Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: John 6:54
Theme: Raised Up At The Last Day

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Resurrection is imminent. Christian conviction holds this unequivocally. Jesus says, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”1 The life-sustaining analogy is clear and it points us to the meal of Holy Communion. The end benefit is the bodily resurrection. The “last day” began with Christ’s resurrection and it will finish when He returns. Meanwhile, the struggle for souls continues.

St. Paul says in our Scripture today that the days are evil. “Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”2 If we are honest we probably have a difficult time relating to that as a fundamental premise. There are always things we would like to change; things we would like to have go more smoothly; things we have difficulties with. We have our illnesses, our anxieties, our doubts, our fractured relationships and also our broken ones too. We become worn out fighting the same battles and disheartened when hope seems to hang by a thread. We worry about personal image and the opinions of others. We fret about our capacity to meet our obligations. We wonder about the direction society as a whole is headed and what our response should be.

But do any of these things individually or even all of them collectively constitute the days as being evil? Is this meant to be a universal truth or a circumstance-dependent possibility? Are not the times we live in prosperous, enlightened and progressive? Or have we lost perspective?

Today receiving Jesus as the bread of life, the living bread, and the bread of heaven became unpalatable for the Jewish religious leaders. Possibly they could live with His teachings if the scope of his influence was carefully limited? But Christ keeps pushing the analogy until it becomes not only distasteful but even nauseating to them. It could be no other way. Jesus was not merely presenting Himself as a prophet, a messenger, or a spiritual guru. He was declaring that He was the Son of God. He was saying that apart from Him life cannot exist. He was saying that without Him all that we have and are comes crashing down; collapses into a heap never to be restored. He was saying that universe was created through Him, the cosmos is sustained by Him, and the church holds together in Him. The fire of divine wrath was quenched by Him- rescuing all who believe from the fires of hell. The power of death is overthrown by His exit from the tomb. Humanity is exalted by His entrance into heaven. Reconciliation is achieved. Forgiveness is accomplished. Grace prevails.

An increasingly secular minded society is finding Christianity unpalatable. We’re moving into an age where spiritualty is expected to be practiced privately and unobtrusively and is expected to be fluid and non-confronting with its claims. Passionate convictions and claims of objective truth are viewed with suspicion and increasingly labeled as radical. Christians should not be surprised by such attitudes. Is Christianity the “inconvenient truth”? Is it moving towards being considered the “unpalatable truth”, on its way to becoming the “intolerable truth”? Our grappling with this is inevitably public and personal.

So how do we live wisely? How do we respond? Do we just say it’s all too hard! Do we put it in the too hard basket? Bury your head in the sand. Ignore it and maybe it will go away. Hot topic issues like same-sex marriage are a touchstone, but deeper things are under threat here. Are people accountable to an Almighty Being? Is the depravity of sin recognized? Have we been cut loose from the anchors that hold us fast to a worldview that believes there is life beyond this life? Not airy-fairy spiritual entities floating off into a dream world. Not total annihilation of existence. Not some melding of our existence into a universal life-force. But, rather, concrete, definable, bodily life after death!

Many people are interested in a certain type of morality; a morality that provides public safety but is not personally restrictive. In other words, people want to be free to do what they want but to be protected from the vices of others. It is both naive and myopic to believe you can have both at once. We must stop thinking that only other people are the sinners. God sees through our hypocrisy. His condemnation for those who boldly defy His will is harsh. Do we worry about offending God as much as we worry about our own popularity? Is truth more important to us than having our own way? Are we quick to shift the blame to others while coddling our own sinful ways? Repentance isn’t just for the other person, or the world out there, it’s for us- poor, helpless sinners that we rightly confess to be.

After a prominent list of sins and vices that includes drunkenness, adultery, homosexuality, and greed St. Paul continues by saying, “And this is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”3 You are baptized! Your soul has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Repentant sinners have been declared righteous and holy in God’s sight. Christ offers you the ultimate hope even if you feel your world is collapsing.

The prayer of the faithful, the Lord’s Prayer, concludes by asking that we be delivered from evil4. This entails everything that makes us vulnerable to the intentions of Satan and those who would selfishly exploit us. It finally includes resurrection to eternal life. In this chapter of John alone Christ mentions the bodily resurrection three times. He does so not as a speculative passing reference- a wish or possibility- but as a certainty and a promise. In Christ, the dead will be raised. There is no depth you can fall to that Christ will not lift you up.

Job puts the confession on our lips, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.”5 You will stand with Him. Aching joints or frail limbs will be a distant memory. You will stand clothed with immortality. You will stand with no corruption or compromise of your physical or spiritual integrity. You will stand, released from sin, freed from guilt, liberated from every threat of judgment. You will stand in the presence of the Father, in the power of the Spirit, in the company of the Son. You will be raised. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
16 August, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 6:54
2 Ephesians 5:15
3 1 Corinthians 6:11
4 See Matthew 6:13
5 John 19:25