Monday, July 18, 2016

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2016

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

Text: Luke 10:38-42
Theme: Balance

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Did Jesus lead a balanced life? We’d be more than a little arrogant to attempt to judge. After all, He was busy being the Saviour of humanity. Still, Jesus had close friends; friends other than the Twelve. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were among them. It’s marvelous to be privy to otherwise private communications; especially when they involve the presence of our Lord. The Holy Spirit has briefly documented for us this visit of Christ to the home of Mary and Martha. How large the gathering was we do not know? The record of it is candid and concise. It is written for our edification. Jesus’ reply to Martha is direct, discerning, and considerate. You can almost hear the compassion in His voice. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…”1 Jesus reads the heart. Martha had things out of balance.

Societal experts regularly counsel about the importance of keeping balance in life. And as well they should. Dangers soon arise when things become too unstable. The same is true spiritually. Sin throws us off balance. It knocks us off centre. It causes us to lose our spiritual and moral equilibrium. If we don’t build on the solid foundation of Christ alone, if we don’t build true to plumb (as God warned through Amos last week), the spiritual house in which we dwell will not withstand fire, or earthquake, or flood. It will not be fit for the Holy Spirit. It will become Satan’s playground.

If as individuals, and communities, and societies we persistently reject His grace and ignore His commands then we can expect the warning issued through Amos today to apply to us, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”2 Bereft of God’s word a vertigo that destroys all balance is the certain result.

But hear again the words of the apostle today, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight.”3 Dear friends, God doesn’t overlook sin. He punished it in the person of His Son. God is not indifferent about our transgressions. He does not trivialize infraction of His holiness by depreciating the offence. Justice is never circumvented. We dare not confuse forgiveness with tolerance. The death of Jesus was a sufficient ransom. Nothing else matters. Not our greatest efforts. Not our best intentions. Not our deepest piety can reconcile us to the Almighty. A cross was raised and the body of the Suffering Servant was hung upon it. Redemption was finished. His death defeated death and this foolishness to the human mind was the wisdom of the divine heart. He leaves nothing unfinished.

Many great projects in the history of civilization were never completed because the architect behind them died. Orson Welles was working on a movie called The Other Side of the Wind. It was more than twenty years in the making. Orson died in 1985 and the film was never completed. Beatles member John Lennon was killed in 1980. He left behind an extensive collection of recordings. Most were unfinished and never released. Death has cut short many inventions, many accomplishments, and many triumphs- most lost to humanity. But the death of this Messiah was not cut from this same cloth. His death did not derail the plan of redemption it consummated it. When He said from the cross “It is finished!”4 all transgressions were atoned for. The event that frees you from the threat of hell was completed. His resurrection on the third day was proof the life prevails. The cosmos was put back into balance.

It could be that the request of Martha was indicative of her personality. Perhaps Jesus had encountered it before. He sees it commonly enough in us. But do not agonize about whether you are labeled by others as a Mary or a Martha. Just consider the balance of which Jesus speaks. Toil without purpose will be aimless. St. Paul says, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”5 “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”6

Luther reminds us that in His work of sanctifying us the Holy Spirit is deliberate and precise about His objectives. He doesn’t work generically. He doesn’t just cheer us on, He prunes, He supports, He absolves according to the need. Luther writes, “Therefore as His means we take and give only as He has commanded. In practice this means carrying out our calling where God has placed us and serving people in our calling. Doing this and practicing all the virtues of Christian piety will keep us more than busy.”7 Note Luther’s marvelous way of simplifying and extolling Christian vocation: we are vessels, agents who receive from His bounty and pass on His blessings to others. We own nothing and yet we give everything.

Martha’s main concern at that moment was misplaced. It was out of balance. Undoubtedly Martha was eager to ensure a proper spread was put on for the visit of the Lord. It seemed an obvious exercise of her vocation. She was trying to be a good host. But the real host was Jesus. Mary understood this and she was not about to miss the opportunity to sit at His feet.

Jesus is the divine host and He welcomes us today. Think of what gifts He offers! Christ has declared without qualification that He is present in the bread and wine when Holy Communion is properly administered. His true body and His priceless blood convey to us His forgiveness, life, and salvation. He doesn’t remain far away in the distant heavens. He condescends to us in this sacred meal. Mary sat at His feet. We dine at His table. Through the imitation of Mary, we receive the resolve of Martha. Christ blesses us and then He sends us. This is what He has always done.

Elijah was feed by ravens8 and later by the angel of the Lord and “strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights.”9 David, when fleeing from Saul, went into the temple at Nob and ate the “bread of the Presence.”10 The Israelites were supplied with mana in the wilderness. But, dear friends, we are fed with food consecrated by the dove, the Holy Spirit. We partake of the true bread of the Presence, the living Bread that comes down from heaven. In this provision we have strength for the journey.

When the tedium, or weariness, or the vicissitudes of life weaken your resolve to carry on, hurry here to be renewed with heavenly strength. When it seems like hauling around the yoke of mortality is more than you can bear, hasten here to find rest. When hope is dim, anxiety runs high, or the cheer in life has been submerged in a deluge of gloom, rush to His words, to His house, to His table. Here the penitent sinner is always received with open arms.
Here is the ‘one thing needful’. Here is the divine necessity. Here is provision for the journey. Here, believing souls receive exactly what they are promised. The Saviour says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”11

Dear friends, balance in life is a continuous pursuit. We need not stress about having exactly the right parameters. We have freedom in the gospel to live so sacrificially for others that it may appear our lives are completely out of balance. Such opportunity is only possible because Christ has tipped the scales of divine justice- in fact, immobilizing them completely- so that no power can snatch us out of His hand. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
17 July, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 10:41 2 Amos 8:11-12 3 Colossians 1:21-22
4 John 19:30 5 1 Corinthians 9:26 6 1 Corinthians 9:24
7 Large Catechism 8 1 Kings 17:6 9 1 Kings 19:8
10 1 Samuel 21:6
11 John 16:33

Betty Jaeschke Funeral

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

Text: Romans 8:38-39
Theme: Never Severed From Christ

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Betty Jaeschke; and especially you Dianne, Raelene, and Mark, her children,

Nothing can sever the believer from Christ. Nothing! This is the promise we have just heard from God’s holy word. And those were some of the words that gave comfort to Betty’s soul as she was preparing to be received into eternal glory last Saturday night. When we near the threshold of eternity no words of comfort really matter except those of Him who has defeated death and thrown open the gates of heaven. So, we gather with solemnity but also with joy knowing that Betty has reached her final rest. Her journey is over. Her struggles are ended. Her heavenly home is occupied. Thanks be to God for His merciful love!

A Christian funeral always has a confronting element because we don’t make light of serious realities. Consideration of mortality often evokes a guttural reaction. Death is menacing. It is dark and consuming. It has an inevitability that we cannot overcome. We have no capacity to equal its supremacy. Unbelief severs all ties. Sin is both its cause and its consequence. Death finalizes the separation.

Dear friends, it is in our nature to go to great lengths to circumvent the things we fear most. Denial, fabrication, and escape are common responses when facing mortality. Some run as far away from any discussion of the matter as possible. Others simply bury their heads in the sand hoping to avoid the subject. Still others cling to some imaginary idea that happiness in the next life is a guaranteed outcome for all people. Personal reflection should restrain us from judging these reactions too harshly. We too are under the same influence. Death is not the natural way of things that some claim. It is not part of some grand cosmic cycle that was intended from the beginning. Death is the mature consequence of sin. It is punishment leveled against the sinner for offending God’s holiness.

But for the believer death is a transition to a more important reunion. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s grace; the very substance of divine love. Everything stands or falls on the truth of Jesus’ sacrificial work for sinners- our salvation by grace, through faith. If grace in Christ is a fantasy, then existence itself comes unhinged. If divine love is a fallacy, then ultimate meaning is shattered. If God’s promises are hollow, then hope is finally lost. If the resurrection of Christ was only pious legend, then eternal death prevails. But, dear friends, Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. The grave could not hold Him. Death could not bind Him. Hell could not subdue Him. Satan could not silence Him.

The women went to the tomb and He was not there. Later He appeared to more than 500 followers at the same time. He says to us, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”1 And the Scripture says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”2 It sounds so simple and in one sense that’s true. But in another sense it’s the most difficult thing in the world. There are many challenges to faith and the Holy Spirit is required for it to be maintained.

God, of course, knew what challenges Betty would endure and what blessings she would enjoy. From the moment of her baptism He reclaimed her as His unique creation and promised her an eternal inheritance. Betty was confirmed here at St. Peter’s and her Christian journey was continually sustained by hearing God’s word, receiving His blessing in Holy Communion, and gathering with His people.

Betty understood the challenges of rural farm life, of family, and of relationships. Farming in the Mallee demands an astute gage of one’s capacities. If you don’t learn to adjust it can quickly break you. Betty learned to adapt even under trying circumstances. She wasn’t one to complain. Wisdom taught her the value of enduring on behalf of others. Betty knew she was a frail and fallible human being- a sinner like all of us. She had her share of regrets, disappointments, and sorrows in life. But she also knew she was God’s child. She knew Jesus as her Good Shepherd. She grazed in His pastures and found safety under His protection. She is now freed from all the burdens of this life.

The Scriptures encourage us to eagerly anticipate being released from all the consequences of sin. The weight of the world (our mortality) is literally lifted. Consider these words of promise. Philippians 3“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”3 John’s first epistle, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”4 And Revelation 21, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”5

Only the divine promise can give peace to the soul. Reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, liberation from shame, release from regret are achieved only through God’s bestowal of the merits of Christ to us frail humans. In Christ the roughest edges are made smooth, the deepest pains are relieved, the harshest offences are resolved. Anger gives way to peace. Fear is replaced by serenity. Sorrow transitions to joy. It seems impossible- given the experiences of life that jade us- that these things could really come true. But that is the reality of Christ’s redeeming power.

Dianne, Raelene, Mark; the emptiness left by the death of your mother cannot be filled by any means that human’s possess. The poignancy of grief is a recognition of the irreplaceability of the loved one. The blessing that she was to you and to others is her legacy. The Holy Spirit comforts you with the assurance that Betty lives. The confession of truth is clear, Christians believe “in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Betty believed in the resurrection of the body. She took refuge in the divine promises. It was these words that put her heart at peace. “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”6 This has held true for Betty, and for this we give thanks to God. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Betty Margaret Jaeschke
16 July, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 11:25-25
2 Romans 10:9
3 Philippians 3:20-21
4 1 John 3:2
5 Revelation 21:4
6 Romans 8:38-39