Monday, December 28, 2015

First Sunday After Christmas (B) 2015

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

Text: Luke 2:50
Theme: No Longer Misunderstood

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

From the beginning Jesus was misunderstood. It may seem strange to suggest that considering we’re in the midst of celebrating the most widely acknowledged event in the history of the world. Yet, our familiarity with Christmas should not blind us to the struggle to reach the hardened human heart, as John says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”1 But the Spirit has, and it’s through His eyes that we see.

For some, one of the great travesties of modern times is to be misunderstood. They have no case for complaint compared to our Lord. Jesus was twelve when He identified Himself as God’s Son. After returning from refuge in Egypt the family of Jesus settled down in Nazareth. It was where Jesus spent most of His time as a child. About His childhood we know almost nothing. Nothing significant is recorded in the Scriptures for us until He reaches the age of twelve. Today we find Him in Jerusalem for the annual celebration of the Jewish Passover. Twelve seems to have been the age of maturity in regards to religious things in Jewish culture.

On their homeward journey Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not in their company. Returning, they found Him in the temple courts engaging with the religious teachers. In response to the rebuke of His mother, Jesus poses questions that relate to His identity, “‘Why were you searching for Me? He asked. ‘Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’”2 Mary and Joseph could not yet understand what Jesus meant? We should be slow to criticize them. It’s a theme that would be repeated throughout Jesus life. The demons recognized Christ’s divinity before His own followers. It’s little wonder, since His claims were more than human hearts could comprehend. It would take a cross, and empty tomb, and the power of the Holy Spirit before the scales would fall from peoples’ eyes.

Later in His life Jess would be rejected in His hometown of Nazareth. The day had not yet come for Him to be understood. Sin still blinds people today to His truth and live. The political correctness of our day demands that people be accepted for who they. Often this is nothing less than a license for engaging in any activity that takes one’s fancy. It’s a way to exempt responsibility and encourage negligence. In spiritual terms it often means condoning that which is clearly against God’s will. It means the sanctioning of sin.

None of us is immune to this influence. It pulls at us, constantly testing our resolve. Satan poses his questions softly and subtly. Are you really the sinner God’s law makes you out to be? Do you really need to fear the threat of condemnation? Are you really lacking any spiritual righteousness or moral integrity of your own? When we begin to yield to these temptations the glorious purpose of the gospel immediately starts to become diminished. Soon we have no essential need for a Saviour to be born for us. His nativity becomes a romantic story.

Dear friends, the history of the Christian church is characterized by the constant struggle to clearly and correctly proclaim God’s truth in a way that people believe themselves to be sinners and are accordingly opened to the true grace of the Saviour. This grace of Christmas, this mercy of Easter is the true cause of our joy. Our Lutheran forefathers expressed it in this way, “Without any merit or worthiness on our part, and without any preceding, present, or subsequent works, by sheer grace, solely through the merit of the total obedience, the bitter passion, the death, and the resurrection of Christ, our Lord, whose obedience is reckoned to us as righteousness. The Holy Spirit offers theses treasures to us in the promise of the Gospel, and faith is the only means whereby we can apprehend, accept, and apply them to ourselves, and make them our own. Faith is a gift of God whereby we rightly learn to know Christ as our redeemer…”3

Let these words sink deeply into your hearts, my friends: you can never be misunderstood by God. Not only does He understand you, He loves you. And He loves you not because He understands you, but in spite of what He understands about you. He understands what hopeless, hapless, miserable sinners we are. And yet He does not pull away. Nor does He send aid from a distance in a cold, aloof manner. Because His heart aches His body was broken. Because His zeal could not be repressed His blood was spilled- all for you.

You may have to adjust to being misunderstood by many, perhaps even those closest to you. But never by the child of the manger who became the victim of the cross. The breadth of human experience has been embrace by Him. Though He had no sin of His own He became the greatest of sinners. And He sends you out as one redeemed sinner to serve others. The Scripture says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”4

For those gifted with the eyes of faith the Redeemer is no longer misunderstood. Joseph and Mary queried His obedience at the age of twelve. He was about His Father’s business. Soon He would become obedient to the point of death; even death on the cross. In the crucifixion God is most clearly understood. Still, it’s but a glimpse. Paul writes, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”5

Today is the day on the church calendar for the commemoration of St. John. John was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and author of the gospel and three epistles that bear his name. He was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation. It is through John that the Holy Spirit gives the fullest explanation of the incarnation of Jesus. “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

The angels have not ceased their singing. So let us join their chorus throughout this Christmastide. Good tidings of great joy are extended to all the sons of Adam and all the daughters of Eve. Sinners, one and all, we have salvation in the One who was born for. Let us cherish the words of the prophets, meditate on the words of the apostles, and imitate the faithful who have confessed His name even to the point of death. A joy awaits us that far surpasses the most intense celebrations we can experience in this mortal flesh. When we gaze upon the face of God we will understand what it means to be fully released from the bondage of sin. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday After Christmas
27 December, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 1:5
2 Luke 2:49
4 Colossians 3:12-14
5 1 Corinthians 13:12
6 John 1:14

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Day 2015

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

Text: Luke 2:11
Theme: Born For You

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The “you” in Luke two verse eleven is plural. That means the Saviour has come for the whole human race. But in His book of love, the Holy Scriptures, God intends this news for every individual sinner; great and small. Luther says it in this way, “See to it that you do not find pleasure in the Gospel only as a history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith; but see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you. This will be the case if you believe…”1 The miracle of Christmas is yours even if all others were ignorant of, or dismissive of this marvelous truth.

Dear friends, today we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world. But even on Christmas Day peace and concord are not the order of the day for some. Tensions mount, tempers boil over, some withdraw, others confront. The frantic pace of the season catches up with many. The pressure to spend and the temptations to overindulge are relentless.
Can we admit we are overscheduled? No one ever has enough time. We all have the same number of hours each day and yet we still feel slighted. We try to keep up with the Jones’s. Jealousy and coveting are rife. The influence of sin is undeniable in our lives. The holiness of the season can quickly lose its luster. It’s Christmas but we’re sinners still the same.

Often our expectations of the Prince of Peace are misguided. We cannot have peace by our own human definition. We may pursue tranquility and we may achieve a measure of it. We may successfully structure our lives to avoid the hassles and heartaches that are common to broken relationships, poor health, and financial uncertainty. God may bless us with a measure of success here too. But we dare not confuse these for the peace of which Christ speaks. He speaks of a conscience set at ease by the certainty that the Almighty God no longer looks at us with condemnation but with compassion. He speaks of a heart fully confident that neither Satan, nor hell, nor all earthly adversaries arrayed against us can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Don’t ever, ever think that because your life seems mired in darkness and difficulty; that because you feel inadequate or unworthy that the peace of the ChristChild does not exist for you. Ask yourself this, “Am I not baptized?” Be certain that God does not lie. “Has the Holy Spirit not had the gospel preached to me?” Rest assured that He does not do it in jest. “Am I not part of the people to whom the good tidings of great joy are proclaimed?” Was His body not broken for you? Was His blood not shed for you? His peace was forged at the cross. It was crafted in the defeat of every satanic power.

His peace is in the midst of the brokenness of our lives. His peace is in the midst of our anxiety and doubt. His peace is in the midst of the frantic pace of the world and the tempestuous activity of Satan. His peace is in the midst of our failures and shattered dreams. His peace is in the midst of our fear of the limitations of our mortality. His peace is in the midst of the tension caused by our sin. In other words, dear friends, we do not yet live in glory, we live under the cross. When you feel this struggle you can be certain your faith is active.

But if you’re cruising along acting as if you have the world by the tail and you have nothing to repent of or pray for, then be warned! You do not possess divine power and authority. You are not the judge of your own sins. You have no power to ingratiate yourself to Him. You have not yet crossed the threshold. You have not yet arrived in the company of those who have been glorified.

Believe that the ChristChild came for you. You are one of His redeemed children. Believe that He paid the price for your transgressions. You are freed from eternal condemnation. Believe that He has conquered death. You are spared from its consequences. Believe that He is preparing for you a place in His everlasting kingdom. You are already numbered among the saints. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”2

It’s a world that’s in desperate need of the salt, light, and leaven that believers bring. Christmas is not a time to despair of the privileges of our Christian vocations but to embrace them. It’s not a time to be judgmental and self-righteous, but gentle, courageous, and discerning. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men- robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector.’”3 Christ became the greatest sinner. Let us thank God for the paradoxical truth that Christ was not like other men but was precisely like all of them!

There is no holier vocation than to reflect the compassion of Him who is love incarnate. That is our motivation for stooping down into the stables of peoples’ lives. Luther says, “Love…knows no command, it does everything by virtue of its own impulse, it hastens and delays not, it is enough that its attention is only called to a thing, it needs no taskmaster, neither will it tolerate one.”4

Dear friends, love needs no taskmaster because it flows freely from faith. When our neighbours are in need we come to their aid. When our children are floundering we give them direction. When our spouses are hurting we give them support. We do it because we see Christ in them. We sympathize but we do not patronize. We empathize but we are not condescending. The apostle says it this way, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”5

Christ has made righteous the prince as well as the pauper, the priest as well as the peasant. Our Righteousness is born in a manger. There is no other source. Joy to the world! Gladness to sinners! Good tidings to the human race! The Saviour has been born. He has borne our sins. He has reconciled us to the Father. He has restored paradise.
The One who once lived in a manger wills that we live with Him there. Mortals will join angels “and He will be their peace.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Day
25 December 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Martin Luther
2 John 16:33
3 Luke 18:10-11
4 Martin Luther
5 Romans 12:15-16
6 Micah 5:5

Christmas Eve 2015

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

Text: Luke 2:11
Theme: Grace Embodied

Dear Travelers to the Manger,

The Holy Spirit teaches us- through the Scriptures- to discern between unfortunate circumstances and divine intentions. Christ was fit for a palace but was housed as a peasant. These were not unfortunate circumstances but divine intentions. God descended in humility. He did not come to make a performance; a presentation to amuse the masses. He was not an actor taking temporarily to the stage of human existence. He came to live among sinners as one of them; as one of us.

It’s the holy season of Christmas. Love and purity and beauty come to the fore. But we’re sinners still the same. How would we have fared on that first Christmas Eve? When Mary was in labour pains who came to help her? When Christ lay unidentified in the manger who came to serve Him? Who came to assist His parents with the birth? When He was revealed to be the Son of God how many came immediately to bend the knee? A few shepherds? A band of mysterious Magi? Where were the priests? Where were the high officials?

How do we fare today as we seek to be witnesses to God’s truth? Your neighbour may live in a material castle, but a spiritual manger. Who needs more attention from you? The one who lives in affluence of possessions and reputation but in hollowness of soul; or the one who lives in modesty of reputation but holds dear the treasures of God?
The event of Bethlehem teaches us the true value of things.

Dear friends, it appears to some that the whole plan of salvation was terribly inefficient. Could the Almighty God not have stood far off in the heavens and with a single decree restored the fallen creation? The story goes that Henry Ford once hired an efficiency expert to evaluate his company. After a few weeks, the expert made his report. It was highly favorable except for one thing. "It's that man down the hall," said the expert. "Every time I go by his office he's just sitting there with his feet on his deck. He's wasting your money." "That man," replied Mr. Ford, "once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now."

At Christmas God had more than idea. He had an outburst of His passion. He had an eruption of His zeal. He enacted the dynamic of His love. He embodied the purity of His grace. That resulted in His feet being firmly planted on the ground and then His arms being securely fastened to a cross. He walked among His own. He lived for us. He died for us.

In this child we have all things. He reveals the Father. He summons the Spirit. He rebukes Satan. He disarms hell. He throws open heaven. Truth is a gift. Hope is a gift. Love is a gift. Peace is a gift. Gifts cannot be earned. They can only be received. If it is due as a wage, a repayment, or an obligation it is no longer a gift.

The ChristChild brings all these gifts. And we do not possess them in abstraction. He baptizes His chosen ones in the font of forgiveness. He dines with His cherished ones at His holy table. Presently we do possess His gifts in faith. One day; directly. Now; in shadows. Then; in brilliance. Now; in hope. Then; in fulfillment. Now; in weakness. Then; in glory. Now; in briefness. Then; in permanence. Our experience will be transformed but our current possession is no less certain.

In the manager is the embodiment of grace. Behind the manger stand the shadow of the cross and the bright rays of Easter dawn. Unfortunately circumstances cast a negative light on shepherds. Do not be afraid to be identified with them. Their protégé stooped to the lowliest task of all before He was exalted to the highest place. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.

A child delivered in a feeding trough for animals is a story fitting for the police news section of the local paper- a most unfortunate circumstance to human eyes. In reality, it’s His divine intention. The captivation of Christmas is not the presents under the tree, but His presence with you and me. The vitality of Christmas is not in the pace of the race, but the stability of His embrace. The value in Christmas is not what we’ve spent, but what He’s given. In His most holy name, Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christmas Eve
24 December 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent (B) 2015

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

Text: Luke 1:46
Theme: Source of True Joy

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Micah and Mary: Both were privy to the revelation of the greatest mystery ever revealed. Both were obscure, un-heralded, and largely unknown relative to their peers. Both seemed unlikely participants in the grand scheme of God’s divine plan. But God knows how to accomplish big things through seemingly small beginnings. Micah uttered the prophecy that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Mary’s womb was His first cradle. Micah possessed God’s joy through the promise. Mary held Joy Himself in her arms. We share in His joy meant for all people.

Today Luke brings us the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. Here we have a remarkable event. At the greeting of Mary John the Baptist leapt in the womb of Elizabeth, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Already in utero the Son of God was bringing joy to the human heart. Already was the transforming power of His presence being made known. Already was His life bringing light to a world of darkness. Already was a new dawn breaking. Already were the prophets’ words coming to fulfillment. And already was the cross looming in the distance. Only everything was still very low key.

The response of Mary beginning at verse 46 of Luke 1 has long been known as the Magnificat. Magnificat is Latin for “my soul rejoices” and is also known as the Song of Mary. It closely parallels the Song of Hannah in the Book of I Samuel. Though Mary is chosen to be the bearer of the Son of God the main focus of her hymn of praise is the “Mighty One (who) has done great things.”1 His “great things” are not what humans naturally first desire. The coming of the Babe of Bethlehem would bring a collision of epic proportions. The power structures of the human race would be overturned. Satan had met his match. The power of sin would finally yield to One greater. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”2

Dear friends, the dismantling of Satan’s rule of sin and falsehood doesn’t happen just in the big, but remote picture. It happens around, about, and within you; God’s creation. Sinners cannot long stand in opposition to the holy God. The arrogant can only remain temporarily before the Almighty. Sinful self-pride will face the day of judgment and will have no defence. Even the strongest will be “brought down.” It means little if you know that Christ came to Redeem the world but you don’t know that He came to redeem you. Information doesn’t save us. Christ does. His death. His resurrection. His sacrifice. The advent call to repentance directs us to Him alone.

In conceiving the Son of God in the womb of Mary the Holy Spirit incarnates the Redeemer in the midst of His church. Only a prenatal infant He already contains the whole creation within His deity. A manger would be His first earthly throne. A cross, His last. The Holy Spirit now conceives believers in the womb of the church. Christ dwells in the midst of His church of which every believer is a part.

The human heart was made for one Master. And He comes to reclaim His throne. It’s His governance that’s continually contested. Luther once said that Christians have has more than enough to occupy themselves for their entire lives just engaging in their baptisms. By this He didn’t just mean fond memories of God’s blessings in baptism as a past historical event. Every act of repentance is a return to the promise of baptism. The greatest challenge of Christianity is taking God at word. The great challenge is the believing. The attitudes and actions follow accordingly.

Faith, then, is the key. Remember what the catechism says about preparing to receive Holy Communion. “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”3 Faith completes the preparation. Through faith all the blessings of God are received. Baptismal water cleanses the soul. Divine food nourishes the craving spirit. The comfort of His word continually brings peace to our chaotic lives.

As we approach our celebrations of Christ’s birth the hope of many in our society is dim. For some the commercialization of this sacred holiday leaves a hollow and empty feeling. For others the happiness of Christmas is associated only with material indulgence and is therefore fleeting. For still others, Christmas brings the stress of confronting strained family dynamics and financial woes. It’s easy to see how cynicism can breed. It all becomes too hard. Brave faces are painted on, but inside the heart is full of doubt and anger or pride and apathy.

Many turn to self-loathing and self-medicating. Coping strategies are never healthy for long-term well-being. Destructive habits soon gain a deeply entrenched foothold. Often they are covered with a façade of prosperity and contentment. The maturing Christian should always be praying to come to the conviction of St. Paul who said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.”4 He’s not encouraging apathy or squelching ambition. He’s teaching us to recognize the greater purposes of God (often hidden), whatever the circumstances. How many are truly content at Christmas?

Into this milieu the church carries a message of truth. Only in the seedbed of truth can Christian love germinate. “In season and out of season”5the Word of God is proclaimed. Through it the Holy Spirit sanctifies His people for service. We echo good tidings of great joy. We reflect the light of Christ. We mirror His love. We may need to help pick up the pieces when relationships shatter. We may need to provide a listening heart when all other pleas fall on deaf ears. We may need to sacrifice personal ambitions in order to walk patiently with those struggling under life’s burdens. We may need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. In all things we exercise gentleness, humility, and compassion. But we do it in bold confidence even in the face of opposition.

It’s appropriate that this time of year we focus on Jesus coming into the world; receiving human flesh and blood; true God and true man. But that’s not the end of the story. He fulfilled God’s foreordained plan by His bloody sacrifice on the tree. He paid the ultimate price, covering the debt of our sin. Yet, the grave could not hold Him. Christ has risen from the dead. The witness to His resurrection could not be suppressed. The Scripture says He “gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”6

Micah and Mary experienced joy in the Lord. Christ is the source of that true joy; ours, no less than theirs. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday of Advent
20 December, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 1:49
2 Luke 1:52
3 Luther’s Small Catechism
4 Philippians 4:11-12
5 2 Timothy 4:2
6 Acts 1:3

Monday, December 14, 2015

Third Sunday of Advent (C) 2015

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

Text: Luke 3:10-14
Theme: Robustness Of Repentance

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Advent is a season to refocus. It’s not simply an annual review of that time in biblical history. It’s an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to renew our faith. John the Baptizer sends you a query, “Is your repentance robust?” It’s not a question that should take us by surprise. Perhaps we’ve been lulled into apathy by the repetition of the questions as they are presented in our liturgy? “Do you confess that you have sinned and do you repent of your sins?” “Do you intend with the help of the Holy Spirit to live as in God’s presence, and to strive daily to lead a holy life, even as Christ has made you holy?”1 Your answer is not academic.

Today John confronts the people with the same questions; though somewhat more forcefully. He gets a genuine response. What follows is practical catechesis. Repentance is evidenced by a change in attitudes and activities. It has concrete expression. The people wanted to know what that would look like in their personal lives. Here John advises the common person, tax collectors, and soldiers. It’s a basic template that’s still useful today. Whether we are farmers, teachers, truck drivers, or small business owners, students, or retirees, repentance involves taking account of and being responsible for our actions.

Remember Luther’s advice (which is simply a summary of the biblical approach). When wondering which sins should be confessed (that is, repented of), Luther says, “Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt some by your words or deeds…”2 We note immediately not only how practical, but how vocational Luther’s approach is. The sins we are to repent of relate very concretely to the privileges and responsibilities of our relationships. We are often most tempted in regards to things where we possess responsibility or where we lack privilege.

But repentance is not the management of moral infraction. It is the preparation to receive divine compassion. Repentance is not even something we can initiate. Nothing happens- nothing would ever happen- no movement of the soul, no query of the heart of God, if God Himself did not confront us with His holiness. In other words, until God makes us aware of His presence, His intentions, and our estrangement from Him, humans go along in their merry way idolizing themselves and constructing others idols that suit. God convicts us of the reality that we need His help. The Holy Spirit initiates and gifts us with repentance.

Still, the human will is prone to resist. Can these things really be as serious as God says? The power of human pride should never be underestimated. It blinds us to the truth. It can make us impervious to any legitimate criticism. We typically manage it by rationalizing, avoiding, or challenging. When we seek to discount any claims we just make excuses. When we’re too afraid to face the truth we withdraw. When we really get our back up we may confront the accusation face to face. Pride is the key element in all these responses. Our human nature always seeks to salvage as much of it as we can. When our pride is allowed to expand without limits it quickly fills every space in our hearts.

The human heart was made for one Master. And He comes to reclaim His throne. It’s governance that’s continually contested. Luther once said that Christians have has more than enough to occupy themselves for their entire lives just engaging in their baptisms. By this He didn’t just mean fond memories of God’s blessings in baptism as a past historical event. Every act of repentance is a return to the promise of baptism. The greatest challenge of Christianity is taking God at word. The great challenge is the believing. The attitudes and actions follow accordingly.

Faith, then, is the key. Remember what the catechism says about preparing to receive Holy Communion. “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”3 Faith completes the preparation. Through faith all the blessings of God are received. Baptismal water cleanses the soul. Divine food nourishes the craving spirit. The comfort of His word continually brings peace to our chaotic lives.

Dear friends, you and I may be contemptible sinners. But Christ is a compassionate Saviour. The dark things you have desired may be known only to Him. But the suffering He endured is known to the world. Your secret sins are atoned for by His public sacrifice. Our shame is abolished by His mercy. Our failure is erased by His victory. Nothing is hidden from Him and He desires to hide none of His mercy from us.

The love of God in Christ is mysterious but it is not secret. The person of Christ makes transparent the will of God. Jesus, God-in-the flesh, Immanuel does not glide among us covertly. He wishes to be made known. Think briefly of the evidence the Scripture records. Angels announced His birth. Herod soon heard of the newborn King. His life appeared mostly unremarkable until His public ministry began. Miracles commenced. Demons surrendered. His teaching was authoritative. Crowds gathered. Fame followed.

The world was put on notice. Scholars were befuddled. Power-brokers squabbled. Average people wavered between hope and doubt, expectation and disappointment. The created sphere submitted to His persuasion. Waves were stilled. Wind was hushed. Storms were quelled. When He hung from the cross the sun covered its eyes, the foundations of the earth trembled. The news was published far and wide. Luke says today, “With many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.”4

That same Messiah now rules tirelessly for His church. When we call upon God in need He answers in mercy. He answers in deed and truth. The cross was borne for you. His resurrection revives your life. His ascension is a preview of the future that awaits you. The prophets carry this Good News. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”5 The apostles do too. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”6Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Advent
13 December, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 LHB p.6
2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 ibid
4 Luke 3:18
5 Zephaniah 3:17
6 Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, December 7, 2015

Second Sunday of Advent (C) 2015

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

Text: Luke 3:1-6
Theme: Real People in Real Time

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The promises of God are not metaphorical. He addresses real people in real time with real truth. The entrance of Jesus into human life illustrates God’s embrace of the world. The historical particulars Luke records are significant. The coming of God’s Son into the world was set in a specific context. The regularities of everyday life did not cease. Roman-controlled Palestine was a thoroughfare for culture and trade. Long sandwiched between perennial powers to its north and south, already by the time of Jesus it had a long history of important events. What was about to happen would change the course of the world.

John is the key figure of advent. John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus; six months His elder. Though cut from the mold of the prophets his position was unique. He straddled the covenants. The old eon was coming to a close and the new age was about to commence. His message was clear. His conviction was resolute. The Lamb of God was beginning His journey to ground zero. The altar of the cross awaited Him. John’s entire ministry was in preparation for these events. He had no other purpose than to point the way to the Messiah.

The description of his ministry is modest. “He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”1The message remains timeless. Repentance is the key theme. The Scriptures say much about repentance and it’s beneficial to be continually catechized on the topic. What is repentance?

Repentance is not a way to appease God. The wrath of God was appeased by the death of Christ. Repentance is evidence that we are convicted of our sins. The humbled heart recognizes its need for pardon. Repentance is not the basis on which God forgives us. Forgiveness is grounded only in the sacrificial death of Christ as the atonement for our sins. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot accept the reality of our own condemnation without the Holy Spirit softening our hearts.

Today the prophet Malachi prophesied about the ministry of John the Baptist. He speaks of the work of refining, cleansing the soul. He talks of offerings made to the Lord that are truly righteous. The fruit of repentance involves a purified motive of the heart. From that motive we seek to do God’s will. Therefore the apostle says, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act if worship.”2

We know, then, that we are to cease and desist from giving into those particular temptations that allure us. Yet it happens again, and again, and again. We keep returning to our sins. We savor that bit of gossip and it’s just too juicy not to share. The Eighth Commandment is a mere shadow at the back of our minds. We harbor bitterness in our hearts, forgetting that hatred in our hearts is murder and breaking the Fifth Commandment. And so it goes with all the commandments. God’s law convicts us with clarity. We are told to forgive others. If you have never struggled to forgive someone then you are in rare company. For Christians, in fact, the claim of finding forgiveness easy is an inconsistency. Believers understand the value of reconciliation. We know that Christ sacrificed His own life to restore us to God. We know it came at a price.

So how does our life before God come to resolution? We would really like to write it off as an academic exercise, a foregone conclusion. We’d like to tick the box and be done with the power and poison of sin once and for all. But that’s not how it works. The baptized life of the Christian involves the continual struggle against our sinful nature and the temptations of the world. Often we look to the wrong places for help or we don’t seek it at all. We thirst but we don’t seek water. We are famished but we don’t know we’re starving.

God comes to our rescue. Forgiveness heals, it mends, it restores. Christ knows our shortcomings and weaknesses. He knows our fears and anxieties. He knows what makes us tick. God operates in real time, in real space, with real people. He washes actual people with baptismal water; a cleansing that exceeds that of John the Baptist. He feeds physical beings with His body and blood- dripping with pardon. The promises of God are unfailing even when the tangible evidence seems to be lacking.

Few understood initially the implications of John’s proclamation. The Jews demanded signs. God provided His Son- a “sign” beyond the limits of their faith. People often wait in vain for dramatic signs or “proofs” of God’s presence. God is not obligated to supply them. He knows how prone we are to demanding a new miracle every minute much like the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus was judicious when showing His divinity. He intends to transport earthlings to heaven, not transform this earth into a type of heaven. The implications for our faith are profound. Salvation is not to be sought in empirical proofs, but in the word. The power and majesty of God are reflected in nature but we can’t know God as a forgiving God in this way. The nature of God is revealed at the cross. The crucifixion defines His heart.

These things are beyond our direct discernment. In faith, we take God at His word. Listen to how the reformers articulated the biblical teaching, “We should not and cannot pass judgment on the Holy Spirit’s presence, operations, and gifts merely on the basis of our feeling, how and when we perceive it in our hearts. On the contrary, because the Holy Spirit’s activity often is hidden, and happens under cover of great weakness, we should be certain, because of and on the basis of His promise, that the Word which is heard and preached is an office and work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He assuredly is potent and active in our hearts.”3

Dear friends, what a blessing it is that we can have confidence in the independent certainty of God’s word! His promise to us is in no way compromised by human foible or frailty. Humans may cave in to doubt or give in to temptation but His edifices cannot be toppled. Human institutions are all houses of cards. His kingdom will stand forever. Hell will not prevail against it. Jesus’ death and resurrection provide the proof.

Soon we’ll be reminded of that truth the angel spoke to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.”4 As we move toward celebrations of Christ’s birth the question of who might be absent from our gatherings may be on our minds. The people missing are in our thoughts and prayers. It’s part of our preparation. But a more important preparation is our focus. God Himself is the centre. Christ is not an absent guest. He is the present host. He is the King who comes bringing salvation. He comes to us in our particular time and place. With joy we celebrate the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words, “All flesh will see the salvation of God.”5 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday of Advent
6 December, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 3:3
2 Romans 12:1
3 SC FD II, 56
4 Luke 1:37
5 Luke 3:6

Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent (C) 2015

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

Text: Luke 21:34-36
Theme: Vigilance and Anticipation

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

“Things could be worse!” Have you ever been told that? Did it provide much consolation? Advent reminds us things can get worse-much worse. They will also get better- much better! In the big picture things will get worse before they get better? Exactly when, no one can say? But the Lord is clear, “On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.”1 Yet believers will also be overcome with joy in regards to what awaits us.

Today begins the season of Advent. Advent simply means ‘coming’. Advent is underpinned by anticipation. It is punctuated with prophetic promise. The barrier between heaven and earth has already been breached. The boundary between time and eternity has already been crossed. Christ, the heavenly Man, has already made His earthly pilgrimage. He dwells in human flesh and in that flesh He has been crucified, resurrected, and ascended on high. All that remains is for Him to cross that threshold one last time; not in humility, but in grandeur and triumph. This expectation is the focus of advent. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’”2

In spite of our incessant complaining about all things that irritate us and don’t go our way it may still seem extreme to the average Christian to pray for Christ’s return. Isn’t there still so much to enjoy in the world, so much to experience? Do we want the world to end yet? Honest reflection on the topic is a test of our faith. The whole thought of it may seem too distant or far-fetched? Moreover, it may not resonate with what we really want. We may want to keep on living in the sinful condition we are both familiar and comfortable with? We’ll find ways to manage.

But the fact is we can’t finally manage the consequences or the condemnation of our sin. That’s where the whole enterprise breaks down. The criminal may have a great strategy of defence until the evidence is presented. The prisoner may have a great plan of escape until the guards are found at the end of the tunnel or on the other side of the fence. The disobedient child usually has its rebellion justified until the parents abolish all hope of vindication. Dear friends, it’s no different with us and God. We can’t escape the truth about ourselves. Sin isn’t an external reality. It is characterized by the deceit, the jealousy, meanness, the arrogance, the insensitivity, and the apathy that besets us, offends God and harms others. Repentance is always our posture. Forgiveness frees us now and gives us a preview of the future.

So Jesus teaches us to pray. Jesus tells us to pray for the Holy Spirit. His kingdom is extended wherever the Holy Spirit is at work. Jesus tells us to pray for ourselves and our families. Jesus tells us to pray for other Christians. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. And finally, Jesus tells us to pray with eagerness and alertness for His return. “Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”3

The experience of the Second Coming of Christ will be incomparable. Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”4 Christ has never left but His presence now is veiled. He works among us resolutely but subtly. He works through His word and sacraments. And He promises that His word will come to fulfillment. The challenge for us is to cling to His truth in the face of increasing opposition and marginalization from the world.

If we depart from God’s word then we are left only with the collective wisdom of humanity. The basis of truth shifts radically. The basis for decision-making changes accordingly. A different worldview is adopted. It doesn’t mean society can’t or won’t still function. God must rule the secular world through coercion that restrains evil anyway. We can still pursue careers, have children, and receive pensions. But the bigger questions about the origin, meaning, and future of life will have different answers. The struggle to come to terms with this shift is already well underway.

And so we pray for the Lord to come. And we ask the Lord to work in our hearts a genuine yearning. Is the desire of the persecuted Christian in Iraq or Syria for the Lord Jesus to come not more genuine than the pious wish of us in the West? Is their yearning not more palpable? Is their pining for refuge and redemption not more acute? Of course, this is the nature of circumstances, and thanks be to God that we still enjoy the freedom to worship. Thanks be to God that we still enjoy such a high measure of stability. But it’s not guaranteed. It’s not to be taken for granted. It’s not a birthright.

But God never leaves us without hope or a future. Even when we forget, God remembers. Consider your baptism. It’s not a matter of what you remember about your baptism. What matters is that in that sacrament God remembers you. He doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. We’re naturally apt to turn baptism into a sentimental ritual or a milestone of human accomplishment. But really it’s all God’s operation- His claim on us. His covenant! His promise! His reputation is at stake. Baptism isn’t about us or our abilities but about God’s promise and His grace. Do you think a mature adult scarred by the traumas of life is any more capable of believing than an infant sheltered since birth from life’s hardships? The Holy Spirit opens the heart at every age, in every condition. Times change but people don’t; that is, the nature of humanity doesn’t change.

Who knows what kind of world those born today will grow up in? We can see already how quickly society us changing. What was valued in the past is already sometimes scorned today. But we do know that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His grace doesn’t become obsolete. His love does not decay. His heart does not become brittle. His arms are always open. The door for the prodigal son- racing back in repentance- is always open. He has died and risen again for you and for your salvation.

There is no one more careful with the fragile than the Good Shepherd of our souls. There is no one more considerate of the sensitive than the One who can sympathize with every weakness. There is no one more reliable in defence of those on trial than the Advocate who has the authority to judge. The Scripture says Christ is our “Righteousness, holiness and redemption.”5

Throughout the Scriptures believers are constantly encouraged to support one another. St. Paul says today, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. Me He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.”6 This same Saviour intercedes for us even now. He suffered in our place. He rules on our behalf. A preview of what’s to come. Then anything that could get worse will be a distant memory. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday of Advent
29 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 21:25-26
2 Revelation 22:17
3 Luke 21:36
4 Luke 21:28
5 1 Corinthians 1:30
6 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Last Sunday of the Church Year (B) 2015

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

Text: John 5:24
Theme: Incorruptible Resurrection

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Today is a Sunday to put last things first. On this final Sunday of the Church Year our gospel reading focuses not on those cosmic and tumultuous events that will precede the end of the world (we will hear more about those in coming weeks); but on the most relevant and significant reality that will affect human beings: the resurrection of the dead. It will be the culmination of Jesus’ work and show the stunning power of God over death. Jesus says, “As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”1 “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.”2

The dead will be raised. In Christ, the dead have been raised. You see, all believers experience two resurrections. The first is a spiritual resurrection. This resurrection is baptismal. The Scripture says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.3 The Holy Spirit raises us from spiritual death through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Spiritual death is a genuine incapacitation. Fully matured sin results in death. It is not a theoretical or contrived state in which people are still able to exercise some natural power to know God, love God, or consider the implications of His truth. It is rather, such a complete darkness and blindness that God is considered the enemy, if not consciously, at least willfully. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”4 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”5

So important is this truth we can’t properly appreciate the gospel without believing it. It’s akin to believing we are sinners who cannot save ourselves. We are completely at God’s mercy. The Lutheran Reformers said it this way, “Just as a man who is physically dead cannot of his own powers prepare or adapt himself to obtain temporal life again, so the man who is spiritually dead in sins cannot of his own strength adapt or apply himself to the acquisition of spiritual and heavenly righteousness and life.”6 Spiritual resurrection is the same thing as conversion or regeneration. That which was dead is made alive. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The second resurrection is the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. At the coming of Christ all the dead will be raised, their bodies will be reunited with their souls, and all will be gathered before Him for judgment. The wicked will be condemned to everlasting torment. Christians will enjoy eternity in their complete personhoods; redeemed and restored in the image of Christ. The Scripture says, “The Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”7 This mystery is beyond our comprehension but is the consummation of our hope.

Until that day we live in the tension of the already but not yet. The struggle for souls is fierce. Satan knows how to play on our fears. Christians struggle too. One theologian expressed it this way, “Anxiety is the liturgy we offer to the idols who have failed us.”8 Misplaced trust will always result in a false sense of security or in angst and fear. If we place our hope in money, become over-confident in good health, too reliant on a good job, overly-dependent on a stable family, we will be disappointed. If too many supports crash down at once we may be in crisis. We fret. We worry. We wring our hands in anxiety and sometimes desperation. Our expectations have become unreasonable because our hope has been mislaid.

The borrowed spiritual capital our society has been living on these past decades is quickly running out. People have little interest in distinguishing between what is true and what is false. The mantra is tolerance. But what does this really mean? People naturally want material prosperity, but at what cost? At what point will people realize they cannot find meaning in life just through indulgence in material things? We can already see how the vicious cycles of addiction, violence, and abuse are decimating the stability of society. These problems cannot be solved through legislation and law enforcement. Hearts must be changed.

It would be tempting for believers to just give up and give in. As the saying goes, “If you can beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And that’s exactly what many are doing. We must be honest and courageous enough to recognize the hollow claim of many who say their faith really matters. The proof is in the pudding. Actions speak louder than words. We can fool ourselves and others but we can’t fool God. We are never without hope because we have the One who is God of the living and the dead. We have forgiveness free and certain.

To the naked human eye God’s redemption of the world through an infant born in a manger and crucified on a cross doesn’t square with what’s visible. The triumph of Christ isn’t readily apparent. The reign of God isn’t immediately evident. The rule of the Holy Spirit isn’t clearly visible. The power and presence of God is hidden in apparent weakness. God wants His love to be known through the cross. His mercy is understood through sacrifice. Grace is displayed through Jesus’ complete surrender. Human logic cannot grasp these truths. The Holy Spirit is required. We are saved by grace through faith. No one can be saved any other way. His means of word, water, bread, and wine appear too mundane to accomplish magnificent spiritual achievements. Yet Christ is present in a peaceful and powerful manner. That’s the nature of forgiveness. It is God’s mode of operation in this world.

But rest assured, there will be no mistaking Christ’s glorious return. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God’”9 There will be no second chances, no negotiating, no plea-bargaining. Christ will be recognized as Lord over all. Satan’s “day” will be done. An incorruptible resurrection awaits us. Christ, the Lord over life and death says today, “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.”10 May God make it so in His time! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Last Sunday Of the Church Year
22 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 5:26
2 John 5:21
3 Romans 3:3-4
4 Romans 8:7
5 Colossians 2:13
6 Formula of Concord, SD 11
7 Philippians 3:20-21
8 Kenneth Korby
9 Romans 14:10-11
10 John 5:24

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christian Burial of Herta Lane (17 November 2015)

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

Text: Romans 8:35
Theme: Inseparable Love

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Herta, and especially her children; Marianne, Linda, Brian, and Kevin,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to be born and a time to die.” 1 Those timeless words were recorded in Holy Writ for the benefit of humanity until the final curtain call of history. There is appointed for every person a time to die. Herta’s time to die has passed. But now she just begins to really live. Released from the struggles of this life, freed from the power of sin, ushered safely through the portal to eternity, Herta now rests in the presence of God Almighty. She is at peace. Thanks be to God for His resounding love!

We heard in the Bible reading that nothing can separate the believer from the love of Christ. Not angels or demons, height, depth, powers, principalities or death itself. Could there be a more relevant truth or comforting than this? Death is the final stage of the pathology of sin. It’s not something the world likes to believe, preferring instead to think that death is just natural- part of a cosmic biological cycle. But where would that leave those who are made in the image of the Creator? Sin merits a punishment that cannot be reconciled with the idea that people are just animals. The reconciliation of Christ was required to restore us to God.

Many would just like to ignore death altogether. But that’s a foolish and dangerous game. Reflection on mortality is perhaps the best way to shake people out of the naïve stupor of invincibility. No one can avoid death. No one can avoid facing the judgment. No one will just cease to exist. If we meditate on that soberly the Holy Spirit soon brings us to a humble repentance. Humans are made for eternity. Thanks be to God that Christ has taken the punishment- His own death on the cross- to spare us from the unspeakable evil of separation from God forever.

Herta Lane understood the evil humanity is capable of. She lived through war. War is hell. It unleashes the depths of human depravity. It helps us to quickly sort out the essentials of life. It inflicts wounds. It accumulates scars. It robs people of their futures. But in spite of her experience of these horrors Herta never lost hope. She carried on with persistence and determination. She knew that the greater war had already been won. And so she pressed in faithfulness.

Nothing meant more to Herta than her family. She enjoyed spending time with them. She enjoyed caring for them. She rejoiced when they were happy. She grieved when they were sorrowful. She was willing to sacrifice everything for their well-being. She made sure that they knew she loved them unconditionally. It was a reflection of God’s unconditional love in Christ.

Outwardly Herta’s walk of faith was steady and uncomplicated. She was a quiet but strong disciple. Inwardly, it’s likely she balanced in her heart the tension between witnessing the severities of life and the blessings she was privileged to enjoy. She understood that sometimes it’s only the sheer mercy of God that carries one through. Herta was saved by grace. Accounted righteous for Christ’s sake because His blood was shed for her. She was clothed with His holiness in baptism. She regularly was strengthened by His body and blood in holy communion. She received again and again His word of forgiveness. Dear friends, she is in His strong and capable embrace. Sin and Satan cannot touch her. That does not mean we don’t mourn her death.

Grief is one of the most powerful of human emotions. It is a measure of our frailty but also of our capacity for compassion. Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus. But He also said, “I am going to there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”2 Therefore, Christians do not grieve as if they were without hope. Christ promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”3 Apart from Christ the living are already dead. With Christ the dead are already living.

The Bible reminds Christians that we are all strangers and aliens in the world4; we are pilgrims passing through. Herta understood what that meant. She moved from Europe to England until Australia finally became her home. But true citizenship is in heaven. Life is fleeting and transient, each day a precious gift. If we don’t learn to treasure life it will soon pass us by. These things no longer concern Herta. Her soul has arrived at the destination. Her body awaits the final transformation.

Herta, like all believers, will be resurrected-bodily- to a reality in which struggle no longer exists. Immortality is no imaginary dream. Believers will in body and soul enjoy a vibrancy of life that is far beyond our comprehension now. God has promised this. If God does not keep His promises then we are all without hope. The advances of the modern age will not save us. But the ancient truth of our Immortal Saviour will. Herta has received the crown of life. A lamb tucked safely into the fold of the Good Shepherd she faces no dangers and had no cares. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Herta Lane
17 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Ecclesiastes 3:1,6,7,4,2 2 John 14:2-3 3 John 11:25 4 1 Peter 2:11

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 13:7-9
Theme: Stability Within Upheaval

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Maturity has its limits. Understanding has its thresholds. That is, until Christ comes in glory. Tell a young child that something will happen in nine months’ time and it will mean very little to them. Explain that a relative lives several thousand kilometers away and their eyes may glaze over. The concepts of time and space present difficult challenges for the human mind. Even in adulthood we struggle. They are not abstract concepts, yet the actual experience of these realities is often complex. Today Jesus reminds us of the profound spiritual implications.

As we approach the end of the Church Year we encounter again those Scriptures which speak of the circumstances of Christ’s return. The challenge is not to see this as just an annual trigger, a reminder of Christ’s promise much like the annual notices we get to remind us of dental check-ups, insurance reviews, or tax submissions. The specter of Christ’s imminent return looms over our perspective of the here and now. The One who has come is coming again. We are living on borrowed time. Yet we are already in sync with eternity. That is part of the mystery of Christ’s resurrected and ascended presence among us.

Today Jesus instructs His disciples using the temple and its surrounds as the point of reference. The disciples are impressed with the magnificence of the temple. It would seem to be a paradigm of stability. But Christ says it will all crumble. Then follows an extended description of the turmoil that will precede Jesus’ return. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.”1
The instability initiated by the fall into sin will run its course and only be brought to conclusion by Jesus’ Second Coming. Believers should have no misgivings about these truths.

Nations rise and fall. Empires come and go. Societies prosper; then falter. Ideologies flourish; then fade. Novelties become fads. Fads become customs. Customs become traditions. Traditions become dogmas- seemingly unalterable parts of the fabric of the culture. But then they are overthrown- sometimes with violence, sometimes through apathy- and they quickly vanish and are forgotten. Legends become myths. Myths become forgotten until they are reincarnated by those who had no prior knowledge of the consequences of their false foundations; those who were never taught the lessons of history. Then they slowly, subtly at first, begin to show the symptoms of corruption they had displayed before.

You see, idolatry never ages. It’s perennially rejuvenated youthfulness must continue as evidence of Satan’s desperate agenda of denying the living God. Don’t thinks for an instant that Satan is on holiday. Don’t imagine that sin is passé, a thing of the past. Don’t believe for a moment that your internal desires, those seedy, selfish cravings will just cease to exist. You are no less of a sinner in your maturity than you were in your youth. You might be more adept at covering up your sin, but you are no less guilty. The need for repentance never ceases until we take our final breath. We pray that the Holy Spirit would justly convict us; working a humility within us that cherishes the grace we have in our Lord.

Sometimes we must consider whether our expectations are misguided, unreasonable or altogether false. They must be continually measured against the Scriptures and revised accordingly. If our expectation is that Christianity should benefit us with some worldly recognition or praise for being faithful to God, well, then we’re laboring under a grand delusion. If we expect life to be carefree and painless then we’ve misread or are ignorant of the clear message of Jesus to His followers. Baptismal living is a struggle. If we think this world can march on in unbridled prosperity and that our own mortality can be avoided then we are naïve or willfully ignorant about biblical truth.

Everything created is fragile, but the words and promises of God are indestructible.
Some foundations are unshakeable. Christ is the perfect and complete incarnation of the living God. His work of sacrifice can never be torn down. The cross can never be gainsaid. The disciples marveled at the magnificence of the Jerusalem temple today. But Jesus warns it would all be destroyed. What makes a church a worthy place of worship is not the quality or character of its architecture but the presence of the Word of God. The church is ancient. It is the fellowship of God’s people right back to the first sinners who were redeemed.

Now what do these truths have to do with you? Much in every way! Each and every day you are Christ’s witnesses in the world. You provide the listening ear, the gentle embrace, the hard truth according to the situation you’re in. Your support, encouragement, and even chastisement are part of your vocation of serving others. What does our Scripture say, “Let hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us no give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”2 In Christ we have stability within upheaval. We have peace in the midst of chaos. We have certainty in the face of doubt. We have the foundation of truth smack in the middle of a sea of falsehood.

Many still desperately lack that certainty. No one is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love. No one has descended so far into the abyss of utter darkness that the rays of Christ’s light cannot penetrate. If we doubt this truth then we have surrendered the central teaching of the Christian faith. Christ came to reconcile sinners. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”3 In baptism believers are incorporated into the death and resurrection of God’s one and only Son. The Holy Spirit has sealed you for the day of redemption.

Meanwhile, we live on borrowed time yet in sync with eternity. And how we live matters. Good habits should be recognized and strengthened. Bad habits should be identified and reformed. Christian life involves litany and liturgy. Litany involves the practice of beseeching God with prayers of supplication and thanksgiving. It is characterized by the ongoing conversation we have with and through our Great High Priest. Liturgy involves the rhythm of worship- of receiving the giftings of the Giver and responding in humble reverence. It is characterized by God’s service to us in Christ- through word and sacrament- and our response through the power of the Holy Spirit.

A sandcastle built in the path of a rising ocean tide doomed for destruction. It cannot stand. Our fallen world cannot stand. But we look forward to a more stable foundation. Christ has built His kingdom on much firmer ground. The foundation is built on the righteousness and truth of God Himself. Immortal and indestructible He promises that we will share in His life. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
15 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 13:8
2 Hebrews 10:23-25
3 Romans 5:10

Friday, November 13, 2015

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

+ + In nomine Patri et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Mark12:44
Theme: All or Nothing

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus was observant. He was watching how much money people put into the temple offering box. But He wasn't a casual observer. He always took the opportunity to teach. The most important lessons aren't necessarily learned in classrooms, but in the experiences of life. Today a humble widow was at the centre of His object lesson. Our Lord elevates her above the rich and ostentatious saying, "She out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." It was a stark contrast to those who gave out of their excess. It was a commentary on her faith.

She gave all she had to live on. Think of the implications. This widow is a superlative example of unconditional trust. There is no hedging, no rationalising, no questioning of whether she is doing the prudent thing. The widow's mite story cannot be turned into a moralism or used tritely as the basis for a stewardship campaign. Without earthly hope she looks to the God of hope. Materially poor, she is spiritually rich. It sounds like a nice religious platitude doesn't it? One we would all nod our heads in agreement to while simultaneously hoping the label never applies to us. Many people say they'd never want to win the lottery either!

The Bible says a lot about generosity. Giving should be cheerful, regular, and proportionate. It should not be a matter of legalistic regulation but a movement of the heart and an expression
of the will. Where we direct our resources says a lot about what and who we believe in. It's a window into the soul. The widow understood that she was a steward; a caretaker on behalf of the true owner. She believed that the Creator would provide for her needs.

Dear friends, it's a great lie of Satan to believe there other ways to meet every human need. In Psalm 12 David laments the depravity of the human race. "Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man." The complaint has been repeated countless times over the centuries. Most every generation has reason to question whether evil is prospering more than ever before. Have the foundations of godliness crumbled so badly that the thought of rebuilding them seems like a Herculean task? Any effort at judging should begin with a look in the mirror.

Our own sins are never as insignificant as we'd like to think they are. We are naturally geniuses at minimalizing our own culpability. Today Jesus warned people not to be like the scribes. They were experts at pointing out other people's sins while downplaying their own. We don't have to search very long to discover the sins that condemn us. The psalmist writes, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." In other words when we try to conceal our sins from God the burden of guilt weighs on us. We know our tendencies. We know the temptations we are prone to; greed, selfishness, lust, deceit, gossip, hard-heartedness towards others. And God knows us better than we know ourselves.

He knows our condition precisely and that's why He sent His Son. That is why the Spirit has been poured out. And His blessings are not merger. Faith grasps all of God's mercy or it has nothing. There is nothing piecemeal about salvation. We don't have some forgiveness or rely on just enough spiritual capital to carry us over the line. In a worldly sense everything is quantified; measured in units. We have just so much money, just so many possessions, a certain level of health, a career status with parameters, relationships with finite limits. We count, measure, quantify, and track. It's a necessary way of life. But the love of God in Christ defies all of these categories and methods. In Christ we have treasures beyond calculation.

Baptised, forgiven, and freed, we stand in debt to no human power or to Satan's claims. The word of absolution spoken to you is not conditional. It is sheer grace; pure mercy. You are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We live in the shadow of the cross and the light of Easter morning. Divine food is our regular diet; the table set by the King. And still so many labour under the burden of life without unconditional love and starved for spiritual food.

That's where our vocations come in as God's holy people. One person's crisis is another person's opportunity. It's true not only in business ventures. When people become vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life and schemes of Satan the opportunity for spiritual balm presents itself. The downtrodden and the broken are especially open to the gospel. Those labouring under a search for meaning in the hollowness of a broken world are especially open to the Good News of purpose and permanence. The Holy Spirit uses the hard experiences of life to chip away at our veneer of invincibility.

Forgiveness is the currency of healthy relationships. Absent forgiveness, relationships either become shallow or embittered. They will stiffen, become brittle, and break. The genuine pardoning of offences is the cement that rebuilds the foundation- sometimes one brick at a time. We have the privilege of being God's agents of healing. Christ reminds us of great rejoicing in heaven over one soul who repents, one person who learns forgiveness, one lamb that's gathered into the fold.

Our Messiah is no religious guru who lives on only by His message of a bygone era. He is no washed-up zealot whose cause faded when His first followers lost momentum. Our Redeemer bore the world's transgressions on a Roman instrument of torture. His spent frame was placed in the tomb but did not decay. In His risen and glorified body He lives and rules eternally. He has tender words for the timid, strength for the weak, light for those in the shadows and hope for those on the verge of despair. Christ embraces us in our frailty. He journeys with us through prosperity and adversity. He assures us the destination has been secured. He is our Redeemer and Shepherd and King.

The Spirit reminds us today that Christ will not return to deal with sin. He will return to deal with sinners. He will not return to handle sin because that necessity has already been accomplished. Christ died for sins, all sins, every sin- past, present, and future- once and for all. The sacrifice has been made; the debt has been paid. He is coming to reward the faithful. That day is coming, the final day, the last day, the consummation of all things. God's people have awaited it since the first promise of the Messiah. It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

The widow waited on the Lord, a beggar, she depended on Him for everything. We are no different, beggars too, we await the full enjoyment of of heavenly treasures. Amen.

+ in Nomine Jesu +

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
8 November, 2015
Mark 12:44 2 Psalm 12:1 Rev Darrin L Kohrt

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 9:42-50
Theme: Of Sin and Salvation

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

What is your greatest hope? Does it involve career, family, assets, or accomplishments? Is it spiritual? What is your greatest fear? Does it relate to health, reputation, or relationships? Does it take seriously your mortality? Is your greatest worry offset by an even greater confidence? These questions, though perhaps not posed precisely as such, relate to the very meaning and purpose of our existence. We are blessed with so much, yet it’s easy to forget that to lose connection with God is to, finally, lose everything. But when we have Christ, even if we have nothing else, we have all things. The Scripture says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish.”1

Of course, it’s not quite so simple as to say that apart from God we have nothing. Jesus makes it crystal clear today that without Him we have a horrifying set of realities to face. The summation of which is hell. A place called the Hinnom Valley lies to the southwest of Jerusalem. For centuries it was used as a garbage dump and a place of human sacrifice. Smoldering fires often burned there continuously. Christ references it today as an analogy for the eternal fires of hell. The Scripture says in regard to the wicked king Manasseh “He burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers.”2 The Greek word for hell derives its name from this point of reference.

An image of destruction and punishment, Jesus uses it to warn people about being a stumbling block to the faith of others. The imagery Jesus uses is vivid and confronting. Fire and water are given spiritual dimensions of retribution. “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”3 How often even in our present day is a raging bushfire likened to the fires of hell! How easily an unrestrained flood is compared to an agent of destruction! Today we are called to account for our actions as sinners. Judgment is neither uncertain nor negotiable.

Dear friends, God demands perfection but only Christ could achieve it. The holy will of God is only achieved through the past, present, and future work of the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we pray in the Lord’s Pray, “Your will be done,”4 we are not simply referring to sweeping generalities regarding the work of God in the world. We are not praying for things remote from daily life. Nor are we only praying for God-pleasing resolutions to things like the refugee crisis in Syria or the violent extremism of ISIS. We are praying that Christ’s work of salvation would govern our attitudes and actions. We are praying for understanding and acceptance of our vocations and how we serve others through them. The will of God is that we understand the privileges and responsibilities that we have as redeemed members of His body.

The Scriptures never assume the average believer is a supra-spiritual person, a holier-than-thou fanatic unconnected to the real lives of real people. The Bible isn’t full of hyped-up piety or false aspiration that denies the hard realities of mortal existence. The Psalms teach us to pour out our complaints as much as they inspire us to lift our voices in praise. The prophets teach us to rend our hearts as often as they encourage us to be resolute in our convictions. The patriarchs were vulnerable as often as they were stalwart. The apostles faltered as frequently as they rose to the occasion. Elijah despaired. Jonah resented the grace shown to unbelievers. Thomas doubted the crucified Jesus could be living. Abraham laughed at God’s promises. Sarah too! Rahab was a prostitute. Matthew was a tax-collector. Zaccheus was too! All became agents and servants of the most high God.

God uses the frail and the faulty. If He didn’t there would be no one worthy to serve Him. The baptized are not perfected; they are forgiven. We have perfect forgiveness from a faultless Saviour. You are an agent of God’s perfect love clothed in human frailty. You can save no one; Christ does that. Yet in every circumstance and in every way the compassion of God can come to others through you. Remember what James says today, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”5

Alignment with God’s will is the test of faithfulness. The LCA will soon meet in national synod. This too will be a test of corporate integrity. We pray that our will becomes conformed to God’s will even when we don’t understand how it will be of benefit to ourselves or others. Our trust for His daily provision is built upon the completed act of salvation already accomplished through His atoning death and glorious resurrection. You are declared blameless through Christ’s blood. You, the sinner, me the scoundrel; we are delivered from the threat of everlasting condemnation as a sheer act of grace. His mercy cannot be earned; it is freely given. It is lavishly poured out upon us.

Fire and water are used as imagery for redemption too. Christ was drowned in the ocean of our sins. We are baptized into His death and resurrection. Jesus endured the fire of God’s wrath on the cross. The Holy Spirit cleanses us- as with fire. Daily bread is critical for our bodies. Sacramental food is essential for our well-being overall. Liquid is vital for our physiology. The Living Water is crucial for the whole of our existence. These things strengthen us for His service.

Your faith sprouts legs when you carry the burdens of others. Your faith takes flight when you send words of hope to those separated from loved ones by time and distance. Your faith grows ears when you patiently listen to those who have no one to pour out their problems to. Your faith develops voice when you speak on behalf of those who have been suppressed. Your faith shows integrity when you gently correct those who wander from the truth. The timid soul may need a confidante. The guilty conscience may need to hear words of forgiveness. The despondent heart may need words of encouragement. The weak in spirit may need to be lifted by the strength of another.

Jesus left the heights of heaven to spare us from the depths of hell. He handled the unclean. He exorcised demons. He healed every disease. He dined with tax-collectors and prostitutes. These were not religious stunts of a Messianic hopeful. These were the activities of the Son of God in human flesh; activities through which people enslaved by the manifestations of evil- in a creation hampered and harassed by sin- were redeemed and restored as His cherished sons and daughters. Christ continues such work of reclamation today. He already shouldered the millstone. He was drowned in the ocean of our sins that we might sail on the ocean of His grace safely in the ark- His holy church. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
27 September, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Peter 1:3-4
2 2 Chronicles 33:36
3 Mark 9:42
4Matthew 6:10
5 James 5:20

Monday, September 21, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 9:35
Theme: Less is More

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The transparency of the gospels not only commends their integrity to us, it allows us to be tutored in the successes and failures of real people. Time and again we hear of the indiscretions of Jesus’ closest followers. Today the disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest. It’s now 2000 years later and nothing’s changed. Real sinners need a real Saviour. It’s both as simple and as profound as that. It’s also a simplified way to understand the profound reasons why so many absent themselves from God’s house. Why is Christianity struggling? Either people don’t believe they are real sinners; or they don’t believe that here they will find a real Saviour- or both!

Jesus thoroughly knows human nature. He understands our weaknesses. Today He says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”1 In a society captivated by high-profile athletes, schooled in attitudes of self-promotion, and generally bathed in the philosophy of self-indulgence, the model that Christ emulates here is largely a foreign concept. Political happenings are, perhaps, exhibit A. We aren’t inclined to sacrificial service by nature and the secular world won’t teach it to us. It must be taught by the Spirit. Christ is not merely the example for us; His work is substitutionary. Jesus was born into this world in humble estate and He died under the most humiliating of circumstances. He is the holy, unapproachable God, yet He lowered Himself to embrace our humanity and bear the full consequences of our sins.

The world sees little wisdom in this, but God does not see things through sinful human eyes. God sees things with a view to the resurrection. Sin blinds us to the significance of being estranged from God. Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.”2 These are serious words. The person who is ensnared in his sins will end up perishing eternally. How can this be prevented? Christ is talking about how one avoids hell, eternal destruction. The matter is so serious the cause of sin must be removed. Therefore Jesus speaks of removing the hand, foot, or eye if it causes one to sin. Nothing is more important than one’s eternal destination.

There is more to this issue than the avoidance of sin in outward, physical form. The hands or the feet or the eyes do not act independently of the body. The heart, mind and will form the essence of what constitutes a human being; especially spiritually. They are also the seat of sin. Our Lord Himself says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”3 If the foot is infected with gangrene, removing it can save the entire body. So, too, with the hand, and so forth. Still, taken to its logical conclusion, Jesus’ illustration becomes reduced to an absurdity. At some point the amputation of parts of the body no longer saves the body, but brings death to the entire body. Jesus is pointing to something more here. Yes, we must be aware of the temptations we are particularly prone to and steadfastly avoid them, but the matter isn’t thereby resolved. The desire to sin still remains.

Sinful desire is just as worthy of eternal condemnation in God’s eyes as are sinful deeds. Desire is the motivation of action. Sinful desire cannot be removed from the heart by amputation. The heart must be changed. The entire sinful nature must be crucified and raised to life again. We can’t do this on our own. That is really Jesus’ point. We cannot avoid hell on our own, we are doomed. But God, through His word and Spirit makes new people of us. In baptism our sinful nature is drowned and our hearts are cleansed. We are forgiven. Christ laid to rest the punishment for our sins by suffering for us. We could not do it. Salvation, rescue from the perils of hell is by grace, through faith.

As new creations we now live in that grace even though sin still clings to us. After conversion the Holy Spirit engages the struggle within us against the sinful nature. Remember, baptism changes us from the inside out. The heart, mind and will control those members of the body that would participate in sin. What the eyes see is filtered through eyes of faith. What the ears receive is vetted by hearing attuned to God’s truth. A purely motivated heart will lead to godly action, but no outward performance will change the heart inwardly.

Christ turned the popular idea of leadership on its head. He came only to serve. That is what He continues to do. He serves us with the forgiveness of sins declared emphatically in the absolution. He serves us with the strength and power of His body and blood through which we participate in the fruits of His suffering and death. He serves us through the support, comfort, encouragement, and even chastisement we receive from fellow believers. He is the suffering servant who was victorious through sacrifice.

Christ is always engaged in re-forging a proper understanding of relationships. It was completely counter-cultural to suggest that hospitality to children- who had no status in ancient society- should be the model for relating to one another in a godly fashion. It was a reversal- lifting up the lowest and humbling the self-revered. This isn’t a legalistic decree, but the supreme illustration of a Christ-like attitude.

Christ, of course, is pointing us beyond this temporal life. The Christ, crucified for you, lives for you- and with you, and in you, and among us. Through Him we have fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the very essence of life. The hope of receiving the inheritance of heaven independent of a relationship with Christ is a mere illusion. God is not an anonymous benefactor obligated to grant wishes like a genie let out of a bottle. He doesn’t run a government services or charitable organization that issues grants or subsidies through a screening process. Heaven is not a place where we privately or independently indulge in all the activities that most take our fancy.

The unmitigated presence of the Trinity is the essence of heaven. We look forward to eternity not because we’ll be free to occupy ourselves with personal agendas. We look forward to heaven not because we’ll be left unattended and unsupervised to pursue our interests. We will be fully, freely and fearlessly engaged in the sharing of perfected life. The perfection of untarnished relationships will be paramount.

What frees our tongues to sing in joyful praise of God? What opens our hearts to express gratitude for innumerable blessings? What releases us to invest our time and energies in those who are downtrodden, traumatized, lost, lonely, forlorn, living in the shadows of despair, enslaved to the capricious whims of the world? It is the absolute certainty that in Christ the last will be first. We are the last but Christ has prioritized our well-being for eternity. Every Sunday is a celebration of these truths.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
20 September, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 9:35
2 Mark 9:45-46
3 Matthew 15:19

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 8:29
Theme: Big Questions

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Do not doubt for a moment that God is honest in His intentions. Do not question for a second that God is transparent in His motives. Do not query for an instant whether God will hold without wavering to the promises He has made. “He remembers His covenant forever, the word He commanded, for a thousand generations.”1 God has no hidden agendas.
His plan is to fully reclaim, restore, and resurrect humans condemned to eternal judgment. You are the object of His agenda. He pursues you with clarity and determination.

Today we’re privy to a conversation that involves a defining moment in the lives of the disciples. Christ poses to them the question of His identity. “Who do people say I am?”
He follows up with parallel questions on the value of temporal and eternal life. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”3 Peter has the right answer to the biggest question but he doesn’t understand the consequences. The suffering of Christ was more than he bargained for. It wasn’t a theoretical question for him either. The path of all of Christ’s followers necessarily mirrors that of the Master. Peter thought he was signing up for crown-wearing instead of cross-bearing. He was looking for a place of glory in Christ’s earthly dominion. Christ was preparing him for the glory of the heavenly kingdom. The crown of life indeed awaited Peter, but it could only be achieved through Jesus’ crown of thorns.

The “big question” regarding Christ’s identity remains perennially relevant. It can be restated (in fact it must) but it cannot be revised. It can be ignored, but only until the judgment at the longest. The answer to the question is of course nothing more, but certainly nothing less, than the confession of truth that defines Christianity. The question first posed privately to the disciples now occupies the public mission of the church. The answer to Christ’s identity is the only answer to the power of sin. It concerns us all. The confession of divine truth is a public matter by definition.

People have always maintained private opinions. They always will. Not every opinion is worth, contesting, challenging, or imposing upon others. We learn to vet them and focus on the most significant matters. It hardly means, however, there is consensus on what these are. Sinful human beings typically downplay the dangers and effects of transgressing God’s will. We often marginalize the risk of affirming falsehood and its associated implications. God’s patience in judging is misread as leniency. His swift chastisement is misinterpreted as callousness. Whether we’re seeking to be excused for our unrighteous actions towards others or praised for our hypocritical piety, we like God to share in our failure by overlooking it or approving it. The call to repentance entails the full range of our indiscretions.

The critical matter at issue in today’s gospel account is the very nature of God’s self-disclosure to us. Merely naming Jesus as the Christ doesn’t embrace what that means. The path of the cross is self-effacing to the core. The crucifixion is the definitive revelation of God’s love to us in Christ. Do you think it was unimportant for the prophets to define exactly who Jesus is when Isaiah wrote of Him 600 years before His birth? “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”4

Do you think it was not important for the apostles to define exactly who Jesus is when they wrote after His death and resurrection, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”5 Do you think it was not important for the church in the early centuries to define exactly who Jesus is when they labored to summarize the Christian faith in the Nicene Creed? “Jesus Christ… God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” Our salvation depends upon the fact that Jesus is who He says He is and does what He says He does. The more clearly we understand Him the better off we are and the more effectively we can be His witnesses.

Dear friends, it is not the mission of the church to go out into the world with religious options for consideration. It is not our mission to provide food-for-thought and encourage people to form their own opinions. It is not our charge to present the biblical doctrine as one set of truths among many. Least of all is it helpful to go out with a message marked by uncertainty, confusion and apathy. The world may be full of people that are largely uninformed about the Christian truth, but they are very perceptive and discerning about whether that truth is proclaimed with authority and clarity. It is easy to spot people who do not really believe what they are saying. The Holy Spirit refines our faith for this very reason. We must be purged of the tendency to act contrary to what we believe.

There are many falsehoods, half-truths, and misperceptions we may have to live with in this life. Life is often beset with complexity and confusion. But it is truth that we seek to die in. What matters in the end is not a faith that we can live with but a faith we can die with. When the final breath exhales from our lungs we want to die in the clarity of truth. All ideologies and philosophies that have figured prominently in our lives will be nothing but cherished or bitter memories depending upon our experience. The forgiveness of sins, however, is the passport to the permanency of the unending experience of joy.

Dear friends, God doesn’t have opinions. He does not lie. He speaks to us about things high and holy things, yes; but these things also relate to our daily life in the body of Christ. God speaks in an orderly way. God orders things in a purposeful way. God speaks with specificity but He doesn’t speak privately. He speaks in reference to vocation, and thus He speaks preferentially.

Everyone serves, but in different ways, with different responsibility and different accountability. A student doesn’t have the same accountability as a teacher. An employee doesn’t have the same responsibility as a boss. A carpenter doesn’t have the same accountability as a judge. A waiter doesn’t have the same responsibility as a surgeon. Children are not equipped to make decisions for the family and they are not called to do so. Fathers have different God-given obligations than mothers. Pastors are accountable to God for their flocks in a way that lay people aren’t. All pursue integrity. All consider the well-being of others first. All serve the common good. And as believers we all seek to build up the body of Christ.

Dear friends, in the pursuit of these things in truth, our confession of Christ’s identity is revealed. But our failures do not change the reality of who He is. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, Christ has not and will not fail you. He has gone through death for you. You are baptized into His death and resurrection. He lives to intercede for you. He offers you pardon in His body and blood. He wipes your slate clean. He puts a value on your soul that is incomparable by any human measure. What can a person give in exchange for their soul?6 That’s a big question. Not anything! Not everything! Christ gave His blood. The greatest was required. The greatest was given. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
13 September, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Psalm 105:8 2 Mark 8:27 3 Mark 8:36
4 Isaiah 53:4-5 5 Hebrews 1:3-4 6 See Mark 9:37