+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 6:44
Theme: “Unless the Father…”
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Tomorrow may never come. But eternity will. Christians prepare for tomorrow, but we never assume it because God may have bigger things in store. The prayer of the faithful always includes the petition that the Lord of time and eternity come again to fulfill the promise, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”1 The coming Lord is also with us now. He greets you with words of pardon for your sins. He meets you in the sacred meal with His body and blood. He reminds you that you are His baptized.
Today the dialogue continues between Jesus, the crowds, and the Jewish leaders. They are nearing the pointy end of the discussion. Something has to give. The Jews wanted to protect their self-interests. It’s a lesson for us. We can never sacrifice the greater mission of the gospel for our own pet agendas. The Bible never guarantees the survival of an individual Christian community, a congregation, a synod, or even an entire denomination. It is entirely possible that in the future there will be no Christian presence in this place at all. One generation passes on, the next becomes apathetic, the third walks away from the faith altogether. Last century Christians here sent many missionaries overseas. Perhaps in this century still many missionaries will need to be sent here? But the Lord tells us not to panic. The gates of hell will not prevail against His church altogether.
Remember, for things that are humanly achievable God’s intervention is not necessary. God chooses to accomplish many things through human agency. He even brings new life into the world through the union of a man and a woman (Not that this makes conception and childbirth any less miraculous). But reconciliation with God is far beyond us. You will search in vain for pardon from your sins if you look only to human strength. Your quest for a clear conscience will be futile if you think it can be achieved through mortal means. Your desire to have certainty about your eternal future will be left unrealized if you (mis)place your trust in human wisdom. Jesus is daily bread. Christ wants us to know the stability of His peace.
Sin not only burdens the conscience, it begins to cause spiritual fatigue. It wears on us and saps our energy. We can’t face it in the long term just through a rush of spiritual adrenaline. Adrenaline junkies are thrill-seekers, who struggle to function if they’re not living on the edge. People are vulnerable to the same thing spiritually. We seek our fix of religion and then seek to carry on under that steam believing that it is the best way to stay connected with God. Imagine what an adrenaline-rush, what a thrill it was too see Jesus perform a miracle. That’s all well and good but we’ll soon see what happened to those who only sought Jesus for a thrill or a handout; they soon parted ways.
Faith cannot be self-sustaining otherwise it inevitably turns in on itself. It looks to sources of help other than God. A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued: "Is anyone up there?" "I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?" "Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer." "That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch." A moment of pause, then: "Is anyone else up there?"
Jesus says today, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”2 The work of God on the individual begins when the Fathers draws. This is the drawing of the Holy Spirit through the gospel. The work comes to completion when the Son resurrects according to the promise “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”3
The Lord unwillingly gives us over to judgment. He must do this to crush our arrogant spirit. He must convict the sinner who denies they have any sin; the transgressor who treats lightly His transgressions. Our hardened hearts must be broken with the hammer blows of His indictment. God does this earnestly but not joyfully. He passionately desires our salvation. He says in Isaiah, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, say the Lord your Redeemer.”4 He endured suffering and death for you. He rose so that you could share in His life.
Even as we participate in His life, we share that life with others. Our relationships are governed accordingly. The apostle says today, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…”5 Dear friends, imagine how public discourse would change if all unwholesome talk ceased! We might have long pauses and even periods of complete silence! What about in our private conversations? What if we considered the well-being of others before we spoke? St. Paul continues, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”6
Is there a danger the grace of God will be abused? Absolutely! Like any gift of unconditional generosity, the holy promises of God can be exploited. They can be high-jacked and twisted and employed for selfish means. We should expect the same reactions when we love unconditionally. But through acts of giving and forgiving the Holy Spirit can break through hearts of stone.
Christ says He is the living bread. He is life-giving, soul-sustaining, death-defying, pure and unadulterated mercy incarnate. He is no anonymous martyr. He is your Saviour. Dear friends, Jesus Christ has already lain down in your grave. He spent only a short time there, but in that short time He has robbed your grave of its power. It will now be nothing more than a resting place for your physical frame. He has gone ahead of you into the heavenly realms. He says, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”7
We have this life already. We are only waiting- learning now to appreciate the divine mysteries- until the scales fall from our eyes. No one will ever be able to explain how the body and blood of Christ are present in and with mere bread and wine in Holy Communion. But no one will be able to explain how God created the universe either. True mysteries require faith. God does not and will not fail us. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
9 August, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Revelation 21:4
2 John 6:44
3 Philippians 1:6
4 Isaiah 54:8
5 Ephesians 4:29
6 Ephesians 4:31-32
7 John 6:47