Monday, August 29, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost (C) 2016

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

Text: Jeremiah 2:4
Theme: Prophetic Proclamation

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Adversities in life often come without warning. Jeremiah couldn’t make that claim today though. He was forewarned. Forewarned is forearmed. God sends Jeremiah straight into the fray. Whether the people listen or cover their ears he will proclaim the word of the Lord. What is undeniable is that He is preaching God’s truth into a culture that had become very intolerant of following God’s will. The Lord doesn’t mince words with them. “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”1 And there you have the sum and substance of human sinfulness in a nutshell. Our selfish desires lead us away from God in pursuit of our own source of provision, satisfaction, and security. Satan is not short of mirages and illusions.

The religious authorities are specifically brought under indictment. “The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know Me; the leaders rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.”2. The religious leaders were no better than the people. Their hearts were dulled. Their minds were elsewhere. They would have to bear their share of the blame. Still, no individual can pass their sins off to someone else. We’re all called to account to God for our transgressions. An Adam blaming Eve, or Eve blaming Satan scenario won’t be any more successful now than it was then.

But the Israelites had also gone astray as a community. They had lost their true focus. When the church loses track of its mission and purpose it flounders. It starts to focus its energy and resources on auxiliary things; things not essential to the proclamation of the gospel. It becomes vulnerable to the pressures of the world and is tempted to modify its creeds and confessions. It’s not always easy to recognize the moment when the pitch of battle has peaked. Is Christianity at a tipping in our day? Is it in decline for the foreseeable future? Will culture’s clash with biblical truth rise to a fevered pitch or will it simmer along just occasionally boiling over? Will most Christians just capitulate and fall in line with the expectations of the secular world? Will God purify and even revitalize His church in our age?

Institutions don’t normally fall over in an instant. They are too complex, involve too many people, and have too much stability in their history. But cracks appear and then widen. Pillars of strength become unsteady. Rome didn’t collapse in a moment. For many long centuries the termites of mistrust, of greed, of dishonesty, of callousness, of rebellion, were undermining the foundations. Systems within the greater organism began to fail. As in the human body, the vital organs of society are all connected.

The status of marriage is a case-in-point currently. It may well be in an advanced stage of failure. Earlier we heard these words, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”3 We could hardly say with any credibility that serious consideration is given to these words by the majority of the populace. The deconstruction of the biblical view of marriage has been going on for some decades now. Are we now nearing the point of collapse? The point where most children will be born into a situation where the parents have no obligation to one another? The point where sexual relations are so casual, self-centred, and unregulated that the most vulnerable will be at even greater risk than they are now?

Marriage is not a private matter. Its establishment has profound implications for the society as a whole. The well-being of community cannot be served by licensing individuals to please themselves at the expense of others. We cannot have freedom to do whatever we want and then naively expect to be protected from the vagaries of others who are also doing as they please. Yet our culture continues to ramp up the propagation of this lie. We strain out gnats while swallowing camels.

Christians have a different kind of freedom. We are free to serve others without fear of missing out. Freed from the punishment of sin we can carry the burdens of others. The apostle says, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”4 We live in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are declared holy by faith through His blood. We live in the shadow of the cross but by the light of the Spirit. Were the world against us we would still not be alone. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”5

People forget about God. The Israelites had forgotten God’s mighty acts of deliverance. But God doesn’t forget people. The Scripture says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.”6 The Good Shepherd pursues the lost sheep. The heavenly Father is always calling. The Holy Spirit is always seeking. God takes the initiative. He pursues us with a passionate love. Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”7

Dear friends, many people will spend most of their lives looking for something they will never find. The restless heart will only cease its agitation when it comes to rest in the sanctuary for which it was created. We were made to dwell in the presence of God. Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”8 The thirsty soul will only have its desire quenched when it drinks from the living water. In Him we have true peace, true contentment. These blessings dramatically reshape your identity and your purpose in life.

When you walk out that door on Monday to go to your job, or school, or whatever activity that brings you into contact with people, you go as an agent of the Most High God. You’re not a secret agent or a double agent. You’re not armed with anything other than God’s truth. Your mission is not clandestine but it would be considered by some to be subversive. Your objective is to influence people’s world view. You do it, not through coercion or rhetoric, but through example and through sacrifice. Christ calls us to be salt and light. Jesus’ teaching about humility today flies in the face of the attitude of our culture. People seek praise and recognition at the expense of others. Christ calls believers to suffer on behalf of others.

Jeremiah’s lifelong task of clearly, consistently, and unashamedly delivering the word of Yahweh- both the message of warning and the good tidings of redemption- had only just begun. But he knew the outcome did not depend on him. Jeremiah was a predecessor of the prophet of Galilee. At the coming of Jesus every true prophet of the first covenant was vindicated. Christ would deliver His people from the greater exile of sin and death.

Dear friends, we are baptized into the name, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Living God. We dine at His table. We bear His name. We receive His inheritance. The prophetic words of Jeremiah continue to point us to the promised Saviour. Adversities may still surprise us in life but they won’t be anything that Christ can’t handle. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost
28 August, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Jeremiah 2:13
2 Jeremiah 2:8
3 Hebrews 13:4
4 Romans 6:22
5 Psalm 68:5
6 Isaiah 49:15-16
7 John 4:4
8 John 14:23