+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 14:27
Theme: Saints in a Secular World
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The peace of Christ is our stability in a transient world. It is our strength in times of turmoil. It is our comfort at the gate of death. We have the opportunity in this setting today to reflect on the blessings of God in the past and His promises for us in the future. The prophet reminds us, “The earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But My salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.”1
It can be difficult to gauge the passing of time and grasp a sense of history. Most of the history here at the historical village spans only a century or so. Consider a brief glimpse of the bigger scope. When Joseph (sold by his brothers into slavery) became an official in the Egyptian court he saw pyramids that had already been standing for 1,000 years. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well they met at a watering spot that had been named as such for nearly 2,000 years. When modern pilgrims travel to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem they stand at the foundation of Solomon’s Temple built 3000 years before.
Times change; sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. We must beware of the fallacy that new ideas, new inventions, and new innovations are necessarily betters one. So-called progression can in reality be digression. We might seek to measure change and its affects by a number of different parameters? Do people today live in more comfort than people did 100 or 1,000 years ago? Most would say yes? Do they have more happiness? Now that’s a different question. What about spiritual well-being? Certainty? Purpose? Meaning in life? How would we stack up? Is there less misery in the world?
Regardless of the pace, degree, or direction of the changing world human nature does not change. It is essentially no different than it was at the beginning. This is a basic teaching of Christianity. It may well be that in the future artificial intelligence (and we might wonder if a sort of ‘artificial intelligence’ has already replaced godly wisdom or at least common sense) may change life so dramatically to the extent that humans will become bizarre combinations of synthetic and natural ‘parts’. Yet human nature will remain un-phased in its selfishness. The curse of inherited sin cannot be modified or reformed by the individual or collective genius of humanity.
Therefore as we reflect on the past and what the future may hold the first order of business is always humility. We gather as sinners one and all. Yet is it never sufficient to just wear the collective label as if it were enough to be associated anonymously with a sinful people. Your transgressions, your guilt, cannot be passed off on another. Repentance is intimately personal. Each individual is accountable before the Almighty. The decline of private confession and absolution has undoubtedly been a detriment to our churches for many decades. It makes it easier to hide under a generic umbrella and thus discount the serious depravity of sin. The cancer my neighbour has is never as momentous as my own. Christ said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”2
Nostalgia for the past always runs the risk of attributing a glory to it that did not really exist. Forgetting the past can be just as problematic. Times Square in New York City was recently refurbished with a 1950’s theme; a venue at the cutting edge dressed in old clothes- but fondly remembered. Change is often difficult to digest. When the railroads were first introduced to the U.S., some folks feared that they'd be the downfall of the nation! Here's an excerpt from a letter to then President Jackson dated January 31, 1829: “As you may know, Mr. President, 'railroad' carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by 'engines' which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” Signed, Martin Van Buren Governor of New York
A traditional proverb says, “Some people will change when they see the light. Others change only when they feel the heat.” The saying is applicable to the Scripture’s teaching on how the word of God works. Those who only change when they “feel the heat” are amended by force. They are constrained by the threat of judgment. Authentic change happens when the Holy Spirit enlightens the soul with faith. Believers “see the light” when the Holy Spirit calls them out of spiritual darkness. This change re-orientates a person’s perspective and priorities. The baptismal life involves living as changed people in Christ. Christ said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”3 His peace has substance because He accomplished the sacrifice that reconciled us to the heavenly Father. He was crucified in humility but rose from the dead in victory.
We have the privilege of modeling this divine peace for a world that is harassed and harried. God’s love spans not only all of human history but eternity. We have been put in this place, in this time, to emulate His love. It doesn’t transpire by happenstance and it certainly doesn’t occur naturally. The mind of Christ cannot be bred into people. It must be formed supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. Dynasties can be impressive and bring stability to many generations but they cannot guarantee the tradition of the faith. The faith must be taught anew to each generation.
Dear friends, it is easy to become preoccupied by both the mundaneness and crises of life. It is therefore beneficial to reflect on the bigger picture, including the future. Life often marches on without us giving it much thought. There is stability in regularity. And this is important also for our liturgical life together. Yet in the very midst of this orderliness God lifts our hopes beyond the limitations of this existence. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”4 That word renews us with forgiveness and life. His body and blood nourishes us with sacred food.
We are mortals called to immortality. We are pilgrims in a transient and changing world but our hope is established in eternity. This certainty is grounded only in Christ. The Scripture says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things …that you were redeemed from the empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect…Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”5 Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.”6
We are people with a history. We are people with a future. We are God’s people in Christ. We are a people with His peace. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”7
+ In nomine Jesu +
Sixth Sunday of Easter
5 May 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Isaiah 51:6
2 John 14:27
4 Isaiah 40:8
5 1 Peter 1:18-19, 21
6 John 14:19
7 John 14:27