Monday, September 2, 2013

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2013

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

Text: Luke 14:7-11
Theme: Faith not Facade

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The most important promises of God cannot be verified by observation. Inscrutability does not sit well with human reason which seeks tangible evidence for all things. Daily bread is tangible but pardon for sins not so much. The conundrum evident in Thomas is a perennial barrier to faith. We want to see the wounds. Christ promises that through His death, death itself has been overcome. He promises to believers a resolution to all pain, hardship, sickness, misery and grief. He offers unending life free from all frailty and decay- all realized in the fully divine and fully human Saviour, Jesus Christ. If this hope does not drive Christianity it degenerates into a philosophical or moral regime.

The Spirit educates believers not primarily by providing more empirical evidence for God’s goodness- though He often does this too- but by slaying the ego and offering Christ as the only hope. Christ never missed the opportunity to teach. He carefully made use of the most opportune times to engage people in the deeper truths of the kingdom. He sought to do this at critical junctures. Today as Jesus was having dinner at the home of a prominent Pharisee He witnessed how people chose the seats of honour at the table. Humility was hardly their motivation. They risked being embarrassed by the host who had the privilege to reseat them in a lesser place. The best-laid designs can be quickly ruined.

We are all designers. Architects design structures. Rulers design legacies. Politicians design campaigns. Coaches design strategies. Sinners design facades. Facades are some of the most well-maintained of all human possessions. Great sacrifices are made to preserve them. Great pains are taken to polish them. Sometimes they are but a thin veneer, other times a mortared barricade. The opinion others have of us is often much more important than we care to admit.

The propensity for pretense has an impressive pedigree. Sin’s pervasive power makes this inevitable. Adam said, “It was the woman,”1 Abraham said, “She is my sister,”2 Judas said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” 3 The Pharisees were labeled as whitewashed tombs4, to mention just a few of the more high-profile examples. All desired to deceive to avoid facing the consequences of the truth. Often we’d rather pretend to be something more than we know we really are.

Denial and self-deception are common tactics of the sinful nature. The cry that God is inequitable is common too. “Why do others not seem to be as severely reprimanded by God as I am?” But don’t waste any time comparing your sins to your neighbours’ or even weighing your own sins, one against another. These are but indicators of a desire to justify yourself. Repent and turn away from every transgression. Honour your conscience and seek to inform and revise it through God’s word.

Today Christ issues His call to humility with very practical advice. “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But…invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”5 As soon as we calculate who is most likely to return the favour the spontaneity of a generous faith is lost. Yet Jesus adds a glorious promise. “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”6

Humility never yearns to be exalted over another. George Whitefield and John Wesley were both prominent founders of Methodism. Although Whitefield disagreed with John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel. When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, "I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him."

Thankfully all of our selfish designs and schemes are shattered by the wisdom of the cross. We can only serve the neighbour when we believe we have nothing holy to offer to the Master. All depends upon the sheer grace of God in Christ. The Lutheran reformers said it this way, “In justification before God faith trusts neither in contrition nor in love nor in other virtues, but solely in Christ and in His perfect obedience with which He fulfilled the law of God in our stead and which is reckoned to the believers as righteousness.”7

This Messiah was born in meager circumstances, lived in poverty, died in humiliation, was raised in glory- all for you and your salvation. No expense was spared, no sacrifice omitted to reconcile you to the Father in heaven. He bore the cross for you, and, becoming a curse, humbled Himself to the point of death. He now coddles you, cleanses you, comforts and confirms you with water and word; bread and wine. He shepherds you, pastors you, chaperons and nurses you. He prepares the place ordained for you. The Scripture says we are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”8And again, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”9

In Christ we can disassociate from overvaluing human opinion and rightly value God’s estimation. On the Day of judgment God will never ask how well you kept up appearances. You are free to live candidly so that others see Christ reflected in you. The question is not whether your witness meets the expectations and opinions of others but whether it is true to His cause. In Christ and through Christ the activities of your faith cannot fail to benefit others. What do the Scriptures say, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”10

Dear friends, your place at the heavenly table has already been reserved. Christ absented Himself from heaven so that you could be present there. He is the eternal host. There will be no need for facades or disguises. The glory of the Trinity will be unveiled and the full expression of His love will be unhindered. We will experience joy not in trivial or temporal measure, not in shadow or reflection, but in ceaseless and immortal dimension “for we shall see Him as He is.”11Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 See Genesis 3:12
2 Genesis 20:2
3 John 12:5
4 See Matthew 23:27
5 Luke 14:12-14
6 Luke 14:14
7 Solid Declaration III
8 Romans 8:17
9 1 John 31:
10 Hebrews 13:15-16
11 1 John 3:2

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 September 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt