Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 13:49
Theme: “The Angels Will Come.”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Humanity moves towards a divinely determined end. It is moving towards finality. That is the belief of Christians. Life doesn’t unfold randomly, chaotically, open-endedly with no organized purpose or aim. Though no one knows when Christ will return we do know that we don’t have to worry about the triumph of uncertainty or indefiniteness. Christ has been vested with immortality and He promises the same to all of His followers. The Scripture says, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true, ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”1

Again today Jesus teaches about these things in parables. Mustard seeds, yeast, treasure, pearls, and catches of fish are all points of comparison. All illustrate some aspect or dimension of the kingdom of God. Its blessings cannot be assessed by worldly standards; it’s presence measured by human wisdom; or its final consummation understood by human logic. The parables describe joy for those who hold dear heavenly treasures and weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who do not. The wicked and the evil will be sorted in the end. The angels will come.

Angels will be key players at the Second Coming of Christ. But we need not think that in the meantime their role is insignificant or irrelevant. Angels are not the delicate cherubs depicted in some medieval artwork. They don’t flit around trying to facilitate romantic connections or hover about like celestial birds. Angels are creatures of stature and purpose. They are commissioned with great tasks and vested with awe-inspiring power. They serve the King of kings and bear the authority of their master. We would do well to be more cognizant of their presence and more appreciative of their assistance. They are God’s agents for our benefit.

It is not the ministry of angels, however, that brings us to repentance. That is the work of the Spirit through the clear teaching of God’s word. The Spirit has a deeply entrenched worldview to overcome- one that puts the individual at the centre of existence. The sooner we understand that we are not self-existing, self-supporting, and self-directed the sooner we understand truth. There is no other path to healing; no other avenue to grace. We can say all the right things, play all the right games, make all the appropriate appearances in church, participate in all available works of service and charity, take all the right steps to pacify our consciences and still be living a facade. Why? Because we haven’t come to terms with or we have forgotten who and what we really are. Grace doesn’t exist for the self-righteous. It’s not in their vocabulary. It’s certainly not in our genes.

Therefore, sinners cannot be self-diagnosed. Like the sufferer of brain trauma we cannot accurately assess our own condition. Don’t draw in that breath that will attempt to breathe out some justification for your sins. The Old Adam must be suffocated. Take God at His word. He knows the evil that hides in your heart and takes form in your deeds. Don’t raise your ego to confront Him, bow your heart before Him.

He knows the seriousness of your guilt because He endured it. Christ has been in deeper darkness that we can ever know; His pain more profound than we can begin to image. He endured the weight of humanity’s transgressions. He was the sacrifice and He made atonement not with cooperation, but alone with His own blood. He willingly gave Himself over to death for our sins and for our salvation. He triumphed over death draining it of its power. Hear again the words of the Spirit, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, long with Him, graciously give us all things…Christ Jesus, who died- more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”2

And so in His grace you stand. You stand not under your own power, not vested with your own armor, not equipped with your own strategies, not needing to endure unspecified trials; you stand resurrected, you stand in the RISEN One, you stand in His truth, His light, His love; you stand in your baptismal promise. You stand in the Spirit embraced by the arms of the Father. Apart from Him we would fall into the abyss of darkness, pushed over like a house of cards, flattened an ant under the sole of a shoe; demolished like a sandcastle before a tidal wave.

Believers can stare down death. Our confidence is not arrogance. And our confidence cannot be maintained independently or indefinitely under its own steam. The church is always a hospital for sinners. Sensible people know they cannot survive without food and water. Honest Christians know their spiritual lives cannot survive without Christ’s body and blood, without the continual renewal and restoration of His forgiveness. His word and sacraments continually sustain our faith. Detached from them we fall into immediate spiritual decline.

The church is at times more or less compromised by many believers remaining in a state of suspended spiritual adolescence. It’s up to the experts or future historians to determine where we are on the scale today. But what is abundantly clear biblically is that faith can never be stagnant. Faith that remains in a state of suspended animation is a sham. Faith is living, breathing, and active. It cannot be still.

Even for the newly baptized infant the activities of the heart are dynamic. They are being influenced by the Spirit’s activity through God’s word; through hearing and learning the truth of God’s love. The activities of the heart are also being influenced by the corrosive power of sin and selfishness as sin always tries to reassert its dominance. While the believer rests in Christ and the promise of sins forgiven, he or she is at the same time engaged in the tension and struggle of living in the world but no longer being of the world. Christians yearn for a permanent home.

But we don’t sit around idly pondering heavenly mysteries. We are purposeful member of the kingdom. The more surgeons advance in their skill and experience the more opportunity they have to make a remarkable difference in peoples’ lives. But they also have more responsibility and the cost of making a mistake is greater. The more military personnel advance in their training the more opportunity they have to protect and rescue those at risk. But they also have greater responsibility and the consequence of failure is more significant. The more believers mature through the challenges they face the more responsibility God gives them to share the burdens of others. The Bible says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”3 Of course the resultant damage from failure is greater too, but Christ more than covers the risk.

Today’s final parable describes a net with the angels separating the fish at the end of the age. For the believer this brings together three realities; the eternal purpose of God before creation, the saving work of Christ on the cross, and the baptism of the believer into His death and resurrection. In baptism the Holy Spirit goes fishing. He pulls sinners out of the vast ocean of aimlessness and self-servitude and places them in communion with Himself and proper order with one another. The fish was one of the earliest symbols of the Christian faith. The Greek letters formed an acronym that meant Jesus Christ God’s Son, Saviour. This Saviour, our Saviour will not fail us. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 1 Corinthians 15:54
2 Romans 8:31-32, 34
3 Galatians 6:2
4 1 Corinthians 5:12
5 Genesis 28:17
6 Romans 8:18

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
27 July 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt