Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 6:34
Theme: God Among Us

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

“He began teaching them many things.”1 That was the response of Jesus to the crowds needing compassion. Compassion is a particularly divine quality. God has a corner on the market. To the extent that humans also display compassion they are reflecting the image of God. Pure compassion with no compromises, no doubts, and no regrets exists in Christ alone. He makes the compassion of God tangible to sinners, though often in promissory form. All of His oaths are true regardless of the evidence we experience to the contrary. We may suffer, but He embraces our suffering, absorbs it into His, and frees us from its final power.

The short descriptions of today’s gospel narrative are characteristic of Jesus’ ministry.
“Wherever He went- into villages, towns or countryside- they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed.”2 It sounds like hyperbole; exaggeration for the sake of communication. But it was the concrete experience of those who came into contact with Jesus. His power healed them. His compassion cured them. His presence freed them. He was greater than Solomon; more than a prophet even though most didn’t yet understand He was the Redeemer of the world. The cross was still looming. The resurrection was still to come.

There are many today who take leave of Jesus right there are the end of Mark Chapter 6. That is, they part ways with the One they believe only to be an itinerant healer of a by-gone age. For the people of Jesus day too, the magnetism of His personality and power would soon come into tension with the broader implications of being His disciple. Core convictions were at stake. Crosses were required to be carried; self-determination was required to be sacrificed. When push came to shove Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “‘You do not want to leave too, do you?...Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”3

Dear friends, the sick and the suffering were drawn to Jesus out of necessity. They recognized their need for help. Sinners, however, often don’t recognize their spiritual sickness. We go on pretending or believing we are healthy; able to manage on our own or by other means. Opposing God’s will becomes problematic for many only when they get tangled in the consequences. God certainly uses the circumstances to chastise us, but He desires a deeper basis for repentance. He desires that we properly fear transgressing His word. Do you hesitate to speak falsehood because of the trouble it could get you into or because you believe it would dishonor God? Do you refrain from stealing because of the embarrassment or punishment of getting caught or do you believe following God’s commands serves the well-being of all? Do you try to justify yourself or do you look for God’s justification?

Luther was concerned about being justified- in the truest spiritual sense. It was vitally important to know how one could be accounted righteous before God. Did it require good works? Were good intentions a necessity? If we gave our best effort would God accept that and supply what was lacking? Or was faith sufficient? Luther’s concern that every sinner know unequivocally that God is appeased only through the sacrifice of Christ; that His wrath is turned away only by the ransom-price paid on the cross; that the mercy of God is received only by faith, is still relevant. There is no other way for sin to be atoned for.

But today the questions are being asked differently. People are looking for acceptance from God. They are looking for certainty that they are connected with Him. But they tend to want that connection on their own terms. They want to participate in divine things, things that transcend the mundaneness which characterizes much of this life, but they don’t want to be constrained by powers greater than themselves. There is little appetite for truth. Passion for it is declining significantly within the church. Christ must be savvy to the thinking of the world to learn how to best address these realities.

Our wisdom and strength must continue to be sourced from the only reliable place. We gather here because we believe that here the eternal truth of God is spoken. We believe that He has ordered things for our well-being. We believe that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. We believe He is the same yesterday and today and forever. He died and rose again for us and for our salvation. There is no other Christ than the Christ of the Scriptures. There is no other Saviour than the one disclosed to us in the pages of Holy Writ. The faith we have through the gift of the Holy Spirit is faith in the Christ of the Bible. Jesus does not walk off the pages of Holy Scripture into a relationship with us constructed on another foundation. He does not reimage or reinvent Himself for the appetites of a different age.

Time, distance, space- these are not barriers to Christ’s presence among us. Paul says today that the church is “Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”4 “In Him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”5 The baptized people of God are the body of Christ on this earth. In baptism we participate in the life of the triune God. The Bible says, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.”6 How mind-blowing is this promise! The Son of God and the Father Himself vow to dwell with the believer. The reality that God dwells with you! How does that strike you? It is daunting. It is exhilarating. You are His temple. The One who heaven and earth cannot contain; the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Lord God of Sabaoth- near to you in your frailty!

We know the promises of His presence are common in the Bible. “Where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them.”7 “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”8 When Christ was seated at the right hand of God it means not only that He was honoured with the highest possible status; it means that now also in His humanity He rules and is present everywhere according to His good and gracious will. In this way He is available to us in Holy Communion. In it He offers us a healing of higher order than the healing He provided for the sick, the blind, and the lame. He is a God of compassion. His compassion frees us to serve others because it binds our sin for all eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
19 July, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 6:34
2 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
3 John 6:67-68
4 Ephesians 2:20
5 Ephesians 2:22
6 John 14:23
7 Matthew 18:20
8 Matthew 28:20

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