Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday 2017

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

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:21
Theme: Mortality and Resurrection

Dear Sojourners to the Cross,

This bowl contains a small pile of ash. This is what your physical life will come to. There is no escaping it. There are no exceptions. I’m not talking about a decision you may or may not make one day to be cremated. Can you picture this for yourself? On this Ash Wednesday, as we begin the Lenten season, we are scripturally-bound to consider what this symbolizes for our existence. “For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”1 Our conception has been corrupted by sin, and the consequence of sin will run its course, but sin will not win the day. Christ will bring us to a different conclusion. Lent is all about facing the reality of sin head-on so that our transitory lives may find permanence. You cannot excuse yourself from this confrontation. To do so is to divorce yourself from Christ. Facing sin head-on is the activity of repentance. Repentance is the only type of change that leads to permanence.

We live in a society that relishes change, but craves stability. We are always wanting something new, something different, something fresh, something on the cutting edge. Yet at the same time we must have the security of permanence and things that do not change. Only in Christ can both be attained. God the Father spoke and matter came into existence. Adam sinned and that existence became temporary. Christ became incarnate and temporal things were invested with everlasting status. Repentance involves repudiation of the transient self, and trust in the permanent Christ.

No amount of coercing, exhorting, demanding, commanding, condemning, or accusing can force a person into true repentance. The hardened heart cannot be softened with a thousand blows of an iron sledge. This work is the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word alone. When one truly knows what sin is, he knows also if he is truly sorry for his sin, despite what the evidence might show. Contrition, sorrow for sin, can be contrived even to the point of self-deception. Its authenticity is, of course, then not recognized by God. And then despite all outward actions, the heart remains unchanged. But a changed heart must have a new master. That new Master is the Suffering Servant. He first takes rule of our hearts from the cross.

In the forgiveness of our sins, we understand the reality of sin for what it is. A healthy doctor does not fully understand what cancer is by studying it. One understands the potency of cancer by having it and being cured of it. Faith is the medium by which reality is viewed as God says it exists. Reality is this: “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”2 Reality is this: “All of [us] who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.”3 In Lent, repentance is revealed as the reality of Christian life. Christ is not the physician who cures sin with the tools available to Him. Jesus endured the cancer. The sin was piled on Him. One day He will cure us all from the cancer of sin. He is the resurrected and living Lord.

Repentance never ends in despair, but always presses on to hope. Contrition crucifies, forgiveness vivifies. Sorrow over our utter failure is dispelled by our receiving of utterly serendipitous grace. We delight in being something that, in and of ourselves we are not: blameless objects of Christ’s devotion. This is no longer pretence. It is the way of the cross. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.”4 The Holy Spirit is the initiator of repentance, but as in all things, the Lord Jesus Christ is the finisher. In Christ, the baptized are buried, the dead are raised, the faithful are glorified. In Christ, ashes are immortalized. In immortality we will experience a constant newness, it involves participation in the very glory of God. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Ash Wednesday
1 March, 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Genesis 3:19
2 2 Corinthians 5:19
3 Romans 6:3
4 John 20:30

Monday, February 27, 2017

Transfiguration of our Lord (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 17:1-21
Theme: Something More Than Meets The Eye

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

There was more to Jesus “than meets the eye”. Epiphany means revelation, so the event of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain is a fitting focus for this last Sunday of the Epiphany season. The contrast of Lent lies before us. A privileged glimpse, for a select few, of the glory of the divine Son of God will soon be replaced by the horrifying spectacle of the crucifixion. Could those disciples, who were overcome with His majesty, have believed they were about to witness the atrocity of the cross? These were challenging times. On the Mount of Transfiguration Peter wanted to linger. Before reaching mount Calvary he fled.

Peter's contrasting reactions are a microcosm of human nature. We gravitate more easily to a God of power putting His magnificence on display. A Saviour suffering the fate of a common criminal is another story. How exhilarating it would have been to witness Christ in blazing glory! The privileged trio, Peter, James, and John, were overcome. It would have been no different for us. A God who flexes His muscles in the face of adversity is one who appeals to our human nature. Might makes right. The Holy Spirit is required for us to see a different side of God, a side we don't naturally want to be associated with. Christ was ridiculed and He endured it without retaliation. He was persecuted and did not strike back.

St. Peter tells us in his first letter that he relates an eyewitness account of the transfiguration. He was there. He heard the voice of the Father commending Jesus as His beloved Son. He has recorded it for posterity. The integrity of the Scriptures depends on the historical reality of the events of Jesus' life. The Bible is not a collection of human opinions or perspectives on moral or religious matters. It is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. It is God's own word. Its contents and purpose have been validated by Jesus' incarnation, His life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. Certainly, the Bible has much to say about morality, civility, and proper focus and goals for humanity; we're not meant to chart our own course and just figure things out as we go along. Christ is the centre. He is the head of all things. The unbending parameters of God for our lives are not ends in themselves. He doesn't restrict us simply for His own pleasure, His laws and commands serve our well-being.

Today, the disciples felt unworthy in the presence of the divinity. We share their concern. We are sinners who cannot extricate ourselves from the consequences of sin. The condemnation of sin is no trivial matter. It carries the weight of death and hell. It merits separation from the God who creates and redeems. We can make excuses for our lies, our selfishness, our capitulation to the ways of the world, but none are valid before God. And none should soothe our consciences either. Knowledge of our sins should send us running, sprinting, in heartfelt repentance, to the Saviour whose work alone merits forgiveness.

Genuine repentance is the Spirit’s work. Remember, your repentance is not subject to anonymity before God. He does not hear confession in ignorance. You can't fly in under the radar or go incognito. Nor are there any group confessions. The woman who touched the fringe of His robe could not be healed anonymously. God knows us intimately. He hears you as His baptized child and He responds in accordance with the baptismal promise. He doesn't treat you generically. Your name is written in the palms of His hands. He says, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”1

Dear friends, today’s glimpse of Jesus’ majesty is a preview of the future. But it shouldn’t give us the wrong idea about Him. The glory of Christ is in His suffering. That is the only access we have to Him now. This Lord of the mountain, Suffering Servant, and glorious King comes down from the mountain to meet us here in the valley. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”2 He meets us in the bread and wine, serving us with His body and blood. In Holy Communion we receive the forgiveness earned at the cross and are buoyed by the promise of resurrection glory. He died for your sins and He has risen again to give you life.

Peter, James, and John could have hardly guessed what they would witness that day. The details of our future experiences in this life- the joys and traumas, the accomplishments and failures- are not transparent to our knowledge. God restricts this information for our own good. Though all the days ordained for us are written in His book3, it's not an open book. Only He knows the details. Only He foresees the future. Attempts to peer into the future through the fashionable occult practices of our age only tempt God and dabble in Satan's schemes.

Sometimes we make life more complicated than it needs to be. We engage in overly dramatic responses to situations and events that should be handled with sanctified common sense and godly wisdom. Sometimes we do this because we want to indulge our sense of being treated unfairly, especially by those who are closest to us. We should remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. We don't need to contrive theatrics in hope that God notices us. We can be transparent. The Holy Spirit promises there is not one detail of our lives that God is unconcerned about.

By the time of the transfiguration the disciples had already seen Jesus perform many miracles. They were eyewitnesses to His power over sickness, nature, Satan, and death. Some miracles were low key, others were dramatic. All served the same purpose, to reveal that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Still, the transfiguration knocked them flat. It was more than they could take in. The same is true for believers today. Mature Christians have also witnessed many miracles. Some seem low key, the daily blessings and graces that preserve us in time of struggle and doubt. Other miracles are more dramatic; escape from near certain death in an accident, recovery from terminal illness, the mending of bodies, souls, and relationships when it seems impossible. The same Redeemer is at work now as was then. Perhaps we don't recognise God's providence and power for what it is? But the eyes of faith see His presence. The universe is not a random collection of atoms that is somehow self-organized. God is in control. And greater things than even the eyes of faith can see await us. The glory that is in store for us far exceeds anything that we can now imagine. We believe in "the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."4 There is more to Jesus than meets the eye. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Transfiguration of our Lord
26 February, 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Isaiah 43:25
2 Psalm 23:4
3 See Psalm 139:16
4 The Nicene Creed