Sunday, February 21, 2016

Harvest Thanksgiving (Second Sunday In Lent, C) 2016

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

Text: Deuteronomy 26:9
Theme: Provision from God

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God has designed us to be contingent, that is, dependent upon powers greater than ourselves. At the most basic level two outcomes from this truth become evident. Firstly, we need to be loved or our lives will be bereft of significant meaning. Secondly, our basic bodily needs have to be met. Nourishment and protection are essential. The heart must have hope. The stomach must have stable supply. When either category is deprived life quickly becomes distorted. God tends to all of these needs but through different means. The body He cares for with resources from the earth; the soul with resources from heaven.

Through God’s providence and grace, this fallen creation continues to meet our temporal needs. Harvest Thanksgiving is recognition of this truth. Grain from the paddock, grapes from the vine, fruit from the orchard, vegetables from the garden, lambs from the fold, birds from the flock are all acquired through the participation of human labor. Yet, none would exist if not for the pure generosity of God. The seed does not germinate apart from Him. Conception does not occur without Him.

Literally, since the beginning, people have depended on the produce of the earth. And immediately after the fall they began to be ungrateful for it. Thanklessness reached its pinnacle in the Sinai desert. The (freed) Israelites murmured against God and against Moses longing to return to captivity in Egypt where they sat around pots of meat and enjoyed the produce of the well-watered Nile valley. Their sense of priority wasn’t elevated above the satisfaction of their stomachs. At least in Egypt food was available. There’s more than a bit of irony in the complaint of Numbers 11, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”1God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey but that seemed like a distant and unattainable mirage as they wandered the parched desert.

Manna was the answer. It was more than a practical solution. It was a divine blessing pregnant with Messianic promise. The Bread-giver to come would silence all clamoring. Of Him the prophet says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”2Quail were provided too. Their cries did not fall on deaf ears. But God was eager to hear cries from their hearts not from their stomachs.

How deliberately forgetful and ungrateful to claim they ate well in Egypt at no cost. The cost was their own enslavement. They weren’t free to worship the true and living God and so they forgot about Him. At least their stomachs were filled! Dear friends, there are no free lunches. Somebody pays the price. Food security is naturally a high priority for modern governments. Orderly and honest government is God’s means for stable society. Seed, sun, soil, and water are God’s means of providing. A modern society becomes more estranged from its agricultural roots; these lessons will have to be re-learned.

Spiritually, God does provide without cost to us but the price was paid by His Son. There are no spiritual free lunches either. It’s hardly disputable that in the West the appetite for God’s forgiveness is being lost. Spiritual taste buds are becoming dulled. Hearts, and minds, and souls are being filled with humanistic or demonic ideas which centre not on the power and mercy of God in Christ, but in human wisdom and achievement or supernatural or psychic entities. Our sin of ungratefulness is driven by the greater sin of unbelief.

“Christ died for me,” is the crux of the Christian confession. Christ died for you because Christ died for all. In this season of Lent it is incumbent upon us to identify and combat the temptations of Satan, the enticements of the world and the desires of our own sinful nature that seek to weaken our relationship with Christ. We should not be surprised that Satan strews our path with temptations. He works constantly to drain our hope and drive us to despair. He is an opportunist. We gather in the strong name of God, the truth of Christ’s word and the Holy Spirit’s power to gird ourselves with spiritual armor against his attacks. We gather here in remembrance of our baptisms. We gather here to be nourished by His own body and blood. We gather here to rejoice in His blessings. Then we go out to be leaven in the world.

Christ asserts a worldview of reality which is constituted by Him. It’s an enormous claim and that’s why it has been and will continue to be contested. Defending the assertions of Christian truth necessarily involves the refutation of error. Opposing claims cannot both be true. Either God created the universe and ordered it. Or random chaos has cleverly disguised itself in an organized fashion. Either sin has estranged us from God, or sin is just a projection of human brokenness that has no permanent consequences. Either Jesus, the Christ, has made sacrifice for our sins or human effort has impressed Him enough to cancel the debt. And on it goes! Either we recognize these fruits of the harvest as gifts of God or we further demonstrate the power of unbelief through thankless denial.

Jesus, the Bread of Life, does not serve us with poor nutrition. He fills us with love. He fortifies us with truth. He enriches us with grace. He suffered to a degree beyond human understanding. Death took Him but death could not hold Him. We are His baptized. We are fed from His holy table. We are heirs of His kingdom. We are witnesses to His promises. These promises are fulfilled in the temporal sphere as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, ensures that we never lack what we really need. They are fulfilled spiritually every time His own words come true which say, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”3 We pray that God would cultivate in us a deep thankfulness for our daily bread and all the provision that comes from His bounty.

On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus was changed in an instant. It was a stunning display of His glory. We are, in this life, transfigured gradually. Every act of refinement the Holy Spirit performs upon us draws us steadily closer to His image. Our sins are confessed. Our sins are forgiven. Our will is exerted. Our will is broken. Our plans are mislaid. Our plans are corrected. Constant contact with His truth begins to polish our rougher edges. Still, we are broken. We are works in progress. But our moment of drama will come. The scripture says, “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”4 May God grant us great anticipation for that Day even as we give thanks for the blessings of the present. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Second Sunday in Lent
Harvest Thanksgiving
21 February, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Number 11:5-6
2 Isaiah 55:1
3 Matthew 4:4
4 1 Corinthians 15:51-52