Friday, May 27, 2016

Holy Trinity (C) 2016

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

Text: John 7:38
Theme: ‘Flowing Into The Future’

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The theme for the 2016 convention of the district is “Flowing into the Future”. The river is the lifeblood of our region. The thematic tie-in with Pentecost fits nicely. The Holy Spirit’s work in baptism and His subsequent toil in sanctification are “aquatic endeavors.” What does the water of baptism signify? Luther explains, “It indicates the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to life before God in righteousness and purity forever.”1 Christian living is a daily reality.

It can hardly be surprising that water is a key theme throughout the biblical narrative. God designated water as a compound that sustains life. Lack of water is symbolic of spiritual deprivation. The Spirit brooded over the face of the water at creation. God used water at the time of Noah to cleanse the earth. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea to be tested in the desert. They traversed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. God ordained water to be the chief element in baptism. Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and quenched her thirst with living water. The heavenly Jerusalem is depicted with the river of life flowing from the temple.

Calls to repentance and warning of judgment make occasional reference to water too. “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.’”2 Could this happen to us? To transgress the 3rd Commandment (the Sabbath Day) is to despise the preaching of God’s Word. The welfare of the world’s population in the future largely depends on the management of physical water. What about spiritual water? Access to dependable water will determine where populations can expand and will be a significant factor in in contentions and disputes. Water is an essential. The Riverland depends on the flow of the Murray. The Murray doesn’t always flow. Droughts remind us we are dependent on the providence of God. What about spiritual water?

What does it mean that streams of living water will flow from the believer? Well, how gratuitous that we’re given an immediate explanation, “By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.3 The Spirit’s activity will be unmistakable in the lives of believers. Spiritual vitality depends both on baptismal water and the continued quenching of spiritual thirst through the life-giving word. This is the work of the Spirit. Today is also Holy Trinity Sunday. We acknowledge one God in three persons; the Trinity in unity. It is a mystery beyond human comprehension. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in a dynamic oneness, sharing one divine essence, yet as three distinct persons working in concert for our salvation.

Whenever the church meets in convention we try to assess the bigger picture and plan for the future. Where is the LCA headed? Are we flowing into the future, and if we are, what’s our salinity? Are we fresh enough to bring life to a parched land? Are we salty enough to give the flavor of God’s love to a bland culture? Are we stagnant or even flowing in reverse, as it were? These are questions for individuals and the church collectively.

We’re not without centuries of Christian history to guide us. The church has been through spiritual droughts before. It has been under persecution. It has had the mission field at its doorstep, as we do now. Did the early church have a strategic plan? Did they have a governance review? Did they even have a mission statement? What programs has the church undertaken over the centuries in order to revive itself? Have they been effective?

The early Christians carried the message of the crucified and risen Jesus wherever they went. Some were welcomed. Some were rebuffed. Some were martyred. They were not sinless or self-reliant. They needed shepherds. They were contentious, apathetic, arrogant. They were greedy, lazy, and immoral. They were like us! The people they rubbed shoulders with were like people in our society. The depravity of original sin does not change with the times.

Their entire pilgrimage involved coming to terms with this God who had come to them in human flesh. Remember the contentions that arose of Jesus’ identity today. They were Jews struggling to be Christians; or pagans struggling to be Christians. What are we? Christians struggling to remain as such? Modern secularists trying to find our way to true Christianity? Hedonists or Darwinists at heart trying to assess if we can handle being publicly labeled as followers of Jesus? Is knowledge of biblical history becoming obsolete among us? Are Adam and Eve mythical figures to us? Is Jesus a legendary hero but a modern-day has been? If we are ignorant or conviction-less about these matters can we expect unbelievers to interested or convinced?

Dear friends, the sacrifice of Christ doesn’t become less relevant over time. He is the Saviour now as He was then. His work of redemption transcends time and place. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”4 That salvation is still by grace, through faith. We’re living in an age when identity with Christianity makes one increasingly vulnerable to opposition. Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”5 But what could be more antithetical to worldly wisdom than to rejoice in suffering? We will find few concessions from society here. There will be little capitulation. The clash of values is acute. Suffering is to be avoided at nearly all costs. Here we face a call to integrity as believers. How deep are the inroads of cultural ideology into our hearts?
The Scripture promises suffering begets perseverance; perseverance, character; character hope. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”6 We live in exciting times. Challenges are mounting; but opportunities are multiplying. We have a precious treasure that’s long been part of our heritage. We have confidence in God’s word of truth. We have the shinning brilliance of sins forgiven that we can offer to a guilt-driven world. We have true freedom from the accusations of Satan, the threat of hell, and the fear of death. Christ has walked the gauntlet for us and His triumph has been achieved.

We know what’s served in the sacred meal. The shed blood of Christ; His sacrificed body, consoling, absolving, reviving us. We know our prayers do not go unanswered; the tiniest request bends His ear. We know the promises of Christ to intercede never go unfulfilled. We know the Father never errs, the Son never sleeps, the Spirit never falters. Sin cannot triumph. Confusion will give way to clarity. Doubt will be overcome with certainty. Fear will be surpassed by courage. Grief will be superseded by joy. The old order of things will pass away. Resurrected, we will see God in our own flesh- for, Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

The church is the ark of salvation. In it we navigate the stormy seas of this life. The Lord Jesus Christ is the captain and He sails us into the future. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

First Sunday After Pentecost
Holy Trinity
SA/NT District Synod
22 May, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luther’s Small Catechism
2 Amos 8:11
3 John 7:39
4 Joel 2:32
5 Matthew 5:11-12
6 Romans 5:5

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pastors' Conference Address- May 19, 2016

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

Text: Romans 10:21
Theme: Divine Forbearance

Dear Brothers, fellow stewards of the mysteries,

Who can measure the forbearance of God? Can the preacher probe this mystery? The scholar? The exegete? Is the minimalizing of God’s forbearance our primary angle as preachers to prevent laxity? Ah, yes, we know the proclivities of the flesh! If God is believed to have infinite patience what is to prevent casualness that begets apathy; apathy that begets negligence, negligence, contempt, and contempt, apostasy? Cheap grace is the mantra leveled at those who believe that faith is an active, mighty, living thing; Spirit-hewn through the promise of the gospel! We know well the concern of Erasmus!

“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people,”1 says the Lord God. How do we assess people’s receptivity to the divine word? Luther was well-known for not mincing words. “God’s Word and grace is a passing rain shower which does not return where it once was. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year.”2 As Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem He warned them of judgment because they did not recognize the time of their visitation.3 “Repent!” is the decree. The day of the last visitation we do not know.

Yet, we are not occupied with speculation but with things we do know. We deal with real people, with real struggles, with real needs. They have addictions, are troubled by conflict, are burdened by confusion; they experience loves, joys, heartaches, and sorrows. They ache for the freedom truth brings. They might not know it.

So, keep planting THE seed. His seeds are parcels of divine power. The Word doesn’t lose potency. Lotus seeds dredged from peat moss bogs in China were found to be more than 800 years old. They were displayed as artifacts in museums for decades more. When planted they germinated with nearly flawless efficiency. You can google it. The Word of God does not decay with time or circumstance. The seed can remain latent and sowing should be ceaseless. Last month God gave me the humbling honour of baptizing a 95-year-old member of the parish. For me it was a ten-year project. For his wife it was 70 years in the making; an extraordinary example of divine forbearance. What more encouragement does a preacher need?

Dear brothers, don’t wait around to be recipients of unmediated encouragement. The Spirit is an accomplice of the incarnation. God uses means. He uses feeble, faulty, fraternal brothers to support one another- empathetic reciprocity in the shared work of the ministry. Brothers be patient in listening, swift in supporting, genuine in admonishing, and lavish in forgiving one another. The word will not return empty. But the word doesn’t return to us; it returns to God. The harvest isn’t stored in our treasury of accomplishments but in God’s celestial repository.

“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people,”4 says the Lord God. How can the patience of God be measured? The father of the prodigal makes a suggestion. The colours of Christ come blazing through as the father makes a preemptive strike. The preeminence of grace comes to the fore. Compassion makes haste; running with adrenaline-fueled joy- ignoring custom, transgressing etiquette, foregoing dignity-the father embraces the son who was lost. The curator of the inheritance rushes to accept the undeserving heir- with open arms. Here the parameters divine forbearance become incarnational. Forgiveness came before the apology was spoken. What a blessed thing it is when the angst of a pending confession is slain by preemptive absolution! It is a sacred crucifixion. Those who possess it will cherish it for what it is. A resurrection always results preparing us for the bodily fulfillment of that apostolic word: “The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive…” 5, well, you know the rest. He concludes, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”6

Brothers, take courage, you are stewards of the mysteries. What is baptism if not the charity of divine forbearance? The Spirit condescends to our filth and washes us with heavenly holiness. What is the Sacrament of the Altar if not the food of divine forbearance? The immortal Son nurses mortals who would suffer famine without His rich supply. We are both beneficiaries and ambassadors of these gifts. Be of good cheer brothers, God loves even pastors. The mystery of God’s patience is not locked away in the inscrutable recesses of the divine will. “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word of faith we are proclaiming.”7 It is the same word you have received. THAT Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

District Pastors’ Conference
19 May, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 10:21
2 Luther’s Works, AE 45:352
3 Luke 19:44
4 Romans 10:21
5 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 6 1 Thessalonians 4:18 7 Romans 10:8

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day of Pentecost 2016

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

Text: Acts 2:4
Theme: Filled With The Holy Spirit

Dear Saints of our Risen Lord,

What a commotion it was! The utterances of God being proclaimed in all these different tongues! Some thought it was due to intoxication but they soon found out it meant liberation. It was a phenomenal event never witnessed before and never matched since. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost was more than just a showy event in the biblical narrative. It was the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to the church until the end of time. The Spirit was unleashed. The tongues of the apostles were loosed. The triune God reveals the truth about Himself in the Son and through the Spirit. His self-disclosure brings light into a very dark world. Where the Spirit soars life ascends to the praise of its Maker.

But old habits die hard and established perceptions are often very hard to alter. Politics is proof of that. Once caricatured, reputations can be difficult to amend. The truth is often compromised. Misunderstandings about God can also be notoriously challenging to dispel. Popular opinion can be more influential than credible witness. Fact and fiction are blurred. The perception of the disciples at Pentecost was that they were drunk. In reality they were now ambassadors of the most sobering truth ever told: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”1

As we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we recognize that many false perceptions remain regarding His person and work. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, fully God. His is a dynamic work of convicting, converting, and convincing. Through the gospel He engenders faith in Christ and sanctifies those He has converted. The Holy Spirit is not like an inanimate asset that you can store away in your safety deposit box. Nor is the Holy Spirit like the Lone Ranger, a loose cannon, unpredictable, volatile, and fickle. The Holy Spirit is transparent with His agenda. He has no hidden motives. Pentecost is still about Jesus.

Today Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth.”2 Previously He had said to the Jewish believers “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”3 Here’s where the Spirit’s work becomes absolutely essential. You see, we don’t have the means or even the inclination to free ourselves. We don’t even fully understand what it means to be under the rule of sin. We might be familiar with sin’s particularly undesirable consequences. We know what it means to suffer pain, to feel heartache, to endure loss. We struggle with doubt, dishonesty, jealousy, and addiction. We may have, at least, a cognitive recognition of our mortality. We may be quick to complain and cry foul when we are sinned against. Yes, from these consequences we may be yearning to be freed.

But what about those indulgences which might appear to be for our benefit? Do we long to be freed from self-centeredness? Do we ache to have our selfish will ignored and let God’s will be done? Do we recognize greed as bondage, lust as slavery, egotism as idolatry? Do we realize that locating our purpose and meaning in life in anything other than God is captivity? The Scripture says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them.”4

The Spirit swiftly convicts us and call us to repentance. And this repentance, though it’s a movement within our heart and our will, is actually gifted to us from without. He brings the dead to life. Only in His light can we see darkness for what it is. And so, here we are, with Luther, confessing that we are unable to believe on our own because those powers are far beyond us. What comfort these words of Jesus must have been to the apostles, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.”5

The Holy Spirit, because He is the giver of life, calls us from spiritual death and constantly revives our fainting soul. The Holy Spirit, because He is the Spirit of truth will instruct us in no other teaching than that of the prophetic and apostolic scriptures. The Holy Spirit, because He is the Comforter, will console us with no other hope than the forgiveness of sins we have Jesus, the Christ. The Holy Spirit, because He is the illuminator of divine grace, will light no other path for us than the road to Calvary. The Holy Spirit, because He is also serves at the sacred table, will nourish us with no other food than the body and blood of the Saviour. The Holy Spirit, because He knows the mind of God, will tune our desires only to be in harmony with the will of the Almighty. The Holy Spirit will never lead us astray; only Satan does that.

People often worry or fret about whether God is calling them to do this or wanting them to do that. Does the Holy Spirit want me to move here or go there; to take this job or that? Should I follow this path; invest these resources; pursue this goal; expend this energy? Is this relationship in my best interests? People look for signs and then try to assess whether those signs are valid. Most affirmations are foregone conclusions. We often see the sign we want to see and disregard the rest.

But because we make decisions every day, these are not unimportant matters. The Scriptures are clear: We have freedom within the parameters of God’s revealed will to engage in whatever He countenances. We need not agonize over making a right or wrong choice when either option is equally valid. The details are left to our discretion; arrived at by prayer, sanctified common sense, and the advice of trustworthy people. The Bible does not teach fatalism or determinism. God is always honoured when we seek to please Him out of faith.

Most importantly, we need not wonder what God’s ultimate will for us is. We are baptized. A cross has been raised and the Son of God has been hung upon it. The sacrifice is complete. Sin is atoned for. The tomb was found empty. Jesus proved Himself alive. He intercedes for us before the throne. The Holy Spirit was sent so that in Christ we could know the love of the Father. There is no partitioning of the agenda of the Trinity. From baptism to bodily resurrection God brings to completion His work in believers.

On Pentecost the small band of the faithful was sent out with a world-changing mission. That mission continues today. The sinful habits of the human race die hard. Caricatures about sin and grace, good and evil, heaven and hell will always occupy the psyche of the unbelieving world. But against these the Holy Spirit always advances the truth. May God confirm in your hearts these words of His apostle, one who was there on Pentecost, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Day of Pentecost
15 May, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 5:8
2 John 14:17
3 John 8:31-32
4 1 Corinthians 2:14
5 John 14:16-17
6 1 John 4:2