Monday, July 15, 2013

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 10:34
Theme: Fingerprints of Faith

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The hands of the priest were stained with blood; the Levite likewise. It was the blood of the wounded. It was the blood of guilt. Their hands never touched the victim. They never left any prints. But their hearts were sullied, their consciences were condemned. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”1 asked the Lord. The question wasn’t difficult; but it was incriminating. The expert in the law had no choice but to commend the normally despised Samaritan at the expense of His own colleagues. Christ condemned hypocrisy without direct reference it its perpetrators. Often this is most effective.

The Holy Spirit convicts the hearts of the guilty. To do so He doesn’t require explicit evidence. He can prick the conscience with a surprise word or image and often does so when least expected. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do this work of convicting deceitfully, but He does it cleverly and masterfully. The priest and the Levite made themselves arbitrators of God’s commands. In self-righteousness they chose not to risk becoming ritually unclean by approaching the man but in refraining they defiled their souls.

We are not at liberty to pick and choose which of God’s laws we follow. Our devotion in following some does not excuse our neglect of others. Devoutness doesn’t accumulate credit that we can spend on other failures. God doesn’t judge us on whether or not we are on the balance breaking even in some spiritual trading account. When we operate in this manner the conscience relies on a false premise. We cannot bargain with God. Grace knows nothing of reparation. Mercy is destroyed by remuneration. The favour of God cannot be reciprocated. God declares sinners to be righteous and does so with no contribution on their part.

The word good is not found in the parable of the ‘Good’ Samaritan. That doesn’t mean it has been mislabeled. Still, its use only as a moralism misses the major emphasis. The parable is ultimately about Christ. It is not about achieving God’s favour by out-doing those whom we would expect to do God’s work. Goodness is not achieved by enhancing our natural qualities. Your piety can never validate God’s word. Your sanctity can never legitimize God’s truth. It makes no difference how intense your passion or strong your feeling. It makes no difference if you feel anything at all. What matters is that He was conceived, was born of a Virgin, suffered, was crucified, rose on the third day, ascended and intercedes for you.

Christ is for you and that frees you to be for your neighbour. Christ traveled on the dark side of humanity’s thoroughfares; through the back alleys and along forsaken lanes. He traveled not for curiosity’s sake, but to search out the downtrodden, the wounded, and the frail. He came not to be served but to serve. Do we find ourselves on the ‘other side’; avoiding obligations, evading responsibilities? Or does pity interrupt our travels? Is there flexibility in our routines to assist those in need? Will entire schedules be rearranged when the hardship of those laboring in darkness cries out for mercy? Are the fingerprints of faith left as evidence of our presence? Or do we more often have blood on our hands?

The hands of the Great High Priest were stained with blood, flowing from the nails; dripping down on the wood of the cross. His was the blood of sacrifice. It was the price of redemption. His was life-giving blood; soul-reviving blood, wrath-appeasing blood. It was blood shed for the Samaritan, but also for the expert in the law, the priest and the Levite. It was blood shed for you. It was not just shed altruistically; it was shed to save. Christ justifies you by that blood and you receive His grace by faith. There is no other way to cross the threshold into God’s eternal presence.

The prophet Isaiah powerfully and vividly describes the wrath and the redemption of the Messiah using the language of this blood-theme. “Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forth in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why are Your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and trod them down in My wrath; their blood spattered My garments and stained all My clothing.’”2 His blood-stained clothing acquired our holy garments of salvation. The baptized wear His righteousness. His fingerprints cover our souls.

Yet, lest we get too engaged in looking for Christ’s “fingerprints”, that is, in looking for evidence that He made His mark on the world (for proof so we can invest in Him without faith) we remember the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The shepherds knew Christ at the manger. The disciples knew Him as they grew under His tutelage. The 5000 knew Him as they ate bread and fish. The blind, the mute, the deaf, the lame, the demon-possessed knew Him as they were healed. But who knew Him at the cross? The crucifixion is where God shows that He is not to high and mighty to know you, to be seen with you, to care for you. Hidden under the apparent tragedy of the cross is the true grace and power of God. There Satan is disarmed. Death is undone. Sin is drained of its power.

The consequences are dramatic, as the apostle says today, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”3 Fingerprints are clues. They are indications. They are pointers. The very same blood He shed we now receive in the Lord’s Supper, a pointer to the heavenly banquet and evidence of the very presence of the Son of God. The Good Samaritan left his fingerprints on the wounded. Christ has done the same for us. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +
1 Luke 10:37
2 Isaiah 63:1-3
3 Colossians 1:13-14

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
14 July 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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