Friday, April 25, 2014

ANZAC Day Address 2014

When the sun sets on the battlefield the shadow of darkness extends far beyond those in the midst of combat. In dawn’s light the price of conflict is often revealed: Bodies wounded, minds broken, hearts anguished, lives forfeited. Relationships spanning a few strides of beach or many miles of ocean are ended. The toll is not measured by counting fatalities. The impact not assessed by tallying resources lost. Wounds leave scars. Scars endure.

But scars are not without purpose. They are solemn reminders. They command respect. Some scars are the trophies of sacrifice. All sacrifice is given meaning by the divine sacrifice of the Son of God for the frailty of all humanity. He bears those scars which point to the end of all wars. His life embodies the true essence of a love that gives freedom. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Freedom is never free. Nations are not entitled to it. Its preservation depends on judicious use of power. Corruption of power lies at the heart of human arrogance. Its appeal is a penetrating temptation. Its abuse is a constant danger. The strongest are not those who oppress, but those who protect; not those who rule to enact their own agendas but to serve others. Only when exercised in humility can the use of power reflect God’s intention. Christ “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Freedom cannot be measured by levels of affluence, happiness surveys, or patriotic sentiment alone. Freedom’s truest measure is the opportunity for the most vulnerable in society to enjoy the stability of the privileged. It creates an environment of promise and potential. It is a haven for hope. We take it for granted at our own peril. It is a precious inheritance.

The fruits of the sacrifice the ANZACS rendered cannot survive through sentimental reflection. The spirit of duty and selflessness, honour, and conviction must be embodied in specific actions and particular commitments. The desires of the individual cannot be elevated above the well-being of the community. Together we stand, divided we fall. How will we embrace their heritage? It’s not merely a question for government. It’s not just a question for veterans. It’s not only a question for civic organisations. It’s a question for you and for me. It’s a question for all.

Democracy can never be maintained by proxy. Attending to its vitality cannot be delegated to a select few. Perhaps only a few debate and enact its laws. Perhaps only a few publicly discipline those who abuse it. Perhaps only a few make the ultimate sacrifice for it. But all must cherish it. All must defend it. All must believe in its virtues, its values, its ventures.

Today we remember the sacrifice of others. Their efforts galvanized the consciousness of two nations. Let us carry their scars seeking from the Almighty God the wisdom to emulate true virtue. Our inevitable failures are covered by Christ for He is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 2:2
Let us pursue peace even in the midst of life’s instabilities until that last day dawns when all conflict has ceased. Pastor Darrin Kohrt Concordia & Outlying Lutheran Churches, Loxton

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Resurrection Of Our Lord (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 28:5
Theme: Fear Overcome!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Fears are not easily forgotten. They tend to amend our plans and alter our activities. We seek protection from their enactment and long to be freed from their intimidation. The Jews who petitioned Pilate were no exception. “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again,’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day.’”1 Yet, in the face of an angel-induced earthquake it was all in vain. Plan B was to fork out a large sum of money to the witnesses to keep them quiet. Modern conspirators have nothing on ancient strategists. Christ lives and all challengers stand condemned.

Now, here we are, separated by centuries of time but united by continuity of truth. The Holy Spirit cements our fellowship with the Father and the Son who transcend all our limitations. Oh to put our fingers where Thomas placed his- into the scarred wounds of the risen Christ. The wounds of Christ are the most glorious trophies of the truth of the resurrection. Risen from death Jesus spoke, He ate, and He showed His visible wounds. The display was a concession to the doubting disciple. Perhaps we too would like to be indulged in similar manner? But “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”2

A mass grave on the Island of Amakusa in Japan contains the buried heads of some 11,111 Christians massacred and decapitated by the ruling Shogun dynasty in the year 1637. The grave marker states that the bodies of the executed Christians were buried separately from their heads. The act was in direct defiance of the Christian creed. Missionaries who had brought the faith to the area faithfully preached the resurrection of the body. The ruling officials supposed that by separating the heads from the bodies there could be no possibility of Christians coming forth from their graves. It was a dramatic attempt to deny the inevitable.

Dear friends, what use is there trying to guard the grave of Jesus? All people will be raised on the Last Day. Yet people try to guard it even now. The attack on the truth of the resurrection continues in many ways. Pervasive confidence in scientific explanation renders serious consideration of the resurrection problematic for many. Afraid of being out of step with the philosophies of the day, many so-called ‘thinking’ people dismiss the possibility of miracles at all. A materialist world view frames their thinking. The physical world is all they know. Everything else is ruled out. Such skepticism is nothing new. St. Paul addressed it forthrightly when he said, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”3

Within major Christian communions cynicism regarding the Bible’s authority is adding to the spiritual mortality rate too. The consequences of relativism are becoming more evident. Truth enjoys an absolute status in very few areas. It is being replaced instead by a fluid method of determination that extols the impressions and values of a particular individual or group of people at a particular moment. In short, the cry of relativism is “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me.” Even if it had previously been true for the last 2000 years or longer! The implications are far-reaching. Consensus will become impossible and society will be thrown into turmoil. The church is tasked with expressing the life-giving gospel to a dying world. She can only do this with conviction when she has faith in her own creeds.

Dear friends, Christ rose from the grave at a particular time in an historical place. It happened in the Judean province of the Roman Empire under the rule of Pontius Pilate. Jesus didn’t vanish into thin air. His body wasn’t moved. His grave didn’t get robbed. His bones did not rot. He wasn’t embalmed. He didn’t go down with flight MH370. There was no conspiracy to cover up the facts. He didn’t ascend secretly to heaven. He moved among His disciples for 40 days after His resurrection. He appeared to more than 500 at one time4. These are the facts of history and our conviction is based on them.

But what about the meaning of these truths? Here the Holy Spirit must teach us. What prevents the fact of the risen Christ from being little more than a remarkable footnote in history? How is it relevant? Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention, you’re a sinner and one day you are going to die. The crucified Saviour doesn’t offer you temporary forgiveness. If that were the case your repentance would be futile in the end. Your sins would accrue into eternity. The resurrected Lord lives to intercede for you. He transforms our entire perspective on life. He sanctifies the most mundane things.

Easter is a mountaintop experience. But we live in the valleys of life. The ruggedness and mundaneness of life tax us each and every day. We become scarred, bruised, and broken. In all this sin seeks to continually get the upper hand. Luther reminds us that the Old Adam can swim. The guilt of our sin is forgiven in baptism, yet our sinful nature tries to claw to the top and scrape out an existence until our dying breath. Aware of the danger the Holy Spirit must always attend us. He does this through the word.

Christianity cannot be boiled down to a set of rules or precepts, which, when followed to an acceptable degree make one a Christian. It does not consist of a set of programs or opportunities for fellowship. Neither is it some transcendental spiritual experience unassociated with time and space or real people or historical events. Grounded in the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection the Christian church seeks to be ambassadors of the unchanging truth in an ever-changing world. Christ is the author of life, Saviour from sin, and victor over death.

Never distant, He journeys with us. He conveys to us the intimacy of His love in Holy Communion through which our faith is renewed with His vibrancy. Every participation in the sacred meal is a dose of immortality. Though bodily we succumb to the power of decay our souls only strengthen as we move on in Christian maturity. He shepherds us, doctors us, teaches us, mourns and rejoices with us. He buoys us with hope.

Skeletons often cast dark shadows over our lives. The challenges of life burden us and even the message of Easter can fall flat. But the risen Christ is a bright light at the end of the darkest tunnels. Your grief over lost loved ones or lost love, or lost opportunity, lost hopes or lost dreams is tempered by His presence. Your struggle with raising children, balancing work and family life, and juggling your community responsibilities is given framework and purpose by Christ’s honouring of your vocations. Your propensity for overindulgence, greed, addiction, or depression is overmatched by the Spirit’s forgiving and transforming power. Your fear of aging, poor health, financial security, even death itself can rob you of the ultimate confidence in the future. But there was no skeleton in HIS tomb and that means your grave is just a temporary resting place also.

If Christ had not risen all these things would be pointless in the end. Life would be an end in itself. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.”5 He said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever.”6Abraham saw the resurrected Christ7, King David saw Him8, all those who waited patiently under the old Covenant saw Him with the eyes of faith. How much clearer is our spiritual vision for we stand on the shoulders of those who saw the covenant fulfilled! It is a great cloud of witnesses9. Let us raise our glad praises. Death has been conquered. Christ has triumphed. Amen.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Matthew 27:63-6
2 John 20:29
3 1 Corinthians 15:14
4 See 1 Corinthians 15:6
51 Corinthians 15:20
6 Revelation 1:18
7 See John 8:56
8 See Psalm 16:10
9See Hebrews 12:1
6 Revelation 1:18

The Resurrection of Our Lord
20 April 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt