Sunday, April 30, 2017

Third Sunday of Easter (A) 2017

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

Text: Luke 24:25-27
Theme: Knowledge, Faith, Sight

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

The rebuke was firm, but compassionate. The risen Jesus spoke to those who were confused and disillusioned about His death, saying, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”1 By “Scriptures”, Jesus meant the Old Testament. The God who created in the beginning was the same God who sent His Son to redeem that fallen creation. Jesus set about explaining how He had accomplished that through what many believed was His tragic and premature death.

Imagine what an amazing time of instruction it was! The resurrected Lord Jesus opened the meaning of the Scriptures to them. The Teacher taught of Himself. It wasn’t ego-tripping. It was a rare opportunity to learn divine things from the Holy One. The Divinity taught the way of holiness. The Man taught the way of godliness. God taught the way of “manliness.” The new Adam taught the daughters of Eve, long in the tooth of sin. The new Adam taught those born in the likeness of Seth2.

Dear friends, Christ still teaches. He speaks. We are here every Sunday because The Holy Spirit opens the Scriptures to us. He can and does do this because Jesus has broken the hold of darkness. Jesus says, “These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”3 Where the Scripture is proclaimed Christ still speaks. He opens minds and hearts. He closes the book on all things needed to accomplish our salvation.

And what does Jesus teach? He teaches truth and love. That sounds simple. But, remember, sinners are masterful accomplices of twisting, distorting, ignoring, or rephrasing what they don’t want to hear. If we don’t believe this is true, especially about ourselves, then we have a dangerously inadequate understanding of the nature of sin and thus, our need for grace. We are not easily taught. Making us receptive, is itself, part of the Spirit’s work.

Perhaps the most misunderstood teaching in the entire Bible is that of love? God’s love is broad, deep and all embracing. But it is not open to reshaping based on human opinion. The misapplication and misunderstanding of God’s love tends towards license on the one hand and legalism on the other. Both are perversions of biblical truth. There is no contradiction between love and truth. In other words, that which is true about God, His intentions, and His will never stands in contrast to the expression of His love. Christ did not love us by simply ignoring our transgressions against Him. He endured the punishment that was due us. God’s commands are an expression of His will. He wills that we have stability and wellbeing. In a fallen world that requires concrete parameters. Even in judgment God is expressing His love for sinners by calling them to repentance. When we are being chastised we only feel God’s anger. It must be that way so that we are receptive to His grace. The Scripture says God, “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”4 God’s proper work is to show us His grace; His love.

Biblical love, divine love is not tolerance, lenience, or apathy. God doesn’t say, “I prefer that you don’t lie to me or to one another, but if you do, it doesn’t really matter.” It does matter. God calls us to account for breaking His will. The infraction must be resolved. But we’re not able to atone for our transgressions. The love of God to the sinner is then expressed in forgiveness, not tolerance or apathy. Christ pays the debt. He makes reparations. Think of Peter’s words today, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”5 It’s never okay to sin because we believe God doesn’t care and will just indifferently ignore (“forgive”) our sin. That belief undermines the value of Christ’s sacrifice.

On the other hand, biblical love is not legalism. It doesn’t entail checking off a list of requirements regardless of the right attitude of the heart. External actions properly performed cannot bring us the assurance that we have obtained or are walking in God’s love. We might be running, standing, sitting, or lying down in the presence of God, but the believing heart is always kneeling. That heart-posture is the work of the Holy Spirit. Legalism essentially involves trusting in our own obedience to God, rather than in Christ. Even our repentance doesn’t earn forgiveness from God.

The Bible says God is love.6 But, this love is not nebulous, esoteric, inaccessible, or theoretical. Christianity is not about mere speculation about a powerful and holy, but distant Deity. Christianity is incarnational. God exists in the person of Jesus in our dimension of time and space. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”7 He still stands as the bearer of peace among us. Christ’s ascension doesn’t mean He has left and now rules in absentsia through the Holy Spirit, like an absentee landlord. Christ retains His physical nature, including His scars, even in heaven, but is accessible to us now through His word and sacraments.

God’s love is concrete. It is manifest in the daily provision He gives us, but, more importantly, in the self-revelation of His Son. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, when Christ says you are absolved, then your sins are truly wiped away. You are reconciled to the heavenly Father. You have the consolation of the Holy Spirit. There are no conditions or obligations to be met. You are restored. You are His baptized. You are fed with the Lamb of God Himself, His body and blood.

Understanding the concreteness of God’s love to us in Christ has direct bearing on how we relate to others. The Ten Commandments are not burdens weighing down our consciences but rather the framework for living out our faith in our daily vocations. We are the arms, legs, hands, and feet of Christ to others. We are ambassadors of His word and His presence. Jesus immediately began teaching on that first Easter Sunday. He still does. The Bible never imparts to us merely trivial or academic information. God’s word extends to us the blessings of the Word-become-flesh, the Immanuel. The Saviour who was born in a manger was also nailed to a cross, laid in a tomb, and has now risen from the dead. He is the living God. Amen.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Easter
30 April, 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 24:25-27
2 See Genesis 5:3
3 Revelation 3:7
4 Hebrews 12:10
5 1 Peter 1:18-19
6 See 1 John 4:4
7 John 1:14
8Hebrews 9:26