Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 11:28
Theme: The Search Ends In Christ

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The world is rife with discontent. Affluence more often fuels it than quenches it. People are searching. Some targets of acquisition are age-old and obvious; wealth, health, power, influence, and control. These are typically sensory and worldly. Others are more transcendent and philosophical; meaning, purpose, and even immortality. These more spiritual convictions tend to interpret seemingly ordinary pursuits. The Saviour promises rest for the soul. Sinners can be at ease only in the presence of Christ. In Him the quest ends. In Him eternity begins.

Jesus was not timid about condemning evil and unbelief in His generation. Though direct, His condemnations were often witty. He sought to engage people in thought-provoking ways. We should not be surprised that His assessments are still relevant and appropriate today. The word of God is never obsolete. He says, “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”1 Music and dancing characterized wedding celebrations, rejoicing and happiness, the presence of bride and groom. Funeral dirges and grieving accompanied death and sorrow, loss and mortality. Representing opposite ends of the spectrum of human existence Jesus contrasts these two to highlight opposition to the gospel and His mission and ministry.

The religious rulers were unpleasable. John the Baptist was viewed as a somber preacher of repentance; Jesus as too accepting of the unclean and outcast. John led an ascetic life-style- not overly-indulgent or gluttonous- yet they demonized him. Jesus enjoyed the hospitality of all classes of people and they labeled Him a glutton, drunkard, and friend of tax-collectors and sinners2. Human nature is no different today. Malcontent is endemic. It vexes the human psyche. Hardened unbelief is never satisfied. The self-absorbed are never satisfied. Those who construct idols are never satisfied. Those searching for ultimate fulfillment other than in God will never be satisfied.

The Spirit’s call to repentance is never simply a call to be content. It is a call to recognize, to admit, to confess that in our sinful, selfish natures we desire to determine what should make us content. We desire to set our own rules. We do it to the harm and detriment of others. That desire does not cease even in the baptized. The baptismal life is a daily struggle. The apostle says today, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out.”3 Dare we assume that we may fare better than St. Paul?

Some try to shift the blame. Why is there still so much brokenness in the world, they ask? God is not the cause of sin. But, dear friends, we cannot defend that truth with logic and we certainly cannot defend it empirically. It is not self-evident. It is an article of faith. How can a good and gracious God allow so much evil to exist? Is He not truly omnipotent? Is He not comprehensively compassionate? We have a hard time seeing the connection between God’s omnipotence and His benevolence. His apparent lack of intervention is at times quite noticeable. Can we really attribute the cause of all tragedies to natural disasters or Satan’s meddling? We can’t write everything off as chance, luck, coincidence, or satanic scheming. God is not inept but we are left with some irreducible complexities.

Long ago a false teacher named Marcion proposed two gods; one who created evil and one who created good. It was his way of trying to make logical sense of what seemed to him to be irreconcilable contradictions in the Bible. His solution was to dismiss the entire Old Testament and significant parts of the New. The spirit of his approach is alive and well as seen by the widespread crisis of credibility in the Scriptures. Here our hubris must be kept in check. We’ll never succeed in making sense of God. He won’t be put into a box. His ways are not directly accessible to our reason. We cannot tame or domesticate Him. His truths are not manageable. He won’t be slotted into our schemes. His justice is too perfect and His grace too profound to allow it.

God doesn’t always offer explanations, but He offers hope. He doesn’t promise we’ll comprehend all His ways but He promises He’ll be faithful. He doesn’t always prevent sickness, but He promises complete healing. He doesn’t always prevent death, but He offers life. Christ didn’t come to resolve paradoxes; He came to reveal them. Jesus said, “All things have been committed to me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”4

All human quests for the divine, for definitive meaning, for ultimate security, for final contentment are futile. As in the eye of a cyclone there is no direction we can take. But God intervenes. Christ draws sinners to Himself. He pulls us through the maelstrom. The Spirit gives life and hope in baptismal water. It’s not so much our search that ends, but God’s. The Redeemer says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”5 Our Lutheran confessions make this comment, “There are two parts here. Labor and being heavy-laden means contrition, anxiety, and the terrors of sin and death. To come to Christ means to believe that for His sake sins are forgiven.”6 The Holy Spirit’s goal is always to drive us into the arms of the Good Shepherd. True rest is the peace that comes from being reconciled to God in Christ.

Dear friends, think of the magnificence of the truth that is revealed in Him! The immutable God- the eternal, changeless Deity unaffected by time or decay, unencumbered by the limitations of mortality- nevertheless assumed frail human flesh, God became man, clothing Himself with a mortal body. A manger in Bethlehem became the dwelling of the Prince of Heaven. An instrument of torture became His throne and there He was crowned king. On the altar of the cross this holy and blameless Son of God, the immortal and invincible Second Person of the Trinity, died as the greatest of sinners. He then rose victorious over death. As the epitome of all paradoxes it’s not one we solve, but one we worship. God and man, in Christ succumbing to death but giving life, bearing transgression while freeing from sin, humble but exalted He secured our salvation.

The Holy Spirit reveals these truths to us in the Scriptures. He reveals them in the sacraments. The promises He attaches create and fortify our faith. Paul reminds us, “We live by faith, not by sight.”7What you see is on the altar bread and wine. What you are promised is the body and blood of Christ. The divergence between what is seen and what actually is is the power of the incarnate word. Christ is here. Here is contentment. Here the search ends. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +
1 Matthew 11:16-17
2 See Matthew 11:18-19
3 Romans 7:18
4 Matthew 11:27
5 Matthew 11:28-29
6 Tappert, AP XII, 187, 44
7 2 Corinthians 5:7

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
6 July 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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