Monday, June 2, 2014

Seventh Sunday of Easter (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: John17:9
Theme: Prayer In Action

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ prays for His church. Today we hear how magnificent His requests to the heavenly Father are on our behalf. He prays that we would come to know the glory of the Father. He prays for eternal salvation. He says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”1 Christ’s prayer is unique because He alone can bring His own prayer to fulfillment.

Recall what He said to His disciples before the ascension, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”2 He was referring to the writings of the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. They were typically divided under three groupings, the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. It’s the same Old Testament Scriptures we have today. Jesus is the infallible interpreter of the Scriptures. His word is conclusive because His word is truth. He speaks not simply as an expert in spiritual and theological matters; He speaks as the Son of God. The Bible says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”3

Christ speaks to us His word of law and word of gospel. Our response is both humble prayer and joyful praise. The church of Jesus Christ is the church of repentance. It is a community of forgiven sinners always confessing its shortcomings and seeking grace. Only those who are reconciled to God can be agents of restoration for others. Luther said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”4 Now, what is the nature of this repentance? Firstly, repentance is initiated by God Himself. The Holy Spirit must convict the heart and convince us of the true guilt of sin.

To be confronted by God means facing things as they really are. There are no charades with the Almighty. Christ does not forgive fabricated offenders. We can play our games- offering to confess our lesser sins to conceal our greater ones. The tactic of distraction has always been widely deployed for political means. Personally too, it’s a strategy that’s hard to resist. If we can keep God occupied with our petty offences perhaps we avoid addressing our more sinister deeds. Our conscience always flirts with false security here. Like the clever criminal who frames the unwitting citizen we think we can play God the fool. But God’s word is a double-edged sword. It swiftly severs us from the safety of game-playing and boldly confronts us with the reality of our unrighteousness.

Secondly, our repentance involves not only a turning away- turning away from sin, selfishness, and idols; but a turning to- we turn to Christ, we look to His word of promise, we cherish our baptism and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This aspect of repentance entails recognizing where we really stand with God. You don’t have anything to offer God. Nothing! In a society of affluence, opportunity, and accomplishment you are empty-handed before Him. Your piety, your charitable works, your efforts at keeping His commandments- none of these can merit God’s favour. Christ has done it all for you. He is the complete sacrifice for sins. His forgiveness is free and unconditional. Through Him we participate in an eternal victory.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ stand immovably as the pivotal events in history. Nothing can supersede them. Jesus is not a part player in a bigger drama. He is not one spiritual colour in a kaleidoscope of deities, demi-gods, or spiritual truths. He is the source, the purpose, and the fulfillment. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Demonic powers cannot manipulate Him. Earthly authorities are paper tigers before Him. No one can supply Him because there is nothing He needs.

But as Christians, we are never empty-handed before our neighbour. We always carry with us His blessing of peace. We always have to offer whatever resources God has put at our disposal. Our love of God flows through our neighbour. We can love selflessly because we are provided for generously. Many hearts remain closed to the gospel. But Christ opened the eyes of the blind and He can bring light into the darkest spiritual lives. After His resurrection Christ opened the minds of His own disciples. What Christ opens no one can close. What He closes no one can open. In His light we see light. “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”5

Christ is the high priest. He prays for His church. He intercedes on behalf of believers.
Thomas Watson once said, “Christ went more readily to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” Therefore the writer to the Hebrews encourages us, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”6 And let us have confidence that Christ intercedes for us even when we do not know how to pray as we ought. Like the young boy who been sent to his room because he had been bad. A short time later he came out and said to his mother, "I've been thinking about what I did and I said a prayer." "That's fine," she said, "Did you ask God to help make you good boy" "Oh, I didn't ask Him to help me be good," replied the boy. "I asked Him to help you put up with me."

Dear friends, think of how patiently God puts up with us! Thursday was the Ascension of Christ. His enthronement at the right hand of God the Father marks His position of rule and authority. He lives to continually intercede for His church. Yet His ascension does not mean He is absent from us. He is present in the word of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. He is present bodily through His body and blood in Holy Communion. Our faith is not sustained by some distant memory of His past activities, but by His blessings to us here and now. In prosperity and adversity Christ attends to us- and always for the purpose of drawing us to Himself. May the Holy Spirit grant us firm confidence in His unconditional love. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 John 17:3
2 Luke 24:44
3 Hebrews 1:1-2
4 Martin Luther
5 2 Corinthians 4:6
6 Hebrews 4:16

Seventh Sunday of Easter
1 June 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt