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