Friday, November 13, 2015

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

+ + In nomine Patri et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Mark12:44
Theme: All or Nothing

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus was observant. He was watching how much money people put into the temple offering box. But He wasn't a casual observer. He always took the opportunity to teach. The most important lessons aren't necessarily learned in classrooms, but in the experiences of life. Today a humble widow was at the centre of His object lesson. Our Lord elevates her above the rich and ostentatious saying, "She out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." It was a stark contrast to those who gave out of their excess. It was a commentary on her faith.

She gave all she had to live on. Think of the implications. This widow is a superlative example of unconditional trust. There is no hedging, no rationalising, no questioning of whether she is doing the prudent thing. The widow's mite story cannot be turned into a moralism or used tritely as the basis for a stewardship campaign. Without earthly hope she looks to the God of hope. Materially poor, she is spiritually rich. It sounds like a nice religious platitude doesn't it? One we would all nod our heads in agreement to while simultaneously hoping the label never applies to us. Many people say they'd never want to win the lottery either!

The Bible says a lot about generosity. Giving should be cheerful, regular, and proportionate. It should not be a matter of legalistic regulation but a movement of the heart and an expression
of the will. Where we direct our resources says a lot about what and who we believe in. It's a window into the soul. The widow understood that she was a steward; a caretaker on behalf of the true owner. She believed that the Creator would provide for her needs.

Dear friends, it's a great lie of Satan to believe there other ways to meet every human need. In Psalm 12 David laments the depravity of the human race. "Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man." The complaint has been repeated countless times over the centuries. Most every generation has reason to question whether evil is prospering more than ever before. Have the foundations of godliness crumbled so badly that the thought of rebuilding them seems like a Herculean task? Any effort at judging should begin with a look in the mirror.

Our own sins are never as insignificant as we'd like to think they are. We are naturally geniuses at minimalizing our own culpability. Today Jesus warned people not to be like the scribes. They were experts at pointing out other people's sins while downplaying their own. We don't have to search very long to discover the sins that condemn us. The psalmist writes, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." In other words when we try to conceal our sins from God the burden of guilt weighs on us. We know our tendencies. We know the temptations we are prone to; greed, selfishness, lust, deceit, gossip, hard-heartedness towards others. And God knows us better than we know ourselves.

He knows our condition precisely and that's why He sent His Son. That is why the Spirit has been poured out. And His blessings are not merger. Faith grasps all of God's mercy or it has nothing. There is nothing piecemeal about salvation. We don't have some forgiveness or rely on just enough spiritual capital to carry us over the line. In a worldly sense everything is quantified; measured in units. We have just so much money, just so many possessions, a certain level of health, a career status with parameters, relationships with finite limits. We count, measure, quantify, and track. It's a necessary way of life. But the love of God in Christ defies all of these categories and methods. In Christ we have treasures beyond calculation.

Baptised, forgiven, and freed, we stand in debt to no human power or to Satan's claims. The word of absolution spoken to you is not conditional. It is sheer grace; pure mercy. You are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We live in the shadow of the cross and the light of Easter morning. Divine food is our regular diet; the table set by the King. And still so many labour under the burden of life without unconditional love and starved for spiritual food.

That's where our vocations come in as God's holy people. One person's crisis is another person's opportunity. It's true not only in business ventures. When people become vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life and schemes of Satan the opportunity for spiritual balm presents itself. The downtrodden and the broken are especially open to the gospel. Those labouring under a search for meaning in the hollowness of a broken world are especially open to the Good News of purpose and permanence. The Holy Spirit uses the hard experiences of life to chip away at our veneer of invincibility.

Forgiveness is the currency of healthy relationships. Absent forgiveness, relationships either become shallow or embittered. They will stiffen, become brittle, and break. The genuine pardoning of offences is the cement that rebuilds the foundation- sometimes one brick at a time. We have the privilege of being God's agents of healing. Christ reminds us of great rejoicing in heaven over one soul who repents, one person who learns forgiveness, one lamb that's gathered into the fold.

Our Messiah is no religious guru who lives on only by His message of a bygone era. He is no washed-up zealot whose cause faded when His first followers lost momentum. Our Redeemer bore the world's transgressions on a Roman instrument of torture. His spent frame was placed in the tomb but did not decay. In His risen and glorified body He lives and rules eternally. He has tender words for the timid, strength for the weak, light for those in the shadows and hope for those on the verge of despair. Christ embraces us in our frailty. He journeys with us through prosperity and adversity. He assures us the destination has been secured. He is our Redeemer and Shepherd and King.

The Spirit reminds us today that Christ will not return to deal with sin. He will return to deal with sinners. He will not return to handle sin because that necessity has already been accomplished. Christ died for sins, all sins, every sin- past, present, and future- once and for all. The sacrifice has been made; the debt has been paid. He is coming to reward the faithful. That day is coming, the final day, the last day, the consummation of all things. God's people have awaited it since the first promise of the Messiah. It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

The widow waited on the Lord, a beggar, she depended on Him for everything. We are no different, beggars too, we await the full enjoyment of of heavenly treasures. Amen.

+ in Nomine Jesu +

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
8 November, 2015
Mark 12:44 2 Psalm 12:1 Rev Darrin L Kohrt