+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 13:34
Theme: Grief Before Glory
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Life has pivotal moments. Often they are preceded by extensive preparation or planning. Sometimes they come swiftly. Whether we are rejoicing at a birth or a wedding, or grieving because of a funeral or accident we seek to acquire a greater understanding of God’s presence in Christ. Lent helps us to appraise the pivotal events in life and see them not only as personal joys or tragedies but from the perspective of the kingdom.
Today Jesus stood at a pivotal juncture as He reflected on the past and contemplated the future. Jesus was filled with sorrow regarding the hard-heartedness of the people of Jerusalem. Rebellious and recalcitrant they spurned the overtures of the prophets and established their own religious legalism. Judgment would soon be rendered. It always is. But we must take it on faith. Remember how the Psalmist grappled with the prosperity of the wicked. They never seemed to be judged. They always seem to be successful- healthy, wealthy, and wise. He even questions his own walk of faith, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain I have washed my hands in innocence.”1 But then he says, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.”2
How staggering is the record of injustices accumulated in the history of humanity? How wickedly those with power have mistreated those who have none? How ruthless has been the shedding of blood for the sake of greed and glory! Genocide, enslavement, and oppression have characterized dictatorships and corrupt governments throughout history. Then there is the chronicle of personal acts of wickedness. They are too numerous to mention. How can they be measured, let alone rectified? What about appraising their relative harm or malice? Who can say if a legal, but immoral abortion is more tragic than a desperate suicide or an act of premeditated murder? Paul pulls no punches when he speaks of the ungodly as “senseless, faithless, heartless, [and] ruthless.”3
Who will weigh these things in the balance? Who will bring justice? It takes a mighty faith to believe that the Almighty God will sort it all out. Just this hope is written in the creed of Christian confession. Christ doesn’t leave humanity to perish in its own chaos and failure. Justice is adjudicated at the cross. But who can understand it? The Lamb of God becomes the scapegoat. The Son becomes the sacrifice. Yet justice is not ignored. The repentant are freed by grace- their punishment falling on Christ. The impenitent will bear their own guilt into eternity. It’s not without reason that these words are declared to us, “God forbid that any of you reject his grace and forgiveness by refusing to repent and believe, and your sins therefore remain unforgiven. May he comfort you with his holy absolution, and strengthen you with his Sacrament, that your joy may be full.”4
Christ sorrowed over Jerusalem. He lamented the cold unbelief of many of His own people. But He did not give up in despair. He did not throw in the towel. He stayed the course. He steadfastly met opposition with perseverance, hostility with gentleness, arrogance with humility, and selfishness with servanthood. Christ was not side-tracked by the failures or opposition of others- friend or foe.
God’s kingdom has many foes. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer to be delivered from evil, including the evil one- Satan. Believers seek protection from all of the devil’s tactics- especially anything that would destroy faith. While we can and should rejoice over God’s suppression of evil we cannot gloat over it or relish in it in regards to personal matters. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”5
In regards to personal offenses- the sins others commit against us- we always leave penalties to God. We too are in need of forgiveness. We are not in the business of making comparisons for the purpose satisfaction or fairness. We rejoice in repentance and reconciliation. As soon as we look for qualifications we go right off the track. This usually amounts to a thinly veiled attempt to, justify, excuse or exonerate ourselves. “Who is my neighbour?” asked the rich young ruler. Why? To narrow the scope of responsibility. If the bar isn’t set too high perhaps we can reach it?
But Christ doesn’t lower the bar; He carries us right over it. We don’t side-step God’s law; we are credited with observing it for Christ’s sake. Consider these words from the Lutheran reformers, “It must always be regarded as certain that we are counted righteous through faith for Christ’s sake. If the regenerate afterward think that they will be accepted because of fulfilling the Law, when would a conscience be certain that it pleased God? We never satisfy the Law! So we must always run back to the promise.”AP V (III)
What is the promise? Not simply some generic pledges made by God. The promise is The Gospel- even Christ Himself, crucified and risen! The promise was made to Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Messiah would come. People would be made right with God not through obedience to the law, not through the outward act of circumcision, but through God’s own Son. The wrath of God would be appeased. The promise of God is the irrevocable oath that the Father in heaven is pleased with the sacrifice of His Son. Nothing more needs to be done to open the gates of heaven or bar the gates to hell. Christ will never forsake His people. This is pivotal, sacred, and life-changing truth!
Oh, but give apathy its due! We still find ourselves fumbling around dallying in our indulgences hardly giving a thought to the things that matter for eternity. Lent is a corrective for this loss of perspective. Sin can never be dismissed as a minor matter. Christianity is not a matter of pacifying the conscience because your name is on the church membership rolls. It’s not about appearances. It involves a constant struggle against sin, a daily bearing of the cross, a continual witness to the truth, a faithful bearing of the burdens of others, and a steady engagement with the challenges that face the community of faith locally and on a broader level.
No one is indispensable to the common good. In spite of our failings, our ignorance, or even our absence the Holy Spirit will continue to find the means to build up the body of Christ. Christ is the head, and no one else. But no one is insignificant. There are no irrelevant or inconsequential members of Christ’s body. We all have our part, without which the whole body suffers. We are beneficiaries of the same baptismal inheritance- and co-heirs with Christ Himself. We participate in the one bread- His body broken; and the one blood poured out from His veins. These are not personal possessions but property of the Christian “commonwealth”.
Dear friends, life has only a certain number of pivotal moments. Mortality has its limitations. But the mercy of God is unlimited. His love has very real consequences. Christ prepares us to share in His immortality as the apostle says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”7 May Christ fulfill this promise according to the will of the Father. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Second Sunday in Lent
24 February 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Psalm 73:13
2 Psalm 73:16-17
3 Romans 1:31
4 LHS, p.7
5 Romans 12:19
6 AP V (III)
7 Philippians 3:20-21