Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christian Burial of Louise Jane Kershaw

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

Text: John 5:24
Theme: Life Restored

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Louise; Robert, Sue; Declan, Ashton, Averyall; and especially you; Mark,

Silence is often the better part of wisdom. It is for fools, anyway, and before God we are all fools. What can be said that does not sound trite, inadequate, or redundant? What can be uttered to soothe such pain? Words are often insufficient to express the movements of the heart. Tears can say more. Silence does not extinguish anguish but it does honour grief. Louise Kershaw has finished her struggle. In the midst of our sorrow we are gathered to give thanks that she has now been released.

The struggle of grief is as old as the human race. The Bible presents to us the ancient figure of Job. Job was the quintessential man of suffering. Bereft of ten children, robbed of all possessions, victim of cruel infirmity; this Job pleads his cause. “If?” He says. “If I have put my trust in gold…if I have rejoiced over my great wealth…if I have I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune…if I have concealed my sin.”1 If anyone can bring forth evidence of why I deserve to be burdened with such pain and loss…please make it known. When Job’s three friends came to comfort him the Scripture says this, “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud…then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”2

Dear friends, life is precious at all times and at every age. Span of life should not numb us to the vile nature of death. Our minds should not be at ease or our hearts at peace when we observe someone live to a so-called ripe old age. Death is still the devastating consequence of living in a fallen world; of being creatures fully vulnerable to the crisis of mortality. Death for any person, of any age, in any condition, and under every circumstance is always, always the result of sin reaching its maturity. No human can stand against the power of death. Mortality is an unbending reality.

Louise is a testimony to that truth. Louise had tenacity. She was vibrant and full of life. She had drive and determination. She always saw things through to completion. And no one could allege otherwise. She was meticulous, thorough, and organized. Louise’s life; her outlook, her training, her attitude were the epitome of physical health and well-being. Her will-power and conditioning undoubtedly gave her many extra days in the end. She was a devoted wife and loving mother. She had a passion for the well-being of others.

It is perhaps more tempting to glamourize someone we deem to have died prematurely or unfairly. Undisciplined sympathy can facilitate counterfeit portrayals of the historical past. But it’s not an authentic way to grieve. Nor is it an honest way to be remembered. Louise would not have wanted us to construct a flowery façade exaggerating or misrepresenting her personal qualities or life’s achievements. She knew her shortcomings. She knew she stood in need of God’s grace. She knew there was no way from here to there apart from that grace.

When Louise received Holy Communion for the final time she was asked to respond to this question: “Do you believe that Jesus Christ has redeemed you from all your sins, and do you desire forgiveness in his name?”3 Her answer was, “I do.” It was a Spirit-wrought response of conviction. She was frail, but forgiven. Her body was failing but her spirit was renewed. Louise recalled and recounted in those moments the promises that had been made to her. The pledge of her baptism was nearing its time of fulfillment. She was soon to receive her eternal inheritance and the crown of life.

Yes, words are often inadequate to express the movements of the heart. And yet God dares to speak. To the still presumptuous Job He says, “Who is this that darkens My counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?”4 Indeed, who can stand with impunity before the holy One? But in the end spoken words were insufficient for God too. His heart was so moved, so filled with compassion, so rent with pity that Christ came to put flesh on God’s words. The Almighty, immortal, inaccessible God, pure spirit and untouchable divinity took up His throne in the humility of a manger. He came not simply to lament a world mired in sin but to redeem it. As that Word-made-flesh He became the sacrifice for the accumulated sins of all humanity. He came to be present with His struggling people.

His words, immortal words, are backed up by death and resurrection. He says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”5 He said to the grieving Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”6
And the Holy Spirit says through the apostle Paul, “We do not want you… to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”4 Louise fell asleep in the Saviour’s embrace.

She is no longer in need of our prayers. Restored to life she resides in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saints and angels. We continue this earthly journey without her; pressing on through the shadows to the promised light. Grief will still accompany us. Each journey is unique. Who dares to claim that they have walked in Mark’s shoes and so understand his sorrow? Who dares to identity with Declan, Ashton, or Averyall at the loss of their mum? God alone reserves these rights. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Louise Kershaw has crossed over from death to life. It’s a crossing that can only be made by traversing the wood of the cross. She has traversed her final Good Friday and last Easter dawn. The empty tomb is the portal to heaven. Silence is said to be golden. Our grieving is righty gilded with gold. But Louise now enjoys the laughter of the celestial realm. Such revelry we cannot begrudge her. She is at peace, whole again and waiting that great and grand resurrection on the Last Day. May both our silent contemplations and our lively reminiscences reflect grateful appreciation for God’s blessing of Louise and to Louise in her earthly time and now in eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Louise Jane Kershaw
31 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Job 31:24, 25, 29, 33
2 Job 2:12-13
3 Lutheran Hymnal, page 6
4 Job 38:2-4
5 John 5:24
6 John 11:25
7 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

First Sunday After Christmas (B) 2014

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

Text: Matthew 2:13-15
Theme: “The Journey Begins”

Dear Followers of the Newborn King,

And so the journey began. Our newborn Saviour is soon on the run. December 28th is on the church calendar, the day for the recognition of the Holy Innocents. This day seldom receives much attention because of its proximity to Christmas. It affords us the opportunity to get a glimpse into the tumultuous early life of Jesus. Instead of settling down for a stable life in Palestine, Joseph is told by God that they must flee. “When they had gone [the Magi], an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the Child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.’”1 And thus began the efforts of Satan to derail God’s plan of redemption in Christ.

We see that Herod must have been keenly aware of at least the substance of the prophecy spoken by Simeon in the temple when he held the baby Jesus. “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”2 At any rate, in Herod’s determination to protect his throne from any threats, the heart of Satan was revealed. In the process, the innocent were caught in his tangled web of destruction. The infant boys in Bethlehem- how many there were we do not know- were sacrificed merely because of their “guilt by association.” They were put to death, simply because they lived in the town in which Jesus was born.

This ruthless act might understandably cause us to question how God could let it be so. Young, innocent lives are ended because it was thought Christ was among them. Through this act, prophecy was fulfilled. We should learn from this the degree to which sin has permeated and poisoned all creation. Nothing and no one is left unaffected by the consequences of living in this fallen world. The “innocent” perish along with the guilty; Sometimes believers along with the unbeliever alike. Yet we could never cry unfair to God’s. Firstly, no one can claim exemption from sin. The Scriptures says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”3 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”4 Secondly, upon death, believers enter into eternal life. We should begrudge no one their eternal glory. When it may seem to us that a believer’s life is unfairly ended, we must consider that God may have been sparing them from future hardship and suffering. Isaiah says, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”5

The innocent boys put to death in Bethlehem forever stand as a testimony to Satan’s determination to thwart the plan of salvation and his disregard for human life. We who live in a time when society claims to value life highly, and yet leaves the most fragile of lives unprotected, should be driven to shame and repentance and action. The number of unborn children, the most vulnerable among us, whose lives are ended every year by abortion, is appalling. The prevalence of this practice shows that though we may sanitize things outwardly- shielding people from the graphic knowledge of what goes on- inwardly our hearts readily usurp the place of God in placing value on life. And so the most compromised are taken advantage of.

The fact that the Father shielded His Son from the wrath of Herod stands as a testimony to His mercy and His power to bring His will to fruition. The Child of Bethlehem would have to live to see Calvary. His young life would be spared temporal death at this time so that through His death, He could offer eternal life to all. He is risen and is no more vulnerable to the vile deeds of men or the ravings of Satan. Why certain people and places were involved along the way as they were rests only in the mind of God.

God has His reasons for leaving some things shrouded in mystery, but He is not the author of confusion. The nature of some matters He leaves for future explanation. We will find out in heaven. But other things He reveals to us with crystal clarity. The means of salvation is the most important of these things. The Saviour, whose life was spared by His flight into Egypt, spared the lives of all who believe when He eventually gave Himself over to death. God wants there to be no confusion about how it is that this salvation is yours. Our celebration of Christmas centres on the giving of the ultimate gift. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”6 And again, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”7 And again, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.”8

This gift is freely given, and it is received only through divine effort. God wants it to be clearly understood that only through the gospel proclaimed and the Holy Spirit working are the hearts and minds of people changed and transformed. Dear friends, faith; faith that avails unto salvation, is not the result of human striving, not the accomplishment of human effort; it is trust that the gift of Christmas was for the forgiveness of sins. Faith is not a tangible thing that can be put in a box and wrapped up like a Christmas present. Faith involves the embrace of Christ, who provides for every need and most of all for eternal salvation.

This is the third day of the celebration of our Lord’s birth. The difficult circumstances under which He was born get no easier as He becomes a fugitive in Egypt. He perhaps doesn’t seem worthy of acclaiming as King of kings and Lord of lords. How can one boast about a fugitive Saviour? How can one be impressed with a Messiah that will die a criminal’s death by crucifixion? But it has all come to pass and we have but to rejoice with exceedingly great joy like the wise men, worship Him as they did; make haste like the shepherds and tell of the good news like they did; join with the angels and sing glory to God as they did. “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given.”9 Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday After Christmas
The Holy Innocents
28 December, 20014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1Matthew 2:13
2 Luke 2:34-35
3Romans 3:10-11
4 Romans 3:23
5 Isaiah 57:1
6 John 3:16
7 Galatians 1:3-4
8 1 Timothy 2:5-6
9 Isaiah 9:6

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

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

Text: John 1:4
Theme: “In Him Was Life”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God breathed new life into the wilting world. Bending, breaking, aching, smarting the weight of the world was hanging in suspended animation until the wood the manger could be shaped into the timber of the cross. It took 33 long years- a grueling test for Christ’s mortal frame but in God’s measure of time it was but a blink of an eye. The shadow of Calvary looms behind the cradle in Bethlehem. Like book ends they frame the earthly life of Him who rules a heavenly kingdom. The flickering light of the nativity is a tiny precursor of the brilliance of His eternal glory. In His life we know truth and through that truth the Spirit gives life. Spirit-given life always finds its place in the orderliness of His kingdom.

Life is not soulless. Dear friends, one of the great deceptions of our age is the claim that life came to exist through chaotic and purposeless cosmic forces. “It was all by chance,” many experts say; a random nexus of chemical and physical conditions ignited by some epic aberration and facilitated by eons of time. In short, the mystery and miracle of life is not divine, they say, but a mechanical and purposeless coincidence. No rhyme, no reason; just mindless forces of nature governing our world. The progression of such cold thinking threatens to drain the soul out of humanity.

The gentle embrace of an infant’s grip presents evidence of the contrary. Dear friends, until the Almighty God spoke no material even existed that could organize itself in any meaningful way. All life, created by the Godhead, exists only through divine providence and power. Human life has primacy and immortality only through Christ. The Holy Spirit spoke the promise to Mary and in her womb conceived the source and centre of all life. The mind-blowing complexity of what we observe is underpinned, upheld, and sustained by the sheer grace and power of Him alone. The Scripture says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”1

The Child of Bethlehem gives meaning to our existence. Of course, that’s a matter for faith. The heart and mind detached from God cannot see or hear it. Sin blinds the eye and deafens the ear. It robs us of His life. It may be truer at Christmas than any other time of year that we can be deceived into thinking that the blessings we enjoy are deserved or self-achieved. And it is possible to ‘give’ in a way where you value more the praise you will receive than the value of the gift itself. The nostalgia of the scene at Bethlehem cannot be used to cover false motives. We can’t measure blessings strictly by human parameters. It’s not a matter of what we possess but who we are possessed by. The angels communicate to us good news of great joy: A Saviour has been born.

Perhaps one of the great ironies of the present age is the failure of communication technology to help reconcile and improve human relationships. Just think how family Christmas giving and receiving has changed over the last generation. It has transitioned from an emphasis on more practical, hands-on gifts to technological devices that wire us to a more virtual reality. Computers, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and extensive exposure to all things electronic now characterizes many Christmases. This is not wrong in and of itself. But we should be attentive to its influences among us.

We have nearly instantaneous communication and the power of social media so our relationships should be stronger than ever! Right? We have the tools. We have the technology. Yet marriages falter. Families are broken. Friendships are strained. Our conversations are not embodied in truth and marked with forgiveness. We don’t converse as if we were gathered around the manger. We are not filled with the joy of the angels. We don’t have the humility of the shepherds. We thrust ourselves to the centre of the conversation. Technology has no inherent ability to foster stronger relationships and can just as easily be used to tear them down.

One thing we can be certain of: Christ has reconciled us to the heavenly Father. Our Christmas joy comes from knowing He is ever-faithful. The prophet says, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.”2 Yes, the prophet announces a joy that has no equal. Erupt into celebration you who despair of hope or happiness. A Redeemer has been born this day. Break forth into gladness you who are tormented by trial and temptation. A Saviour now dwells with you in the midst of your adversity. Launch into cheerfulness you who are weighed down with grief and sadness. The restorer of life now makes Himself known. Reflect joyfully, people of God, love incarnate, grace embodied, peace enfleshed has come to us.

Such joy can never be kept private. “Glory to God”3 sing the angels. In this tiny infant’s frame death’s supremacy is undone. “Hallelujah!”4 Shout the multitudes of heaven. “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory.” 5 He has overcome death and the grave. Christ was born for you. You’re not a distant observer peering into the manger from afar. He has you locked in His sights. You are the centre of His target; the aim of His mercy. You are the benefactor of His benevolence; the recipient of His healing love. You are His cherished bride; His found sheep; His resurrected son. You are the blind man seeing; the leper cured; the sinner absolved. You are His baptized. You are guests at His royal table.

Seeing the manger through the cross’s shadow and Easter’s morning light does not serve to kill the joy of Christmas. Rather it gives us the advantage of knowing the incarnation of Christ was not a failed sentimental attempt at reviving humanity. Christ entered into the fray in Bethlehem but He promises we will reside in the heavenly Jerusalem. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”6 Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Day
25 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 11:36
2 Isaiah 52:9
3 Luke 2:14
4 Revelation 19:1
5 Revelation 19:1, 6-7
6 John 1:14

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

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

Text: Luke 2:11
Theme: A Saviour…Christ, the Lord.”

Dear Travelers to the Manger,

Christmas comes with packaging. It can be no other way. Yes, wrapping and props, decorations and adornments. Many of these serve only esthetic appeal. The meaning is drawn together by the more informative elements; words, symbols, images. Vocabularies, lyrics, and poetry express the tidings and promises which convey the sentiment of the season. Such a grand event as the incarnation of God’s Son, His coming in human flesh, could never be captured by singular expressions or occasional images, regardless how fitting. How limited are our capabilities for exemplifying the immortality and sheer grace and majesty of God!

Nevertheless, the task is essential. Symbols, like words, convey meaning. Their intent is to express something real. If no reality stands behind our words, our images, our pictures, our symbols; then we are shown either to be intentionally deceptive or we are ourselves deceived. Christmas celebrations invested with only the meanings we supply are only parodies of the real thing. Moreover, we risk liability for misrepresenting His truth. Better to have divine truth than human imitations with all the trappings. St. Paul once said, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead.”1

There is always opportunity for our words and symbols to be refined, to be cleansed, to be given higher definition (to use modern parlance); for they are reflections of us and we are still under construction. But the truth of what is revealed to us in the manger cannot be improved upon. It needs no vetting and is not liable to decay. He is perfect Life, perfect Love, perfect Truth; complete and all-embracing. He is Immanuel, God with us. The Scripture says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”2 “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…being of one substance with the Father.”3

We have words but He is THE WORD. We use symbols but He is the substance. We have hopes but He is the fulfillment. We enter the scene at some point in time but He is the Beginning and the End. He takes what we’re indebted to pay- a full accounting for our sins. The manger could not hold the weight; it required a cross. In return we receive what is properly only His; forgiveness, peace, immortal life.

Every Christmas words and images that have become etched in our minds and imprinted on our hearts are revisited. Never are we too old or too experienced to have the meaning renewed and the truth expounded more fully. The Spirit who conceived the body of Jesus also gives life to our mortal bodies through that same Word, who is life.
Christmas come with packaging. God’s Son was wrapped in swaddling clothes. He is our Redeemer, “Christ the Lord.”4

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christmas Eve
24 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Corinthians 15:14-15
2 Hebrews 1:3
3 The Nicene Creed
4 Luke 2:11

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent (B) 2014

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

Text: Luke 1:31
Theme: The Plan Unfolds

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God often accentuates extremes. Today Gabriel- an angel of rank- was given an honour worthy of his status. He was sent from the counsel of God across the threshold of time and space to the locality of a young Jewish woman chosen for an unparalleled distinction. Her privilege was greater still. She would bear the Messiah. Yet she had no particular qualifications for such an honour. The striking contrast between Gabriel and Mary should not escape us. God honours the lowest of His creation through means of the highest.

God is never restricted in His resources but He often chooses to use those means that are immediately at His disposal- even weak and frail ones. The Scripture says, “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world, and the despised things- and the things that are not.”1 And through them His grace and power is made known.

Few details of the historical account are more indisputable than the humble estate of Mary. She was a descendent of David but only of common status. Joseph, a blue-collar worker, was an honorable man but offered no avenues for advancement in society. Into this humble family was born the long-awaited Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Scriptures says, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”2 Yet the royal son of David lives not in a regal palace but in an uninviting shelter fit for common beasts. In this way the holy Son of God took up residence with fallen humanity.

An infant child- and one born in poverty at that- seemed to offer a very fragile hope for a sin-sick world. Where was His matriculation into the royal courts? Who would tutor Him to rule the masses? The plausibility of this plan is beyond common sense and plain reason. What good could come out of Nazareth? Yet the wisdom of God would prove otherwise. God rules not through armies that coerce bodies but through the Spirit who changes hearts. In answer to Pilate’s query about whether He was a king Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.”3

Dear friends, if this life, this world, this short span of trial, testing, and indulgence were an end in itself for what purpose would the Holy Spirit call us into God’s house each Lord’s Day? The conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary is an analogy for the spiritual conception of believers within the womb of the church. There is no birth without conception. There is no delivery without the commencement of life. In a similar way, a person is not born into God’s kingdom until the Holy Spirit conceives faith in the heart. And the believer cannot be delivered safely to heaven unless that life is nurtured and safeguarded to the end.

The poverty of Mary and Joseph’s circumstance is a key part of what endears people to the nativity scene. Sympathy and sentiment spill out from the heart. The modesty of the whole thing grips us. As well it should. Yet the translation to what it says about our status before the Almighty is not easily made. Modesty is not a treasured virtue of our psyche. I speak here not of modesty in regards our everyday demeanor, but in reference to spiritual humility. The secure sinner, the unrepentant sinner, the ignorant sinner never sees himself or herself as spiritually poor. Sin denied is sin retained. Therefore the call to repentance is always fitting. Never do we outgrow our need to be convicted of our motives, plans, and pursuits that stray from God’s will. Never do we outgrow our need to be forgiven.

Christians seek to emulate Christ’s humility through faithfulness in ordinary tasks. Yet immediately there is a clash. The problem is being common isn’t in vogue. Ordinary vocations pursued with integrity aren’t valued as they should be. And it’s not an isolated problem. It’s a cultural mindset that has already become deeply ingrained. Societies have always liked their heroes, of course. Champions and villains alike gain fame or infamy because they surpass the common achievements of the average person. The ancient Olympics was the stage for athletic heroes that were venerated with widespread acclaim. Today’s fixation with all things celebrity is more than a fascination also. It is an obsession for many and a window into the psyche of both our culture and our human nature.

But God is too humble to compete on such terms. The Lord says, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit.”4 The Scripture says, “[Christ] had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”5 He doesn’t wish to be a celebrity. Celebrities rarely have rapport with those who admire them. They don’t usually have relationships with average, normal people, let alone those who are outcasts or on the fringe. But Christ came for ones such as these. He came to associate with sinners. He came for us. He isn’t looking for hyped media coverage. His message speaks for itself. When He performed miracles He was thronged by the crowds. But when He was nailed to the cross He was deserted by His closest followers. The greatest miracle remained hidden from their sight. He sacrificed Himself for their salvation. Even the reality of the resurrection didn’t fully sink in until the Holy Spirit opened their hearts and minds.

This Saviour, the one prophesied by the Spirit from ancient times, the one promised to Abraham, pledged to David, sworn to the people of Israel, announced with angelic voice to Mary; this Messiah is your Redeemer. He traversed the hills and valleys of Palestine and became the very gate to heaven and the barricade to hell. He endured crucifixion to secure for you a joy that far surpasses the manger’s nostalgia. He escaped the grip of death to secure for you life that does not end. He overcame Satan’s assaults to secure for you freedom from the devil’s power.

Christ is the high and holy God, the immortal One who comes to honour the lowly. He enters poverty that we might obtain wealth. In baptism we are immersed in spiritual riches; bathed in an eternal inheritance. He comes not to visit and pity us but to lead us to eternity.
At the Lord’s Table the Child of Bethlehem and Sufferer on Calvary meets you face to face; yet hidden in the simple means of bread and wine. You take onto your lips the promised One, the present One and the coming One. He is one and the same. The power of His crucifixion never wanes. The vibrancy of His life never diminishes. The One sheltered in Mary’s womb now holds the universe in His grasp. More pointedly, He cradles you in His embrace. The greeting of Gabriel to Mary is meant for our ears too. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday of Advent
21 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
2 Colossians 2:9
3 John 18:36
4 Isaiah 57:15
5 Isaiah 53:2
6 Luke 1:28

Monday, December 15, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent (B) 2014 Confirmation

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

Text: Col 3:17, John 8:12, 1 Tim 6:12, Rev 2:10
Theme: Primary Promises

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Dear candidates for confirmation; Brailey, Shenay, Ethan, and Luke,

In a few moments you will each be asked a series of questions and the first one you will be asked to respond to is this: “Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts which God gave you in your baptism?” The promise of your baptism is the starting point for this day of your confirmation. And it is also the ending point because you have been baptized into Christ’s death and His resurrection.

Today is a day about promises. Promises have fallen on hard times lately. If you get married one day you will make a promise to be faithful to your spouse. That is a serious promise. If you sign a contract for a job; that is a serious promise. If you take out a mortgage to purchase a house or property; that is a serious promise. If you join the military you will promise not to be insubordinate; that is a serious promise. Whenever these types of promises are broken there are severe consequences. But the type of promise you’re making today is really the most serious of all. You will be promising to remain faithful to God and the truth of His word even to the point of death. There are many important things in your life; family, friends, school, health, sport and many other activities, hopes and dreams, but your trust in the one true God and your life of faith surpasses them all.

If you take it seriously it will not be an easy promise to keep. Firstly, like all of us, all of you are sinners. That means you will constantly be tempted to think of yourself first and forget about what God says. Secondly, none of us know where life will take any of you, but we do know where Satan and the unbelieving world would like to take you: As far away from God’s word, His truth, His house, and His kingdom as possible. The devil has proven to be very effective at this in recent times. Thirdly, the world is filled with darkness. It is deep and sinister but it is often disguised in a way that appears attractive and appealing. Thankfully when we repent of our sins God promises to forgive us for Jesus’ sake.

The good news is God’s promise to us is bigger than all our failures. Christ did keep His promise even to the point of death. He went to the cross where He shed His blood for you. He overcame death and the grave for you. Crucified and risen He lives to intercede for you. He promises to never leave you or forsake you.

You cannot make God into someone or something else. As soon as you try to do so you have made an idol. But God can and has and will make/made you into someone else. The Holy Spirit gives you faith and as He grows you in that faith He shapes you into a unique person with a unique place of service in His kingdom.

The Bible is full of promises and all of its promises centre on Christ. Each of you has been assigned a Bible verse on this day of your confirmation.

Shenay “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17

Brailey “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Ethan “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

Luke “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10

Christ is light. He is forgiveness. He is salvation. Confirmation is not graduation. It is just one step in your life-long baptismal journey. And it is a journey you never travel alone. May God bless each of you now and from this day forward and may the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, your Saviour, keep you strong until the day you meet Him face to face. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Advent
Rite of Confirmation
14 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent (B) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Mark 13:32
Theme: Advent Angels

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The angels will be released. They will be sent to summon the elect. It’s an intriguing scene to consider and a reality that will captivate us with some urgency. We won’t be mere observers, but targets of His intimate love. Yet nothing in the universe will remain unaffected. The coming of the Son of Man will involve the disturbance and subjugation of the entire cosmos. The Creator will fully purge His creation. Neither the most remote and inaccessible star nor the very ground under our feet will remain untouched. Time and space will be breached; sieved in an instant. From Adam to the newly conceived infant humanity will appear before its Maker. There will be no exclusions or exceptions. Ancient things will become new and nascent things will be made mature.

Advent intends to lift our thoughts from mundane repetition to the fulfillment of holy promises. Advent means ‘coming’ and the season aims to jolt us from spiritual slothfulness in anticipation of that great day of the Lord. The Scriptures continually teach us to be mindful of our mortality. We heard Isaiah today, “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”1 How feeble is human strength and how fleeting is our opportunity! We are only sojourners in this land and there is great danger and delusion in believing otherwise. Of the faithful of past centuries the Bible says, “They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”2 A permanent home awaits us too.

Dear friends, as we embark on a new Church Year we are called on to reassess how in tune our lives are with the truth God reveals to us. Christianity is not an ideological position. Obedience to God’s will brings us into direct conflict with the agenda of Satan. Advent is a call to forsake our sinful ways. Does self-interest dominate our schedules? Are God’s commands treated as optional guidelines instead of the scaffolding which supports our love for Him and others? Do we not see that the specifics of His commands are meant to serve us holistically? Does, for example, ignoring the Sabbath not merit a second thought? Does sexual immorality cause us no angst? Does lying and deceit trigger no pain in our conscience? Do we allow jealousy and covetousness to rule unchecked, justifying it as part and parcel of the pursuit of our ambitions? Are our sins of omission even more glaring than the sins we commit?

And how do we react to being confronted by the perfect will of God? Do we dart for the shadows? Do we race for cover hoping to fade into anonymity? Do we grasp for a new identity pretending to have some type of cathartic amnesia? All such attempts are in vain; we cannot escape our past. Sin allows for no self-disassociation. In fact, sin adheres to us like superglue, it stains us deeply. And it impacts us. Luther said, “Where there is sin there is no clear conscience; where there is no clear conscience, there is a life of uncertainty and an unquenchable fear of death and hell in the presence of which no real joy can exist in the heart.”3

Advent does, however, announce to us the only real reason for joy. Christ comes to lift the burden we cannot bear. He cleanses the stain. Our offensiveness to God is covered by His body hanging from the tree. His corpse is draped over our body of sin and buried with Him in the grave. In baptism we are submerged into the death and burial of Christ. And there the punishment for the sins of the believer stays buried. In baptism we also participate in His resurrection. Raised spiritually now, we await the resurrection on the Last Day. A cross was lifted for us and the price of our freedom was nailed to it.

That freedom from sin’s condemning and binding power is something we have the privilege of sharing with the world. Christ tells His disciples to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. We are called to be wise to the misrepresentations, the equivocations and the blatant condemnations of the secular agenda. We are not to participate in them but rather expose them. We cannot sit back and allow the most vulnerable to be taken advantage of. Christian life is one of service. We are lights in a spiritually dark world.

Black is the ‘colour’ we see when all the colours of the spectrum are absorbed or are absent. White is what we experience when all the colours are present at once. Black symbolizes the absence of God and His gifts. It represents our spiritual condition without Christ. But Christ shines on us with the full spectrum of His love. We are bathed in the whiteness of His righteousness. Our lives are coloured by His holiness. In His perfect presence there are no shadows, no dark corners; no aspects of our existence are hidden from the brilliance of His redeeming light.

Dear friends, advent is not only concerned with future promises. Every time your heart is moved to an honest confession of sins and you receive His forgiveness you anticipate His advent. Every time you are called to remember your baptism you anticipate His advent. Every time you receive the sacrament of His body and blood you anticipate His advent. And at the very same time He also meets you in these gifts. Christ is coming in glory but He is already here in grace. He will rend the heavens and come down but He already embraces you with compassion. Presently we can only behold Him by faith. Our fallen nature prevents direct participation by our senses. At His coming we will be freed from sin’s curse and know Him fully. The Scripture says, “The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”4

We will be changed- for eternity. No trial, circumstance, or adversity can prevent that from happening for God’s people. The angels wait to participate in that event. We soon look forward to meeting once again the angels of the nativity; Gabriel’s visit to Mary, and good tidings announced to shepherds. But that was just the beginning of their work. They will come to gather the elect. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit has made this promise, “God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”5 “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”6

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday of Advent
30 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Isaiah 64:6
2 Hebrews 11:13
3 Martin Luther, Complete Sermons
4 1 Corinthians 15:52
5 1 Corinthians 1:9
6 1 Corinthians 1:8

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last Sunday of the Church Year (A) 2014

Text: Matthew 25:37
Theme: Royal Surprises

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God has no plan to keep this fallen world in perpetual motion. In fact, it is winding down. Christ did not come to keep the world on life-support; that’s not what redemption means. The door will be shut. The window will be closed. The curtain will be dropped on human history. The Father has determined an end to Satan’s opportunities. Christ will come in magnificent glory and overwhelming power and all will be subject to Him.

Yet, even now, Christ is always seeking the lost sheep. Today we come to the conclusion of another Church Year and prepare to embark on the season of Advent. Could there be any more relevant motive to move people to honest repentance than knowing the Last Day is imminent? All of our pursuits and dreams, our ambitions and passions, our challenges and fears must be viewed from the angle of how they relate to our status before God. Come what may, prosperity or adversity, the one thing we cannot suffer is to face the judgment with the uncertainty of whether sin is left unresolved. These are the most pressing matters of the heart.

Thankfully we are in the right place to address the question. The house of God is a surgical theatre for cardiac patients. The Holy Spirit is a heart specialist. He knows what ails you. He knows where you have blockages. He knows what causes your heart to race and what throws it out of rhythm. He knows how to heal and fortify our souls with divine gifts.

The pertinent question today is: Will we be judged by what we believe or how we have loved? It is a question that often vexes many people. But, you see, the one cannot be separated from the other. Faith and love should never be pitted against each other. The Lord does not judge by outward appearance. The Scripture says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone and we receive that salvation by faith- itself a gift of the Holy Spirit. But faith is always active in love. Otherwise it is shown to be sham. Love cannot be contrived; a show put on in order to make a good impression. Any ‘good work’ done with false motives is actually a sin. Because good works flow automatically from faith we find today that the righteous, the sheep, are surprised to be commended for serving the King. In serving those in need we are serving Christ.

The sheep and the goats aren’t necessarily easily discerned by the human eye. The sheep are surprised to be commended. The goats are even more surprised that the judgment goes against them. They don’t see where they’ve failed. They don’t recall disregarding any summons to serve the Lord. They want to know specifics. Yet in unbelief, they had neglected to serve others. There was no faith active in love. They were focused on other things.

Imagine if the most influential in society put as much effort into preventing the world from falling into moral collapse as they do trying to keep it from economical or ecological disaster! Imagine if people were encouraged to conceive children within the bounds of marriage instead of advocating for abortion on demand to secure the convenience of casual sexual relationships. Imagine if people were taught they are valued because they are made in the image of God instead of being appraised by how useful they are to the ambitions of others. Material affluence cannot substitute for strong relationships. Godliness and integrity in our vocations is more important than financial success. Attending to those in need is more important than building status or gaining popularity.

Christians learn to despise and detest sin even though they are continually tempted toward it. The unbelieving heart, by contrast, embraces sin and when that sin is not accepted publicly even in the secular culture seeks to justify its actions. Only fear of punishment or hope of reward, not love of God, motivates or restrains the unbeliever. Believers understand chastisement as the just and loving discipline of the Heavenly Father always intended to purify us. Still, we are, by nature prone to be angry with God, accusing Him of being unfair. The baptismal life involves the constant struggle of taking God at His word and trusting He has our best interests in mind. That is no small challenge. God allows afflictions to come upon us for the purpose of drawing us closer to Himself.

Don’t entertain, even for a moment, the idea that at the final judgment there is even a remote possibility that God will ‘come around’ and recognize your life’s effort as being worthy of His admiration. Shun all false humility, abandon all naïve hope, and cast yourself at His mercy. Neither your greatest sacrifices, nor your most generous acts of charity, nor your most steadfast obedience, nor moral integrity will win the argument in the divine courtroom. Christ hung from a cross and you did not. Not that it would matter if you had. Only His life was worthy of the ransom that was required. Christ “gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”2 For Christians the sentence against sin was already rendered at the cross therefore we do not fear the judgment.

Things will, on the Last Day, appear significantly different than they do now. No false appearances will be maintained. No secrets will be kept. No offences will remain concealed. No crimes will stay unsolved. No wool will be pulled over God’s eyes. Believers will be filled with joy and amazement when the full nature of God is revealed to them in Christ. The Scripture says, “We are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”3

How astounding it will be to see Christ as He is; face to face! That’s why Paul says today, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”4 That kind of prayer is wholesome spiritual food. It feeds our souls. And hidden under bread and wine we already do meet God ‘face to face’ as we take His body and blood unto our lips. His glory remains veiled in the sacrament but the promise acquired by His sacrifice makes us citizens of heaven already now.

Dear friends, the promise of Christ coming again almost seems too remote to be real. The repetitiveness of the world’s activities dulls our senses. But the Holy Spirit breathes fresh life into our souls. We are baptized for a purpose that far exceeds these earthly limitations. The resurrection awaits us. The dead will be raised and the curtain of history will be drawn. Satan, the demons, and the wicked will be forever separated from the triune God, the angels, and believers. Christians will experience complete joy in the presence of God for eternity. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 1 Samuel 16:7
2 Galatians 1:3-4
3 1 John 3:2
4 Ephesians 1:18-20

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 25:21
Theme: Servants of THE Servant

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus Christ is the servant of servants. That truth does not stand in contradiction to the fact that he is also Master and Lord. Christ was exalted through humiliation; He was glorified through suffering. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered, and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”1
You, as His baptized children, are privileged to be His servants. Today’s parable teaches what a great honour and responsibility that is. To His devoted disciples He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master;”2 a preview of the greeting at heaven’s gate.

They are significant words and should compel us to consider what they imply and how we value them. How highly do you prize the affirmation of God? Do you cherish the certainty of His favour or do you take it for granted? Are there other commendations you desire more? Does your need to be liked, or in control, or seen to be right motivate and drive you most? The world is like a fast-moving river whose current is endlessly trying to pull us along. It is like a persistent wind that never rests. Like the tide moving back and forth the temptation to conform to the latest trends in culture are always there. They are “in our face.”

Today Jesus teaches about faithfulness through the parable of the talents. The contrast is between the faithful servants who invest the money entrusted to them and the unfaithful one who does not. Each servant was entrusted with a very large sum of money. Essentially, the owner gives them complete control. The master, who represents Christ, was away for a long time. The first two put the money to work- they invested it, probably in things relating to the master’s business. The third, in fear and laziness, buried his master’s money in the ground. The climax is reached when the master returns. The faithful servants are commended and share in the master’s wealth but for the wicked servant the punishment is harsh and swift. These words of Jesus are not for the faint of heart.

Consider momentarily the reason why any place depicted as outside, in the darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,”3 is so commonly avoided, re-interpreted, or flatly denied (even in spiritual conversation and preaching). There’s no secret or mystery here. Eternal punishment is an affront to our sensibilities and the politically correct ideology of our culture. More importantly, it’s an offence to our nature. And it wouldn’t appear to be too helpful to the mission of Christianity. Who wants to be associated with a God whose judgment is harsh, swift, and final?

Therefore, the temptation to manage and manipulate God’s judgment against sin is always present. Better if the pastor is allowed to mention the problem of sin (that’s part of his job), but to do so without too much specificity. Otherwise we may be shaken from our comfort zones and called to honest repentance. If we were completely candid we’d admit that often we deem our own sin to be so minor that we have embarrassingly few things to repent of. It’s like the little girl who kept her room so spotless that when her parents told her to clean it she had to go mess it up a little first.

God knows better. The truth is our struggle as sinners is tied up inextricably with the love-hate tension with have within ourselves, towards others, and towards God Himself. We are redeemed but we remain powerfully self-centred. But, dear friends, God does not get confused by complexity or confounded by disorder. He can clearly differentiate between the sin and the sinner. The Holy Spirit is impeccably discriminating. He knows the perplexity of our motives; that our intention to love or help or obey is also tainted by hope of praise or fear of reward. He knows that we can be at the same time overflowing with sympathy and yet burning with rage. He knows our hope is often mingled with despair; joy with sorrow. He knows that we are simultaneously saints and sinners.

And He loves us despite of what He knows. His love is intentional and precise. The love of God is not nebulous. That is, it is not vague or ill-defined. Divine love is not a generic feeling of good will or unspecified sentiment of kindness. God is concrete, purposeful, and specific in His actions. God hears your prays, they’re not heaped on a common pile or filed away in a unnamed folder. He knows the thoughts and desires of your heart.

His intimate love is grounded in the tangible work of Christ. The cross was not arbitrary; a mere coincidence of historical context. The crucifixion was deliberate and definitive. Sacrifice was the only way in which God could fully show His love for us. Pardon from sin, freedom from Satan, rescue from death could not be accomplished in any other way. The Holy Spirit does not leave people guessing, wondering how God can be approached or salvation can be secured. The Scripture says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”4 It says Christ, “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”5 When you receive His body and blood at this alar you receive both the benefits of His death and the power of His life.

The message of the parable is clear: Faith has consequences; as does unbelief. Faith never exists in suspended-animation. Luther teaches us that faith is a living, active, and busy thing. It is continually ‘at work’ for the benefit of the kingdom. The promised return of the King reminds us that we are only stewards, not owners. We are not the proprietors, the landlords, or the title-holders. In a culture in which we are accustomed to possessing an abundance of material things we must be reminded that they can just as easily become the cause of stumbling and idolatry as being recognized as God’s blessings. Were we to own nothing at all-if even the very clothes we were wearing were borrowed-we would still be rich in Christ. As the apostle says, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”6

Think, dear friends, what it means that we are now co-inheritors of the kingdom with Christ. We are cherished citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. We were by nature outcasts; sinners from conception with no legitimate entitlement to the inheritance. We were doomed to face the unmitigated judgment of God. Yet God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”7 We are baptized, we are justified, we are sanctified, and we will be glorified. We are freed from the power of death. “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”8 Christ is the Servant of servants and we will be His benefactors for all eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Hebrews 5:8-9
2 Matthew 25:21
3 Matthew 25:30
4 1 Peter 2:24
5 Romans 4:25
6 Philippians 3:7-8
7 Colossians 1:13
8 1 Thessalonians 5:10

Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
16 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Friday, November 14, 2014

Christian Burial of Rosemary Ziersch

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

Text: John 11:25
Theme: Resurrection and Life

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Rosemary; Deb, Kym, Brenton, and especially you; Rod,

The struggle has ended; the celebration has only begun. Today the Spirit can temper our sense of grief and loss with a genuine appreciation for the blessings Rosemary now enjoys. As the apostle says, she now sees God “face to face.”1 Rosemary is at peace. We have it on the highest authority, the very decree from heaven, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’”2 Of course, Rosemary’s rest doesn’t mean inactivity. Undoubtedly the vitality she possessed on earth is even more magnified in heaven.

Dear friends, death is as common as the rising of the sun; a regular occurrence that collides with our daily routines and throws them decidedly, if only temporarily, out of balance. Even though death is commonplace- and we all must face it- it is always momentous. Something much more than a physical life reaching its conclusion is involved. Eternal things are at stake. Death brings us face to face with the big questions of existence, the deepest mysteries and the thorniest conundrums.

When reflecting on the death of a loved one honesty compels us to consider our own mortality. Nothing in this earthly realm is more final than death. It is an invincible power. We are defenceless to stand against it. We do ourselves no favours by ignoring it or brushing lightly past it. Death is not child’s play. It is deep, dark, and sinister. Death is not natural. It has a malicious cause. The Holy Scriptures say, “The wages of sin is death.”3 Because all are sinners all must face it. We live in a fallen world

Into this fallen existence comes an infant in a manger who grows up to be nailed to a cross. God sent His Son, in the flesh, to suffer and die. Divine intervention was required to rescue the human race. Here is where the skepticism of the world is met head on. Who wouldn’t have been filled with skepticism when Christ replied to the distraught Martha saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”4 They were filled with more doubt and even derision as He stood outside the grave of Lazarus- a man four-days dead- and called, “Lazarus, come out!”5 But the proof was in the pudding. And it was only a preview of His own victory over the grave. Christ is the immortal God who has conquered death itself. Easter is the bedrock of Christian truth. Rosemary held this conviction firmly and with transparent honesty.

Rosemary wasn’t pretentious in any way. She was a straight shooter; always calling a spade a spade. She was full of life, vitality, and good humour. Her laugh was always recognizable. She had a cheery disposition, determination, and tenacity. Her perseverance in overcoming the incapacitation of her stroke was remarkable. She fought on for five years not in bitterness but embracing her life in its altered dimensions. A stroke crippled her body but it could not cripple her spirit. She was a devoted wife and loving mother and nana.

On her last full day on this earth I asked Rosemary if she had any fears about going to heaven. Without hesitation her face grimaced in a fashion which indicated I had asked a pointless question and then she said emphatically, “None at all, the sooner the better!” She wasn’t just telling the local pastor what she thought he wanted to hear. She was filled with conviction. The time had come and she was ready. She looked forward to being relieved from the burdens of her deteriorating body. She longed to be freed from the mental and emotional strain of the daily grind. She had no reservations; believing that she lived a blessed and full life.

What could give her such confidence? Rosemary wasn’t silly, and her mind certainly wasn’t failing. Her trust rested not on hollow promises but on the fact Christ could not be held in the grave. She knew this meant that His crucifixion had freed her from the guilt of sin, that forgiveness was valid; that death does not have the final say. She received the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood insisting that the head of her bed be raised to what she considered a more reverent position. Nurtured one more time by His gifts and promises she was even more at ease. Though a sinner like all of us she knew she was saved by grace.

Rosemary was a flower in her little patch of God’s garden. Colourful in personality she added flavour to the lives of many. Her season in this short span of time we call temporal life has ended. The Scripture reminds us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”6 Her soul has been gathered into the fellowship of the faithful in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit where she awaits with us all the great resurrection of the Last Day. Secured in God’s eternal fortress no harm can reach her. No stroke can cripple her, no pain can burden her; no worry can trouble her. And there is nothing to subdue her laughter. The promise of her baptism has come to fulfillment.

And this is our only source of true comfort. The Holy Scripture says, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”1 Thessalonians 5:10 She now enjoys the communion of God in a manner that is beyond the widest limits of our imagination. Rod, the days ahead for you cannot be scripted. The journey of grief is unique to each of us. But as you reflect on the gift that Rosemary was to you as a wife and as a mother to your children take comfort in knowing that she is whole again; healed and restored never to be afflicted. Rosemary now rests from her labours. She has received the crown of everlasting life. Thanks be to God for His immeasurable love. Amen

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Rosemary Jennifer Ziersch
14 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Corinthians 13:12
2 Revelation 14:13
3 Romans 6:23
4 John 11:25
5 John 11:43
6 Isaiah 40:8
7 1 Thessalonians 5:10

Monday, November 10, 2014

Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 25:10
Theme: The Door of Heaven

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The shadows of the Church Year are lengthening. We are nearing the end of the cycle that celebrates the gracious intervention of God into our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Scriptures through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us today prepare us for the end of time and the commencement of eternity. The Bible leaves little to doubt about the Lord’s intention. “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”1 May God prepare us for this hour of glory.

Today Jesus seeks to jolt His hearers out of apathy through the parable of the ten virgins. The context is a First Century Jewish wedding in which it was customary for the groom and his attendants to process to the house of the parents of the bride. They would be joined by the bride and her family and then process to the groom’s home where the wedding would take place and the celebration, typically a week in length, would commence. Like today, weddings were announced well in advance and involved much preparation by everyone involved. Our story involves five ‘wise’ virgins and five ‘foolish’ ones. All went with their lamps to meet the groom but when he was delayed they fell asleep. When the call went out the foolish ones were found to be out of oil for their lamps. When they went out to buy some the bridegroom came and the wise virgins went into the wedding celebration.

Now we reach the critical juncture. The Bible says, “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”2 This is the turning point of the parable: The door was shut. When the foolish virgins return later, they say, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us! But He replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’”3 Were this a typical wedding celebration the response would have been almost unthinkable. How could the bride’s attendants be denied entry! It now becomes crystal clear that the final coming of Christ, the Bridegroom, is spoken of. The foolish virgins say, “Lord, Lord!” But the time is already past. He does not know them. That is, they were not true believers who endured in faith to the end. When God drops the curtain on history there will be no curtain call.

The door was shut. The foolish virgins were on the outside of God’s eternal grace. The shutting of the door is the final chapter in the book of history, the final act in the divine drama of judgment and salvation. But is should not come as a surprise. It is not without preview, precedent, or parallel. In a previous chapter of the history of redemption we are reminded that when Noah’s family and the animals were on the ark, “The Lord shut him in.”4 The ark was the sole place of salvation. Everything shut outside perished. The earth was purged of sin and Noah and the creatures emerged to inhabit a new and transformed world. Not surprisingly St. Peter says that it symbolizes baptism in which God washes us clean and makes us new.

Sin seals shut the door of heaven. We are powerless to unlock it or break it down. The essence of repentance is to recognize that we need help. There exists One more powerful than all humanity combined. His blood covers all sin. His death sustains all life. His life overcomes all death. Of Him the Scripture says, “These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”5 Christ is the door of heaven.

It is difficult when studying this parable to know exactly what symbolism is intended. The virgins appear to be the same except for their preparedness in regards to the oil and the lamps. Does the oil represent faith, love, or perhaps the Holy Spirit? Nevertheless the main point is unmistakably clear, “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour.”6 Such watchfulness involves perseverant faith and it can only take place under the shadow of the cross. The wisdom of the world laughs at the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion but for Christians it is the wisdom of salvation.

We must understand beyond all doubt that for every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth the door has not yet been shut. In fact, in this life, until we die or until the Lord comes again, the door is only shut by our own unbelief. No one can be saved except by the Lord’s doing. Yet, no one can perish except by their own fault. The grace of Christ is universal. He died for all. No sin is left un-atoned for. No sinner is left without hope. Yet those who deny the need for His grace begin swinging the door shut. And once they have driven the Holy Spirit away the door latches. It is not within our power to open the door. But, rest assured, Christ never turns away the repentant soul.

Inside the banquet hall the eternal wedding feast of the Bridegroom has already begun. The banquet hall is lit by God’s own radiance. The saints feast on sumptuous fare. Their souls are white as the driven snow. Yet even now we participate in the glory of that celebration. The Holy Spirit lights our paths. The bridegroom gives us of His own body and blood. The words of salvation sink into our ears and fortify our hearts. Our baptismal robes of righteousness cover our sin-soiled souls.

The reality that St. John saw has been secured for us, “After this I looked, and there was before me a door standing open in heaven.”7 Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep…I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved.”8 As the shadow of the Church Year’s approaching end fades to the dawn of Advent may the Holy Spirit fill you with peace and joy as you look forward to the celebration of the wedding feast unencumbered by the weight of sin. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
2 Matthew 25:10
3 Matthew 25:11-12
4 Genesis 7:16
5 Revelation 3:7
6 Matthew 25:13
7 Revelation 4:1
8 John 10:7, 9

Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost
9 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 21:32
Theme: The Way of Righteousness

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The authority of Jesus was often questioned. That should not surprise us. Christ came to overturn some of the most deeply held beliefs of human society. He came to shatter the understanding of how humans are reconciled to God. He did it not through coercion but through sacrifice. He challenged the power structures of the world but not on their terms. Pilate, the civil authority, allowed a miscarriage of justice. But it was the religious rulers who sought Jesus’ demise. It could be no other way because Jesus came to show the way of righteousness, a way diametrically opposed to the one they were determined to follow. The gospel is not a new program of human achievement. It is pure grace and true freedom from sin’s condemnation.

The problem of sin is underestimated when guilt is only associated with outward actions. Most people can readily agree with just condemnation for obvious sins, even when they themselves are implicated. The spouse that is violated because of unfaithfulness, the family that is ruined because of addiction, the life that is terminated because of abortion, the countless numbers who are wronged by deceit, dishonesty and calculated crimes people perpetrate against one another; these all cry out for justice. When these are no longer recognized for what they are then we are just playing games and risk swift judgment from God. Sin and sinners must be dealt with. And thank God that Christ came to die lest we all be without hope.

But a great danger lies in confining our understanding of sin to particular actions or circumstances. This is especially true for Christians. Refraining from participating in such open sins does not thereby absolve us. The problem is much deeper. Do the words of our confession “I have deeply displeased you and deserve your punishment in time and eternity” pass quickly over our lips and prick neither our hearts nor our consciences? The law-abiding Christian can easily be lulled into thinking personal guilt before God is no longer a serious problem. After all, we go to church. Soon our outward righteousness is confidently held up for God to examine. Save for giving formal lip service to the fact of our sinful nature, we assume all is covered.

But dear friends, to put it starkly, we are damnable not because we sin, but because we are sinners. And to believe that this is what Christ came to address is the core of the issue. The way of righteousness is the way of repentance. Repent and you will live. God resurrects those who are spiritually helpless. The teaching of Christianity, the doctrine of Jesus Christ, is counterintuitive to the wisdom of the world because it reverses things. In Christ, the wise are foolish, the strong are weak, the exalted are humbled. In Christ, the humble are lifted up, the frail are strengthened, the disenfranchised are empowered.

The god of Islam rewards those who are strong. The gods of Hinduism favour those who are persistent. All religions of the law, including all misguided interpretations of Christianity offer hope only to those who exhibit some human capacity to achieve spiritual benchmarks. Our God attends to the weak, the frail, the helpless, and those on the brink of losing hope. The true God is worshipped not by proudly presenting Him with our credentials, but humbling receiving His gifts. Before God we are always beggars before a king, penitents before a judge, beneficiaries before a sovereign, and finally revelers before a Saviour.

Repentance is the way of Christianity. It is not a starting point or an occasional activity. It is a continual way of relating to God. It is to be cultivated as a mindset, a habit, a way of thinking and acting. Repentance relates not to a single point in time, but a continuum of existence. It is not as though we have turned away from sin and are now finished with that. We are always turning away from sin. It is not as though we had believed in Christ’s forgiveness, but then moved past that necessity. We are always believing; yearning, and aching for Christ’s forgiveness.

In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of a man who had two sons. He asked them both to go and work in the vineyard. “‘I will not,’ [the first] answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.”1 Which son’s relationship most closely resembles your relationship with the heavenly Father? The first son had his heart convicted and repented. The second son, despite his words, was hardened in heart. What mattered was not what was said, but what was done. Repentance is evidenced by the integrity of its actions.

The biblical understanding of repentance involves turning. It involves a rejection of the former way and turning to a new direction. Now it must be made clear that the Bible’s understanding of repentance it not merely a matter human decision or the opportunity to choose from valid options. The rejection of the former way entails recognition it was the wrong way. It means sorrow and acceptance of guilt over disobedience towards God’s will. This is worked only by the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the new direction entails trust that Christ is the only hope for deliverance. This too is the work of the Holy Spirit involving the gift of faith.

If the Holy Spirit did not turn us around and keep us on the right path human ability could never accomplish it. But the gospel can and does change things. Consider the magnitude of how Jesus concludes today, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.”2 Here we have remarkable words; stinging in their condemnation of the self-righteous but full of hope for the humble. There is no darkness in your life that is so deep that Christ’s light cannot penetrate it.

Dear friends, the way of righteousness is not a program for self-improvement or a scheme to boost our morality. The way of righteousness is the way of Christ. In complete humility He became a human being and “became obedient to death- even death on a cross.”3
You have been redeemed by His sacrifice- a price sufficient to cover the sins of the world. In His resurrection you have present and future life. You are washed by baptismal waters and fed with sacred food. The baptismal promise is never revoked. The menu at His sacramental table never says “no longer available.” Jesus’ authority will continue to be contested, believers will be refined in the crucible, but these are just temporary trials and travels in darkness that will quickly fade at the dawn of the resurrection. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Matthew 21:29-30 2 Matthew 21:31-32 3 Philippians 2:8

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
28 September 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Christian Burial of Marjorie Eustice 25 September 2014

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

Text: John 14:2
Theme: A Place For You

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Marj; and especially you Kaye, Susan, Bruce and Betty,

The place of Mar Eustice is now filled. Christ planned it in eternity. He secured it through His redeeming death. He guaranteed it from the moment of her baptism. And He has now received her into eternal rest. Therefore, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”1 Marj has been crowned with eternal life. Thanks be to God for His indescribable love! Were we privy to the blessings she now enjoys our tears of sorrow would be turned instantly into tears of joy.

But, alas, we are still humans laboring under the weight of our own mortality. So as we reflect on this occasion in which sorrow is mixed with joy, sadness mingled with hope, a sense of loss blended with relief we do well to recognize the complexity of confronting such a serious thing as death. We do ourselves no favours by ignoring it or brushing lightly past it. Death is not child’s play. It is deep, dark, and sinister. Death is not natural. It has a malicious cause. The Holy Scriptures say, “The wages of sin is death.”2 All must face it.

Short of willful denial it’s impossible not to have some belief about death. There are only two possibilities. Either people just cease to exist or they live on. If they live on; on what basis and under what circumstances? So where do we look for hope? Are we content with none at all; to resign ourselves to a purely material, purposeless understanding to the universe and human life? A universe without a creator? A world without aim, design, or intent? A human race without ancestry or meaning, or future? Can the soul be reduced to only the emotional or psychological aspect of an individual? Many Christians have surrendered to just such a world view.

The greatest sin is always unbelief; to utterly abandon all hope in God. Often this happens not in any formal way. Gradually, almost imperceptibly the sheep stray beyond the voice of the Shepherd and eventually they are lost. Little by little people look to other things for security and seek to find meaning and purpose only in the fleeting things of life. But time does not favour transitory pursuits. Only God can ordain certainty and if He does not do so there is no certainty at all. What can be more certain than that God must be true to Himself? The Scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”3

The great failure of our time is not that we expect too much of God, but too little of Him. Christ isn’t a convenient little solution for our fear of what lies beyond the grave. He’s not a prop, or a fine-looking façade behind which there is just empty space. He is the immortal God who has conquered death itself. Easter is the bedrock of Christian truth. The grave was empty, not His promises. Let’s not be too quick to assume that the ancients were ignorant or that they naively followed religious notions that had no credible foundation. Could the apostle state the pivotal issue more clearly? “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”4

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”5 Therefore, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”6 Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”6

Marj Eustice did not have a stagnant or shallow faith- if such a faith can really even exist. Her trust was deeply anchored in the promise that God is merciful. Her trust in His mercy was tested mightily. She suffered the death of their 12 year old son Robert. Few things test the resolve and resilience of a parent more than the death of a child. She spent many long and difficult years tending to Murray in his convalescence. She had many reasons to feel worn out or give up. She could have cried “Unfair! It’s all too much!” Yet by the grace of God she persevered and was a loving and exemplary wife and mother.

In her latter days she may have forgotten many of her former acquaintances and experiences. Why God allows this to happen is beyond the boundaries of proper speculation. But she was not forgotten by her Lord. Now the promise of her baptism has come to fulfillment. She has been released from the power and decay of sin. She has received the inheritance. In perfect peace she awaits the resurrection of all flesh. We celebrate her homecoming today.

Like each of us Marj had her faults and imperfections. Like each of us she lived in a fallen world. But she was redeemed. She was made worthy to enter into the presence of God by the Lamb whose blood covered her sins. She was saved by grace, and through faith freed from the sentence of condemnation. She was God’s cherished child and faithful servant. She regularly received strength from His body and blood at this altar and was lifted by the promises of the Spirit.

Dear friends, it’s not with childish fantasy that the apostle Paul writes, “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, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”7 Marj is no longer exposed to the power of decay and she’ll never be separated from the presence Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Suffering has ended. Death has been conquered. Satan has been denied. Peace is now hers. Her time here is done. In heaven it’s just begun. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Marjory Estelle Eustice
25 September 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 14:2
2 1 Corinthians 15:19
3 Romans 8:31-32
4 1 Corinthians 15:17-19
5 I Corinthians 15:20
6 John 11:25
7 Romans 8:38-39

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 20:13
Theme: Beyond Fairness

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ did not come to make life fair but to redeem sinners. He did not come to cater to our sense of inequity but to reconcile us to the heavenly Father. Misplaced are all hopes that the main task of Christianity is to establish a utopia on earth. Without question compassion for the most vulnerable of society, regardless of status or belief, is one of the great strengths and legacies of Christianity. But the God who was born in a manger and hung from a cross offers something far beyond fairness. He has plumbed the depths of hell on our behalf. That truth transcends all human ideologies and pursuits.

Today’s parable illustrates how human thinking fails to understand the mind of God. The story is one of a vineyard owner who hires workers for his vineyard. The topic is about the nature of grace. Grace is a particularly divine quality. It is a fundamental concept in understanding the person of Christ. The workday starts when the owner agrees with the workers for the day’s wage and sends them out early in the morning. As the day progresses he keeps sending out more people he finds standing around with nothing to do. He does this at 9:00AM, noon, and 3:00PM. He even sends some out at five in the afternoon. The workday ended at six. The last workers worked only one hour in the vineyard.

The crux of the story comes when it is time to give the wages. The owner tells the foreman to call in the workers. We note a reversal of protocol when he says to pay those who were hired last first and proceed to paying those who were hired first, last. This alerts the hearer of Jesus’ word to something significant coming up. Typically, those hired first would be paid first. But now these first ones hired are there to witness what the others receive for pay. To their great surprise they receive the same pay, one denarius, as everyone who worked the entire day. This does not sit well with the first group and they cry “unfair.” But the owner explains that they were receiving the wage they agreed to. What reason do they have to be upset because the owner generously decides to give the others the same amount?

So here were learn something fundamental about the nature of God. His love towards humanity transcends human understanding. He is not fickle, unfair or whimsical in his treatment of us: He is gracious. The nature of His activity towards us is such that it is without preference. He makes us into nothing so that in Him we may have everything. The Word of God is a dynamic entity which acts upon us in a purposeful way. God’s intent is always that we be beneficiaries of His grace.

But if truth be told, we don’t always want others to receive as much grace as we do. And to not want this is to misunderstand who God is; as the workers in the vineyard story indicates. Spiritually, God must crush us before He can revive us. The law of God is the great equalizer. The judgment of God against sin makes no exceptions or preferences. We are all lumped together in the category of the condemned with no distinction. If we are honest we know that this is repulsive to us- down to the core of our being. How humiliating, how insulting, that a supposedly discerning God says that you and I are no better than the criminal sentenced for unspeakable crimes! How unfair that we should be labeled with those who have no conscience about breaking the law! How unreasonable that our honest efforts to be spiritually upright would not be recognized! We are stripped of status, rank and privilege! Under the crushing hand of the law you and I are no one of consequence. In fact, we must repent for who we selfishly strive to be.

But in as much as the law of God is the great equalizer, the great leveler, so much more is the grace of God the great compensator. The grace of God pardons the most unspeakable of crimes. The grace of God is absolutely unreasonable from a human perspective because it does not take into account any merit, worth, value or desirability. God’s grace is completely undiscerning and unprejudiced about the value of its object. The Scripture says we “are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”1 Christ plays no favourites. He never closes His ears to the cries of the penitent.

Dear friends, God’s compassion to you embraces both present and future dimensions. Baptism assimilates us into both of these realities. Baptism cuts us into the inheritance. And it does so not by some sort of artificial charity catering to the idea that everyone deserves the experience of heaven. We are only recipients of the baptismal inheritance because Christ reconciled the Father to us. We were estranged, cut-off, under condemnation and exile. Now we are adopted and become co-heirs with Christ. Our names are written in heaven.

But don’t think for a moment that faith is like an heirloom. It is not an inert entity that magically maintains its value and vibrancy. Faith is a dynamic, living, breathing; relationship which if not exercised and fed will die. Just as we can’t eat once and expect to live on that sustenance indefinitely; we can’t treat baptism like once-off event that is soon relegated to the historical past. Its power and blessings are exercised daily; yet it remains a gift.

Think of the parable today. The daily wage buys daily bread. We learn to pray for it regularly and give thanks for the same. But lasting sustenance must come from a divine source. We cannot work for it, barter for it, or otherwise acquire it. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever…Your forefathers at manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”2

That’s why Holy Communion is mature food. It is not for the self-righteous, for the Scripture says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”3 It is not to be received in a prideful manner or taken lightly. Thus believers should always pray that the Holy Spirit would work genuine repentance in their hearts before partaking of this sacred meal. Christ’s blood is a holy vintage, a divine gift.

The generosity of the vineyard owner is just one more illustration of the benevolence of our heavenly Father. Satan incites us to cry unfair and even question God’s judgment. But the Spirit points us to a cross and there all questions of unfairness are answered. The Scripture says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made live by the Spirit.”4 We too have been made alive by the Spirit and even now participate in the resurrected life of Christ. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Romans 3:24 2 John 6:51, 58 3 1 Corinthians 11:27
4 1 Peter 3:18

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost
21 September 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Theme: The Nature of Mercy

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is merciful. Perhaps you’ve heard that so many times it doesn’t really register. You just block it out. Perhaps you’re waiting for evidence, remaining skeptical until God proves Himself to you. Maybe you think those are fine-sounding but essentially hollow words? Or maybe you pretend to think God is gracious, you try to say all the right things and nod your head approvingly when appropriate, but inwardly you are gripped with doubt and even anger. Efforts to convince you are likely to be pointless. The Holy Spirit must do what no human can. The divine witness must speak for itself.

Forgiveness is always an act of UNDESERVED grace. Jesus teaches this vividly today in Matthew. The storyline is straightforward. A king wanted to settle accounts. Each debtor was brought before him in turn. The relevant debtor for this illustration owed him the equivalent of millions of dollars. He was not able to repay. The king ordered what was customary for the time: Total liquidation of his assets, plus sale of himself and his family into slavery. The ruler is not depicted as a tyrant. He has already been lenient by not requiring payment earlier. He is only rendering justice. The man pleads for mercy and has all of his debt cancelled. The ruler is shown to be magnanimous. The freed servant, however, goes out and denies mercy to a fellow debtor who owed him only a small sum. His hypocrisy is revealed.

Modern parallels to today’s parable are not hard to find. Common is the hypocritical person who pleads for leniency on some occasion that turns right around and dictates unfairly to someone at their mercy. Jesus uses an example that applies to economics. But the principle applies to all situations. And it applies to all of us. Unwillingness to give and receive forgiveness is one of the clearest symptoms of our sinfulness.

The Scripture says to forgive from the heart1. But how is this possible? What if we don’t feel inclined to forgive? To be merciful? Can it be forced? Forgiveness certainly does involve a movement of the heart. But when proper sentiment is lacking, forgiveness is firstly an act of the will. It’s helpful to recognize the complex dynamic between the heart and the will. Often the intellect knows the right thing to do is to forgive, but the heart is unwilling. We know the Scriptures, we know the command of God, but our heart is in the grip of resentment. Nothing is more treacherous than the human heart. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things...who can understand it.”2

The core of the problem relates to our natural desire to want to play God. The true reason people don’t forgive is because they don’t believe the offending party deserves forgiveness. Put the other way, people don’t forgive because they believe they are justified in withholding pardon. The key element is belief. That doesn’t mean the evidence is unimportant. If there is no evidence of repentance, no desire to be forgiven on the part of the offending party then the offended person may be forced to leave the matter with God alone. But, assuming the person does honestly seek forgiveness, then whether or not the person deserves forgiveness becomes moot for the Christian. Forgiveness is always unmerited grace. Trust in God’s promise becomes paramount.

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. "But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy." "But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied. "Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is what I ask for." "Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son.

The debtor today was so desperate he begged for mercy. But he was still not humbled. His motives were not pure. Not every desperate-looking act means the soul is ripe for spiritual healing. The law of God must do its proper work. It’s a mirror for us in our own relationships. What is our motivation? Is it selfishness? Is it fear? Is it anger? This man was about to lose his whole way of life. Is it concern for the well-being of others? Is it gratitude? Is it love of the truth? These are the works of the Spirit.

Two brothers went to their rabbi to settle a longstanding feud. The rabbi got the two to reconcile their differences and shake hands. As they were about to leave, he asked each one to make a wish for the other in honour of the Jewish New Year. The first brother turned to the other and said, "I wish you what you wish me." At that, the second brother threw up his hands and said, "See, Rabbi, he's starting up the feud again!"

Dear friends, a year one student may understand forgiveness better than a mature pensioner. But not because it’s a natural inclination or kids are naturally innocent. It’s only because they haven’t been as thoroughly scarred by the experiences of life. The more often we’re hurt the more likely we are to become jaded. That makes the gospel all the more essential. It alone has the power to transform us. It has the power to heal us. Such healing is only possible because Christ has addressed the root of the problem.

Forgiveness never makes light of the sin. It doesn’t whitewash it. Forgiveness recognizes that a restored relationship is more important than hostility and estrangement, even when that must be taken on faith. God doesn’t pretend. He doesn’t just turn a blind eye as if our transgressions were of no consequence. Rather, He assigns to them great weight. The punishment for them was endured at the cross. Nothing we do can influence the value of His forgiveness. And God doesn’t forgive us on account of our sorrow for sins. He doesn’t wait until we’ve done something worthy of earning His pardon. It’s a matter of sheer grace. That is His promise to you. There is no chasm that His death and resurrection can’t bridge.

Yes, we might like to see the Red Sea parted3 as the Israelites did today; but haven’t we seen greater things with the eyes of faith? The Saviour was nailed to a cross and laid in a tomb. We see in the crucifixion the means by which our sins are forgiven. We see profound love and compassion. Three days later He rose triumphantly from the grave.

Dear friends, repentance and forgiveness become habitual for the Christian. Even more, this dynamic of seeking and receiving grace characterizes the lives of the baptized. We hear His promise in the words of the gospel. We are washed by the cleansing waters of baptism. We taste His divine favour in Holy Communion. When you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ you are ingesting forgiveness. The Holy Spirit continually revives, restores, and renews us in the promise, presence, and power of Christ. That’s how the heart is changed. That’s how the soul is moved to extend pardon to others. That’s how we are clothed with spiritual armor. That’s how we exist as living stones in His temple and living sacrifices for His kingdom. Finally, that’s how we maintain our confidence even in the face of death. The Scripture says, “None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”4

Christ is the embodiment of mercy. Philosophical arguments won’t convince you of that. His record speaks for itself. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 See Matthew 18:35 2 Jeremiah 17:9 3 See Exodus 14:19-31
4 Romans 14:7-8

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
14 September 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt