Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: John 6:15
Theme: Maintenance and Monarchy

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Miracles aren’t always dazzling. God often tends to our needs discreetly. A moment of reflection will likely enable you to recall times when God quietly surprised you with His kindness. The subtlety and simplicity of some miracles of Christ do not negate their witness to His divinity. The multiplication of the loaves and the fishes was not flashy or eye-catching. Many would not have been near enough to Jesus to witness it visually. The exact logistics of it have not been revealed to us. Nevertheless- hapless, helpless, and hungry- the crowd was served with bread by Jesus, the Bread of Life. Advertising of the sort, “Come and hear Jesus, all meals included!” was not even necessary. They were drawn to the authority of His teaching and His command over the power of sin. Their needs were provided for.

When we pray for our daily bread we are asking for more than the means to fill our bellies. We are asking for God to make us grateful even as we remember those who go hungry. We are praying for trust to believe that God will provide according to His good and gracious will. The petition relates not just to food, but to all the material possessions we need in this temporal life. The Scriptures call on us to keep a balanced perspective on how we value the things of this life in comparison with the treasures of the life to come. It’s a perspective not shared by the unbelieving world.

A man named John Wendel and his sisters were some of the most miserly people ever known. Although they had received a huge inheritance from their parents, they spent very little of it and did all they could to simply hoard their wealth. John was able to influence five of his six sisters never to marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. In 1931! Her only dress was one that she had made herself, and she had worn it for 25 years.

What a contrast to way Christ encourages us to love our neighbour selflessly! Jesus says, “If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ [unbelievers] lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”1 The Lord introduces something pretty radical here. It tests the integrity of our trust in Him. He isn’t encouraging believers to be irresponsible. He’s teaching us to be unrestricted in the manner and intent of our generosity.

Dear friends, when it comes to our manner and our intents we should quickly recognize our need for humility. This is where dealing with our sin becomes thorny. What makes you think your sin is any less offensive than the next person’s? Do you judge your own motives to be more pure? We cannot view our own sins objectively. Our assessment is skewed by our participation. A vision-impaired person cannot see a clear reflection in a mirror. A sinner cannot accurately gage the seriousness of his or her own sins. But God doesn’t call on us to quantify. He calls on us to repent. He calls on us to believe what the Spirit says, “There is no one righteous, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”2 He convicts us of trying to make excuses and exposes all of our cover-ups. Perhaps we’ve hidden them from others- our selfish motives, our hatreds, our greed, our adulteries, our idolatries- but everything is transparent before the Almighty. His omniscience has not been compromised. He sees all.

The feeding of the multitudes caused undesirable consequences for Jesus. He wasn’t an earthly ruler trying to gather subjects. The Scripture says, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.”3 Now this gives us more than enough evidence to establish the fact that many had misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’ miracles. He wasn’t trying to establish a Utopia on earth. Attempts at achieving Utopia are the perennial interest of many who believe this temporal life is an end in itself. The reaction of the people also gives us reason to question motives. They wanted to be maintained in their daily provisions and what easier way than making Christ their monarch?

It is, of course, human nature to want to take shortcuts; to find the easy way out. Stress makes the temptation greater. Maybe few people know of the temptations you struggle with, the doubts you harbor, the anxieties that beset you? Perhaps no one at all knows, save, God alone? Maybe you even feel like a hypocrite sometimes- presenting an outward appearance of stability while inwardly you are full of turmoil? May you wonder if your problems, big or small, will ever be resolved? Maybe you wonder, like some in the crowd, where your next meal is coming from, or at least, how the bills will get paid? Each day is a gift. We learn from the past. We commit the future to God’s keeping. We live in the present. While we responsibly make plans for the future we also remember that God may call us out of this world at any time.

We remember Christ is always present with us. We remember there is a cross. That is the crux of the matter. It is final. To replace the meaning of the cross, the event of redemption with some other source of hope, is to irreparably damage the one truth which is the foundation of our salvation. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the very substance of the Good News. The gospel is not mere information. The gospel contains information, but the gospel is the power of God, the means by which He not only communicates, but by which He transforms hearts and minds with His truth. It is the source of hope and the cause of joy.

It changes our understanding of God’s presence and work among us and within us. We do not come to Holy Communion to elevate ourselves through spiritual meditation to Christ in heaven. The altar is not merely a focal point for our thoughts and piety. Here at the altar Christ descends to meet us in the sacrament. He makes Himself present through His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. He meets us here as the crucified, risen, ascended, and coming Christ; transcending time and space.

The meal of Holy Communion belongs more to the future than it does to the past. It impacts us in the present precisely because the salvation secured at the cross frees us from the condemnation of our sins even now, as the Scripture says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”4 But it is a foretaste of the feast to come; the heavenly banquet. It is the ongoing feast for the baptized.

Christ is the King who serves us. His compassion knows no bounds. The apostle makes this request which is fittingly ours, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”5 Dear friends, we will never exhaust the treasure of God’s riches in Christ; not in a thousand lifetimes, not in eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
26 July, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 6:34-35
2 Romans 3:10, 23
3 John 6:15
4 Romans 8:1
5 Ephesians 3:17-18

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