Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter (C) 2016

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

Text: John 10:27
Theme: The Shepherd Leads

Dear Saints of our Risen Lord,

You are part of “the Way”. The Way was a label given to the first followers of Jesus. The name itself implies there are alternative possibilities. It recognizes the distinction between good and evil; one which has eternal dimensions. Not all roads lead to the same destination. Not all pathways converge at the same point. One route escorts travelers to the kingdom of light. The others steer them to the domain of darkness. The Shepherd says, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”1 He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”2

Jesus says, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch then out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”3 We can only know the Shepherd’s voice through the Shepherd’s word. Apart from the word of God there is no promise of the Spirit. Without the Spirit there is no faith. Without faith the punishment of sin remains. Only Christ can free us from the penalty of sin. The Scripture says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him”4

Dear friends, the doctrines of Christianity have been thoroughly examined over more than two millennia and they have withstood the test. This examination has involved repeated attempts to ignore, marginalize, or persecute those who hold to the basic teachings of the faith. For long periods Christian values were normative for the ethos of many societies. At other times and in other places Christianity has been and still is persecuted or illegal. Though there are always periods of ignorance, apathy, and even acquiescence by the church God promises the remnant will never fail to endure. This truth will become increasingly important for our morale.

Christ is the Lord of history. But His mission is not to make this world into a paradise. We must carefully weigh the words of the apostle, which say, “This world in its present form is passing away.”5 We are living on borrowed time. It is time lent to us by Him whose patience and compassion is beyond our comprehension. The Scripture says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”6 Defiance of God’s lordship and denial of our sinfulness expose us to swift judgment. Unresolved guilt is the cause of ultimate instability. Yet Christ casts our sins from us as far as the East is from the West.

Jesus is the way. The journey is secured by Him but it is not carefree. God is too wise to withhold adversity from us. He knows the necessity of proper discipline. Yes, self-control is one of the gifts of the Spirit, but rebelliousness is a virtue of the Old Adam. If we expect life to go flawlessly then we’ve grossly underestimated the power of sin. The egocentric capacity of human character is virtually unlimited. If we believe we can have our way without accountability and without penalty then the temptation to self-centeredness will be too hard to resist. Transparently or hypocritically, people always construct their own idols when they’re allowed to do so. Only the Holy Spirit can turn us from idolatry.

And this He does not fail to do. God’s grace declares us righteous in His sight. The baptized are cleansed. The baptized are gifted. The baptized are secured. The Lamb has shed His blood and through this power souls are purged, believers are equipped, and the faithful are rescued from the very jaws of hell. Mortality is penetrated by uncertainty. The next sunset might be the last one you see. The next meal might be the last one you eat. The next breath might be the last one you take. But would this be so bad? Assumptions are risky. Presumptions are sinful. Life is gifted. It is never deserved. Because we are always vulnerable to being led astray we must be continually called back to these truths. The Almighty God has no obligation to sustain us for a single hour. Yet, His steadfast love is unwavering.

All that is wrong will be righted. The lost will be found. They will reach the destination. The Scripture says today, “The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”7Grief cannot prevail. Grief is a consequence of loss. Loss is symptomatic of a broken world. Yet, in Christ, all that is lost will be restored, all who grieve will be comforted, all who are estranged will be united, all this is dead will be made alive. Every tear will be dried up by the warmth of Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness. Darkness presses in, it seizes its opportunities, but it cannot triumph.

You are one of God’s elect and the gates of hell cannot shake the foundation on which you stand. Now, what can you do with this knowledge of security? What is the upshot for your daily routine at home, work, or school? It means you can be a steady presence in people’s lives of instability. Where anxiety reigns, you can bring a measure of calm. Where ungratefulness rules you can bring the perspective of thankfulness. Where there is darkness you can be a beacon of light. Where there is despair you can be an image of hope. Where there is hate you can bring a degree of love. Where lies and deceit are the order of the day you can beam with the brightness of God’s truth. Where there is confusion you can bring clarity. Where there is emptiness you can simply be a presence.

And you can do these things not in arrogance or for recognition but in humility and with discretion. You can do them not hoping to have the favour returned but because God’s favour rests on you. That doesn’t mean your baptismal life won’t be taxing or tiring. The apostle Paul said, “I am already being poured out like a drink offering.”8 How can he accept this struggle with such contentment and conviction? Because “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”9 Because Jesus said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”10 This blood of the Lamb is shed for you. His body, sacrificed for the transgressions of the entire human race, is given for you. Why can we also offer our “bodies as living sacrifices”11? The cross answers all enquiries. The Good Shepherd holds us in His hands. He will not let go. Perhaps we cannot see the destination, but He’s already there. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday of Easter
17 April, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 7:13-14
2 John 14:6
3 John 10:27-29
4 John 3:36
5 1 Corinthians 7:31
6 2 Peter 2:9
7 Revelation 7:17
8 2 Timothy 4:6
9Romans 5:5
10 Matthew 26:28
11 Romans 12:1