Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 5:13-16
Theme: Christ’s Salt And Light

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is not quantifiable. His power cannot be measured. His wisdom cannot be fathomed. His compassion has no limits. These truths are vivid reminders of our miniscule status in relation to the Almighty. We cannot sit back and analyze God objectively. We are fragile dust. He is infinite and indestructible power. He is the Creator. We are His handiwork. Our access to Him hinges completely on the person and work of Christ. Jesus is the true image of the Father and the embodiment of sinless humanity.

The unchanging truth for each new generation is that there will never be any other way to approach Him. We can banter around all kinds of opinions and speculations. We can exalt our great learning and acumen. We can praise the great inventions and achievements of society. We can promote our optimism for the future of technology. Yet all the cumulative wisdom of humanity is silenced by one word from the Almighty. Guilty! Give an account of your rebellion. Explain your self-centeredness. Justify your neglect of others. Defend your disregard for God’s truth. How will you face the judgment? Death is your punishment. The Scripture says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”1

There is no civil or well-intentioned way to opt out of this condemnation. We are called to repent. Denial of God doesn’t require washing your hands like Pilate, planting the fatal kiss like Judas, or repudiating the Saviour like Peter. It may involve only you and your neighbour. The place where our confidence lies, the place we look to for help- there is found either God or an idol. All are bound to one or the other. There’s no use whitewashing falsehood. Yet it is the way the world is bound to operate.

The church cannot compete with the world on the world’s terms. Nor should it try to. The world wants to sell you something. It has its own agenda. It makes its own rules. The church has Christ’s agenda. It lives from and follows His truth. The uncertain, ambivalent, and apathetic can never be wooed by a life of discipleship that sounds more enticing than what the world has to offer. No matter how you dress it up, make it sound exciting, or allege that one is missing out by not being part of the Christian church the attempt is misguided. Explanations of cross-bearing are not evangelism tools.

The ego must be slain. The puffed up personality must be deflated. The Holy Spirit must crucify the sinful nature. Then we can see clearly with the eyes of faith. Then we see the cross changes things in a radical, unequivocal way. The apostle Paul said today, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”2
Then we see everything from a different perspective. We learn both what it means that we are salt and light and that the struggle of life has eternal consequences for ourselves and others. Salt can become contaminated. It then becomes useless. Light that is coved up serves no purpose. The vicinity remains in darkness. With these analogies Christ encourages His people in their public witness.

The believer is justified in an instant and faith is created in an instant and both are complete. They are the perfect work of the Spirit. They cannot be augmented or altered by human input. But mature faith takes time and struggle. Rome was not built in a day and neither can wisdom become accumulated in an instant. We are tested and tried, refined and reworked. Christians are not trophy pieces God tucks away in some cosmic display case. We are in the midst of competition, the heat of battle, and the struggle of pilgrimage. We are followers, voyagers, and battlers because this world is fallen and evil is prevalent. The tares grow with the wheat, the goats are mixed with the sheep, and the good fish swim with the bad. But the Lord knows those who are His3. And the devil can make a pretty good guess too.

Satan never relaxes in some distant corner of hell. He prowls about among the people of God with subtlety and full of devious intent. No one gets a free pass from His temptations. He knows just when to inflame our anger, fuel our insensitivity, prompt our dishonesty, and support us in our self-righteousness. His ploys drive us back to God’s word and cause us to seek His forgiveness. In this way God uses Satan as His lackey to purify our faith.

The Christian never advances past struggling with temptation. The tension between the Old Adam and the regenerate life always remains. There is no way to leave the cross in the past. Believers are always becoming. We have never arrived; not in this life. Even the resurrection doesn’t relieve us of our fallen condition. We are baptized and we continually return to the power and promise of baptism. Therefore, the forgiveness of sins is always redeeming, always life-giving; always essential. Absolution is never a dead promise, never a hollow formality. You are justified in present time when the words are spoken. Christ forgives your sins through the mouths of His servants, His pastors, but the words and the power are His. He feeds you with that forgiveness in Holy Communion the moment it touches your lips.

His forgiveness continually gives you a clean slate and an untainted motivation to love unconditionally. The Christian is always a servant but ever free. Believers are always under obligation to love their neighbour, but always free from the burden of atoning for their own sins. We are free to forgive because we have been forgiven. Never underestimate the importance or impact of your service to others. Your most important service to the church might be your faithful life of prayer. It might be caring for an ageing parent or a frail spouse. It might be setting a good example for children by making their spiritual lives a priority. It might be supporting foreign missions. It might involve a hands-on presence in the community. It might involve making sacrifices for work mates. It may be combinations of many of the above. We all have multiple vocations. Some of your vocations may change, others will be life-long.

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.”4 No one else bears the life of Him who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. You, baptized child of God, called, justified, sanctified, led by the Spirit, wearing the armor of God; you reflect the light of Him who pierces the world’s darkness. Could there be a greater privilege or more awesome responsibility! Christ has not ignited us and set us blazing with His love so that we would be covered up or hid away. He has not invested His spiritual salt with the preserving power of His Spirit just to be thrown in the compost heap. No, indeed, He longs to greet us with these words, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”5 He is faithful and He will do it. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Romans 3:19
2 1 Corinthians 2:2
3 See 2 Timothy 2:19
4 Matthew 5:14
5 Matthew 25:34
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
9 February 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt