Monday, September 12, 2016

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2016

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

Text: Jeremiah 4:22
Theme: A Refuge For ‘Fools’

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is a refuge for fools. Not the kind of fools who despise Him and go their own way, but those who are foolish in the wisdom of the world. Unbelief is without future hope; it clings only to the here and now. But in the final measure, when all is revealed, when the curtain of history is dropped, when the dead are raised, when this entire dimension is destroyed, on that great and glorious Day, those who were ‘foolish’ enough to cling to that one truth- that God is merciful in Christ- will be proven to possess the one thing needful. God is faithful. We can bank on that.

God is faithful and that faithfulness is founded on His character. The implications are not theoretical. God is not an object of observation or curiosity. God is sovereign. He exists autonomously. We know this intuitively but it is an unwieldy truth. We cannot manage God or domesticate Him. His well-being depends on no one and nothing. We cannot negotiate His will. God wills to rectify the crisis of sin. Understanding what this involves is critical.

God wills to intervene to punish sin. It’s not a matter of if, but of when and in what manner. The first judgment was the most severe. When Adam and Eve turned away from God the punishment was death. Many subsequent judgments followed; the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, enslavement in Egypt, and exile to Babylon. It's this last threat that Jeremiah is warning about today. Foreign idols were being worshipped in the land of Israel and this idolatry would lead them into captivity in a foreign land.

Jeremiah illustrates the situation with the descriptive used of the primeval chaos. “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty.”1Before God put His new creation in order it was formless and empty. It was not yet orientated towards its purpose. Matter existed, but without goal or meaning. This was now the state of affairs with God's people. Estranged from God, the Israelites were just a mass of humanity with no purpose or hope. They were separated from their Creator. “My people are fools; they do not know Me…they are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”2

Jeremiah had an unenviable task. He was God’s mouthpiece to a community that wasn’t in the mood to listen. Decades of wrangling with religious rulers and mistreatment by political leaders awaited him. He was only human and he was filled with angst, with frustration, and with doubt. But countless adversaries would not break his resolve. He had the one and only ally he needed. The companionship of God counteracts all the enmity of the world. Even if we stand opposed by 10,000 foes we need not fear; Christ stands at our side.

Dear friends, often we expect less from God when we should seek more from Him. This is evidence of timid faith. We look for temporary fixes to problems that need eternal solutions. We settle for cosmetic alterations when terminal spiritual illness needs to be addressed. We content ourselves with material wealth when only a heavenly inheritance will sustain us. We are happy to be noted as passing acquaintances of the Messiah when being sons and daughters of the kingdom is all that really matters. We want a band aide for a superficial wound when cardiac arrest is the real emergency. God is not too small for our problems.

Think of what Paul says today, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.”3 This candid creed is the confession of every believer. Only sinners need a Saviour. Only the sick need a physician. Only the dead need to be raised to life. His love is not only a compassionate love, it is soul-reviving and life-sustaining. This Good News frees us, feeds us, and continually underpins our hope and joy.

Baptismal water has washed over your soul. The curse of sin has been broken through Jesus' death and resurrection. In baptism you have been made a participant in that power. We already have eternal life. The Scripture says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 4 Today Jeremiah warns of the punishment for being estranged from God. But Christ has reconciled us to the heavenly Father. All the punishments for all the crimes ever committed; the imprisonments, the tortures, the executions; all the justice they were intended to render on behalf of victims, all these are but a shadow, a mist, and a faint image of what Christ endured when He atoned for the transgressions of the world through His crucifixion. Divine justice is an amazing paradoxical truth. The Saviour is sacrificed while the sinner is spared.

And this dark truth is the cause of the greatest joy. It is the joy of reunion as described in Luke today. After finding the lost sheep “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”4

Dear friends, there is no disaster that can befall you and no evil that can overtake you that these words of promise and truth cannot overcome. Your presence in the kingdom causes the angels to rejoice. Think of that! Angels wait with eager anticipation for sinners to turn towards their Saviour. Do not think lightly of these heavenly beings. They are endowed by God with elegance, purity, and grace. They are His servants and our most sacred companions. The Scripture says, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him." 5 And again, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” 6 They are emissaries of truth and power. They worship with us and attend our celebration of the sacred meal.

Jeremiah desires that his people will be gathered back into the same fellowship of the faithful. The wisdom of the world had captivated them and the holy things of God now seemed foolish to them. May they Holy Spirit equip us to withstand the same temptation! Paul calls himself a fool for Christ7. Jeremiah was one too. We’re in good company. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
11 September, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Jeremiah 4:23
2 Jeremiah 4:22
3 1 Timothy 1:15
4 Luke 15:5-7
5 Psalm 34:7
6 Hebrews 1:14
7 See 1 Corinthians 4:10

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