Sunday, June 14, 2015

Third Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 4:26-34
Theme: Unreasonable Love

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God never merely says things; He does things. Human words are often vain, weak, false, and ineffectual. God’s word is always purposeful, powerful, truthful and effective. The Lord says, “So is My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”1 But this power and activity is often not observable to the human eye. The eye blinded by sin cannot discern the activity of God. Nevertheless, in the person of Christ, through the cross and empty tomb, God brings the chaotic and rebellious world under His control. This cannot be empirically proven to you. It is an article of faith. Faith clings firmly to that which is not only unobservable, but often unreasonable.

What could be more unreasonable than this claim of Scripture about Jesus? “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”2 What evidence can we find of this? Yet this is the heart of the gospel message of redemption. Here all is secured, or all is lost. Christ has disarmed all the powers of sin. That reality; understood now by faith- and in heaven in its fullness- affects each and every facet of your life. You can live life with purpose. You can confess your sins with humility. You can help others with patience. You can endure illness with confidence. You can even face death without fear. Unbelievers cannot relate to this “peace that passes all understanding.”3 It is hidden from their eyes.

Dear friends, there are grand and glorious things going on on a universal scale which are way beyond our control, but also of which God has made us part. The work of Christ is so paradoxical we cannot but receive it by faith. In today’s gospel, Jesus employs parables about agriculture. They depict the work of God on a grand scale. We are part of it, but we do not have the bird’s eye view. You cannot see the expanse of the forest when you are in amongst the trees. Parables address such conundrums. Jesus’ spoke many parables and a general word about them is worth mentioning.

Parables are not quaint, pithy tales intended to capture the imagination to the end that the hearer may merely ponder them from a comfortable, detached perspective. Parables, like the word of God in general, always have the purpose and power of transforming those who hear. They are never about trivial things, but always about divine truths of great magnitude. Parables are about Christ and sinners, heaven and hell, justice and mercy, truth and falsehood, life and death. They are about the mystery of the incarnate Christ and His redemption of a fallen world. Any claim that parables are simple stories for the simple-minded or unlearned, widely misses Jesus’ own description, “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to the others I speak in parables, so that ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’”4 The person and work of Christ are so contrary to human reason and sensibility, they are in and of themselves mysteries. But God is not aloof from us. Parables describe the paradox of such mysteries.

So what about today’s parables? Jesus’ describes the sowing and growing of the seed. Where do you fit in? You are one whose faith has germinated from God’s word. You are redeemed by Christ’s blood, saved by His grace, baptized into His name, sealed for His inheritance. You have His Spirit. You are living and growing in the field, the world, in which Satan also is cultivating His evil ones. The weeds will grow with the wheat, but at the harvest everything is sorted out.

No one will escape the harvesters. St. Paul teaches the same thing today in plain language. He says, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”5 How can sinners face the judgment? Good intentions will not save us. Ignorance is no defence. Negotiation will be fruitless. Denial will get us nowhere. When Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,”6 he was not denying the righteous judgment of Almighty God against sin. Many today, though, act as if facing their mortality was inconsequential.

It is exactly this end-time harvest, which drives the mission of the church. This mission is the church’s very life. We believe that we are only pilgrims here. We have concern for peoples’ souls. The faithful are sustained by His word and Spirit and body and blood until the final gathering into His barn. The harvest is increased by the same word and Spirit working mysteriously, but powerfully and reliably until the end of the age. The entire world is a field. We may be in just one small corner. We may feel like our part is insignificant. Yet we are called to faithfulness. We have great privileges. We can love because He first loved us.

Parables remind us that the thinking of God is often counter-intuitive to human thinking. This cannot be more supremely illustrated than in the central teaching of Christianity. God, out of sheer grace, has looked upon detestable sinners and granted them forgiveness, pardon, and peace. It is completely incomprehensible from a human standpoint why someone would sacrifice everything, even their own life, in order to benefit sworn enemies. Yet, that is exactly what Christ has done for us. The Scripture says, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.”7

The grace of God in Christ is the greatest of all paradoxes; the holy Son of God is convicted so that sinful human beings may be acquitted. Divine love involves the willingness and ability to give up absolutely everything and expect nothing else in return. Again, the Scriptures, “Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing….He humbled Himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross.”8 He was laid in the grave but death could not hold Him. It won’t be able to hold you either. We are born of imperishable seed and have His incorruptible life. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday After Pentecost
14 June, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Isaiah 55:11
2 Colossians 2:15
3 See Philippians 4:7
4 Luke 8:10
52 Corinthians 5:10
6Presidential Inaugural Address, 1932
7Romans 5:10
8Philippians 2:6-8