Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christian Burial of Edna Nitschke (17 Jan 2013)

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

Text: John 14:3
Theme: A Place Prepared

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Edna, and especially Robert and Ken,

It’s not what you know but who you know. Edna knows Him who is the way and the truth and the life.1 More importantly, He knows her- elected in eternity, called in time through baptismal waters, sainted according to His good pleasure. Christ, before whom death itself is dissolved, has received the soul of Edna into her eternal rest. The company of heaven rejoices and we add our glad hallelujahs to that celestial strain. The weight of mortality has been lifted. The temptation to doubt has been resolved. The power of sin has been broken. Edna has been received. She is at peace. Thanks be to God for His benevolent love!

Grieving is always easier when we’ve already given our emotional consent. If we believe the person’s death- due to age or circumstance- is fair and reasonable it makes acceptance less stressful. We’re less likely to be bitter or resentful. Of course in some sense this is stating the obvious. Separation is less painful if we are already prepared for someone to die. Yet there is often lost in this consolation an appreciation of the fact that death is not natural.

The Scriptures do not allow us to overlook this truth. Christians should understand it well. Drawing of the last breath is not a natural conclusion to a life of planned obsolescence. Rather death, in its stark and foreboding reality is the full maturing of sin in the individual. Therefore, the death of a loved one is an opportunity for serious reflection. We all must face it. No one gets a free pass. No one is overlooked. No one has merited entrance into the next life. It doesn’t just happen. Dare we think we are an exception to the power and condemnation of sin? Can we claim exemption from accountability before God?

Oh yes, God has heard all the arguments before. You are young, you are healthy, you are in the prime of your life. It would be unfair, unnatural, unreasonable, and unexpected if you were to suddenly face death. You have a spouse. You have a family. You have a career. You have goals and aspirations. You may get sick- but surely you won’t die! So put the possibility right out of your head and assume you’ll live to something near the age of Edna.

This world will never offer an approximation of Utopia. Though we may seek to lavish ourselves with every indulgence and material blessing it can all come crumbling down in an instant. What are we building our foundations on? Is there a gaping chasm of emptiness beneath the veneer of our prosperous and orderly looking lives? How long can our brokenness be medicated with material anesthetics that don’t really heal? Human beings have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. Some can convince themselves life will go on indefinitely.

But no one makes peace with God on their own terms. That was the unique task of the Son of God. He alone was worthy to offer His life for the sins of the world. His death was a sufficient ransom for my transgressions and yours. It is through grace alone that we enter His kingdom. Christian truth may not be in vogue with the rich and powerful of modern society. It was never intended to be. Yet it’s a small price to bear the ridicule of the secular world in order that we might keep company with the One who taught humility and sacrifice.

The apostle Paul, who knew a thing or two about it says, “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, neither anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”2 This was Edna’s conviction too. Jesus said, “Whoever hears My word and believes…has eternal life; he has crossed over from death to life.”3 This truth alters our perspective and lifts our hope.

The biblical witness is clear: If your grief is obsessed exclusively with past memories of the deceased, then your grief is not centred in Christ. This is not to say the grief-stricken person must play some type of radical religious mind game, thinking only about Jesus and blocking out all thoughts of the loved one who has died. It does mean that mourning for what was is not being properly balanced by hope in what will be. A Christian’s grieving is mitigated by its temporal nature. We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. The relatively brief time of intense mourning is tempered by the promise of eternal reunion.

Edna Nitschke was a veteran of the Christian life. Claimed as God’s child in baptism she was a faithful and active disciple from the very beginning. She leaned on God’s promises in prosperity and adversity. Church life was her priority. She sat at the Master’s feet. She ate and drank from His holy table. She kept in step with the Spirit. She understood what it meant to be part of the body of Christ. And she lived her faith in her daily vocation. She knew hard manual labour on the farm. She attended diligently to raising the family. She participated in activities for the betterment of the community.

Edna saw more change in her generation than any before her. She was granted a strong mind and a spritely body well into her later years. These are truly blessings from God not to be taken for granted. If you would like to test your agility against that of Edna’s we can organize some skip rope competitions after the committal. She set the bar pretty high at age 92.

Yet with all her experience and experiences Edna knew the gracious hand of God was carrying her. The Good Shepherd kept her close to His heart. Recently she expressed her readiness to depart from this decaying existence. She knew her place was almost prepared. She knew these words of the Lord were about to be fulfilled, “In My Father’s house there are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”4 Those preparations are finished. What Edna looked forward to in hope she now experiences in actuality. Here she knew Him by faith; now face to face. To Christ be the glory! Amen!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Edna Clara Nitschke
17 January 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See John 14:6
2 Romans 8:38-39
3 John 5:24
4 John 14:2

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Baptism Of Our Lord (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 3:21
Theme: Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christianity can never be a vague spiritual tonic. It cannot be one ingredient in a divine elixir amalgamated from various ideologies and philosophies about God. We do not learn what we know about Christ from general knowledge of God. We learn what we know about God from specific knowledge of Christ. This distinction distinguishes Christianity- founded on the gospel, from human religion- founded on the law. Again, it’s not that after finding God we become aware of the similar qualities Jesus’ possessed; rather, in seeing Christ we have the very image of God. The direction is not reversible.

Who is God? Clear expressions of the Trinity are perceptible at Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit is visible in the form of a dove. He descends- and Luke tells us- lights upon Jesus bodily. At the creation the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters and during the flood Noah sent out a dove to mark the beginning of new life. The voice of the Father is audible at Jesus’ baptism. It was reminiscent of many manifestations in the Old Testament. Yet these distinctions of persons are not to be overshadowed by unity of purpose. Here we see Father, Son and Holy Spirit united in the plan of redemption to be completed by the Son in the flesh. This is the key to true and meaningful knowledge about God. The revelation of the Trinity is tied directly with the revelation of the Son. We know the attitude of the triune God towards us because we know God’s salvation as it is revealed through Jesus.

The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His public ministry. The arduous journey to the cross had begun. Three years- planned in eternity. Jesus went public for sinners. He did it for you and for me. The absolute necessity of His atonement is still questioned today. It is a lie the devil plants in our hearts. Can sin really be so bad? Does it warrant such radical measures? Sin is finally lawlessness, idolatry, and narcissism. Unchecked it causes us to loose complete perspective on our limitations and obligations. Unaddressed we lose balance, orientation, and purpose.

In 1953 Time Magazine printed an article about a murder case in Washington, D.C. The accused gunman, John Kendrick testified that he was offered $2500 to murder a man named Michael Lee, but declined the job because “when I got done paying taxes out of that, what would I have left?” Now is that lateral thinking or a seared conscience? Apparently the act of murder was not unreasonable to him but the tax threshold was just too high. It must have been comforting for the public to know there were some ‘honest’ assassins around. It’s an extreme illustration of the loss of perspective. Yet it condemns each of us when we sit in judgment over which sins we think are most intolerable.

Dear friends, the truth that you are forgiven does not preclude the fact that you still need to be forgiven. This reality reflects the tension that exists for sinners who are justified by God’s grace- but still sinning. We still live in a fallen world. But we have Him who has overcome the world. In the act of His baptism, Jesus unites in solidarity with sinful humanity.
John announces the approach of Jesus to the banks of the Jordan with the words which found their way into the church’s worship in song, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”1 He submits Himself to this sacrament of repentance and forgiveness for which He has no need. He is not a sinner. He has committed no transgression. He was born with no original guilt. Precisely for this reason He humbles Himself as He does.

The entire earthly life of Jesus Christ was a substitutionary endeavor. He took our place under the Law. He bore the punishment of the Father’s wrath. He endured the torment of judgment. He did this on our behalf. He was our scapegoat. He was our sacrificial Lamb. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”2 Christ lived, died, rose and ascended so that we might live in holiness with the triune God.

Luther summarizes well, “[Christ] accepted it from John for the reason that He was entering into our stead, our person, that is, becoming a sinner for us, taking upon Himself the sins which He had not committed, and wiping them out and drowning them in His holy baptism.”3 The Bible says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God the Father, we too may live a new life.”4 This is the mystical but organic connection with have with Christ through faith. The death of Christ was the death our sins; the resurrection of Christ is source of our hope. Baptism is the means. Like an infinitely deep well, every time we confess our sins and receive absolution, our sins are drown as in the baptismal font- as if we were in the Jordan- and from it the water of life keeps springing up ever new.

When doubts arise in your heart about the presence of God, when questions arise in your mind about the authenticity of His love, when you are nagged with temptations regarding His truth, return to the promise of your baptism. There He first distributed to you the forgiveness Christ earned on the cross. Then you were grafted into His family. There a promise was made to you that will never be revoked. Each time the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is invoked you are identified again as His child. Receive His body and blood as a seal and guarantee of your sacred inheritance. Doubts will come and go, as will worldly hopes and dreams- but the Word of God stands forever.

The prophet Isaiah says this of the One who was anointed at the river Jordan, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”5What does this mean? Jesus Christ holds all power, might and authority, but He wields it with gentleness, meekness and humility. This is rare in human experience. How common it is that the power of some crushes the gentleness of others! How often the mighty run roughshod over the meek. How seldom authority is exercised in humility!

You may be like a bruised reed, unable to sway in the winds of life lest you break off. You may have wounds that are deep and in need of healing, unable to bear up under the weight of any more struggles. Or perhaps like a smoldering wick you feel your life is close to burning out. If these realities apply to you, take heart, Christ deals gently with you. He carries you in His arms drawing you close to His heart. His words to you do not consist of ambiguous possibilities for spiritual self-help. He does not draw from the resources of others. He rules satanic powers and governs all earthly domains. He promises to be the caretaker of your soul and perfecter of your mortal frame. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Baptism Of Our Lord
13 January 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 1:29
2 2 Corinthians 5:21
3 AE 51:315
4 Romans 6:3-4
5 Isaiah 42:3