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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Easter (A) 2017

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

Text: Acts 17:22-33
Theme: Mute Idols And the Speaking God

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

During his missionary ventures, St Paul visited Athens, Greece. It was still one of the world's intellectual centres at the time. Not coincidentally, he secured an audience with those who gathered at the Areopagus. It was the venue for philosophical discussion. The city, like most of the world in that era, was not short on religious devotees. Paul likely visited the Parthenon where the goddess Athena was worshipped, in addition to the temple of Rome and Augustus. Many at the time believed their fate was in the hands of the pagan gods, whom they needed to appease to gain their favour. The gods were perceived to be short-tempered, unpredictable, and often contradictory in their demands.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”1 Paul's reference to the altar dedicated to an unknown god was his opening to introduce the identity of the true God: The Christ who came in flesh and blood. Paul was preaching to them about Jesus and the resurrection. To the Athenians, these were strange new teachings. It was certainly an affront to their idols.

Every age has its idols. Ours is no exception. Some idols are perennial favourites. Money is always near the top of the list. Greed is still a common vice. The Scripture says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”2 Jesus Himself said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."3

Devotion to sports often gets top billing today. Good competition is healthy, and athletic pursuits of achievement are honourable. But think of the hope invested in victory and the anguish of defeat experienced by so many! Some struggle to find meaning and purpose in life if sporting heroes or dreams fail them. Responsibilities to family and society are pushed aside and God certainly doesn’t get a look in. Many other examples such as work, pleasure, or reputation, could be added to the list.

We won’t find public altars built to unknown idols among us today. But the idolatry enthroned within the heart is no different. The word of God speaks to us with the same message. Paul continued saying, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”4 There is a reason the First Commandment has primacy. When it’s disregarded both the internal and external ordering of life breaks down. Civility can still hold sway, but only while people still find meaning in life. Otherwise, restraint is necessary. It’s little wonder so many in our society are caught in cycles of addiction, depression, and despair? It’s not just a matter of lack of self-control. A deeper crisis is evident. Missing hope for the future, needing inspiration for the present, lacking meaning for daily living, people turn to destructive behaviors that get them through the moment. The cost is high.

One of the great challenges of pagan idolatry was that you could seldom be certain where you stood with the gods. There was always a price to secure their favour. But the true God is not a selfish and heartless idol. We know where we stand with Him. God's grace in Christ comes with no strings attached. There are no prerequisites to qualify us for His mercy. The Father finds nothing desirable in us, but He finds His Son faithful. He is not drawn to our goodness, but He is accepting of Christ's righteousness. He's not impressed with our obedience, but He's glorified in Christ's sacrifice. He supplies all that we lack.

The love of God does not fade, it does not tire, it does not get bored. God's passion for us never loses its vibrancy. When we go astray He searches for us with the diligence of a shepherd looking for lost sheep. When spiritual sickness attacks our souls, He tends to us like a physician treating a dying patient. When we are under duress from Satan's temptations, He protects us like a soldier defending a helpless child. The pagan idols were believed to have done none of these things. Christ says, “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.”5

Dear friends, the precious blood of Christ was spilled for you. The crown was fitted. The nails were driven. The cross was lifted…for YOU! He stayed only a Sabbath’s rest in the grave that you might have life in heaven for eternity. You don’t need to rely on any of your own holiness because His is more than enough. We are saved by grace, through faith. You are His baptized and you are fed with His heavenly mana. The apostle says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”6

Thursday marks the day of Christ’s bodily ascension to the Father’s right hand. Jesus said to His nervous disciples, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”7 What magnificent assurance! He speaks that to you in your time of need, your time of darkness, your time of doubt. You will not be orphaned. Tuck that away in your heart. Etch it on your mind. The problem with getting too comfortable with only our favourite verses of Scripture is that we can become complacent. But, you will inevitably find more fabulous expressions of God’s promises. Don’t jettison the old ones, just add more.

Take God at His word. He is trustworthy. Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”8 Faith is not an inanimate object. Faith cannot exist without the operative power of the Holy Spirit. The believing person is the person within whom the Spirit is living. Christ lived among sinners and the Holy Spirit lives within them. He lives within believers as the bearer of truth. Christians do not have the Spirit as some generic "lifeforce". He makes known the Son so that we might know the Father as well. These are mind-blowing facts. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the first creation and gave you new life in the waters of baptism dwells in you now. The same Jesus who received Stephen at his stoning and the thief on the cross in his dying hour receives you. He will welcome you when mortality has run its course because He has already received you. He will raise you bodily from the grave, not as a new miracle, but as a continuation of His victory over death. The apostle’s good news for the people of Athens is good news for us too. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Sixth Sunday of Easter
21 May 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Acts 17:22-23
2 1 Timothy 6:10
3 Luke 12:15
4 Acts 17:30-31
5 Matthew 10:29-31
6 Romans 8:38-39
7 John 14:18
8 Hebrews 12:2