Monday, July 1, 2013

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 9:58
Theme: A Place for the Son of Man

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ wasn’t always well-received. There was too much at stake for Him to be universally amenable to all. Strongholds had to be contested. Agendas had to be disputed. Sin had to be confronted. Power had to be challenged. Truth had to be established. The Father did not send the Son on a mission of inquiry but of rescue. Christ was not a tourist, but a Saviour; not a sightseer, but a spectacle hung publicly on the cross. In this way God reclaims and redeems His insubordinate creation.

Christ set His face for Jerusalem and He met resistance. The Samaritans had a long and reciprocal relationship of in-hospitableness with the Jews. They did not welcome Jesus as He passed through their town. It was a deliberate transgression of the social standards of hospitality. “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’”1 Quick to judge they not only overstepped their authority they also misjudged the nature of the Messiah’s mission.

Intimidation and fear are often the tactics of the self-righteous. They can be highly effective. During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin. Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience. "You were one of Stalin's colleagues. Why didn't you stop him?" "Who said that?" roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared move a muscle. Then Khrushchev replied quietly, "Now you know why."

Satan seeks to immobilize us with fear- a particular kind of fear that casts a jaundiced eye towards God. Our impulse to secure our wants makes us easy targets. Does Satan not know how easily we are tempted to build our own kingdoms before God’s? King David built the royal palace first. He never received God’s blessings to build the temple. God had greater things to build- namely, the kingdom of His Son.

Christians must be mindful that the mission of Christ is still opposed today because it is perceived as a threat to the power structures of the unbelieving world. Luther teaches us accordingly. “The kingdom of grace is and remains a secret kingdom, concealed from this world, maintained in Word and faith until the time of its revelation. Consequently, the godless do not like or desire it…Why not? Because such a kingdom, as I said before, condemns and rejects all their outward works and ways in which they trust and asks them instead to trust in God’s grace, which is mysterious and concealed, being promised solely by His word and comprehended only by faith.”2

The greatest struggle of the believer is to always take God at His word; to trust Him in all circumstances. At the core of every consideration to act independently from God’s will is the question of God’s fidelity. Can we count on God or will He overlook our concerns? Belief in God is not a matter of holding to a prescribed set of philosophical descriptions of Him. We don’t construct a theoretical fact sheet about God’s attributes- His omnipotence, His holiness, His eternal existence, His essential grace, mercy, and benevolence- and then banter these about in conversation that neither informs nor impacts the real decisions and struggles we face each day. This is a danger for theologians and pietistic Christians. God becomes a subject of formal discussion but not a refuge for penitent sinners.

God has flesh and blood in the person of Jesus. He is not a coach on the sidelines. He is in the heat of the battle with you. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.”3 When temptation comes you are only fooling yourself if you say, “It’s easy for me to trust God completely, what’s difficult is not giving in or giving up.” The Christian tempted by greed may say to himself, “I believe God fully, but I can’t resist advancing my financial position at some else’s expense.” The believer attracted to a man that’s not her spouse may say to herself, “My faith in God is unwavering; it’s my fascination with this member of the opposite sex that is troubling me.” The teenager wanting to resist parental authority may say to him or herself, “I agree with all that I learned in confirmation about God and His commands it’s just my parents I have a problem with.”

And just like that struggle with temptation is separated from the plan of the Father, the promise of the Son, and the presence of the Spirit. You see, the core issue is that you really aren’t trusting God fully to provide or deliver. The avaricious person doesn’t trust God will provide enough financial security. The charmed person doesn’t trust God will provide for them through their spouse. The rebellious teenager doesn’t believe God has given them parents attentive to their particular needs. So whether we are grieving, doubting, hurting or battling we should not seek to distance ourselves as if we didn’t need Christ.

When we understand this more fully (and honestly) it gives a more biblical perspective and focus to our Christian journey. Bearing the cross, living the baptismal life is a pilgrimage of repentance that draws us closer to Christ. Often we don’t want God’s answers because we already know what His answer will be. The struggle is trusting that His will is always best even when we suffer hardship in the midst of it. God can take the best laid human plans and turn them into an unmitigated disaster. Conversely, He can bring good out of the bleakest situation. We are na├»ve, foolish or arrogant to think these things are ultimately in our control.

Dear friends, God is not inattentive. More importantly, Christ is never stingy. What does the Scripture say, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”4 You are baptized and that means something. God does not place His name on you lightly. Those who bear His name are never forsaken by Him. He has released you from the unbearable and impossible task of making amends for your sins. His forgiveness can then penetrate all of your relationships. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”5 If we look to Christianity as a guarantee of our earthly happiness then we fundamentally misunderstand who Christ is and what our purpose is in the world as His followers.

Jesus said today, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”6 He did not come to indulge the pleasures of this existence. His place was on a cross so that ours might be in His royal presence. His head was not meant for a pillow but a crown of thorns. But crowned in disgrace He deposed Satan from his throne. Our place is with the Son of Man. His resurrection is the preview and promise of our resurrection. His Father is our Father. His inheritance is our inheritance. His kingdom is our kingdom. We are clothed with His righteousness and fed with His sacred food. We have much more than a place to lay our heads, we have an eternal home. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
30 June 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 9:54
2 Luther’s Works AE p. 30
3 Hebrews 4:15
4 1 John 3:1
5 Galatians 6:22-23
6 Luke 9:58