Monday, September 8, 2014

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Exodus 12:1-14
Theme: Christ, Our Passover

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The blood of Christ spares us from the judgment of God. The background for understanding this is recorded in Exodus. God said, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.”1 He was talking about being spared by the angel of death. The tenth and final plague was a decisive judgment on idolatry. Every plague was a leveling of judgment against the false gods of pagan religion. So ingrained was the superstition, the worship of created things rather than the Creator, and the moral depravity that came with trying to appease the deities, that, though the Israelites were liberated from Egypt they could not be fully delivered from such deception. An entire generation perished in the desert. Forty years of purging was required before they could enter the Promised Land. And even then they were vulnerable to the falsehoods and practices of the people around them.

The devastating consequences of unbelief should never be taken lightly. Outwardly life can appear vibrant while spiritually the soul comes under the domination of selfishness, arrogance, and apathy that leads to loss of purpose and hope. The disease itself prevents proper self-diagnosis. Sin afflicts real people and brings real problems. We should never think of God’s condemnation of sin as an abstract activity unrelated to life in the here and now. God judges idolatry in all its modern forms and the punishment is rendered according to His pleasure. Our response is not diplomacy but repentance. Only then can we cherish Christ’s work. Deliverance from sin’s power is not only a future promise but a present blessing.

We are privileged to be witness to a long history of God’s blessings. The church did not arise out of a vacuum. The significance of the Passover shed light on this truth. The spiritual foundations of God’s covenant with His people of old could not be grasped without understanding the meaning of Passover and the Sabbath. The Passover was the key event of deliverance previewing the greater rescue of the Messiah; the Sabbath was the hub around which the wheel of spiritual life revolved.

God rested from His work of creation on the seventh day, the Sabbath. The Jews believed the Sabbath was to be strictly honoured as a day of rest. Yet they also held that God Himself continued to do two types of work on the Sabbath: He gave life because babies were born, and He judged because people died- both on the Sabbath. Christ continued that work. Birth accepts no postponements and death takes no holidays. Both are under the jurisdiction of God alone.

Think, dear friends, of what we often now treat so flippantly: The miracle of birth and the poignancy of death. Dare we claim to understand these mysteries? Even if science describes many of the biological processes of life; who can probe the mystery of the human soul? Even if medicine offers a more painless conclusion to the human journey, who can reveal the moment mortality is fulfilled? These are in the providence of God alone. Human intellect will never solve them. Christ alone reserves these mysteries to be revealed in the hereafter.

Jesus’ activities on the Sabbath were the cause of long-running contention with the Jews. Resolving where Jesus stood over against the day of rest was critical in understanding His claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Often Jesus healed on the Sabbath and did what was necessary for people’s well-being. He wasn’t transgressing the holy day but raising it to its intended purpose and fulfilling it. Therefore Paul could say, “Do not let anyone judge you…with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or Sabbath day. These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”2

Reconciliation with the Father is the crux of Jesus’ work. It was foreshadowed long before His birth. “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”3 The result is peace. Christ has turned away the vengeance of God. His vengeance is not a capricious resentment but a godly jealousy. He pursues us with tireless determination and bears with us with long-suffering patience. He is zealous for the purity and holiness of His people. Christ endured His wrath so that we might be purged of sin’s condemning power. The blood was painted on the doorframes as sign that the inhabitants should be spared. God was present with His people.

In Christ’s presence we have nothing to fear. He is never too busy with other things to attend to us. God’s ability is not limited. Our situation is not like the story of the small boy going to sleep. One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, "Mother, will you stay with me all night?" Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, "I can't dear. I have to sleep in Daddy's room." A long silence followed. At last it was broken by a shaky voice saying, "The big sissy!"

Now we can live in freedom from fear, but only through a living relationship with Him. The Bible says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”4 If we are not regular in our contact with God’s word and sacraments, if the Divine Service is not the starting point of our week, then we quickly get out-of-sync with God’s intended rhythm for our lives. The Holy Spirit moves to the cadence of God’s drum. He is preparing us, His people, for bodily resurrection in Christ. Believers are bound not to the instinct and arbitrariness of nature but to the purpose we have in Christ. We are participants in high and holy things. We’re not to be governed by worldly mammon but by spiritual food.

The Scripture says, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival [with] the bread of sincerity and truth.”5 In one place the sun sets while in another it is rising. In one place the faithful say their evening prayers while in another they offer their morning praise, and so the litany of God’s love is in continual progression. “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”6

Dear friends, we don’t gather merely for historic remembrance. God is active among us. The Child of Bethlehem, the Suffering Servant of Calvary, He who is the Resurrection and the Life says, “I am with you always.”7 Christ meets us here and now with His absolving word. Forgiveness is the lifeblood of the soul. Without it we become spiritually crippled and die. Christ meets us here and now in the cup of blessing. He gives us His body broken and distributed in the holy meal. He is present in Holy Communion to offer us pardon for our sins, healing for tired bodies and aching souls, and comfort in our time of need. Christ meets us here and now. He walks with us in the present. He leads us into the future. Eternal death will pass us over because we are freed by the blood of the Lamb. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Exodus 12:13 2 Colossians 2:16-17 3 Exodus 12:13
4 Galatians 5:25 5 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 6 Psalm 113:3
7 Matthew 28:20

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
7 September 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt