Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Second Sunday After Christmas (B) 2015

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: John 1:1-18
Theme: Dwelling Among Us

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

Existence is reconstituted in the coming of Jesus. In the beginning God spoke and creation came into existence out of nothing. Essential to the meaning of His incarnation, of Christmas, is the understanding that in these events all creation is taken back to the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”1 In the flesh of Christ, a perfect state of material being again exists. In the person of Jesus, the image of true humanity is restored. Our continued celebration of Christmas involves the promise that believers will be restored in both body and soul for eternity according to the words of the Spirit, “Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”2 This future is God’s original intent for us.

Fundamental to the Biblical perspective of life is understanding that what is commonly known as the natural state of things is actually a state of estrangement from God. Human beings, as they are, in and of themselves, are not in the state God originally intended and created. We are born divorced from proper fellowship with God. His ways and works are alien to our instincts and desires. This is true not just for those who are willfully and outwardly evil, but even for those who appear to be honest and godly in their actions. Since this truth cannot be empirically proven, it must be believed. The Scripture says, “He [that is, Christ] was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”3

The creation does not, in fact, cannot, recognize her Creator. To acknowledge the existence of God intellectually is not the same as believing in Him, as loving Him. The First Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods.”4 “What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”5 It means to look to Him for our only hope and security, our only source of life and strength. Faith in Christ necessarily involves the repudiation of self and all other sources of hope. In Christ, we then become what we are meant to be. Our gospel says, “To all who received Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God- children born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”6

Spiritual conversion is a wholly supernatural activity. The Bible excludes any place for human ability and capacity when it comes to gathering people into His kingdom. Just as we are born to parents, born into a family completely apart from our choosing or cooperation, so too are we brought into the family of God. It should not be surprising that baptism, the means by which this takes place, is described as bringing about a new birth. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”7 Thus from start to finish God is, as the Bible says, “the author and perfecter of our faith.”8 “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”9

The forgiveness we have is not some theoretical concept. It was earned through the suffering of Christ’s body and His sacrifice unto death. The promise of absolution has the guarantee of His flesh and blood. The sins of repentant believers, sins great and small, truly are forgiven, removed, washed away. Even as Christ is risen from the dead, we too are raised to a new spiritual life here and now. Dear Friends, do not take it lightly that by faith you are resurrected beings. Christ has bestowed on humans an honor higher than that of angels.

In due time, our spiritual resurrection will give way to a physical resurrection when we pass through death into life. We should long for this each and every day. Our life here is but temporary. Our life there is forever. Then all the frailties of the human body, all the weakness of the human mind, all that torments heart and soul will be resolved. The blindness that strikes the eyes, the deafness that strikes the ear, the confusion that mutes the tongue, the lameness that hinders the limb, the atrophy that cripples the joints, the cancer that commandeers the flesh, the Alzheimer’s that decimates the mind, the frailty that simply drains strength, all the bitterness and hardship with which we must cope will vanish in an instant. There is noting that we suffer now that will not quickly become a vanishing and fleeting memory.

Yes, in this life we will struggle. But the point of Christmas is that Christ is with us. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”10 We can now live in such away so as to bring the presence of God among others. The year 2015 is before us and we are faced with great challenge and opportunity. Despite the affluence of our culture (or we may say somewhat because of it) human need is as great as ever. People live in open ungodliness and societal mores become more secular. Our own country is a vast mission field right at our doorstep. Across the world some nations and people groups suffer great physical want others have never heard the gospel proclaimed or the word of God taught. As individual Christians and as a church, we are held to account. We must prioritize our resources and energies in sacrifice of our neighbour and in honour of God’s name. No effort, regardless how small, is insignificant. In Christ, we can meet the future with determination and excitement.

It is appropriate that during the season of Christmas, one calendar year comes to an end and a new year begins. We go forward knowing that Christ is with us. Through water and the word, through His Spirit, through the sacramental bread and wine, He dwells in and among us. We go forward knowing that in the Lord even the most menial daily tasks are not in vain. We go forward with the boldness to hold high the Light of the world in a spiritually dark age. We go forward with the eagerness to more fully understand His will. We go forward with the comfort and confidence of knowing the future is secured. Christ is Immanuel, God with us, and He will never leave. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Christmas
4 January, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 1:1-2
2 Philippians 3:20-21
3 John 1:10-11
4 Exodus 20:3
5 Martin Luther, Explanation to the First Commandment
6 John 1:12-13
7 Titus 3:5-6
8 Hebrews 12:2
9 Colossians 1:13-14
10 John 1:14

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Eve 2014

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

Text: 1 Peter 1:23
Theme: God’s Living and Enduring Word

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”1 It’s a biblical maxim that can seem to ears trained to want something new and revolutionizing to be uninspiring and even irrelevant. The pace of change has so captivated our way of thinking and living that we often have false expectations. Change is often associated with progress; and often this is true. Other times it is nothing more than the re-emergence of Satan’s forgotten schemes.

The Year of Our Lord 2014 has come to a close. Think what can happen over the course of a year. The biblical record recalls momentous events. During the time of Noah the earth went from its daily business to being submerged in flood waters in forty days lasting for nearly four month. During the time of Moses the Israelites were released from centuries of bondage and journeyed across the Red Sea in haste before wandering in the desert. Christ Himself rose from virtual obscurity to being pursued by the masses in a matter of months. Things can quickly change. Over the course of a year wars are engaged, dictators are toppled, economies falter. The world sometimes lurches forward and then back. Over the course of a year students graduate, jobs are lost or secured; children are born or leave home, illness strikes or recovery progresses, death visits some that are prepared for it and some who are not. But at the end of the year as at the beginning God is with His people.

One thing that will never change is our need for God’s grace because sin too, is unrelenting. The human nature of the next child to be conceived in this town is essentially no different than that of the very first. Neither genetic, nor social, nor cultural, nor environmental circumstances can eliminate, mitigate, or circumvent the power and presence of original sin. The apple does not fall very far from the tree. We are all fruit of Adam’s tree. The next child conceived needs Christ just as much as the child conceived 100 years ago and 1,000 years ago. If we don’t believe that then we’ve lost sight of what the Scriptures mean when they say, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”2 Original sin is not a genotype that can be bred out of the human race. It’s not a gap in civilized virtue that only needs mending. It’s not a flawed perspective on Utopian society. Original sin is the glaring truth that apart from intervention of divine proportions we would all be lost.

Oh yes, we can put on the appearance that everything is basically running smoothly. That also helps alleviate our urge for any true repentance. We are adept at justifying ourselves. There were four Christians. They were called: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was job to do: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure Somebody would. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody.

If we have it all together what help do we need from God? But stability in the ceaseless cycle of the world’s activity is an illusion. Not that we should fail to pray for stability in the temporal sphere. God rules the civil sphere, the left-hand kingdom, with power and providence. We should pray for it, vote wisely to promote it, and do what we can to support it. Orderliness in society provides not only the basis of safety for all, but also the opportunity for the Word of God to be openly proclaimed- ideally with impunity. But we should not be misinformed about what it offers us.

Is the world a more dangerous place than a year ago? Terror touched the lives of people in places as far flung as Sydney, Ottawa, and Pakistan. War and civil unrest continue unabated in many parts of the world. People become unsettled and even filled with fear when disorder goes unchecked and strikes by surprise. Yet Christ Himself says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed…these are the beginning of birth pains.”3

Dear friends, in a world of uncertainty and instability Christ is an unfailing and immovable. Our Scripture for this New Years’ Eve says Christians now participate in His immortal power. “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”4 Seeds are remarkable entities of God’s creation. A seed can lay dormant, imperious to dust and draught, wind and woe, quietly biding its time. Then it springs to life. When it takes root it can quickly establish a growing plant that soon bears fruit.

Perhaps you will be pursuing some kind of personal change in the coming year? What approaches will you take? What type of sacrifices will need to be made? What are your expectations? A woman went to the police station to report a missing husband. She described him as "29 years old, six foot three, athletic, and handsome." The sergeant shook his head. "Wait a minute, madam, I know your husband. He’s 50, short, and overweight." "Sure he is” the woman replied, "But I never said which husband!”

Christians are sometimes accused of looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses; of being idealistic and impractical. But Christian hope is not the same as false optimism. Cheerful conviction is not the same as childish naivety. As we mature in the faith we learn not to be reliant on fallible schemes of human wisdom. The Almighty God says, “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.”5 He says we are “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”6 It is only because God is immutable that we can be transformed by the constancy of His love. “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, spoil, or fade- kept in heaven for you.”7

Viewed in biblical perspective Christians can face the coming year with hope and promise. The Year of Our Lord 2015 is the next calendar year in your baptismal journey. Yet in God’s time our days tick off in parallel with the timelessness of eternity. Constant in love; faithful in mercy, God in Christ will not fail to attend to us in prosperity and adversity. Your strength, forgiveness, and hope will continue to come from the same sources it always has: The Word, The Spirit, returning to the font, kneeling to receive the body and blood of the Saviour. Christ for us. Christ in us. Christ crucified. Christ risen. Christ living, interceding, and ruling on behalf of His redeemed people. In a few hours the calendar turns over but God’s favour is never turned away. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

New Year’s Eve
31 December 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Hebrews 13:8
2 Romans 5:12
3 Matthew 24:6, 8
4 1 Peter 1:23
5 Psalm 75:3
6 Hebrews 12:28
7 1 Peter 1:3-4