Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: James 1:17
Theme: From Above

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Change- in-so-far-as it is a measure of decay- is an indicator of the fallenness of this existence. The Scripture says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”1 The God who creates is the same God who provides, and He is the same, again, who redeems. The fact that these truths are continually contested means the Holy Spirit has a lot of work to do before Christ returns.

All attempts at explaining the existence of the universe involve the entity of faith. The origin of the cosmos can obviously never be repeated in laboratory experiments and there were certainly no humans around to observe it. Therefore, it necessarily involves mystery. It involves, trust, conviction, and acceptance that it is beyond the rationale. One of the great delusions of our times is the belief that science can explain how the universe can to exist. But how does matter appear out of nothing? Science serves us by uncovering the mechanisms of how things work. It doesn’t attach value to the big questions. It cannot explain that which is not repeatable.

In the end we’re really left with only two possibilities; either the universe came to exist by random chance or the Almighty God created it. If it happened randomly then it has no design, no purpose, and ultimately no consistent meaning. In this scenario humans have no higher power to answer to, and conversely, no God who will be their ultimate refuge. Value and meaning in society then become purely human constructs. It is in this very direction that culture is now digressing. One need not be a Christian at all, only a deist, to see the dilemma.

Dear friends, under our own powers we are completely unable to love God, revere Him, and trust in Him above all things. Not only does it not suit the natural way we think it is diametrically opposed to our own instinctive worldview. We instinctively believe that we possess the ability to do good at our own discretion. God’s word denies this emphatically. Sin is firstly internal. Jesus says, “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that make him ‘unclean’….for from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”2 Therefore, repentance firstly concerns internal things also.

God’s law always reminds us that the rot starts within. The law always puts us back in front of the mirror. We are caused to confront our imperfections. But we are good at cosmetically covering them up; at keeping up appearances. The law is actually more powerful than a mirror. More like an X-ray machine or an MRI, it sees right into us. It gets beneath our skin and it makes us very uncomfortable. It must do this. We need a radical type of surgery. Our consciences must be driven from mindsets of self-reliance and self-service to humble repentance. We learn how to look in the spiritual mirror and see an image of ourselves that is quite different from the actual reflection.

But when God looks at us He sees clearly. He knows that no matter how hastily He looks He sees sinners. That’s why He looks at us through the cross. His sight- like rays passing through a prism- is refracted by the spectacle of His crucified Son. He sees us covered with Christ’s holiness. He observes that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. He sees Jesus first. The Scripture says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”3

Sin is primarily internal, but the word of God is external. Believers are declared righteous, holy in God’s sight- because of the merits of Christ-as an act of mercy that takes place solely outside of themselves. The mercy of God is not contingent upon our precondition. Christianity alone truly possesses the gospel. It is good news with no strings attached. Reconciliation with God requires no contribution on the human side of the equation even in the smallest measure. Christ has done it all. He has made the sacrifice. He has paid the debt. He has demonstrated the perfect obedience. He has defeated Satan on his own terms. He has slammed shut the gates of hell. He has thrown open the gates of heaven.

With the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith comes a new beginning. This is the implication of baptism. A believer has a new perspective, a different orientation; a new purpose. But every believer is always a work in progress. There is no perfection this side of heaven. The baptized are already citizens of heaven, yet they remain sinners in need of grace. Still, believers are saints and we have great privileges.

We are truly freed by the gospel. We’re not free to sin, but free to serve. And that means your vocations matter. There is nothing that you do in faith- be it the most simple, the most tedious, the most repetitive, or the most challenging task- that is not important to someone in the body of Christ. Often that person is your closest neighbour: your spouse, your parent, your child, your friend. Maybe that act, or attitude, or prayer, is a blessing to a stranger in need or an assistance to someone half-way around the globe. But all are reflections in some way or in some measure of the love of God shown to you, His beloved.

We must be rid of the misunderstanding that only exceptional acts of Christian devotion with high visibility are a true measure of one’s faith. Faithfulness in the daily grind is far more important in God’s sight than occasional acts of generosity. The phrase daily grind refers to the necessity of grinding the grain so there would be flour to make bread. If it wasn’t ground consistently and faithfully there would be no food. Stability was at stake. Mouths had to be fed. The family had to be provided for. Spiritually we may compare it to bearing the cross. Is it easier for me to put a green note in the offering or to love the person who is particularly unlovable? The Holy Spirit leads the charge in our daily endeavor to mirror God’s love in Christ.

Dear friends, the love of God is unrelenting. He pursues us. He embraces us. He never gives up on us. He is hope in the midst of despair. He is peace in the midst of chaos. He is truth in a milieu of deception. There is no burden so heavy that the Almighty cannot lift it from us. There is no darkness so consuming that divine rays cannot penetrate it. There is no coldness so debilitating that the warmth of the Spirit cannot thaw it. There is no death so final, whether physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual, that Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life,”4 cannot rekindle new and incorruptible life.

In Christ we have every good and perfect gift. He came from above; journeyed here below, and now lives as the bridge between time and eternity. He is the gateway between this fraying and decaying existence and the perfection that awaits all who believe. The end game is that what was previously external to you, that which you now possess by faith, that very power of God, will transform you completely into the image of Christ, the Son of God. That is the stupefying reality that awaits us at the time of the resurrection from the dead. The Scripture says that He “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”5 May God make it so for Jesus’ sake, amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
30 August, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 James 1:17 2 Mark 7:15, 21-23 3 Hebrews 1:3 4 John 11:25 5 Philippians 3:20