Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Phyllis Klose Funeral (March 14, 2017)

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

Text: John 11:25
Theme: Life After Death

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Phyllis, and especially you, Leone, her daughter,

God receives back His own. He takes them home. Perhaps it’s never perfect timing for us. We’d like just one more day or one more opportunity to spend time or say goodbye. God doesn’t ask for our permission. His simply asks that we trust that He knows best. Not that we should lightly pass over the significance of that request. Death is an ominous and confronting reality. It’s more than we can manage with just our intellect or emotions. It requires the Holy Spirit. God has received Phyllis Klose to Himself. Specifically, that means her soul is in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saints and angels. Thanks be to God for the compassionate embrace of His love!

Like all believers, God has been preparing Phyllis for her reception into heaven for some time. Phyliss’s confirmation text was from Second Corinthians, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”1

How absolutely marvelous is that! Mortality will be swallowed up by life! Mortality is characterized by limitations. It is marked by decay, by injury, and finally, complete incapacitation. To be mortal is to be subject to obsolescence. Our bodies and minds have an end point at which they are no long able to function. Mortality implies eventual death. As Christians, we understand that sin is the cause of mortality. Adam and Eve were created to live forever. Disobedience brought spiritual, then physical death. It’s a curse we have all inherited. That’s why every contemplation of the meaning of death is also a call to repentance.

But Christ has intervened in this inexorable march towards the final demise. This vortex of darkness that draws all frail beings clinging to life into its abyss has met a superior power. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.2 He says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you…I will come back and take you to be with Me.3 Again, He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though He dies.”4 Christ died and rose again for Phyllis. He died and rose again for you. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”5

Phyllis lived a long and full life. She persevered through the challenges of running the Malpas store, Post Office, and telephone exchange during both droughts and successful years of farming in the Mallee. She excelled at these vocations while being a faithful wife and devoted mother of three. She witnessed the death of two of her children, something that particularly taxes the heart and soul. Yet her trust did not waver. God’s will was best and through His grace she came to terms with it. Phyllis also witnessed many changes during her lifetime. Horses gave way to tractors. Party-line telephones gave way to mobiles. Daily cooking went from the fire to the microwave. Expectations and roles within society changed too. She lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War. Through it all Phyliss clung to the unchanging nature of God’s love in Christ. She worshipped regularly in His house. She received the blessing of holy communion. She supported the work of His kingdom.

In the era in which she was born Phyliss could be considered to be a miracle baby. The most important recognition of her fragility was the prompt manner in which she was baptized. This precious gift from God would not be taken for granted. Aurthur and Anna believed she belonged to Him. And indeed, she does! She’s only been on loan. The Holy Spirit made a covenant with Phyllis in her baptism and He has now made good on that promise. Baptism entails not only the forgiveness of sins at the time it is administered, but also the security of an eternal inheritance. In baptism, we are adopted into the family of Christ and benefit from all the heavenly treasures He possesses.

The experience of being without sin, of being freed from the consequences of mortality is so hard to describe the Bible typically explains it by mentioning those things that will not exist. For instance, recall those words we heard earlier, “He[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”6 There will be nothing in heaven to detract from our continual enjoyment of God’s presence. We will suffer from no illness or anxiety. We won’t ever get bored. No one will do harm to another.

But there’s no use us speculating on the specific experience of heaven. We are wise simply to employ the biblical language. God promises that those who die in faith are at rest. He promises they receive the crown of eternal life. Phyllis now knows what that means. Leone, find comfort in these promises of God, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”7 And, “He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.”8 Phyllis has been gathered into the fold. She is safely in His eternal refuge awaiting the great and glorious day of the resurrection of all flesh. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Phyllis Marie Klose
14 March 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, 4
2 John 5:26
3 John 14:2-3
4 John 11:25
5 John 3:16
6 Revelation 21:4
7Psalm 116:15
8Isaiah 40:11

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Second Sunday In Lent (A) 2017

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

Text: John 3:5-6
Theme: Water and New Birth

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God has no peers. Any claim to see or understand things on His level is complete deception, a symptom of idolatry. We are all foolish in comparison to the Almighty. Yet God reveals Himself to fools. Nicodemus was one such ‘fool’. Nicodemus was surprised. He was confused. He was a member of the Jewish ruling council and yet he couldn’t come to terms with the teachings of this itinerant rabbi named Jesus. How could participation in God’s kingdom involve such passive reception? How could the dilemma of sin be rectified without the contribution of the sinner?

Lent is a season in which we seek to understand sin better so that the love of God might shine that much more vividly. Lent doesn’t issue any free passes. The road of repentance is arduous. Jesus spoke of carrying the cross daily. We are never free from temptations to sin. We are never excused from the selfish actions that hurt others. No perfection exists here; in our persons or in our communities. Penitence is always relevant. The traditional denials of Lent- the practice of ‘giving up’ things should never be construed as a means ‘appeasing’ God. As if it were permissible to live like the prodigal son most of the year but then make atonement during this one season where it’s more fashionable to acknowledge that we are sinners.

All events that are observed annually become associated with their own rituals. Rituals lend order to observance. But traditions and customs must continually be reviewed lest they end up communicating and teaching exactly the opposite of their intent. For example, the Christian church has for a long time had a custom of foregoing hallelujahs during Lent. Christ is risen; He is living. Yet, the living Christ is also the crucified Christ. Apart from this sacrifice we have no access to the Father. The omission of hallelujahs soberly reminds us of this redemptive act. Yet, the idea is not to restrict joy but to underpin it with a deeper foundation and fertilise it so that it may bloom all the more gloriously when we arrive at Easter. When we ‘give up’ things for Lent the proper motivation is that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”1, not because we believe we are making compensation for our sins.

The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus today revolves not only around salvation generally, but baptism particularly. “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”2 These words of Jesus underscore the significance of baptism. It’s not merely an outward ritual with a spiritual meaning. It is a means by which God regenerates- that is, brings people from unbelief to faith, from darkness to light. Here also is where we get the terminology of being born again. Rebirth is a passive activity. The newborn benefits from the efforts of another. The same is true for our spiritual rebirth in baptism, the Holy Spirit brings it to pass and we have new life.

Jesus was tested in the wilderness immediately after His baptism. His baptism, along with all His redemptive work, is what gives our baptisms power. Baptism is no false economy. It's not an investment with diminishing returns. That is, it doesn't claim to put us in God's good graces initially but then fail to carry us through the temptations of life. It doesn't promise what it can't deliver. You are baptized for life and for eternity. It's a simple sacrament of water and word, but it is God's word, His promise. His word silences Satan. His word reconciles sinners. His word breathes new life. His word is the first word, the last word, the eternal word.

In your baptismal identification with Christ you are both cleansed from sin and also removed from the grip of its power. The saving work of Jesus involves both crucifying the sin within the sinner and removing the sinner from the dominion of darkness. The addict must undergo "detox", something which is suffered passively, and be shielded from external temptation. This is the power of baptism. We don’t have the strength or willpower to give up our selfish ways. The Holy Spirit must slay our sinful natures and breathe new life into us. He must cleanse our filthy souls and clothe us with the righteousness of Christ.

Jesus’ act of atonement was all-encompassing. It was universal. It left no transgressions hanging in the balance. It was sufficient for even the most reprobate sinner. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.”3 Not a single person of the human race past, present, or future is excluded. His sacrifice was more than adequate to atone for the sins of all. He freely bestows His mercy on all who believe. “For our sake He made Him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”4 In Christ we are righteous; holy, blameless, loved and cherished.

The promise God made to Abraham is the same promise He makes to us: Salvation is by grace. There aren’t any qualifications we need to have or thresholds we have to meet. Hear again the Scripture that says, “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by the law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless.”5 You see, the one excludes the other. The moment other qualifications are needed for the “salvation checklist” then grace has been nullified. God is as good as His promise. He if full of grace, mercy, and compassion. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”6

Not only has Christ died, risen, and ascended for you, He also intercedes before the Father’s throne. He sends you His Holy Spirit. He feeds you with His very own body and blood in Holy Communion. He is preparing your place that was secured from eternity. He gives you the privilege of serving others. Like the stars in the night sky He sets you out to shine brightly in a dark world. We can invest everything in the well-being of others because Christ has invested everything in us.

God has no peers. But the Spirit has children; believers born of water and the word. Christ has no equals, but He has sons and daughters; true children of Abraham. The journey of Lent is not a linear journey from point A to point B. It is a trek from the baptismal font to the communion rail and back again. In the power of baptism we depart from our dark and selfish selves- through honest remorse over our sins- and we step into the light of Christ’s presence through the forgiveness He offers. Nicodemus came by cover of darkness to query Jesus full of doubt and uncertainty. He arrived at the cross buoyed by the promise that life really was found in this Jesus. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday in Lent
12 March, 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Acts 20:35
2 John 3:5
3 John 3:16
4 2 Corinthians 5:21
5 Romans 4:13-14
6 John 3:17