+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 16:15
Theme: The Father’s Patrimony
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The believer is tied directly to the mystery of the Trinity through baptism. The mystery of God’s being is that He is one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”1 What a comforting thought to know that the Holy Spirit makes the grace of Christ known to us, and that Christ’s grace is the avenue to the Father. Baptism brings you into fellowship with the Trinity and allows you to share in all the blessings of His life. These gifts can only be appreciated through the insight of the Holy Spirit.
You’ve probably heard people say that religion is not for them; they’re not cut out for it. They may have in mind the caricature of tee-totaling, mindless moralist who mostly misses out on the pleasurable side of life. Sometimes it used be said, “Such and such person was born religious.” But, in fact, NO ONE is cut out for it. No one is naturally fitted for life in God’s kingdom. That is precisely the point. The truth of fallen humanity is that all are estranged from God from the time of conception. Original sin has consequences. Adam and Eve were banned from Eden. The wicked all perished in Noah’s flood. A generation of Israelites died before crossing the Jordan. The 21st Century person has no fewer consequences of sin to deal with. Temptations bombard us from all sides.
The likelihood of succumbing to some temptations changes with maturity. Some tendencies diminish. Other proclivities become more resistant to resolution. The rebellious child may come to appreciate the value of respecting proper authority later in life. The temptation to revolt may relax as the individual finds himself or herself in a position of responsibility and authority. Teenagers that were critical of their parents often find themselves imitating them once they have their own children. On the other hand, the self-centred person may be just as self-absorbed at the age of 70 as they were at 20. Greed isn’t cured by acquiring great fortunes. Long established habits are always more difficult to change. Much depends upon what informs our worldview.
Our society cries out for recognition. “Look at Me!” “Take notice of what I have done!” We are taught to scrape and claw, scream and fight for our place. In this way people hope to find meaning, value, purpose and fulfillment in life. But what is the edifice- the composition of things that value and define us- built on? If our true worth (call it self-worth if you like) doesn’t rest in Christ then we have an unstable foundation. We cannot indefinitely live in a building prone to collapse at the slightest tremor. The ageing process exempts no one.
It all comes to head with an honest reflection on mortality. Movie buffs and gamers are familiar with heroes that encounter fatality and yet emerge with all their former vibrancy; or the contestants who are endlessly reincarnated to fight again. Reality is something very different. We can sojourn in a fantasy world perhaps the better part of our temporal lives. But it doesn’t prepare us for the genuine crisis we must face. Christian maturity requires we recognize the limits of escapism.
But Christ has no limits. You need not stand at the graveside and ask, “Is this where it all ends?” “Is this the conclusion to a few short years on earth?” Christ has been to death and back. He speaks of what He knows. He doesn’t offer us a sympathetic hug as we draw our last breath but then leave us to face a future of despair. Instead He transports us through the dark evil of death unharmed. The Scripture says, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”2
Already, through forgiveness first granted in our baptism, we participate in that resurrection spiritually. Spiritually, but not theoretically. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”3 Forgiveness is more than an act of will on God’s part. It is even more that a movement of the heart. It is an expression of His very nature. The crucifixion was a tearing open of the inner mystery of God. It was a rending of God’s holiness. Like a tsunami His compassion swept over a humanity suffocating in sin and self-centredness. Christ died and rose again not as an act of heroism but as the means to reconcile all humanity to the Father. We’re all in this together.
Your baptism identified you in Christ in relation to a local community of faith and the universal church. Remember Christianity from the time of Pentecost was designed to be a global faith. Christians who insulate themselves in parochial enclaves fail to appreciate the nature of God’s seeking and expansive love. The Good Shepherd searches for the lost sheep. Life in community, not as individuals is how God intends it. The Spirit inducts us into this community through baptism where Christ continues to feed us with His word and His body and blood. Here we are also united in an unbroken succession with those saints who went before us. The apostle writes, “I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers…were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”4
Sadly, not all are interested in what Christ has to offer. It cramps their style. Those who follow religions of the law and atheist have something important in common. They both take matters into their own hands. They are self-reliant. The religious legalist seeks recognition from God- idolatry of self. The atheist must flatly deny God and recognize himself or herself- also the trappings of idolatry. In the end everyone comes down on one side of the equation or the other. There is no neutral ground between reverence for the true God and idolatry. There is no middle ground. In a wider sense this is what makes Christian truth so unbearable for some. You cannot flee to a ‘spiritual Switzerland’ and take up permanent residency there. You must cope with a clearly defined external existence; heaven or hell.
Your baptism is a mighty fortress. Satan cannot dismantle, demolish, or destroy the foundation upon which it is built. Hear what the Scripture says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”5
This newness of life has authenticity and permanency. We live the baptismal life, bearing our crosses, sacrificing our extravagances, serving in humility, trusting that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”6 The biblical witness suggests that this real life is often much more engaging and enthralling than what the world has on offer. The parameters are not dependent on artificial schemes and structures. The rules of engagement aren’t always changing. The source of security is never unreliable. The future is never uncertain. God grant that our baptism is never a distant memory but a constant source of strength and life. It is not a matter of our aptitude but of His promise. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
The Holy Trinity
26 May 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 16:15
2 1 Corinthians 15:19-20
3 Romans 5:1-2
4 1 Corinthians 10:2-4
5 Romans 6:3-4
6 2 Corinthians 4:17