+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Mark 8:34-37
Theme: More Than The World
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Life is a gift. Therefore, we never possess it on our own terms. The whole of our journey in this time and space involves receiving from the Giver that we may be reshaped in the image of His Son, beginning in time; completed in eternity. Lent’s call to repentance consistently directs us back to the cross for the source of our spiritual life. A person can attempt to live before God without fear of judgment out of arrogance; that is the mark of unbelief. But to live before God without fear in faith is to do nothing else than live beneath the cross.
Living in this way does not come naturally. Consider today’s conversation between Jesus and Peter. Was not Saint Peter, eminent among the disciples, at this point in time, the example and advocate of a humanistic and skeptical understanding of Christ’s mission? Sacrifice was not in the cards; not sacrifice to the point of death. Peter saw his dreams of a restored Israel quickly unravelling. He saw his place of power vanishing. We can hardly imagine a sharper rebuke from the Lord. His apostle could have no misgivings about the necessity of the crucifixion. Even though the disciples’ eyes weren’t fully opened until Pentecost it was essential that Christ was clear about His intent. His rebuke is applicable to every individual of the human race. The Scripture says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”1
The viability of religion in many people’s lives today depends on a combination of factors, including; personal convenience, relevance, felt needs, and flexibility in belief and lifestyle choices. People want their spiritual life to be meaningful, yet relatively effortless. They want to feel their needs are being met and that they are contributing to something important. But, generally, they don’t want to be held to any definitive beliefs nor have their lifestyles impinged upon by a greater authority. The Bible is often carefully employed to serve these expectations.
Even a cursory study of history shows the Bible has been used to support a wide diversity of philosophies and ideologies, theoretical and pragmatic, which are not consistent with the truth of Christianity. Such misuse has a long history testified to by St. Paul’s own defence when he said, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity.”2 The contemporary pace of such misuse is perhaps as rapid as ever. Recent decades have seen people claim support in the Scriptures for things ranging from fatalism to feminism, abortion to homosexuality, universalism to pacifism, relativism to skepticism. Many claims are held in contradiction. When the Bible is made to say everything, in the end it often says nothing, at least not anything authoritative. That’s exactly the goal of some.
The pace of the secularization of our culture has increased. The luxury previous generations perhaps had in assuming that a Christian ethos and foundation was widely understood and accepted in society is quickly vanishing. Apathy about Christian truth is commonplace. But faith in Jesus Christ is not like claiming allegiance to a political party or other organizations whose agenda you support. It involves a holistic embrace of God’s will for us in Christ. Eternal things are at stake. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes again in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”3
There could be no compromise between Christ and Peter at this pivotal juncture. Peter’s position was satanic. There is no getting around the fact that the biblical teaching on salvation is exclusive. Redemption is unapologetically unilateral. There is no possibility of cooperative effort, no room to incorporate supplementary strategies. Christ alone is the Light, the Door, the Shepherd, the way and the truth and the life. More explicitly, His death alone was the ransom price for all held captive by sin’s power. Believers are freed and forgiven because Christ allowed Himself to receive the punishment due from the Father’s wrath against sin. The Scripture says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”4
The truth of Christ is like an anvil. On it are crushed all human opinions and efforts that conflict with God’s will. Christ interprets the Psalm about Himself saying, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”5 On it is crushed the will and power of Satan. On it is hammered out the punishment for our sins. On Christ, the Rock, the church has an unshakeable foundation.
Lent is always a foreshadowing of coming blessings. Lent is a time to take leave of the past, those sins and attitudes which drag us down and haunt us. Today Both Abram and Sarai had their names changed. The new reality was resonant with the fulfillment of God’s promise to them. The struggles of the past were behind them. In faith they already looked forward to the coming of God’s Son. We are the spiritual children Abraham. Note what the Scripture says, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness- for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”6
These are not pious but immaterial wishes. The Holy Spirit makes this divine act of love relevant to the individual. To really trust that the Father loves us unconditionally through the Son requires the Spirit’s power. It is too much for us to handle. Faith is a gift. Just as we cannot sustain our physical lives without outside support- the daily nutrition we must have- so too, we cannot sustain our spiritual lives without the continual nourishment of His grace. We are brought to life through the Holy Spirit’s work in baptism and nurtured with a steady diet of the word of forgiveness and the bread and wine of the altar. These gifts are of greater worth than all the world’s riches. There is nothing we can give in exchange for the soul. But Christ gave everything. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Second Sunday In Lent
1 March, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 1 Corinthians 1:18
2 2 Corinthians 2:17
3 Mark 8:36-38
4 Romans 5:8-9
5 Luke 20:17-18
6 Romans 4:24-25