Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christian Burial of Herta Lane (17 November 2015)

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

Text: Romans 8:35
Theme: Inseparable Love

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Herta, and especially her children; Marianne, Linda, Brian, and Kevin,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to be born and a time to die.” 1 Those timeless words were recorded in Holy Writ for the benefit of humanity until the final curtain call of history. There is appointed for every person a time to die. Herta’s time to die has passed. But now she just begins to really live. Released from the struggles of this life, freed from the power of sin, ushered safely through the portal to eternity, Herta now rests in the presence of God Almighty. She is at peace. Thanks be to God for His resounding love!

We heard in the Bible reading that nothing can separate the believer from the love of Christ. Not angels or demons, height, depth, powers, principalities or death itself. Could there be a more relevant truth or comforting than this? Death is the final stage of the pathology of sin. It’s not something the world likes to believe, preferring instead to think that death is just natural- part of a cosmic biological cycle. But where would that leave those who are made in the image of the Creator? Sin merits a punishment that cannot be reconciled with the idea that people are just animals. The reconciliation of Christ was required to restore us to God.

Many would just like to ignore death altogether. But that’s a foolish and dangerous game. Reflection on mortality is perhaps the best way to shake people out of the naïve stupor of invincibility. No one can avoid death. No one can avoid facing the judgment. No one will just cease to exist. If we meditate on that soberly the Holy Spirit soon brings us to a humble repentance. Humans are made for eternity. Thanks be to God that Christ has taken the punishment- His own death on the cross- to spare us from the unspeakable evil of separation from God forever.

Herta Lane understood the evil humanity is capable of. She lived through war. War is hell. It unleashes the depths of human depravity. It helps us to quickly sort out the essentials of life. It inflicts wounds. It accumulates scars. It robs people of their futures. But in spite of her experience of these horrors Herta never lost hope. She carried on with persistence and determination. She knew that the greater war had already been won. And so she pressed in faithfulness.

Nothing meant more to Herta than her family. She enjoyed spending time with them. She enjoyed caring for them. She rejoiced when they were happy. She grieved when they were sorrowful. She was willing to sacrifice everything for their well-being. She made sure that they knew she loved them unconditionally. It was a reflection of God’s unconditional love in Christ.

Outwardly Herta’s walk of faith was steady and uncomplicated. She was a quiet but strong disciple. Inwardly, it’s likely she balanced in her heart the tension between witnessing the severities of life and the blessings she was privileged to enjoy. She understood that sometimes it’s only the sheer mercy of God that carries one through. Herta was saved by grace. Accounted righteous for Christ’s sake because His blood was shed for her. She was clothed with His holiness in baptism. She regularly was strengthened by His body and blood in holy communion. She received again and again His word of forgiveness. Dear friends, she is in His strong and capable embrace. Sin and Satan cannot touch her. That does not mean we don’t mourn her death.

Grief is one of the most powerful of human emotions. It is a measure of our frailty but also of our capacity for compassion. Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus. But He also said, “I am going to there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”2 Therefore, Christians do not grieve as if they were without hope. Christ promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”3 Apart from Christ the living are already dead. With Christ the dead are already living.

The Bible reminds Christians that we are all strangers and aliens in the world4; we are pilgrims passing through. Herta understood what that meant. She moved from Europe to England until Australia finally became her home. But true citizenship is in heaven. Life is fleeting and transient, each day a precious gift. If we don’t learn to treasure life it will soon pass us by. These things no longer concern Herta. Her soul has arrived at the destination. Her body awaits the final transformation.

Herta, like all believers, will be resurrected-bodily- to a reality in which struggle no longer exists. Immortality is no imaginary dream. Believers will in body and soul enjoy a vibrancy of life that is far beyond our comprehension now. God has promised this. If God does not keep His promises then we are all without hope. The advances of the modern age will not save us. But the ancient truth of our Immortal Saviour will. Herta has received the crown of life. A lamb tucked safely into the fold of the Good Shepherd she faces no dangers and had no cares. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Herta Lane
17 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Ecclesiastes 3:1,6,7,4,2 2 John 14:2-3 3 John 11:25 4 1 Peter 2:11

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2015

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

Text: Mark 13:7-9
Theme: Stability Within Upheaval

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Maturity has its limits. Understanding has its thresholds. That is, until Christ comes in glory. Tell a young child that something will happen in nine months’ time and it will mean very little to them. Explain that a relative lives several thousand kilometers away and their eyes may glaze over. The concepts of time and space present difficult challenges for the human mind. Even in adulthood we struggle. They are not abstract concepts, yet the actual experience of these realities is often complex. Today Jesus reminds us of the profound spiritual implications.

As we approach the end of the Church Year we encounter again those Scriptures which speak of the circumstances of Christ’s return. The challenge is not to see this as just an annual trigger, a reminder of Christ’s promise much like the annual notices we get to remind us of dental check-ups, insurance reviews, or tax submissions. The specter of Christ’s imminent return looms over our perspective of the here and now. The One who has come is coming again. We are living on borrowed time. Yet we are already in sync with eternity. That is part of the mystery of Christ’s resurrected and ascended presence among us.

Today Jesus instructs His disciples using the temple and its surrounds as the point of reference. The disciples are impressed with the magnificence of the temple. It would seem to be a paradigm of stability. But Christ says it will all crumble. Then follows an extended description of the turmoil that will precede Jesus’ return. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.”1
The instability initiated by the fall into sin will run its course and only be brought to conclusion by Jesus’ Second Coming. Believers should have no misgivings about these truths.

Nations rise and fall. Empires come and go. Societies prosper; then falter. Ideologies flourish; then fade. Novelties become fads. Fads become customs. Customs become traditions. Traditions become dogmas- seemingly unalterable parts of the fabric of the culture. But then they are overthrown- sometimes with violence, sometimes through apathy- and they quickly vanish and are forgotten. Legends become myths. Myths become forgotten until they are reincarnated by those who had no prior knowledge of the consequences of their false foundations; those who were never taught the lessons of history. Then they slowly, subtly at first, begin to show the symptoms of corruption they had displayed before.

You see, idolatry never ages. It’s perennially rejuvenated youthfulness must continue as evidence of Satan’s desperate agenda of denying the living God. Don’t thinks for an instant that Satan is on holiday. Don’t imagine that sin is passé, a thing of the past. Don’t believe for a moment that your internal desires, those seedy, selfish cravings will just cease to exist. You are no less of a sinner in your maturity than you were in your youth. You might be more adept at covering up your sin, but you are no less guilty. The need for repentance never ceases until we take our final breath. We pray that the Holy Spirit would justly convict us; working a humility within us that cherishes the grace we have in our Lord.

Sometimes we must consider whether our expectations are misguided, unreasonable or altogether false. They must be continually measured against the Scriptures and revised accordingly. If our expectation is that Christianity should benefit us with some worldly recognition or praise for being faithful to God, well, then we’re laboring under a grand delusion. If we expect life to be carefree and painless then we’ve misread or are ignorant of the clear message of Jesus to His followers. Baptismal living is a struggle. If we think this world can march on in unbridled prosperity and that our own mortality can be avoided then we are naïve or willfully ignorant about biblical truth.

Everything created is fragile, but the words and promises of God are indestructible.
Some foundations are unshakeable. Christ is the perfect and complete incarnation of the living God. His work of sacrifice can never be torn down. The cross can never be gainsaid. The disciples marveled at the magnificence of the Jerusalem temple today. But Jesus warns it would all be destroyed. What makes a church a worthy place of worship is not the quality or character of its architecture but the presence of the Word of God. The church is ancient. It is the fellowship of God’s people right back to the first sinners who were redeemed.

Now what do these truths have to do with you? Much in every way! Each and every day you are Christ’s witnesses in the world. You provide the listening ear, the gentle embrace, the hard truth according to the situation you’re in. Your support, encouragement, and even chastisement are part of your vocation of serving others. What does our Scripture say, “Let hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us no give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”2 In Christ we have stability within upheaval. We have peace in the midst of chaos. We have certainty in the face of doubt. We have the foundation of truth smack in the middle of a sea of falsehood.

Many still desperately lack that certainty. No one is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love. No one has descended so far into the abyss of utter darkness that the rays of Christ’s light cannot penetrate. If we doubt this truth then we have surrendered the central teaching of the Christian faith. Christ came to reconcile sinners. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”3 In baptism believers are incorporated into the death and resurrection of God’s one and only Son. The Holy Spirit has sealed you for the day of redemption.

Meanwhile, we live on borrowed time yet in sync with eternity. And how we live matters. Good habits should be recognized and strengthened. Bad habits should be identified and reformed. Christian life involves litany and liturgy. Litany involves the practice of beseeching God with prayers of supplication and thanksgiving. It is characterized by the ongoing conversation we have with and through our Great High Priest. Liturgy involves the rhythm of worship- of receiving the giftings of the Giver and responding in humble reverence. It is characterized by God’s service to us in Christ- through word and sacrament- and our response through the power of the Holy Spirit.

A sandcastle built in the path of a rising ocean tide doomed for destruction. It cannot stand. Our fallen world cannot stand. But we look forward to a more stable foundation. Christ has built His kingdom on much firmer ground. The foundation is built on the righteousness and truth of God Himself. Immortal and indestructible He promises that we will share in His life. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
15 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Mark 13:8
2 Hebrews 10:23-25
3 Romans 5:10