Monday, August 21, 2017

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Genesis 45:5
Theme: Reconciled!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God always sees the whole picture. We might see an angle, a glimpse, or a slice; and often we don’t see it in high definition. Our lack of perspective can lead to doubt, confusion; even resentment and despair. Yet the Scriptures assure us that even the evil perpetrated against us can be used for good purpose. Firstly, our faith can be refined and tempered. Secondly, things can be achieved for God’s kingdom that we could have never foreseen. Still, faith must cling to promises that reason finds offensive. Joseph and his brothers provide a vivid illustration.

The Scriptures provide us with wonderful detail about the life of Joseph. The second youngest of twelve brothers, he was the favourite of his father Jacob. Jacob’s partiality and Joseph’s own sense of importance fostered resentment from the others. When the opportunity arose, they decided to get revenge. They spared his life, but they essentially left him for dead. God, however, had plans to use their malcontent. Taken to Egypt by force Joseph soon found himself in the service of Pharaoh. In that circumstance, he was in the greater service of God.

It’s unlikely we need spend much effort trying to resonate with the desire for revenge. It comes naturally. Joseph could easily have felt entitled to his. Revenge can be a very difficult emotion to repress. When someone is wronged, mistreated, or abused and there is no evidence of repentance, the natural tendency is to want justice to be rendered on our own terms. We want things to be made right. Separation doesn’t solve the problem either. It may mitigate the circumstances, but people can hold grudges for a lifetime. Estrangement doesn’t mean attitudes of vengeance aren’t still festering. Fostering resentment is a common sin and breaches the very First Commandment insofar as it reveals the intent to usurp the justice of God.

Yet, instead of seeking reprisal, Joseph opted for reconciliation. Reaching the limits of his emotions he finally revealed his identity to his bothers. It was a disclosure saturated with conciliation. “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”1 Joseph believed God used the treachery of his brothers for the greater good. The one who was left for dead was elevated by God to a position of power that nurtured life. In that position, he did not seek revenge, but reconciliation. He did not nurse a grudge but openly forgave those who transgressed against him.

The need for reconciliation assumes brokenness. Malfunction, estrangement and enmity often characterize fractured relationships. We should have no illusions that these realities plague our society. None of us is immune from the brokenness. It betrays the power of sin in our lives and in the world. It’s little wonder that the entire biblical witness narrates God’s work of restoration of fallen humanity. It’s no coincidence the call to repentance is never just a matter of repudiating sin, but of being reconciled to God and one another. Reconciliation is the purpose of Christ’s sacrificial work. The Scripture says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”2

The entire ministry of Christ involved restoring that which was broken. Jesus made contact with lepers, forgave prostitutes, and received tax-collectors. He ministered to the outcasts, the downtrodden, and the rejected of society. He rebuked the self-righteous and the erring, but He never turned away the penitent. Just as the father welcomes home the prodigal son, the heavenly Father welcomes repentant sinners into His kingdom through the blood of His Son. We are saved only by grace. There are no strings attached to the gospel.

The Holy Spirit is the broker of reconciliation. He is the conveyancer. But, He uses means. He uses means for reconciliation between God and the individual. He also uses means for reconciliation between people whose relationships have been broken. We cannot approach God in His unveiled majesty. It’s not only pointless, but even dangerous to speculate about the will of God. All efforts to construct an image of the heart and will of the Almighty based on human intuition will only lead to the propagation of falsehood and eventually despair. But God does leave us groping in the darkness. God comes to us clothed in His word and sacraments. Jesus is the word-become-flesh. He drapes His holiness over our sinful lives. In baptism Christ cleansed you from the guilt of original sin. Formerly only the offspring of Adam and Eve, the baptized become children of the heavenly Father. Previously under the dominion of Satan, they are freed to serve the living God.

Dear friends, we’re not able to return to the cross. Our faith isn’t sustained simply by the remembrance of historical facts. The power of Christ’s death and resurrection comes to us. Christ is here for you in this bread and wine. He is present in His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit brings that power to bear “for the word of God is living and active.”3 The church is not an historical society that hopes to propagate the charitable attitude of Jesus. It is not a society chiefly engaged in memorializing the heroes of the past. The Christian assembly is a hospital. It is analogous to the empty tomb; a place where spiritual resurrections occur. Souls once “dead in [your] transgressions and sins”4 are made friends of Lazarus5. It is the forum where the hurting, the ailing, the depressed, and despairing are treated with the healing medicine of forgiveness, truth, light, and salvation. We don’t gather here under false pretenses. We’re not here to amalgamate our individual lives of holiness into a larger collective entity. We’re a collection of sinners made saints by the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

God comes to us also in the masks of our neighbour. Joseph was as ‘God’ to his brothers. The spouse, the parent, the friend, the professionals who serve us; all are God’s means within their vocations to extend the benefits of God to us. The provision of our most basic needs; food, clothing, shelter, love, belonging and purpose all come to us through the mediation of others. And that means even the smallest act of service can be life-changing and life-affirming for the person in need. Joseph, through God’s wisdom, feed a whole nation during famine. He served in the greatest kingdom of the age. In the process, his own family was rescued. Though less dramatic, our deeds of kindness are no less important. And we never know when we’ll be privileged to make a dramatic change in someone’s life. Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts, but we are all agents of reconciliation.

Sin has fractured the world, but Christ has shattered sin’s power. Let there be no doubts in our hearts, questions in our minds, or burdens in our consciences. Christ has reconciled us to the heavenly Father. We need not fear His judgment. “Perfect love drives our fear.”6 Christ is perfect love. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”7 Christ has been crucified for our sins. He has risen from the dead to give us life. God not only sees the whole picture. He reigns over a kingdom fabulous beyond measure. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
20 August 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Genesis 45:5-8
2 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
3 Hebrews 4:12
4 Ephesians 2:1
5 See John 11:43-44
6 1 John 4:18
7 Psalm 103:13
8 Hebrews 1:3
9 Colossians 2:9
10 Genesis 32:20

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Genesis 32:30
Theme: Face To Face With God

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The ways of God are often mysterious to the ways of men. God had plans for Jacob. His way of preparing Jacob for the tasks ahead was extraordinary. Near the ford of the Jabbok he grappled with the Almighty. The encounter is enigmatic, to say the least. It involves a long night of wrestling with God, a dislocated hip, a blessing, and a change of name. The meeting happens at a time of vulnerability and tension. Jacob is about to face his twin brother Esau, whose potential wrath has filled him with great angst.

Jacob spends the night wrestling with God in prayer. We are not privy to the exact nature of the struggle, but it’s clear that it was no nightmare or bad dream. Jacob was a man of faith and was seeking confidence from God in the tasks that were before him. We do well to consider that Jacob was wrestling with the pre-incarnate Christ. Referred to sometimes as the Angel of the Lord and at other times as a man, Jesus was actively involved in the narrative of the Old Testament. Consider St. Paul’s comments on the exodus of God’s people from Egypt, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”1 Nevertheless, it’s difficult to wrap our minds around this event. It will remain to us an encounter shrouded in mystery. The deepest truths of the faith are beyond human comprehension.

We would be on the wrong track if took from this event the idea that we need to wrangle with God to acquire His favour. We don’t need to wrestle with God to receive a blessing. Christ has already done all the work of mediation. He has struggled with the divine plan to the point of death. We have no leverage with which to negotiate with the Father. Jesus has it all. His death and resurrection put an end to the struggle for divine approval. He now makes intercession for us before the throne of grace.

It doesn’t mean our lives are exempt from trouble, however. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Our lives are precious to God now, not just at some point in the future. We are citizens of heaven but we still live in the fallen world. The struggle against temptation is one no one can avoid. Satan doesn’t sleep. He works tirelessly to lure us away from God’s kingdom. He plants seeds of doubt and stirs the pot of discontent. The apostle reminds us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”2 The Holy Spirit must do all the heavy lifting. But we’re not simply puppets or spectators. The struggle is within us and within our relationships. We are baptized for a purpose. We are living stones in His living temple. He nourishes us with holy food in which He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies3.

We do have a struggle. Not with God, but with the world, the devil, and our own sinful natures. Therefore, the Scripture encourages you to be persistent in your prayers. Be genuine, heartfelt, transparent, even raw and expressive of angst. God doesn’t command us to pray and promise to hear for nothing. It’s not a joke or a hoax. Jacob’s determined wrestling with God should remind us of the parable of the persistent widow who kept pestering the judge for justice. Jesus says, “Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off?”4

Be candid with your repentance too. Imagine how many confessions have been made to the Almighty God. Imagine how many cries of repentance and pleas for mercy have reached His ears! And yet His does not make light of a single, whispered petition of the soul in need. He does not neglect the frail or faint of heart who are too weak to shout their appeals in full voice. “A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”5 Know, too, that there is nothing you can confess to God that will surprise Him. He’s heard every act of violence, hatred, treachery, falsehood; ungodliness and unrighteousness of every sort. He’s heard confessions describing sins of weakness, sins of ignorance, sins of selfishness; sexual sins, cold-hearted sins, mean-spirited sins, all sins of commission and omission.

And still, God authorizes your pastor to publicly declare His divine pardon to you. Think of what promise is made to you in these words! “I, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to all of you, and on behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”6 Think of the authority behind this promise! The God of Jacob stands behind it. The God who parted the Red Sea, dropped mana from heaven, and thundered from Mount Sinai sanctions it. The God “who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all”7 endorses this promise. This pledge is not substantiated by a trail of words but by the shedding of blood in sacrificial love.

Jesus is more than a well-intentioned friend. He is more than a life-coach or support resource. He is even more than the Suffering Servant and Son of the Father. He is God in human flesh. The Scripture says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”8 And again, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”9 He sends you His Holy Spirit. He demolishes the schemes of Satan. He defies the power of death. In this certainty, we can rejoice even in our sufferings. Paul had had his thorn in the flesh. Jacob had his dislocated hip. Both were scars from God. They were marks of mortality. They were gifts too. They were gifts of the Almighty reminding these saints of the sufficiency of grace. He gifts us with scars too. They identify us as God’s children.

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. It wasn’t merely a nickname or an alternative way to refer to Jacob. It would become the collective name for God’s covenant people. Abraham was at the head of the ancestry, but Jacob was the one who would bear the name of the nation. The place of the encounter received a name too. “Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’”10 God had plans for Jacob. He has plans for you too. In Christ, the Spirit shows you the face of God. In Him you have life. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
6 August 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Corinthians 10:3-4
2 Ephesians 6:12
3 See Psalm 23:5
4 Luke 18:7
5 Isaiah 42:3
6 LHS p.7
7 Romans 8:32
8 Hebrews 1:3
9 Colossians 2:9
10 Genesis 32:20

Monday, July 31, 2017

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Theme: Kingdom Parables

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus said, “This is how it will be at the end of the age.”1 He said it in the context of teaching parables. The reality we now experience will undergo radical transformation at the coming of Christ in glory. But the seeds are already being sown and bearing fruit. The leaven of God’s grace is already working through the dough. The parables are all emphasising the same truths. The kingdom of God cannot be presented in a single analogy. The parables of the hidden treasure and the valuable pearl teach the incomparableness of God's kingdom. His love is so deep and His grace so profound they exceed all earthy points of comparison. God Himself gives up His very own Son so that He may possess us as His treasure. Just as God Himself remains incomprehensible, the scope of His kingdom is beyond our grasp. But the Holy Spirit gives us images, insights, and understandings.

Looking forward to the restoration of all things is part of Christina hope. In heaven, all relationships will be reconciled. All creation will be in complete harmony with God. When we reflect upon the astounding richness of life on our planet, it shouldn't be hard to picture a heavenly paradise that's even more vibrant. The Almighty's creation has been subject to decay since the Fall, and still, it's a magnificent tapestry of colour, coordination, and communication. And as technology, and the means of studying things become more proficient and precise, we're finding the universe (from the very large to the very small) to be more mind-boggling than ever. The conviction that the universe is self-organised, a result of random forces, becomes less convincing with every discovery that is made. The more we learn, the more evidence accumulates that points to a purposeful Creator. This should not be a surprise for Christians. We believe that God is the Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

The God who created us is more than capable of providing for us. That is why Jesus comforts us saying, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”2 Seeking the kingdom always involves seeking truth. Jesus tells us to seek righteousness. Like yeast in bread God transforms us from the inside. Genuine repentance means the heart is mended first and our actions follow.
Good intentions do not necessarily lead to godly outcomes. The old adage is: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." The will of God always takes precedence over the rules of men. Constructing our own truths will not only fail to resolve the issues that trouble us, it will invite the judgment of God.

Seeking the righteousness of God is not a pie-in-the-sky platitude. It involves struggling with the leaven of forgiveness in our relationships. If God has forgiven a sin, who are we to retain it? By what authority can we hold a grudge against a repentant person when God has commanded us to forgive? Do we not at the same time make a plea and a promise when we pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?" Do we sit in the judgment seat of God? The question is rhetorical. Of course, the command to forgive and the transformation of the heart are not one and the same. The wounded heart does not easily warm again to the one who caused injury. Repeated offences leave deeper scars. Our selfish natures want revenge, not pardon. We want our pound of flesh.

Dear friends, people who cannot come to terms with the possibility that the grace of God in Christ can and does extend even to the most degenerate sinner, unwittingly exclude themselves from the purview of God’s forgiveness. We are each accountable to the Almighty and none of us is a position to quantitate the transgressions of others. We cannot restrict the forgiveness of God to those we deem undeserving. Do we falsely think it’s easy to remain spiritually humble? The sins of greed, or lust, or selfishness might seem easy to recognize within ourselves. But do we think we can judge someone’s repentance more accurately than God can? Thanks be to God that He has placed all judgment into the hands of His Son! Only in Him can justice and mercy be kept.

We can be pressed very hard in the struggles of life. The temptation is always there to give up or give in. We may become fatigued with unreconciled relationships or resentful about hardships or missed opportunities. Yet the Christian is never without hope. The parables teach us God is at work. Christ is hardly out of resources, determination, or ability. He is faithful to us because He is true to Himself. His love does not fail. It could hardly be proclaimed any more passionately than Paul does today in his letter to the Christians in Rome, “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.”3

When Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”4 He wasn’t speaking in riddles. He wasn’t illustrating a parable. In the most graphic, forthright, and tangible way possible He was making it clear that His death was a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. The message of the cross does not lend itself to speculation. In the end, it is either ridiculed as foolish idealism or believed as the one necessary and complete act of salvation. Many great plans in the history of the world have ended up being all talk and no action. It’s not the case with our Saviour who walked out of the grave defying death’s power. He has been given all power to intercede for His church and to rule it with love.

Our gathering here is a fellowship in that love. Here we share in the holy blessings of God. We do it in reality and in truth. We are real sinners meeting with the living God. Our sins can only be crucified by Him who was crucified for all. We’re not here to discuss theories about parables. We’re in the kingdom of light and truth and hope. Think of the blessings we receive in this place: the forgiveness of sins, heavenly mana, and the strength to live the baptismal life! The action of receiving holy communion is an act of proclamation of the sacrificial work of Christ. The apostle says, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”5 This meal is not only a remembrance of an event, it is a participation in the life of God. In Christ shadows become substance and parables become reality. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
23 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 13:49
2 Matthew 6:31-33
3 Romans 8:38-39
4 Luke 23:34
5 1 Corinthians 11:27

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Genesis 28:12
Theme: Stairway From Heaven

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The patriarch Jacob “had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”1 The event is recorded by the Holy Spirit through Moses in Genesis. The interpretation comes through Jesus when speaking with Nathanael in John chapter one. “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”21

Now, that would seem to be a very strange thing to say out of the blue. But Nathanael knew the context. He had been looking, searching, waiting, expecting. Philip had just approached him saying, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”3 This Messiah now spoke to him. What does a movement of angels commuting on this Divine conduit between heaven and earth mean? How do angels traverse that threshold? They are not omnipotent. They don’t do it under their own power. They do it under the power and prudence of Christ, in whose authority they joyfully serve.

Jacob saw the preview. Nathanael would see the fulfillment. But Jacob was not thereby deprived of any of the blessings. “When Jacob wake up from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’”4 Note that Jacob did not say, “Surely God is in this place.” For Jacob knew that the omnipresent God, the God’s whose existence permeates everything and everyone was undeniably there. But Jacob said, “Surely Yahweh is in this place.” Yahweh was the personal, covenant name God used with His people. Jacob knew that the God of salvation history was speaking to him. God’s presence everywhere prevents the universe from collapsing. Only God’s presence for you in Christ prevents the disaster of eternal separation.

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” How many come to God’s house still today and leave unaware that God is present! How many undervalue, often quite innocently, the purpose of this gathering! How many mistake it for a consultation with the nurse rather than going into theatre with the surgeon? How many believe it’s like a news briefing (say, of political events) rather than a session of Parliament? How many think it’s like going to a library to brush up on historical events, rather than going to the forum where history is being made? How many mistake it for a civic-like gathering, a support club, rather than understanding we are gathered as the family for the dispensation of the eternal inheritance? How many mistake it for viewing a commercial advertising junk food, instead of having a place at the royal banquet? The house of God is the theatre for heart surgery, the forum of Divine council, the marriage feast with heavenly food.

Dear friends, God IS in this place. But He is not here in a generic way. The Bridegroom meets His bride here. The Father embraces His children with His love here. The Holy Spirit clothes us with the armor of God here. Right here, at this altar, Christ hosts us with His body and blood. In the means of grace- the word, baptism, and holy communion- the events of redemption become and remain contemporaneous for us. As to its efficacy, time has no effect on God’s word. When we are blessed with the forgiveness of sins and the peace of God that gives comfort to our souls, it doesn’t matter if the death and resurrection of Christ happened two millennia ago or two days ago. Time is no barrier. The vibrancy and intensity of God’s compassion does not wane. His passion never diminishes.

At Bethel God made this promise to Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.”5 Yahweh would see things through to completion. The certainty that God is faithful in His promise to you is your baptism. Now, of course, the power that makes your baptism anything more than a symbolic ritual is the crucified and risen Jesus. When we doubt whether God is serious about His love for us the Holy Spirit reminds us of the full scope of the biblical witness culminating in Jesus’ sacrifice for us and our promised resurrection to life in heaven. Still, the initial point of reference is our baptism. From that point of entry, we are privy to the fulness of God’s grace.

Life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for Jacob after he encountered God at Bethel. In fact, his life was filled with intrigue, treachery, disobedience, and drama. He was still a sinner and lived among sinners. He died in in Egypt, not in the promised land. Yet, he clung to God’s promise. He believed God was at work in the bigger picture. He knew he was only one cog in the wheel which is the communion of saints down through the ages. He prioritized his life accordingly. He still made foolish, selfish, and unwise decisions. He struggled in repentance and faith. God was still his Deliverer. He knew he was part of the inheritance.

Dear friends, nowhere does God promise our lives will go smoothly either. Nowhere are we pledged a prosperous, stress-free existence if only we obey Him. God doesn’t bless us for being obedient any more than He does unbelievers. Those who follow the law will reap the benefits the law offers. If children honour their parents according to the Fourth Commandment, or spouses cherish each other according to the Sixth Commandment, or people speak truthfully to each other according to the Eighth Commandment, they will generally benefit from these actions. Unbelievers can do this too even without recognizing the authority of God. Yet they still benefit and their ultimate motivation is to benefit themselves. God doesn’t bless us with spiritual treasures because we are faithful. He blesses us because Christ is faithful. We cling in faith to that truth, and then even the worst hardships become blessings in Christ’s name.

The Scripture says, “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph.”6 The story of faith is the story of the church. The church is a remarkable, illogical, miraculous tapestry of lives of faith woven together by the Holy Spirit. It transcends time and space. Whose shoulders did Jacob stand on? His father Isaac, His grandfather Abraham, through the generations to Noah and back to Adam. Still to come were Moses, Elijah, David and Isaiah before the Messiah would make His appearance. And now we have 2000 more years and countless Christians whose lives are part of the weave. Does that mean we stand closer to God? Was Jacob grasping at shadows while we are illumed by the full light of Christ’s presence? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. The proximity of His righteousness never vacillates. But we do see more colour in the tapestry which is the church than Jacob did. Those who come after us will observe even more richness of complexity.

Christ is the stairway from heaven. We don’t need to climb up to Him. We can’t. He comes right down to our level. He stepped onto the ground so the avenue to heaven could be re-opened. He even descended to depths from which we could never return. In the incarnation Jesus descends into our humanity. He takes on flesh. The Creator visits His creation. We receive the Child of Mary in blood, bone and flesh; living, breathing, healing, and absolving. God comes down to His people as He always has. You cannot fall so far that you will not land on Christ. He is deeper than your sin. He is brighter than your darkness. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
23 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Genesis 28:12
2 John 1:51
3 John 1:45
4 Genesis 28:16-17
5 Genesis 28:15
6 Hebrews 11:20-11

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Romans 8:1-11
Theme: Life In The Spirit

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not the static backdrop of Christian consciousness. Christianity is not a drama now played out on the stage of human achievement with images of a martyred hero forming the backdrop for the set. The events of the atonement are not merely historical points of reference which inform a common interest. The crucified and living Jesus is the active power- the existing authority in the present time- that subdues the nefarious evils of sin and death. Dear friends, believers are not simply enthusiasts of the way of Jesus, we are temples of His living presence. God is not out there. He is right here; present among us and in us through His word and sacraments.

His presence means we are not alone, we are not autonomous, and we are not self-determining. It means our greatest foes are outmatched and our greatest fears will never gain the upper hand. The inspired apostle says today, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”1 Jesus says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”2 Yes, believers are freed from the eternal guilt of sin. But that doesn’t mean we’ve been given license in the meantime. We are freed from the dominance of our own selfishness in the here and now.

The mind set on sinfulness cannot coexist with a heart of faith. Our Scripture says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”3 No amount of coercion can change that reality. Threats do not change the spiritual attitude of the heart. Fear often achieves conformity. Intimidation can be used to restrict any number of behaviours. But coercion never changes desires or motivations. It can only lead to hopelessness or self-righteousness. A study of a large number of heart by-pass patients found that after 2 years, eight out of nine people still hadn’t changed to a healthier life-style. Even the threat of crippling disability or death did not drive them to change. The truth applies spiritually. The law of God will not change our hearts. It will reveal our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our need. But we go our own stubborn way until the gospel makes intervention into our lives.

And, intervene it has! The crisis of sin was resolved by a singular event, at a specific time, in a precise way: Jesus, the Christ, was crucified on the altar of the cross. In that event of redemption and in nothing else- not in the combined efforts of believers across the centuries, not in the good intentions of individual sinners, not in the tolerance of the Father of transgressions against His holiness, not in the deepest yearning of troubled souls- was the forgiveness of sins secured. Only the shedding of His holy blood reopens the gates to Paradise. At the cross Jesus took possession of our sins. They are His. He stands accountable. Christ has made you an heir of His heavenly kingdom. The certainty of this inheritance is given to you every time the promise of forgiveness rings in your ears. A foretaste is given to you every time the body and blood of Christ is taken upon your lips. At your baptism Christ took jurisdiction over the consequences of your sin and He promises to keep you separated from the punishment those sins have merited forever.

Satan pretends he can offer us an inheritance too. He promises us freedom from God’s tyranny and the liberty to do as we please without consequence. He woos us with the temptation that we can have our cake and eat it too. He deceives us with the idea that we have the ability to manage the effects and consequences of sin. Thus, sin appears to be no real threat and is not pondered until mortality is faced. When Satan tries to get into your head, point him right to the cross and say, “I am baptized!”

The sinful nature is a past identity no longer applicable to our new life in Christ. We are clothed now with His royal robes of righteousness. Our filthy rags have been thrown out. Dear friends, God doesn’t transform our sinfulness, our selfishness into something useful or godly (certainly He does bring good out of sinful circumstances). God doesn’t renovate our sinfulness. He crucifies it. He puts to death evil desires, designs and deeds. The Spirit does this individually within the believer. The struggle against temptation continues while we still draw breath, of course. It is real and the Holy Spirit must lead us in this battle. We are not spared this struggle. We are sanctified through it.

The way of godliness is not a future undertaking but a present exercise. The Bible doesn’t present us with a surreal dichotomy between the physical and spiritual worlds. The heavenly state of bliss is not a platonic idealism, that is., it is not a purely spiritual state of existence. It is not a state of mind. St. Paul is not speaking here of some separation between mind and body, as if, the more enlightened Christians become the less important physical reality becomes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The spiritual resurrection of the believer now means he or she can now understand the material world from a proper perspective. Christian truth is grounded in realism. It is incarnational. Christ was born of Mary. We are reborn of water and the Spirit. Yes, it involves mystery. We cannot comprehend the Holy Trinity. We cannot grasp the meaning of grace with our reason or senses. We cannot program how the Holy Spirit works. Miracles must be left to God. But remember, miracles are only such from human perspective. From God’s viewpoint, all His works are ordinary exertions expressing His purposeful love.

We live with apparent contradictions; paradoxes. We are sinners, but also saints. We are spiritually resurrected, but the decay of death accompanies our every thought and every move. The Scriptures are clear that there can be no final amalgamation between good and evil, between faith and unbelief, between hatred and love. Darkness cannot coexist with light. The final separation of good and evil, life and death, sin and grace in the collective dimension results in heaven and hell. There will be no eternal mingling between the holy and the profane. Heaven is the gift of the Saviour. Hell is the choice of unbelief. Heaven is an always an inheritance. Hell is always earned. Heaven is always gifted. Hell is always merited. No one earns their way to heaven. No one has hell foisted upon them. God might be doubted, reviled, or ignored. But who else would we want to have charge of the universe? He has taken our death that we may share in His life. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
16 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Romans 8:1-2
2 John 8:36
3 Romans 8:7-8

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 11:29
Theme: Soul-Rest

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The gospel is a burden to no one...ever! The apostle says, “His commandments are not burdensome.”1 Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”2 Anyone who perceives, feels, or considers the promise of good news in Christ to be burden is not hearing the gospel. There are many reasons this happens. It might be because the conscience doesn’t want to recognize the guilt of sin which only Christ can remedy. It might be because the heart is set on taking credit for its own deliverance. It might be because the will is too stubborn or apathetic to take seriously the truths of mortality and eternity. The fault does not lie with the Holy Spirit, who clearly proclaims to us through the Scriptures: Jesus is not a new lawgiver, He is the Saviour. He does not give burdens, He takes them.

Jesus spoke to the habitual complainers today. In response to the malcontent of the crowds, Jesus quotes conventional wisdom. He denounces them for being like children playing in the streets; never satisfied, always changing the rules to suit their own advantage. There was no pleasing those who closed their minds to the message of God’s kingdom. John the Baptist was a strict ascetic. He didn’t indulge in the finer things of life. He didn’t recline at the table at anyone’s banquet. And yet, some accused Him of having a demon. Jesus dinned with tax-collectors and Pharisees. He healed lepers and prostitutes; and yet was accused of being a glutton and drunkard. Jesus was approachable to everyone in every circumstance, yet for those who wanted to silence His message and His mission, it was never good enough.

Discontent is a particularly unattractive feature of human nature. It is prevalent because it is one of the most common expressions of sinfulness. It easily becomes an habitual way of thinking and acting. We’ve all said or heard something to the effect, “There’s no pleasing him.” Or “There’s no satisfying her.” People held captive to this perspective often enjoy wielding judgment over the ideas or actions of others. It’s usually seen by them as a tool of empowerment. We’re all prone to it. In reality, an attitude of continual complaint only fosters unnecessary resentment and damages the well-being of the complainer.

Those on the receiving end become weary. The effects are cumulative. All consequences of sin are. Christ offers relief to the truly tired soul. What causes true weariness of the soul? It is caused by loss of hope that the present can be redeemed. It is caused by lack of confidence that the future can be better. Lethargy of the soul results from carrying a weight that only God can lift. Unforgiven sin will always burden the conscience. It makes us restless. David poured out his heart to God saying, “When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”3 The heart cannot be at peace when sin remains unresolved. The conscience is restless. The mind is distracted. The soul is burdened. Unbelievers can go on their merry way without the resolution of sin, blissfully unaware, but for Christians everything in life is liable to become a chore.

People are seeking rest. They are seeking rest from the relentless pressure of political-correctness. Failure to identify with the views of the political elite risks marginalization and censorship. Fatigue in public engagement is the result. People are seeking rest. They are seeking rest from the rat-race of the world. Over-scheduled, over-committed, running on adrenaline, they are fatigued from the pressure to meet the expectations of others. People are seeking rest. Scarred from fractured relationships, carrying the burden of resentment, they are fatigued from the brokenness of marriage and family. The list could be multiplied endlessly.

Jesus offers rest for the soul. What kind of rest is He speaking of? He is not talking about sleeping longer, taking a holiday, or finding a less demanding job. These might be helpful adjustments in our lives but they don’t address the core need. Christ is more than a listening ear, a kind word, and a gentle embrace. He is our Sabbath-rest. The grueling, exhausting, punishing work of atonement is finished. The demand of justice has been satisfied. Jesus has accomplished it. We didn’t lift one finger to help. There is nothing we could contribute. He bore all the weight. He carried the entire burden. The exhaustion of bearing the weight of sin was fully and finally relieved at the cross. The yoke of oppression was lifted.

You are gifted with His rest. You are baptized into the power of the living God. No matter how great the darkness which encompasses you; the light of Christ will pierce it. No matter how ugly your past record of sins is; Christ has wiped the ledger clean. No matter how many failures you have accumulated or promises you have broken; the Saviour makes restitution to the full. Regardless of your fears or anxiety for the future, the reigning Christ will deliver you from all evil. The blood has been shed. The ransomed has been paid. He has tasted death for us. You are cherished. You are freed. The risen Christ prepares your place with the Father and sends you His Spirit.

Your citizenship in the kingdom of heaven gives an entirely new perspective to your vocation in this world. You are not simply a moral or ethical influence; you possess an eternal hope to be witnessed by unbelievers. It’s fitting to ask ourselves why we do what we are doing? What is the purpose of our various vocations? Is our only goal in life to make money? To make a living? Is it to build our bank account, our reputation, or our image? Is our vocation as husband or wife, parent or child, employer or employee mostly self-serving? The Holy Spirit shows us deeper meaning in what otherwise might be considered drudgery. During your working, your parenting, your daily routine of activity, you reflect the humility of Christ. The Scripture says, “None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.”4 Your higher purpose is to be Christ to somebody in a place and context where only you can. You have the privilege of offering lasting hope and an eternal perspective. You can point those who are weary to Christ, the giver of rest.

Here’s the miracle: Believers have rest for their souls even while enduring demanding and exhausting circumstances in their lives. It’s a gift Satan is always trying to steal from us. It’s a gift we’re prone to give away in our doubt or our selfishness. But Christ is an endless supply. Christians are like yeast that leavens the dough. You cannot artificially manipulate faith to make it contagious to others. But the Holy Spirit uses us like living letters of God’s word. The soul at rest in God is a witnessing tool of the Holy Spirit.

We have the privilege of joining with the Psalmist in saying, “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”5 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…you will find rest for your souls.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
9 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 John 5:3
2 Matthew 11:30
3 Psalm 32:3-4
4 Romans 14:7
5 Psalm 116:7-9
6 Matthew 11:28, 29

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Genesis 22:1-14
Theme: The Ultimate Test

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Father and son climb together. The destination is a geographical highpoint. But it sits on the precipice of a spiritual abyss. They are ancient figures, but their business is always contemporary. They go at the command of God, but the purpose seems to originate with Satan. The father is told to offer his son in sacrifice to God. Abraham, Isaac, God, together on Mount Moriah; the events recorded to fulfill the words of the apostle who said, “They were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”1 If we do not have the Scriptures we cannot have certainty about the things of God.

From a purely human standpoint the whole thing is complete madness. Today Abraham would be accused of insanity, and charged with attempted murder. Understandably so. The nature of the request is really beyond the parameters of our psyche and crosses the bounds of our reason. We don’t have the framework to comprehend it because we are so far removed from the practice of sacrifice. Abraham, however, understood the context and purpose of sacrificial offerings. But that makes the request less logical, not more; more shocking, not less. And that really is the point. God was not requesting of Abraham a token expression of His loyalty. Nor is He trying to drive Abraham crazy. What God is seeking is a sacrifice of the heart.

The God of Abraham universally condemned human sacrifice which was so often used in ancient pagan culture. He is not now suddenly changing His mind. Every animal sacrifice offered before the coming of Christ was also to be a spiritual sacrifice- a sacrifice of the heart. The prophets consistently rebuked the Israelites for offering faithless material sacrifices as a means of appeasing God. The journey to God cannot be completed by human effort. Isaac finally asks his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”2 How thick the tension must have been! Yet, the love between father and son persevered through this agonizing journey up the mountain. Abraham’s reply is the first climax of the event. “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”3

Imagine how incomparably difficult it would have been to utter those syllables! We see how fitting the sobering words of Jesus are from last Sunday, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me.”4 But, how can a person become worthy of God in such a situation? Trust! With God, all things are possible. The Holy Spirit gives us insight into the struggle of Abraham when He records these words in Hebrews 11, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”5

A resurrection was already foreseen in Abraham’s heart. We see now that this epic event was not just a personal test for Abraham. It is recorded in Holy Scripture for a reason. It’s not only a chronicle of heroism in the faith, either. Isaac was the chosen son of Abraham, the one and only son of the promise. The similarities found in the heavenly Father’s sacrifice of His Own Son are not coincidental. Justice demands that sinners have their own lives forfeited in penalty for their transgressions. But God provided the Lamb for the sacrificial offering. What does the Scripture say, “Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’”6 The mountain of provision became Calvary. There the final sacrifice was hung upon the altar for the cross.

What more could Abraham and Isaac need for the rest of their lives now that they had this experience of God’s faithfulness? Yet, God blesses them materially. God is not stingy. He doesn’t want to deprive us of the physical, material, and emotional support we need. His care is so intimate He even numbers the hairs of our head. He’d like our faith to be more like Abraham’s. He’d like us to cherish our baptism.

Yet, He knows how we are prone to selfishness, laziness, and greed. He knows our idolatrous heart. God can bring our best laid plans to nothing in an instant. He can shatter the dreams we’ve pursued with energy and investment for decades. If, and when He does so, we should consider that God is seeking to spare us hardship and heartache down the track and ultimately prevent us from becoming estranged from His will. He is keenly aware of the temptation of material prosperity. Satan is too.

Most people don’t make a sudden, bold and defiant denial of God. They are drawn away subtly and gradually. They think they can serve two masters, or even many masters. Dividing our time, energy, and loyalty is certainly necessary to survive in society. We invest a little time and effort here, and a little there. Our passions receive more. But God cannot be loved in half-heartedness. Half-heartedness is not an Abrahamic love. Certainly, our love for God is weak, frail, tainted, and incomplete. It is usually a very poor reflection of Christ’s love for us. But half-hearted love, that is., love that seeks to be just enough of an effort to please God is no love at all. It is either an expression of self-righteousness (because we’re not really seeking God’s blessing at all), or an admittance of unbelief. Faith never produces this kind of bogus love. We’re not called to try harder, but to repent.

It’s in repentance that we recover the proper meaning of sacrifice and its application to our lives. St. Paul says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”7Abraham’s faith was severely tested. But we shouldn’t think Abraham was prideful after this grueling test. Abraham did not glory in his faith. Abraham trusted in God. Dear friends, faith is nothing apart from the object it is focused on. The reliability of the person or thing focused on determines either the foolhardiness or the wisdom of faith. If I put supreme confidence in a small child to drive me across the bridge to Berri, my faith is foolishness. Faith is a risk. In Christ, we are putting all our eggs into one basket. But it can be no other way. Only in Christ do we have truth that overcomes all doubt. Only He has the authority to forgive sin. Only He has power over death.

Every time we receive the body and blood of Christ we are beneficiaries of the fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham. God promised to provide the sacrificial offering. He did so in Christ. We are freed from the shedding of blood in our worship of God. We come into His holy presence cleansed by the blood of the cross.

Our faith will be tested throughout life. God refines and strengthens us in this way. But we don’t have to worry about passing any test of holiness. Jesus has passed the ultimate test. He is faithful, as the Scripture says, “Moses was faithful in all God’s house to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are His house.”8 Rejoice, you are children of Abraham, sons and daughters of the kingdom. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
2 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Corinthians 10:11
2 Genesis 22:7
3 Genesis 22:8
4 Matthew 10:27
5 Hebrews 11:17-19
6 Genesis 22:14
7 Romans 12:1-2
8 Hebrews 3:5-6

Monday, June 26, 2017

Third Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 10:28
Theme: Love Drives Out Fear

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is fair. But we can never understand how that is true from mere observation. One person suffers terrible tragedy, while others seem to prosper in all they do. How is that fair? We can’t pretend to answer that question. We understand how cause and affect works for many things. If I live recklessly I will be in danger. If I take due care, usually I’ll be in a safe situation. Still, there are greater forces at work and only God understands them. Part and parcel with our faith in Christ and His redeeming love, is trust that God’s providence also oversees our temporal lives. Even when evil seems to prevail, God works goodness.

Of course, we easily get caught basing our expectations of God on our experience with human interaction. The Holy Spirit is not prone to human failure. Impartiality in human affairs will never exist. It is an honourable quest, no doubt. Still, any hope of achieving it is misguided. Fairness is impossible in a fallen world. Sin prevents it…. Sin introduced chaos into God’s orderly creation. A mindset of disobedience brings strife even into the best situations. People often query how a good God could let bad things happen. But it’s better to consider how anything good happens at all. We shouldn’t assume good, gracious, healthy and wholesome things will just occur automatically. They only do because of God’s patient will and persistent intervention. The lone sparrow does not fall to the ground without the Father noticing. Think of what that means for God’s attentiveness to us.

God is just. Only the crucifixion can teach how He is gracious at the very same time. Jesus’ words today are serious and sobering. He speaks of bringing division and not peace to the world. He warns against idolizing family and teaches about bearing the cross. Christianity does not allow for divided loyalties. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”1

How does it happen that we build our lives on so many false assumptions? Fear drives so many behaviors. Many of them are destructive. Many things we fear don’t even materialize. Christ tells us not to worry for good reason. Sinners see what they want to see. It’s in our nature. But the Holy Spirit equips us with eyes of faith and He constantly adjusts our prescriptions. That involves realigning our priorities. We shouldn’t fear those who have little real power over us, but Him who has the ultimate power.

Christians have a proper fear of God’s holiness, His presence, and His word. Reverence, awe, and respect should characterize our disposition towards Him who created the universe, judges, and redeems it. We should be comfortable with God, but not flippant. We should be at home in His house, but not disrespectful. We can be familiar without being irreverent. We can be conversant without being discourteous. There must always be space in our piety for God’s majesty and His complete sovereignty. We should pray constantly for His blessing, but we cannot prescribe the time and manner of His intervention. But we should never doubt that His love is absolutely incontrovertible. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”2

Only in His strength can we bear our crosses. It’s been nearly 500 years- it was June 25th, 1530 to be exact- that our Lutheran forefathers made a courageous stand for the Christian faith. They put their integrity, their livelihoods, and their lives on the line in order to cling to the truth. They took seriously the words of our Lord here in Matthew, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”3

They were champions of the truth and tireless advocates of the gospel. They led a worldwide reformation. Yet, their concerns are mostly out of fashion again. We venerate trend-setters and lavish praise on athletes and Hollywood stars easily forgetting that their personal lives are often very poor examples to those who would be their apprentices. We lift them up as champions of society when often they are building their own kingdoms.

Truly great champions are those who persevere in their daily vocations and do it with integrity. Those who persevere not for selfish gain, materialism, or recognition, but for the wellbeing of others. Such achievements cannot be made without the Holy Spirit. In spite of the mixed (the seeking of self-glory) motives of frail humans, God still accomplishes most of His work in this steady humble way, and not in showy and grand gestures. The Pharisees loved to stand on the street corners and pray ostentatiously,4 while believers are told to pray modestly and humbly.

Making good on promises has fallen on hard times lately. Think how many laws, rules, and regulations are established because people do not readily keep their promises in family or community, personal or professional life. Litigation is at an all-time high and the legal system is overwhelmed. More significant yet is the breakdown of dependability in personal relationships. The health of marriages and families is a direct indicator of the health of communities. (In a few moments Rodney and Laurel will be making a serious promise before God and to one another. It’s a promise that relies on God’s strength and compassion to maintain.)

We have a God who keeps His promises. He set the rainbow in the sky as a reminder He wouldn’t again flood the earth in judgment. He had something more radical in mind. He hung His Son upon a cross and so fulfilled His covenant with humanity. He didn’t offer an insufficient way to redeem us. He promised Sarah would have a son and she did. He promised David would have an heir to his throne and he did. He promised to rise again on third day, and He did. And He makes a promise to you in baptism.

You are baptized into the death of Christ. Your sinful nature was crucified with Him. Sin’s ultimate power in you has been broken. Christ has overcome it. The Scripture says, “The death He died, He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”5 This core truth of Christianity changes everything. We are reconciled to God. The holy God who cannot tolerate sinners in His presence now becomes the friend of sinners. His favour rests upon us. John says, “Perfect love drives out fear.”6 Christ is perfect love. Furthermore, believers are no longer held captive to the world view that this life is an end in itself. There is something more, much more! The Father was ‘unfair’ to His own Son so that we can enjoy His blessings eternally. You are worth more than many sparrows! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
25 June 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 10:28-31
2 Romans 5:8
3 Matthew 10:32-33
4 See Matthew 6:5
5 Romans 6:10-11
6 1 John 4:18

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Christian Burial of Joyce Gibbs (June 20th, 2017)

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

Text: Revelation 3:10
Theme: Faithful Unto Death

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Joyce, and especially you; John and Kerrin, her children,

Joyce Gibbs now wears the crown of life. She is crowned with glory. We need not concern ourselves with some image of royal opulence that adorns her head. To be crowned means to be honoured, to be perfected; to be exalted. Joyce Gibbs is crowned with glory because she has been released from all the constrictions and complications of sin’s consequences, and now dwells in the presence of the immortal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. She is at peace. She is home.

Joyce needs nothing from us now; not even our prayers. She has been relieved of every worry, anxiety, and care. She experiences no pain and faces no fear or distress. And she now knows what it is to go beyond death. But for us who reflect on her call to glory, death is still a towering black shadow. No one can outrun the specter of mortality. It overtakes us all. It brings us face to face with the big questions of existence. Reflection on mortality is not a time for conjecture, but for conviction.

Dear friends, the difficult part of Christianity is not the doing, but the believing. Christ has done the work. He has paid the price. He has served the sentence. He has borne the guilt. He has appeased the divine wrath. The difficult part for us is the believing. So completely incapable are we at taking God at His word, the Holy Spirit must do all the heavy lifting. He must first breathe life into our dead souls. He must grant us the faith we cannot muster for ourselves. Then the eyes of faith begin to see God for who He is.

The ‘doing’, the following of God’s will, the striving to be obedient -even until death- then flows seamlessly from the believing. The infatuated groom doesn’t have to be told to seek his wife. The panicked child doesn’t have to be told to run to her mother’s arms. And so, the believer desires to do God’s will. And this is true even though the selfish nature tries to reassert itself. One thing is for sure, God cannot be deceived. Do you think the Almighty God will be fooled by one single person who puts on the pretense of following God when there really is no faith in the heart? I wouldn’t count on those odds. The Scripture says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”1 We can only repent of trying to fool God and others into thinking we’re not really poor, helpless sinners. Joyce knew better than that.

Joyce was the type of person to get things done. She wasn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. Life on a Mallee farm wasn’t for the faint of heart. Joyce wasn't timid. Her fortitude carried her through many a challenging circumstance. When she was determined to see something through it was very difficult to dissuade her. She was full of pluck and vitality. She endured the loss of a child. By God’s grace she carried on. Joyce lived during a time of tremendous change. She witnessed the transition from horses, to cars, to computers. She adjusted and made her way in the world. The world changed. The times changed. But her Saviour did not change. His love was an immutable constant in her life.

Joyce believed in a God who also gets things done. Actions speak louder than words! Christ wasn’t a man of hollow words. He didn’t make speeches for the purpose of impressing audiences. He wasn’t running for public office or satisfying constituents. He spoke His intentions truthfully and He fulfilled those intentions to the point of death. He rose again from the grave and lives eternally. Not one promise is left unmet. Not one pledge is proven to be false. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”2 Joyce has fully made the transition. She awaits, with every believer from every time and place, the resurrection of the body on that great and glorious day, and its reunion with the soul. Her waiting is not characterized by boredom, drudgery, or even soul-sleep. She dwells in the awesome majesty of God, experiences perfect peace, and is filled with inexpressible joy.

This fantastic truth tempers our grief. The Scriptures say believers do not grieve like those who have no hope. Christians still mourn the loss of loved ones, for sure. A vacancy takes place in family and community life. Adjustments must be made. Routines are altered. Emotions are strained. Memories are recalled to the frontal cortex again, and again, and again. And through that process we come to terms with the loss, and, also offer up gratitude for the life that was. John, Kerrin, Joyce certainly wanted us to celebrate and give thanks for the life that was: The life God granted to her here in time. She wanted others to know Him who is the way and the truth and the life, Jesus Christ, the Saviour. No one else could bear the sins of the world. No one else could silence Satan. No one else could conquer death. Joyce believed that.

In the last months Joyce attended communion services at the hospital. She would always greet me with a smile, usually catching my eye from across the room. Her smile was warm and genuine. And even in her failing health, when I would ask her how she was, she normally said, "Very well, very well!" In the last period of her life frailty restricted participation in many of the things she loved. But she was pleased just to be present to receive God’s promises once again. She knew this was a preview of higher and holier things to come. Joyce didn't fear her mortality. She frequently queried why God hadn't called her home earlier. She was ready. She was ready to receive the inheritance first promised to her in her baptism. And now that has come to pass. Her joy is unexcelled. The vibrancy of her life knows no limits. Thanks be to God!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Joyce Margaret Gibbs
20 June 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Hebrews 4:13
2 John 5:24

Monday, June 19, 2017

Second Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 9:36
Theme: A Shepherd For The Sheep

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Prayer is the continuous voice of the faithful petitioning the ears of the Almighty. Prayer has cadence and rhythm, peaks and troughs, but it is never stilled. The Lord places a yearning in our hearts and we speak it back to Him. The cessation of prayer means the end of mortality and the commencement of eternity. It means all the answers have been made and all the blessings have been given. Today, Jesus tells His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His fields. A harvest is ready to be reaped and there are too few to do it.

So, today Jesus gave the Twelve authority over evil spirits and the power to heal people of their ailments. These gifts were a powerful sign that the kingdom of God had arrived in the person of Jesus. Christ is master over all the consequences of a corrupted world. He gives sight to the blind, recovery of movement to the disabled, and restoration of health to those with terminal illness. Still, the core business of the disciples, who were sent out by the Lord of the harvest, was not the alleviation of temporal suffering. Jesus Himself, didn’t heal everyone in one fell swoop. Renewal of mind or body always served the restoration of the soul.

The mission of the church is always holistic. People are complex spiritual and physical entities. Yet, whether the particular aspect of the mission involves compassion, charity, teaching, or warning, it should always reflect the humility of Christ and point people towards Him. Charity apart from Christ is philanthropy, kindness without Him is humanitarianism, admonition is social consciousness. Christians are freed to serve others and make sacrifices not in the hope of gaining recognition or reward, but because they believe God provides all things in Christ. We can risk, we can sacrifice, we can make ourselves vulnerable because God is trustworthy. We do not have to promote ourselves to Him. Unbelief cannot comprehend the confidence the Spirit gives to the faithful. It is a peace the world cannot understand.

Remember, Satan's schemes are spiritually-focused. He cares little about the offences of unbelievers against God or people. He already has them on side. The devil expends his energy on Christians. Every falsehood and half-truth he propagates has the common purpose of planting seeds of doubt about God's reliability. He makes every effort to discredit the Scriptures or disconnect us from them. Without the Scriptures, we cannot have saving knowledge of the true God. Human opinion, regardless of how rational or practical it seems can never be an infallible guide for faith and life. True knowledge of God was lost with the fall into sin. That knowledge is recovered only in the revelation of the gospel.

You cannot lift yourself up to God. He reaches down to you. Jesus described the crowds today as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”1 We’re no different until the Holy Spirit reaches us with the gospel, until He cleanses us with baptismal water and kindles faith in our hearts. It’s not healthy people that need a doctor, but those who are sick. If we were righteous on our own we would have no worries before God. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”2

We can’t opt out of original sin. No one can decide not to be a sinner. Certainly, you can and should be determined not to commit sin. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would shape our thoughts, filter our words, and govern our actions to the end that we might not offend God or harm our neighbour. The regenerated person, the person converted from unbelief to faith, seeks to walk in step with the Spirit. Still, we remain sinners in reality and in truth. We stand in need of grace…always. The soul always needs to be fed with His sacred food. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that when we approach God in the Divine Service we shouldn’t be saying, “I, a poor helpless sinner,”3 as we do in the confession of sins? Perhaps you’re tempted to question whether we deserve punishment “in time and eternity.”4 Such thoughts seem quite rational. How could God be so harsh as to condemn a person who tries their best? And haven’t our sins been previously forgiven anyway?

Dear friends, we need the forgiveness of sins with the same regularity we eat food and breathe air. If we don’t attend regularly to our personal hygiene, we’ll soon notice. Or, at least, others will! The same is true for our spiritual lives. The moment we think forgiveness is optional, unnecessary, or redundant is the very hour we are in danger. Who are we to throw down the challenge before the Almighty? Who are we to question His justice? We are the mortals. He is eternal. He is not vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the cosmos. He upholds the very fabric of the universe.

We have no negotiating power before Him. We bring nothing to the table. But, dear friends, we do not stand before Him alone. There is One who is more than worthy to speak on our behalf. There is One who lived in perfect obedience and died in perfect sacrifice. The Scripture says, “We have One who speaks to the Father in our defence- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”5 We stand in the grace of Christ. Still, we yearn to have the promise of His absolution comfort our souls. There is no contradiction in these realities.

Today, Jesus had compassion on the crowds. Can we measure the compassion of Christ? St. Paul prays for the Christians in Ephesus asking that they, “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”6 The mercy of Christ, His unconditional sacrificial love can only be grasped by faith. Otherwise, He appears at best by human reason to be a benevolent martyr. But an example of altruism doesn’t begin to characterize the work of Christ for us and for our salvation. His terrifying death on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead express to us Good News that simply cannot be overstated. Sin, death, Satan and hell are defeated by the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. Whatever other enemies we have besides these are insignificant in the end. The Saviour says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”7

Therefore, we are content, but we are always yearning. It’s similar to having true peace in a chaotic world. Remember what the apostle said today, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”8 He will not disappoint us. He will gather His harvest. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Pentecost
18 June 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 9:36
2 Romans 5:8
3 LH page 6
4 LH page 6
5 1 John 2:1-2
6 Ephesians 3:18-19
7 John 10:28
8Romans 5:1-2

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Holy Trinity (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 28:19-20
Theme: His Ever-Present Love

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is a compulsive lover. To say that God loves compulsively is to say that He is driven to do so as an expression of His true nature. Because God is giver; it is His nature to love. His nature and love are expressed in His activity towards us. God creates, sustains and redeems. He does these things according to His nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is nothing more relevant to all people than the intent and activity of God. It is His intent to love people until the end. Christ is the end; just as He is the beginning. The activity of Christ is the definitive expression of the love of the triune God.

God loves us concretely and not abstractly, so the expression of His love connotes His presence. God is present everywhere, but He desires to be present with human beings in a saving manner. When Christ said to His disciples, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,”1 He didn’t mean He was merely with them in thought or in some abstract way. He meant He would still be with them in a definite manner with power to act. The specifics involve the Holy Spirit, the word and the sacraments. Through these means, and because of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, the fullness of God is communicated to believers.

From the original creation, through the believer’s spiritual resurrection in baptism, to the final establishment of the new heaven and earth, the Trinity shares His life with the world. It’s a life that’s often rejected as people prefer to make their own way in the world. The mind held captive by selfishness and unbelief will always do what the heart desires. The heart that is not regenerated, not enlightened by the gospel, will always desire to be sovereign. And that is the epitome of sinfulness; the arrogance that makes one’s self, one’s master. Now, that can be pursed in a most civil manner, mind you. The perpetration of evil against others is not necessarily the intent. Yet, self-autonomy always has as its consequence estrangement from God and lack of love for the neighbour. The Holy Spirit’s task is indeed a monumental one. He must not only bring life and light where there is spiritual death and darkness, but He must also continually sanctify and renew us believers who, nevertheless, remain sinners. He is up to the task.

There could hardly be a more fitting occasion than Trinity Sunday for a baptism. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing then in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”2 In baptism, the Holy Spirit makes entry into the lives of those who were spiritually dead in sin. And He doesn’t just pass through. He accompanies God’s word at all times. He takes you again and again through the cleansing waters; each and every time your sins are laid at the feet of the Crucified and you receive His mercy. Your age or aptitude don’t matter. The promise of God’s grace is the same for the infant as it is for the mature person. Jesus was crucified and He rose again for all. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This same Saviour feeds us with holy food from His altar.

The blessings we participate in here should not be taken for granted. Christianity is quickly falling out of favour with the culture at large. Values that used to be shared are being abandoned or overturned. And these aren’t simply matters of politics or philosophy. Humility in the face of an Almighty Creator and Judge is thought by many to be a quaint vestige of a faith system that’s had its day. The orderliness that God instituted for the wellbeing of church, government, and community is being rejected in favour of the supreme right of the individual. Anarchy’s history is not pretty but the lesson must be learned again, and again.

Dear friends, we must understand, clearly, for example, what some in our society are advocating for in matters of sexuality and marriage. Our culture has long since given up the view of sanctity in marriage. Casual sexual relationships have been the norm for some time, even among Christians. And now the agenda is pushing right past the question of homosexual unions to question of gender identity. Should children not only be allowed, but even encouraged to choose their own gender! It will do no good to bury our heads in the sand. These matters affect us all. The truth of God’s created order is at stake and this pertains to the secular society as well as the church.

Satan cultivates the soil deeply, scatters the seed broadly, and waters the ground frequently. But we are wise to his intentions. He seeks to part us from the truth. Underlying these matters is the question of what is true and how value is assessed. Do humans at any place and time make a collective judgment, or is there an unalterable truth that transcends ages, epochs, and cultures? Does everything change of necessity, constantly morphing into something else? Or does the unchanging God restore to permanence and perfection that which had become corrupted? A collision of worldviews is in motion. The attendant circumstances are different, but the struggle is the same one that always confronts the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”3 The Bible promises the oppression of Christian truth, not acceptance. It speaks of persecution, not privilege. It calls for sacrifice, not selfishness. Only the narrow road reaches the destination. Living by God’s grace isn’t about popularity, but integrity.

But Christians aren’t defeatists. We know God is with us. How do you know that Christ is with you when the results come back from the doctor and the diagnosis is cancer? How do you know Christ is with you when the phone rings in the middle of the night because there’s been a tragedy? How do you know Christ is with you when your marriage seems to be falling apart? How do you know Christ is with you when you are depressed, or feel lost and despairing? How do you know Christ is with you when you are overcome with anxiety and uncertainty about the future? Jesus came in the flesh. He suffered, conquered death, and He will come again. He knows us intimately.

We so easily and sometimes eagerly draw false conclusions. Don’t conclude that because some crisis in your life didn’t work out to your satisfaction that God wasn’t with you. Don’t base your understanding on some apparent sign, perception, or feeling. Rely on what you know of the nature and will of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. We are all by doubters by nature. But God is trustworthy. Even His chastisement is for our good. He will not abandon you. He cherishes your very soul.

Not only is Christ with you, He is in you, and most importantly for you. He is “for you” on the altar of sacrifice. He is “for you” in the midst of Satan’s accusations. He is “for you” when you are drowning in your sins. He is “for you” in the face of death. He is “for you” before the judgment seat. The triune God is with us and that as a compulsive lover. Today is Trinity Sunday. Rejoice that you bear His name! “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”4

+ In nomine Jesu +

Holy Trinity
11 June 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 28:20
2 Matthew 28:19-20
3 John 18:36
4 2 Corinthians 13:14

Monday, June 5, 2017

Day of Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Acts 2:4
Theme: The Spirit’s Work

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God keeps His promises. If we don’t have that confidence as the core conviction of our faith, then we don’t have much that matters. God is faithful. The Scripture says, “No matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.”1 God is true to Himself and that means He is trustworthy in all circumstances. The Creator of the universe is not too busy to attend to your tiniest fear. He is competent to fulfill all His greatest promises. Nothing scares Him. Nothing baffles Him. Nothing discourages Him. Death cannot defeat Him.

Today is Pentecost. Today we reflect on the completion of another of Christ’s promises. The Holy Spirit was sent to the apostles and through His witness in them Christianity exploded onto the scene. More important than remembering, however, is our participation in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the world. There are no truly idle believers in the Christian Church because faith that is not active in love is not genuine faith. We, too, are witnesses, martyrs, as our Spirit-given faith becomes evident in deeds of love.

Today, though, is not the only day the Holy Spirit is honoured. The work of the triune God never lacks coordination. The Holy Spirit always works in concert with the Father and the Son. From the original creation, through the believer’s spiritual resurrection in baptism, to the final establishment of the new heaven and earth, the Trinity shares His life with the world. Today the reversal of the dispersion at Babel continues as the Holy Spirit gathers people from every language to Himself. At Babel God’s word of judgment brought separation. At Pentecost, His word of reconciliation brings reunion.

Reconciliation would not be needed if the relationship had not been severed. The Holy Spirit comes to sinners. Still, many do not receive Him. Rejecting His blessings, they choose their own gods. Arrogance or apathy leads the hardened heart to believe it is without sin, or not accountable for the same. That’s why the first activity of the Holy Spirit is always the working of repentance. Otherwise, the deception continues and there is no need for the gospel. Dear friends, when we lie to God we lie to the Holy Spirit. When we sin against our neighbour we sin against the Holy Spirit. When we defy our own conscience, we offend the Holy Spirit. Our sins are never simply horizontal in their complications. All sin is an offense to God first and foremost. But where the Holy spirit dwells reconciliation with God is achieved.

Perhaps you’ve wondered if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you, if He’s working in your life? Perhaps you’ve worried about feeling His presence or sought ways to measure His activity. Don’t stress over evidence. Cling to His word. Remember, you are baptized. In that event the Holy Spirit made entry into your life. And He wasn’t just passing through. He accompanies God’s word at all times. He takes you again and again through the cleansing waters; each and every time your sins are laid at the feet of the Crucified and you receive His mercy. He continually refits and repairs your spiritual armor. He stands in front of you when Satan shoots his flaming arrows. He advocates for you when the devil makes his convincing accusations. He fortifies your conviction when Satan plants seeds of doubt into your mind. He brings joy to your heart every time you reflect upon the eternal inheritance you have been promised. For weary souls who can’t see beyond a dark tunnel of vision, the Holy Spirit beams a brilliant light upon the crucified Saviour and opens the scene to the horizon of the resurrection.

Living in this world, however, does not involve an unhindered contemplation of the heavenly future. We’re in the fray. In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity isn’t exactly in vogue at the moment. The pressures are mounting. Perhaps, in the past, it was viewed favourably to a large degree. It was seen, even by many unbelievers, as part of the moral foundation of society. Now the script is being flipped and some of those very same convictions are considered evil. For example, it’s not simply that the sanctity of marriage is being compromised because of lack of self-control- that will always be the case in this fallen world- the very definition of sexuality is being turned on its head. It’s not just the parameters for engaging in sexual activity that are being argued- whether within marriage, outside of marriage, between people of the same gender etc., - but the very identity of a person as male or female.

Christianity has no monopoly of understanding here. The biological laws of nature are fundamental to the discussion. At that level, it makes little difference if one believes, as Christianity teaches, that God created male and female, or if evolution (though a false premise) dominates one’s worldview on the matter. Either way, the complementarity of the sexes necessary for the propagation of the human race is self-evident. The case for any child having a mother and a father is deeply grounded biologically, domestically, and biblically.

Underlying these matters is the question of what is true and how value is assessed. Do humans at any place and time make a collective judgment, or is there an unalterable truth that transcends ages, epochs, and cultures? Does everything change of necessity, constantly morphing into something else? Or does the unchanging God restore to permanence and perfection that which had become corrupted? A collision of worldviews is in motion. The attendant circumstances are different, but the struggle is the same one that always confronts the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”2 The Bible promises the oppression of Christian truth, not acceptance. It speaks of persecution, not privilege. It calls for sacrifice, not selfishness. Only the narrow road reaches the destination. Living by God’s grace isn’t about popularity, but integrity. Christians aren’t defeatists, but realists.

The apostles were sent out into a world that wasn’t that different from ours. The standard of living may not have been comparable, but the moral fiber of society was. They might not have had mobile phones, but they had gossip chains. They might not have had reversible cameras for taking selfies, but they had narcissism nonetheless. They might not have had organized atheist societies or practitioners of Satanic worship in today’s sense, but they had plenty who lived in the dark about the true love of God revealed in Christ. The gospel of salvation which brings life to dying souls never becomes obsolete. The Holy Spirit doesn’t age and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.3

The Holy Spirit comes to sinners. And He brings us into contact with God’s Son through the means He has appointed. The Scripture says, “This is the One who came by water and blood- Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”4 In the breaking of the bread the disciples’ eyes were opened. The Holy Spirit uses communion as a sacrament of revelation as well as a way to dispense forgiveness. The unified testimony of these means of grace is the same testimony given on Pentecost: Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. He was crucified for our sins. He lives, never to die again. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Day of Pentecost
4 June 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 2 Corinthians 1:20
2 John 18:36
3 See Hebrews 13:8
4 1 John 5:6-8

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Easter (A) 2017

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

Text: Acts 1:9
Theme: Jesus Ascended; Still Present.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus ascended, but He’s still present. His bodily presence is veiled, but His grace and power remains among us. In the promise of forgiveness, in the body and blood of the sacrament, in the reviving waters of baptism; He is present. These means communicate His saving redemption. Yes, of course, God is the authority that keeps the governance of the cosmos in operation, from the rotation of the earth, to the sprouting of the seed, and the conception of new life. Immediate collapse would result if He withdrew. Yet, to you and me, mortal, sinners, generic providence is a fleeting blessing. We require access to immortality. Only Christ can grant it.

Today is the Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost. While praying to the Father, Jesus said of His disciples, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name.”1 It’s a powerful reminder of Christ’s ongoing work. Christ prays with us. You never pray alone; not even if you are the only one in the house, the only one in the room, or seem to be the only one in your headspace. Christ taught His followers to begin the Lord’s Prayer saying, “Our Father.”2 Also, the Holy Spirit intercedes with divine utterances. He knows what to pray for when we can’t find the thoughts or the words. He knows what to pray for when we are too weak, too angry, too lost.

So, gathered near Bethany with the Eleven, Jesus bodily ascended to the Father’s hand of power and commissioned the apostles to be His witnesses once the Holy Spirit was sent. The apostles were joined suddenly by two angels, who told them Jesus would come again in the same manner. Thus, as we reflect upon the 40 days Jesus remained on earth after His resurrection, our thoughts turn also to His imminent return in glory.

Much is made by some scholars about the expectation of the early Christians, and particularly of Paul, of the imminent return of Christ. Many, it is claimed, did not expect their children's lifespans to reach their maturity before Jesus’ Second Coming. There is solid biblical evidence to support this thesis. Christ and the apostles warn the faithful to be prepared for the end. Yet, it’s nearly 2000 years later…and the years roll on. Was there some misunderstanding? God is not limited by our understanding of time. Whether He returns tomorrow, in 100 years, or in 1000 years should make no difference to how we live in the present. The implications are very practical. God knows how we live. He knows how we allocate your resources. He knows what we hoard, what we waste, when we are generous and when we are stingy. He knows how we love or fail to love others. He knows what we put our trust in. Christ may come for any of us, individually, this very hour.

You may have seen a t-shirt with a message that says, "Look busy, Jesus is coming back!" It's a tongue-in-cheek take on a serious reality. But merely keeping up appearances will do no good. God reads the heart. He knows our words before we speak them and our thoughts before we think them. If our actions aren't a true reflection of our convictions we are shown to be hypocrites. God will not be deceived. We will have no leverage with which to convince Him otherwise. There will be no second chances upon His arrival. The time for repentance is always now, never later. Don’t spend any time on a strategy trying to justify your sins. Confess them. Don’t look for loopholes in the law or make comparisons with those you believe to be less godly. Neither evasion nor arrogance will accomplish anything. Look in the mirror and trust that the person you see there is the same one who will stand before the Judge.

But, dear friends, believers have nothing to fear when Christ returns. It will be an event of tremendous excitement and anticipation. We will suffer no angst or anxiety. Our judgment has already been rendered. Our sentence has already been served. Our debt has already been paid. God is not slack in His judgment. But He isn't stingy with His love either. His love is so magnanimous that He meets the requirements of His own justice. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed that we might be spared. He was condemned to be crucified. He was sentenced to death. He bore the weight of the world’s transgressions. He entered the darkness. He silenced Satan. He was raised. He is living. We are free. And we are free not to be independent, but to live in community. Christ reconstitutes the community of God, the “one, holy Christian and apostolic Church.”3 Jesus is the origin of all things. He is the centre. He is the destination. The Bible says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.”4

We’re not saying here that these truths are perceptible to our senses or emotions. Even at His ascension the disciples were asking if Jesus was about to establish an earthly kingdom. Why were they still asking that? Because that’s what was tangible to them. An earthly kingdom was perceptible, relatable. It’s the same challenge we have. So, there is always need for clarity and distinction. Nothing can be said so clearly that someone cannot misunderstand it. The Holy Spirit makes clear the truth in the hearts and minds of those who believe. He shows us the Son who brings with Him the presence and gifts of the Father. But we are always under temptation to waver. Satan knows the weak points. He knows what puffs us up with pride and he knows what tempts us to doubt and despair.

We cannot understand the communication of the Spirit except through faith. It’s not directly tangible to us. A child who has not yet acquired literacy can receive a copy of the parent's will, but still won’t know anything of the inheritance until the contents are communicated in a different manner. The words of Scripture can be studied or received by anyone who has the capacity, but they cannot be understood as to their spiritual meaning except through the Spirit. Spiritual literacy is not a matter of intellectual capacity, but of revelation made to the heart and communication made to the conscience. The Scriptures are written in human language but their effectiveness requires divine working.

Dear friends, when we are lacking conviction about whether God is present or working in our lives we are in good company. Early believers too, needed the constant reassurance of the gospel promises. What does Peter say today? “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”5 Now, care is a concept we can relate to. But, how understated it is in God’s case! He cared enough to sacrifice everything in service to us.

How will you meet the coming Christ? You may have anxiety when you try to picture it now in your mind’s eye. But when the trumpet sounds, the heaven is rent, and He appears with a retinue of angels, you will be astounded and filled with excitement and joy. We will be absorbed in jubilation far beyond what we can now begin to imagine. And it won’t matter if you are already dead. The dead will be raised, their bodies reunited with their souls and all believers will be transferred into glory. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Seventh Sunday of Easter
28 May 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 17:11
2 Matthew 6:9
3 The Nicene Creed
4 Colossians 1:17-18
5 1 Peter 5:6-7

Friday, May 26, 2017

Christian Burial of Tyler Shane Lange 26 May 2017

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

Text: John 14:1-6
Theme: Home

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Tyler, and especially you Deanne, Andrew, Ebony, Ashlee; and all of you gathered here in their support,

“In My Father’s house are many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you.”1 That is the promise of the One who holds the keys to the house. Tyler is home. He has no worries, cares, or anxieties. He has no distresses, demands, or difficulties. He is not burdened with regret. We may be overwhelmed with remorse, and understandably so. We might even be resentful. Not Tyler! His soul has been received directly into the presence of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The power of sin and all of its consequences has been broken for him- for all eternity. He is home.

Tyler no longer needs anything from us. This casket contains only his mortal frame; a frame destined to be raised again on the great day of the resurrection of the dead. No, Tyler needs nothing from us, yet he gives to us more than just memories of times past. The brevity of his life gives us opportunity to refocus our priorities and perspectives. Paying lip-service to our mortality is a dangerous business. Life-expectancy is a statistical calculation. It means nothing for individuals. The order in which things normally happen doesn’t always hold. When expectations are shattered, we can be devastated. Losing those who are young and vibrant challenges our guttural instinct. It raises questions of unfairness and injustice.

Grief has no rules. It only has victims. Shock, numbness, anger, guilt, regret, despair, hopelessness…these swirl around in a complex vortex of darkness and doubt. The heart becomes sick. Foundational convictions are challenged and reviewed in our minds. Can God really be trusted? Does life have purpose? What does it all mean? The details of our futures are not revealed to us. Such knowledge would often cripple our participation in the present. Tyler led a vibrant, active, genuine life. He was not restricted by fear. He lived in the present, valuing each day.

I had the privilege of spending a year with Tyler in 2009 during confirmation instruction. Students were given a 10-point quiz each week as we worked our way through the basic teachings of the Christian faith. It’s nearly impossible to get young, healthy kids to reflect on the frailty and preciousness of life. Life seems too certain, too much a given at that age. But it is possible to teach 13-year-olds that life has a source, a purpose, and a destiny. There’s more to existence than meets the eye. On this particular quiz, for which He received perfect marks, Tyler was answering a question about the very crux of the gospel. Why is the gospel truly good news? It is good news because it resolves the greatest crises of existence. Sin, death, and separation from God are defeated by the One who suffered to serve us. The One who was crucified.

Tyler did not go to a cross for punishment. That debt was already paid. The Substitute has already been sacrificed; for Tyler, for you, for me. Christ understands grief. He entered a darkness from which no human had returned. He entered the crucible of punishment for the collective sins of fallen humanity. He emerged victorious over death. Tyler’s confirmation verse was, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”2 Words spoken by Christ, they remind us tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we should hold tightly the promise of God’s grace. It is life to the soul.

We live in an increasingly volatile world. Terrorism, violence, addiction, and despair remind us of the fallenness of humanity. Collectively and individually, we are vulnerable. Life is precious. Every breath is a gift. Nothing temporal is certain. Eternal things, though, are otherwise. Salvation is by grace, through faith. There is no other way. Death wins lots of little victories. It cannot win the war. It causes a lot of pain, but it has no permanent authority over God’s people.

Life at any age involves a contest against the temptation to give up or give in, the struggle against serving ourselves, instead of others. Tyler knew how to compete. His passion involved the thrill of the chase and the determination needed to accomplish the goal. But there is only one race that needs to be completed. Tyler has crossed the finish line. He has done it earlier than most.

We still have valid questions. Why Tyler? Why now? Why in that way? But we won’t pretend to have answers. We won’t pretend to grasp reasons. We won’t offer shallow solutions. No one can know the mind of God? But we do know the work of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though He dies.”3Tyler is celebrating Easter: Life! Life with no encumbrances. Life as the unmediated enjoyment of God’s presence.

The One who holds the keys to the heavenly mansion says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”4 The place prepared for Tyler Lange is now occupied. Thanks be to God!

Deanne, Andrew, Ebony, Ashlee; may God Almighty wrap you in His strong but gentle love until the day of your reunion with Ty. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Tyler Shane Lange
26 May 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 14:2
2 Revelation 3:11
3 John 11:25
4 John 14:1-2