+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Mark 1:31
Theme: Freed To Serve
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The state of the body sometimes exists in tension with the health of the soul. The one is ailing while the other is prospering. Only in Christ is perfect wellbeing a completed reality. Sound physical conditioning should not be equated with spiritual wellness, neither should bodily illness should not be associated with weakness in the faith. In the midst of a culture in which physical health has become a holy grail we must remember we are part of a community with more holistic aspirations. When the soul prospers the harshest adversity of the body can be endured with hope.
Sickness is an opportunity for witness. No one will be deprived of the opportunity. Under what circumstances we may not yet know; or perhaps we already know all too well! Did Simon Peter’s mother-in-law have chronic health problems? We know almost nothing about her. Today Jesus encountered her while she was plagued with a fever. He drove the fever out and she began to wait on Him and the disciples. That same evening He healed many who had various diseases. Healings were important evidence of Jesus’ divinity.
Bodily health increases the opportunity to serve others but there is not necessarily a positive correlation between the two. The devil too, is happy to befriend able-bodied people. It is often in the times of greatest trial that Christians give their most important witness. Adversity tests our character. Character is refined under the Father’s chastisement, shaped by the Saviour’s compassion, and polished by the Spirit’s presence. Our witness begins with honest confession of our need. Sin cannot be hidden from God. When it is repressed in the heart it begins to fester in the body. King David spoke with some transparency in the Psalms, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ - and You forgave the guilt of my sin.”1
Dear friends, freedom from the guilt of sin is medicine to the soul. You are saved by grace. You are justified, declared righteous purely by the mercy of God in Christ. His grace is not tolerance. It is not a lenience that mindlessly, apathetically, or intentionally overlooks the offence of sin. The sacrifice of Christ means very little if the guilt of sin is not taken into account. What need is there for a Saviour if there is no condemnation for sinners? What need to be ransomed if there is no price to be paid? What need to be rescued if the lost sheep can find their own way back into the fold?
For the grace of God to be understood a crucifixion was necessary. Yes, we can wax lyrical about the general benevolence of the Almighty- and many have-, naming kindness and generosity as virtues of God seen in His providence. As the apostle says, even unbelievers should be able to recognize God’s eternal power and divine nature2 by reflecting on creation. But this is not yet grace. Grace is not a general revelation of God’s love. It is the distinctive precise- personal and intimate- communication of the living God to the dying sinner.
Christ puts flesh and blood on God’s mercy. He’s the living, breathing, Second Adam who succeeds where the first Adam failed. His blood was drawn for you and for your salvation. Grace is not a general advertisement; it is a personal love letter. It is not ambiguous. It is meticulous. It is the source of our joy, our hope, and our gratitude.
Every time we gather in God’s house of worship it is an opportunity for thanksgiving. This sanctuary is a spiritual hospital. It is a refuge from the chaos of the world. It is a place of prayer and meditation. It is a workshop for the remedial sinner. It is the location where our souls are absolved with the cleansing word of truth. It is the venue in which our hearts overflow with gratitude to God.
Thanksgiving to God should not be limited to a scheduled occasion. It can be stimulated by established reminders but the deepest gratitude of the heart is generated by a genuine desire of the soul to respond to God’s blessings. In this sense it cannot be fabricated or restrained. It is a Spirit-wrought activity. Faith is expressed in gratitude in even in the midst of trial.
Life involves an accumulation of traumas. Though our sins directly implicate us in many hardships, other afflictions arise simply because of our existence in a fallen world. Both the perversity and the consequences occasioned by the poisoning of creation remain beyond the reach of human understanding. We can ask why bad things happen (and it is often instructive to do so) but we can’t expect that our human natures will be satisfied with the answer. Faith plays a role that logic or human wisdom can never dethrone.
God is honoured when we rely unconditionally on Him alone. People pray to be healed from all sorts of illnesses and frailties. Sometimes healing is complete; sometimes partial; sometimes there is none at all. Sometimes we are left confused; sometimes baffled, sometimes disappointed; sometimes despairing. We seek patience to accept God’s will asking that His name be glorified through us.
Do we wish to receive the best prescription that exists? The Doctor of souls offers us the medicine of immortality. Christ gives His life-restoring body and soul-reviving blood. He has experienced death. He has been raised to life. He promises to make everything new. No one and nothing else can do that; including the so-called “marvels” of modern medicine. Yes, ageing will be mitigated but it will not be arrested. Yes, particular cures will be prominent but they will never be panaceas. To say so is not pessimism but biblical realism. Human ingenuity will help us to better manage the infirmities of life but a resurrection will be required for restoration to be achieved. A preview of that resurrection has already been given to the baptized.
Dear friends, you will be made whole. You will be completely restored. Body, mind, and spirit will reconstructed to a state of existence more vibrant than that which we have ever experienced. The bodily resurrection of the dead is the consummation of the believer’s hope. Job expresses the heart of our creed when He says, “I know that My Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes.”3
Meanwhile, we live now in Christian witness; always being mended but never without infirmities. The thorn was not removed from Paul’s flesh. Grace was sufficient. The diagnosis was not terminal. The thorn of sin will not be removed from your life either. His mercy is sufficient. The diagnosis is not terminal. Sin has lost its power to condemn. Hell has lost its power threaten. Death has lost its grip. Christ lives. He lives in perfect health, whole and vibrant, a preview of what we too will possess. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
8 February, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Psalm 32:3-5
2 See Romans 1:20
3 Job 19:25-27