Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christian Burial of Louise Jane Kershaw

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 5:24
Theme: Life Restored

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Louise; Robert, Sue; Declan, Ashton, Averyall; and especially you; Mark,

Silence is often the better part of wisdom. It is for fools, anyway, and before God we are all fools. What can be said that does not sound trite, inadequate, or redundant? What can be uttered to soothe such pain? Words are often insufficient to express the movements of the heart. Tears can say more. Silence does not extinguish anguish but it does honour grief. Louise Kershaw has finished her struggle. In the midst of our sorrow we are gathered to give thanks that she has now been released.

The struggle of grief is as old as the human race. The Bible presents to us the ancient figure of Job. Job was the quintessential man of suffering. Bereft of ten children, robbed of all possessions, victim of cruel infirmity; this Job pleads his cause. “If?” He says. “If I have put my trust in gold…if I have rejoiced over my great wealth…if I have I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune…if I have concealed my sin.”1 If anyone can bring forth evidence of why I deserve to be burdened with such pain and loss…please make it known. When Job’s three friends came to comfort him the Scripture says this, “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud…then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”2

Dear friends, life is precious at all times and at every age. Span of life should not numb us to the vile nature of death. Our minds should not be at ease or our hearts at peace when we observe someone live to a so-called ripe old age. Death is still the devastating consequence of living in a fallen world; of being creatures fully vulnerable to the crisis of mortality. Death for any person, of any age, in any condition, and under every circumstance is always, always the result of sin reaching its maturity. No human can stand against the power of death. Mortality is an unbending reality.

Louise is a testimony to that truth. Louise had tenacity. She was vibrant and full of life. She had drive and determination. She always saw things through to completion. And no one could allege otherwise. She was meticulous, thorough, and organized. Louise’s life; her outlook, her training, her attitude were the epitome of physical health and well-being. Her will-power and conditioning undoubtedly gave her many extra days in the end. She was a devoted wife and loving mother. She had a passion for the well-being of others.

It is perhaps more tempting to glamourize someone we deem to have died prematurely or unfairly. Undisciplined sympathy can facilitate counterfeit portrayals of the historical past. But it’s not an authentic way to grieve. Nor is it an honest way to be remembered. Louise would not have wanted us to construct a flowery fa├žade exaggerating or misrepresenting her personal qualities or life’s achievements. She knew her shortcomings. She knew she stood in need of God’s grace. She knew there was no way from here to there apart from that grace.

When Louise received Holy Communion for the final time she was asked to respond to this question: “Do you believe that Jesus Christ has redeemed you from all your sins, and do you desire forgiveness in his name?”3 Her answer was, “I do.” It was a Spirit-wrought response of conviction. She was frail, but forgiven. Her body was failing but her spirit was renewed. Louise recalled and recounted in those moments the promises that had been made to her. The pledge of her baptism was nearing its time of fulfillment. She was soon to receive her eternal inheritance and the crown of life.

Yes, words are often inadequate to express the movements of the heart. And yet God dares to speak. To the still presumptuous Job He says, “Who is this that darkens My counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?”4 Indeed, who can stand with impunity before the holy One? But in the end spoken words were insufficient for God too. His heart was so moved, so filled with compassion, so rent with pity that Christ came to put flesh on God’s words. The Almighty, immortal, inaccessible God, pure spirit and untouchable divinity took up His throne in the humility of a manger. He came not simply to lament a world mired in sin but to redeem it. As that Word-made-flesh He became the sacrifice for the accumulated sins of all humanity. He came to be present with His struggling people.

His words, immortal words, are backed up by death and resurrection. He says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”5 He said to the grieving Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”6
And the Holy Spirit says through the apostle Paul, “We do not want you… to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”4 Louise fell asleep in the Saviour’s embrace.

She is no longer in need of our prayers. Restored to life she resides in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saints and angels. We continue this earthly journey without her; pressing on through the shadows to the promised light. Grief will still accompany us. Each journey is unique. Who dares to claim that they have walked in Mark’s shoes and so understand his sorrow? Who dares to identity with Declan, Ashton, or Averyall at the loss of their mum? God alone reserves these rights. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Louise Kershaw has crossed over from death to life. It’s a crossing that can only be made by traversing the wood of the cross. She has traversed her final Good Friday and last Easter dawn. The empty tomb is the portal to heaven. Silence is said to be golden. Our grieving is righty gilded with gold. But Louise now enjoys the laughter of the celestial realm. Such revelry we cannot begrudge her. She is at peace, whole again and waiting that great and grand resurrection on the Last Day. May both our silent contemplations and our lively reminiscences reflect grateful appreciation for God’s blessing of Louise and to Louise in her earthly time and now in eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Louise Jane Kershaw
31 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Job 31:24, 25, 29, 33
2 Job 2:12-13
3 Lutheran Hymnal, page 6
4 Job 38:2-4
5 John 5:24
6 John 11:25
7 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

First Sunday After Christmas (B) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. +

Text: Matthew 2:13-15
Theme: “The Journey Begins”

Dear Followers of the Newborn King,

And so the journey began. Our newborn Saviour is soon on the run. December 28th is on the church calendar, the day for the recognition of the Holy Innocents. This day seldom receives much attention because of its proximity to Christmas. It affords us the opportunity to get a glimpse into the tumultuous early life of Jesus. Instead of settling down for a stable life in Palestine, Joseph is told by God that they must flee. “When they had gone [the Magi], an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the Child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.’”1 And thus began the efforts of Satan to derail God’s plan of redemption in Christ.

We see that Herod must have been keenly aware of at least the substance of the prophecy spoken by Simeon in the temple when he held the baby Jesus. “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”2 At any rate, in Herod’s determination to protect his throne from any threats, the heart of Satan was revealed. In the process, the innocent were caught in his tangled web of destruction. The infant boys in Bethlehem- how many there were we do not know- were sacrificed merely because of their “guilt by association.” They were put to death, simply because they lived in the town in which Jesus was born.

This ruthless act might understandably cause us to question how God could let it be so. Young, innocent lives are ended because it was thought Christ was among them. Through this act, prophecy was fulfilled. We should learn from this the degree to which sin has permeated and poisoned all creation. Nothing and no one is left unaffected by the consequences of living in this fallen world. The “innocent” perish along with the guilty; Sometimes believers along with the unbeliever alike. Yet we could never cry unfair to God’s. Firstly, no one can claim exemption from sin. The Scriptures says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”3 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”4 Secondly, upon death, believers enter into eternal life. We should begrudge no one their eternal glory. When it may seem to us that a believer’s life is unfairly ended, we must consider that God may have been sparing them from future hardship and suffering. Isaiah says, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”5

The innocent boys put to death in Bethlehem forever stand as a testimony to Satan’s determination to thwart the plan of salvation and his disregard for human life. We who live in a time when society claims to value life highly, and yet leaves the most fragile of lives unprotected, should be driven to shame and repentance and action. The number of unborn children, the most vulnerable among us, whose lives are ended every year by abortion, is appalling. The prevalence of this practice shows that though we may sanitize things outwardly- shielding people from the graphic knowledge of what goes on- inwardly our hearts readily usurp the place of God in placing value on life. And so the most compromised are taken advantage of.

The fact that the Father shielded His Son from the wrath of Herod stands as a testimony to His mercy and His power to bring His will to fruition. The Child of Bethlehem would have to live to see Calvary. His young life would be spared temporal death at this time so that through His death, He could offer eternal life to all. He is risen and is no more vulnerable to the vile deeds of men or the ravings of Satan. Why certain people and places were involved along the way as they were rests only in the mind of God.

God has His reasons for leaving some things shrouded in mystery, but He is not the author of confusion. The nature of some matters He leaves for future explanation. We will find out in heaven. But other things He reveals to us with crystal clarity. The means of salvation is the most important of these things. The Saviour, whose life was spared by His flight into Egypt, spared the lives of all who believe when He eventually gave Himself over to death. God wants there to be no confusion about how it is that this salvation is yours. Our celebration of Christmas centres on the giving of the ultimate gift. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”6 And again, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”7 And again, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.”8

This gift is freely given, and it is received only through divine effort. God wants it to be clearly understood that only through the gospel proclaimed and the Holy Spirit working are the hearts and minds of people changed and transformed. Dear friends, faith; faith that avails unto salvation, is not the result of human striving, not the accomplishment of human effort; it is trust that the gift of Christmas was for the forgiveness of sins. Faith is not a tangible thing that can be put in a box and wrapped up like a Christmas present. Faith involves the embrace of Christ, who provides for every need and most of all for eternal salvation.

This is the third day of the celebration of our Lord’s birth. The difficult circumstances under which He was born get no easier as He becomes a fugitive in Egypt. He perhaps doesn’t seem worthy of acclaiming as King of kings and Lord of lords. How can one boast about a fugitive Saviour? How can one be impressed with a Messiah that will die a criminal’s death by crucifixion? But it has all come to pass and we have but to rejoice with exceedingly great joy like the wise men, worship Him as they did; make haste like the shepherds and tell of the good news like they did; join with the angels and sing glory to God as they did. “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given.”9 Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday After Christmas
The Holy Innocents
28 December, 20014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1Matthew 2:13
2 Luke 2:34-35
3Romans 3:10-11
4 Romans 3:23
5 Isaiah 57:1
6 John 3:16
7 Galatians 1:3-4
8 1 Timothy 2:5-6
9 Isaiah 9:6

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 1:4
Theme: “In Him Was Life”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God breathed new life into the wilting world. Bending, breaking, aching, smarting the weight of the world was hanging in suspended animation until the wood the manger could be shaped into the timber of the cross. It took 33 long years- a grueling test for Christ’s mortal frame but in God’s measure of time it was but a blink of an eye. The shadow of Calvary looms behind the cradle in Bethlehem. Like book ends they frame the earthly life of Him who rules a heavenly kingdom. The flickering light of the nativity is a tiny precursor of the brilliance of His eternal glory. In His life we know truth and through that truth the Spirit gives life. Spirit-given life always finds its place in the orderliness of His kingdom.

Life is not soulless. Dear friends, one of the great deceptions of our age is the claim that life came to exist through chaotic and purposeless cosmic forces. “It was all by chance,” many experts say; a random nexus of chemical and physical conditions ignited by some epic aberration and facilitated by eons of time. In short, the mystery and miracle of life is not divine, they say, but a mechanical and purposeless coincidence. No rhyme, no reason; just mindless forces of nature governing our world. The progression of such cold thinking threatens to drain the soul out of humanity.

The gentle embrace of an infant’s grip presents evidence of the contrary. Dear friends, until the Almighty God spoke no material even existed that could organize itself in any meaningful way. All life, created by the Godhead, exists only through divine providence and power. Human life has primacy and immortality only through Christ. The Holy Spirit spoke the promise to Mary and in her womb conceived the source and centre of all life. The mind-blowing complexity of what we observe is underpinned, upheld, and sustained by the sheer grace and power of Him alone. The Scripture says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”1

The Child of Bethlehem gives meaning to our existence. Of course, that’s a matter for faith. The heart and mind detached from God cannot see or hear it. Sin blinds the eye and deafens the ear. It robs us of His life. It may be truer at Christmas than any other time of year that we can be deceived into thinking that the blessings we enjoy are deserved or self-achieved. And it is possible to ‘give’ in a way where you value more the praise you will receive than the value of the gift itself. The nostalgia of the scene at Bethlehem cannot be used to cover false motives. We can’t measure blessings strictly by human parameters. It’s not a matter of what we possess but who we are possessed by. The angels communicate to us good news of great joy: A Saviour has been born.

Perhaps one of the great ironies of the present age is the failure of communication technology to help reconcile and improve human relationships. Just think how family Christmas giving and receiving has changed over the last generation. It has transitioned from an emphasis on more practical, hands-on gifts to technological devices that wire us to a more virtual reality. Computers, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and extensive exposure to all things electronic now characterizes many Christmases. This is not wrong in and of itself. But we should be attentive to its influences among us.

We have nearly instantaneous communication and the power of social media so our relationships should be stronger than ever! Right? We have the tools. We have the technology. Yet marriages falter. Families are broken. Friendships are strained. Our conversations are not embodied in truth and marked with forgiveness. We don’t converse as if we were gathered around the manger. We are not filled with the joy of the angels. We don’t have the humility of the shepherds. We thrust ourselves to the centre of the conversation. Technology has no inherent ability to foster stronger relationships and can just as easily be used to tear them down.

One thing we can be certain of: Christ has reconciled us to the heavenly Father. Our Christmas joy comes from knowing He is ever-faithful. The prophet says, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.”2 Yes, the prophet announces a joy that has no equal. Erupt into celebration you who despair of hope or happiness. A Redeemer has been born this day. Break forth into gladness you who are tormented by trial and temptation. A Saviour now dwells with you in the midst of your adversity. Launch into cheerfulness you who are weighed down with grief and sadness. The restorer of life now makes Himself known. Reflect joyfully, people of God, love incarnate, grace embodied, peace enfleshed has come to us.

Such joy can never be kept private. “Glory to God”3 sing the angels. In this tiny infant’s frame death’s supremacy is undone. “Hallelujah!”4 Shout the multitudes of heaven. “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory.” 5 He has overcome death and the grave. Christ was born for you. You’re not a distant observer peering into the manger from afar. He has you locked in His sights. You are the centre of His target; the aim of His mercy. You are the benefactor of His benevolence; the recipient of His healing love. You are His cherished bride; His found sheep; His resurrected son. You are the blind man seeing; the leper cured; the sinner absolved. You are His baptized. You are guests at His royal table.

Seeing the manger through the cross’s shadow and Easter’s morning light does not serve to kill the joy of Christmas. Rather it gives us the advantage of knowing the incarnation of Christ was not a failed sentimental attempt at reviving humanity. Christ entered into the fray in Bethlehem but He promises we will reside in the heavenly Jerusalem. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”6 Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Day
25 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 11:36
2 Isaiah 52:9
3 Luke 2:14
4 Revelation 19:1
5 Revelation 19:1, 6-7
6 John 1:14