Monday, June 30, 2014

Third Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 10:40-42
Theme: Everything In Christ’s Name

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christianity is not a philosophical system. It’s not a frame of reference to help us identify with the beliefs of our ancestors. It’s not merely a cultural perspective on society or a set of principles to address civilization’s challenges. Christianity is the life and salvation we have in and through Jesus Christ. It was first called the “Way”1 because it is a comprehensive way of believing and living, of praying and hoping, sharing and rejoicing. Christianity orientates and orders the lives of believers in relation to God and humanity, in time and eternity. Christ is not our consultant. He is not our patron. He is our Saviour.

Now that implies there is something or someone to be saved from. Our focus in Matthew 10 over the past couple of weeks reminds us of the gravity of this truth. The Scriptures provide us with clarity regarding ultimate things. Dear friends, it’s an immeasurable distance between imperfection and hell. That is, our natural reason allows us to accept that we’re not flawless; we’re not perfect. The ego can deal quite comfortably with this. But seldom does the ego accept the fairness of eternal punishment. The conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit cannot bear it. The charge of total depravity, the verdict of guilt meriting eternal punishment can be received only in faith. There could never be enough evidence; never enough proof.

Reason and logic will never be satisfied. Surely God could not be so unfair that He would not overlook some of our indiscretions! Surely He can see the good in us! Human nature always clings to the claim that at least a smidgeon of goodness can be found within and with patience and persistence be nurtured into a person worthy of God. That’s why repentance is never about being convinced the punishment fits the crime. It’s never about being just good enough. God must be taken at His word. We cannot sit in judgment.

The Scriptures are consistent in their teaching of sin and grace, law and gospel. God always addresses us with the purpose unencumbering our egos and bolstering our trust in His promises. The Spirit’s managing of us is often challenging, even taxing. Today Abraham is a peerless case-in-point. To grapple with Genesis 22 is to wrestle with the deepest complexities of the faith. Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac is the son of the promise. Abraham follows God’s command to the point of drawing the knife. Then God intervenes. From a human perspective the whole ordeal appears cruel, nearly insane. Yet it was a preview of the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Of course that doesn’t make it more sensible or less profound. Christ was already in view. He is the only Son that surpasses all only sons. Yet how was Abraham able to muster the strength? Hebrews chapter 11 tells us, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”2 God grant us such faith!

Faith can be weak, it can be vulnerable; it can be frail. Faith can be misinformed or confused. But faith can never be piecemeal. It is never incomplete. We have all of Christ or we have none of Him. If our faith is not in the Christ who died and rose for us then it is a deception. The Spirit always points to Christ. Christ always gives access to the Father. Jesus says to His disciples, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives the One who sent Me.”3 Our God raises the dead. We are raised already in baptism and our baptismal life is immortal because it carries us right into eternity.

Baptismal faith exists in repentance. The dynamic of grappling daily with sin and clinging to God’s promises in Christ is what constitutes the life of a believer. Dear friends, we are sinners of our own making. We are saints of Christ’s making. We are both at the same time. We are self-made sinners. We are Spirit-made saints. From human perspective these truths are logical contradictions. One cannot be both utterly sinful and completely holy. But from God’s perspective we are truly righteous because He sees us through the lens of the cross. He sees us through Christ. And in Christ He sees pure holiness.

Our salvation is purely by grace for Christ’s sake. We cannot prepare for it, merit it, contribute to it, or earn it in any way, shape or form. We are justified, declared righteous and holy in God’s sight purely out of God’s unconditional mercy. We receive His divine favour through faith, which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit. Our Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4 Christ is passionate for every soul. His love burns with intensity. It drove Him to the cross. His love also motivates us to serve others.

Today Jesus says, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is My disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”5 How do we handle this promise of reward? It certainly is not an incentive to gain favour with God. We can never earn our salvation or accumulate credit with Him. The promise that the reward will not be lost is an encouragement to be faithful. It is inspiration for us to persevere in helping others. God does notice. It does matter. God will not turn His back on His people. He will attend to our needs now as well as into eternity. The simplest act of kindness or charity done in Christ’s name has immeasurable value. Monetary values cannot be placed on sacrificial acts of service.

Dear friends, we are the body of Christ. The body has many parts. Not all have the same function. But all serve the common good. All work together, the stronger for the sake of the weaker, the greater for the sake of the lesser, the courageous for the sake of the timid, the joyous for the sake of the sorrowful. You or I are not the church individually and we cannot exist as independent spiritual entities. The Bible knows of no such thing as strictly private life faith. The church exists in community. As such we bear Christ’s truth into the world.

A cup of cold water may appear to be a trivial gesture. Yet it can be the avenue for the Water of Life. The world is spiritually parched. But the blessings of God are extravagant. In Christ’s name, through His power, in His presence, the simplest things are sanctified for His purposes. Bread and wine become the bearers of His body and blood. Water becomes the instrument of the Holy Spirit. The words of the pastor “I forgive you all your sins.” become the declaration of the Almighty God. There is no higher authority. The Scripture says that even “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +
1 See Acts 9:2
2 Hebrews 11:19
3 Matthew 10:40
4 Romans 6:23
5 Matthew 10:42
6 2 Timothy 2:13
7 1 John 4:18

Third Sunday After Pentecost
29 June 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt