of His will. He trumps all human opinion. He overrides all human standards of truth, ethics and morality. The Scripture says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world accountable to God.”3 Consider well which sins you’re quick to justify. Believe that God will accept no excuse.

A saint is a holy one. The saints of the past aren’t saintly because they were sinless. In repentance and faith they trusted in the atoning death of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. The same act of grace makes us saintly too. In baptism the Holy Spirit applies this act of unconditional love to you. Christ has willingly made Himself accountable for us all. He is the Blessed One because His patient suffering and steadfast obedience acquired our salvation. The horror of the cross did not deter Him. The terror of death and subtlety of Satan did not daunt Him. Our resurrected and living Lord has opened the gates of heaven for us and the powers of hell will not prevail against Him. We are blessed beyond human comprehension.

Dear friends, in a few minutes we will sing in the communion liturgy, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”4 We are celebrating the truth that Christ comes to us as the God-in-the-flesh Saviour who left heaven, condescended to us, disarmed Satan and frees us from our sins. He meets us with forgiveness in the life-giving power of His body and blood.

When at the conclusion of the Divine Service I raise my arm as a servant of the Chief Shepherd and say, “The Lord bless you and keep you,”5 I am not merely offering to you a pious, sentimental wish. The words of the Almighty are never hollow. I am announcing to you that the Redeemer intends never to leave you or forsake you. I am sending you into the world with the promise, presence and peace of God just as has occurred for nearly 3,500 years6. I am reminding you that as God’s baptized child you can look forward through the darkness of this life to the dawn of the eternal day.

The Psalmist says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”6 And St. John heard the voice directly from heaven say, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”7On the occasion of this All Saints’ festival we rejoice that God provides greater blessings than we can comprehend. We look forward to the fulfillment of today’s Scripture that says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, not any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”9 May the Father bring it to pass for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
3 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See Matthew 5:3-6
2 Matthew 5:10
3 Romans 3:19
4 LH p.16
5 LH p.27
6 See Number 6:24
7 Psalm 116:15
8 Revelation 14:13
9 Revelation 7:16-17

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reformation (Observed) 2013

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

Text: John 8:36
Theme: Freed In Christ

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God never leaves unfinished business. The freedom we have in Jesus Christ from the penalty of sin and the punishment of death is not the result of God’s apathy about sin. Every violation of God’s holiness must be punished. In Christ it was. The Father does not overlook sin. He sent His Son as a sacrifice on behalf of the world. The Holy Spirit grants individuals the faith to believe that sacrifice is for them.

Today as we celebrate the renewal of the church through the rediscovery of the gospel we are mindful of these central truths from which the church continues to draw her life. The Reformation was not about a single man, a single issue, a single abuse, or a single error that had beset the church. It wasn’t simply about indulgences or papal abuses. It was about everything relating to and flowing from the certainty of how one received God’s favour in Christ.

The traditional date of the Reformation is marked by the pinning of 95 statements for discussion about Christian theology and practice to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany by an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, on October 31st, 1517. It was a small stone that started an avalanche. It was a tremor that started a tsunami. It changed the history of Christianity and the lives of millions of people.

How do we measure the import and impact of the Reformation today? A few pointed questions might be helpful. How important is the forgiveness of sins? What value do you place on it? What assurances do you need that you possess it? On what basis do you have peace of mind that God’s favour rests on you? The answers to these questions go a long way in determining if the struggle of the Reformation is still relevant to you.

Martin Luther was a man caught between heaven and hell. In the accusations of Satan Luther recognized the portal to hell. He longed to have his conscience freed. Freed not from some blatant sin but freed from doubt. He agonized over his failure to meet God’s righteous demands. The Saviour says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,”1 Luther brought to light again the meaning of true freedom in Christ.

He did this in a way many did not expect. Christ says also today, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”2 Here Luther was a faithful student of the Apostle Paul. The essence of sin cannot be assessed by our observation. We cannot quantify or define it.
Symptoms are often mistaken for the cause. The thoughts, words, and deeds that offend God and harm others are symptoms of a deeper reality. The act of sinning does not make one a sinner. We transgress because we are already sinners by nature. The water from the well of human procreation is deadly because it is poisoned.

Luther understood the implications of this truth with profound clarity. He said in the Smalcald Articles, “This hereditary sin is such a deep corruption of nature that no reason can understand it. Rather, it must be believed from the revelation of Scripture.”3This truth in no way downplays or makes light of the innumerable actual sins committed everyday. It does not excuse your lying, your lust, or your selfishness. It does not make light of your unkindness, your hard-heartedness, your apathy and your anger. You are still accountable for every misstep and guilty for every violation of God’s holy law.

Justification by faith- if it means anything earth-shattering, anything life-altering, anything mold-breaking- requires real sinners. Only the sick need a physician. Only the lost need finding. The grace secured and offered by the blood of the Lamb serves only souls truly bound for hell. Never underestimate the seriousness of the law’s condemnation. Never downplay the reality of your guilt. Doing so only robs Christ of His glory. Luther was intent on showing the glory of Christ was revealed on the cross and therefore the repentant soul should never despair over the favour of God.

For Luther the spiritual world was alive, palpable, and dynamic. Angels were not the flitting cherubs but powerful agents authorized by the highest power. Satan was not a paper tiger. Heaven was not a platonic state of mind. For Luther the cosmos was locked in a cosmic struggle between good and evil.

And yet Luther also understood things viscerally. He was immensely practical. He was no academic locked away in an ivory tower. For Luther faith was no pie-in-the sky, philosophical, esoteric religious triumph. It was not a theoretical achievement. He was no Humanist. Faith put the Christian at the coalface. The baptized are immersed in a cosmic struggle. The struggle with sin is the daily contest in which the Christian is necessarily engaged. There is no opting out, no exceptions.

The enduring relevance of Luther lies not only in the breadth of his theological genius but in his capacity to relate to the common person in the midst of struggle with extraordinary ability. Luther was a man for the people. Luther also felt Satan’s attacks and the attacks of his opponents very personally. He understood that false teachings in the church were well established and assiduously protected. The heart of what he fought for was where he most acutely felt the pressure. Where could the certainty of God’s grace be found? And in what did Luther take refuge? In his baptism! In the Scriptures! And in Christ, and Him crucified. The heart of God was revealed at the crucifixion.

What is more reliable the promise of God and the work of the Holy Spirit or human reason and assessment? Wherein is the certainty of salvation found; in our own efforts or in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God? For Luther the answer was clear. Sinners “are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,”4 as the Scriptures say. Christ was condemned and sentenced by sinners and yet hung there on the cross for their salvation.

Yet the grave could not hold Him so sin will not have dominion over you. Christ is living. He is reigning. The resurrection is not simply an historical anomaly; the risen Christ rules at the Father’s right hand. He has atoned for sin. He has conquered death. He comes to us here and now in time and space. You hear His word of absolution. You receive onto your lips His sacrificed body and into your mouth His holy, precious blood. He meets you in the holy meal with forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The Reformation helped Christians focus on ultimate things in a very practical way. The Christian learns to live in view of death. That doesn’t mean we have a morbid fixation with dying. It means we measure and value this life from the perspective of the much greater vitality that awaits us. We are not only freed from sin’ condemnation we are freed to love others selflessly as Christ has loved us. If we are not dying to self we are not living to God in Christ. We are practicing for eternity. We are already citizens of heaven. The church in glory continues to grow. The Holy Spirit continues to gather into eternal bliss the elect of God who finish the good fight of faith in this earthly life. He has already gathered the prophets and apostles, the martyrs and confessors, the Luthers and the saints numbered for heaven and through Christ has recorded you in the Lamb’s Book of Life5 too.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Reformation Observed
27 October 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 8:36
2 John 8:34
4 Romans 3:24
5 See Revelation 20:5

Monday, September 23, 2013

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 16:11-12
Theme: A Means To An End

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The pastor absolves the penitent and in so doing acts as a steward of the most precious gift that exists. “Christ gave to His church the authority to forgive the sins of those who repent, and to declare to those who do not repent that their sins are not forgiven.”1 This authority is publicly exercised by the pastor on behalf of the congregation. The treasure of forgiveness is the source and motivation for the proper stewardship of all the blessings the Christian congregation holds in common. This forgiveness is indispensable, not an end in itself, but the means to eternal life.

Today Jesus follows one of the greatest parables of grace and forgiveness in the Scriptures- that of the “Prodigal Son”- with a somewhat vexing story about a dishonest manager. The teachings of Jesus were often difficult and even offensive to the people of His generation. It was no small challenge for people to get their heads around the idea that God walked among them. Though He showed glimpses of His divinity through many healings and other miracles, Christ generally cloaked His divine power behind human weakness. His teachings about the blessings and temptations of material goods are undoubtedly some of the most challenging for those who live in societies of affluence.

In today’s gospel account He commends the unscrupulous manager for being shrewd.
The only hope for the manager, because he could not dig or beg, was to bank on the mercy of the estate owner. In quickly redrawing the debtor’s accounts he endears himself to them. Jesus says that people of the world are often more savvy in such matters than believers. There is a lesson for us here. Christ wanted His disciples to be wise yet honest. He had the great challenge of showing people this life is not an end in itself. He teaches us to be stewards of our earthly blessings while remembering it’s only heavenly treasures that matter in the end.

There is nothing you truly own, nothing you can truly claim, nothing you are entitled to possess by virtue of your own authority except for your sins. Your sins are yours and no one else’s. You must account for them and no one else. This is true spiritual poverty. What’s more the penalty is eternal separation from God. Dare you try to make excuse or offer explanation? Your guilt only then worsens.

Yet, here is the miracle of the great exchange. Christ sequesters that which was truly yours, your sin, and makes it His own. He becomes accountable for it. His is liable. He is answerable. You, conversely, are credited with His perfect holiness. To be justified by grace is to be hidden in the wounds of Christ; to be sheltered by His sacrifice, to be freed by His ransom. The greatest challenge is never to comprehend it or contribute to it, but to believe it. For this we have the Holy Spirit. For this reason we are baptized. We are not baptized to kick-start a life of moral reformation. We are baptized to participate in the life-giving sacrifice of the crucified, resurrected and reigning Saviour. This involves constantly taking leave of this temporal life and preparing for the life to come.

God is fully aware of what we require in the sojourn of this temporary life. He is no miser. But it is often necessary for Him to confiscate our blessings. All things material are just on loan. What does the Scripture say, “The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”2

In your stewardship are you deliberately mindful of the physical and spiritual well-being of others? God isn’t asking you to save the world. But He is asking you to reflect Christian truth in your small corner of the world. Sometimes the commonplace challenges are the ones we have the most difficulty with. We’d rather have the excitement of being called to some extraordinary quest. We’d rather be heroes and receive recognition. We’d rather be remembered for our exceptional feats.

Yet life can be a daily grind, a struggle of attrition and some of the most important accomplishments are reached by unwavering commitment to duty. Our prayers should regularly seek God’s strength and inspiration to meet the tasks before us. Faithfulness is always more important than flare. Christian faith may be most severely tested by severe trauma but it is more commonly tested by the wearing down of our stamina and enthusiasm. When is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back?

It’s like the man who wasn’t feeling well so he went to the doctor. After examining him the doctor took his wife aside, and said, “Your husband has a very weak and sensitive heart. I am afraid he’s not going to make it, unless you treat him like a king, which means you are at his every beck and call, 24 hours a day so that he doesn’t have to do anything to stressful himself. On the way home the husband asked with a note of concern “What did he say?” “Well”, his wife responded pensively, “He said it looks like you probably won’t make it.”

Dear friends, God’s ability to appreciate our struggles isn’t based only on omniscience. Yes, He knows and sees all things; our greatest trials and our smallest fears. Yet His identification with us involves more than a Creator-creation dynamic. In the person of Christ God assumes the fullness of humanity. The incarnation of the Son of God means that God experiences firsthand, from a human perspective, the full gamut of anguish, pain, and joy.

The implications of Christ’s incarnation involve more than empathy and solidarity. The key realities are substitution and sacrifice. Jesus is not simply a sympathizer or empathizer- though these are important- He is the Redeemer. He didn’t just come to inspect our misery. He came to face the horror of sin head on. He’s not a consultant, He’s a scapegoat. He doesn’t theorize about the best course of action, He submits Himself- body and soul- to the conflict against hell’s power. His work of reconciliation cannot be overstated. Many want someone to lift their spirits. Christ does much more. He rescues our souls and resurrects our bodies.

The apostle reminds us, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men- the testimony given in its proper time.”3 We have the greatest gifts: Forgiveness of sins, salvation, life in Christ. In water and word, bread and wine these gifts are reaffirmed and renewed. Our stewardship of all other things serves our belief that there is no loss we can suffer that the resurrection will not overcome. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 LH p.7
2 Matthew 6:32-33
3 1 Timothy 2:5

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
22 September 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt