Monday, June 26, 2017

Third Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

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

Text: Matthew 10:28
Theme: Love Drives Out Fear

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is fair. But we can never understand how that is true from mere observation. One person suffers terrible tragedy, while others seem to prosper in all they do. How is that fair? We can’t pretend to answer that question. We understand how cause and affect works for many things. If I live recklessly I will be in danger. If I take due care, usually I’ll be in a safe situation. Still, there are greater forces at work and only God understands them. Part and parcel with our faith in Christ and His redeeming love, is trust that God’s providence also oversees our temporal lives. Even when evil seems to prevail, God works goodness.

Of course, we easily get caught basing our expectations of God on our experience with human interaction. The Holy Spirit is not prone to human failure. Impartiality in human affairs will never exist. It is an honourable quest, no doubt. Still, any hope of achieving it is misguided. Fairness is impossible in a fallen world. Sin prevents it…. Sin introduced chaos into God’s orderly creation. A mindset of disobedience brings strife even into the best situations. People often query how a good God could let bad things happen. But it’s better to consider how anything good happens at all. We shouldn’t assume good, gracious, healthy and wholesome things will just occur automatically. They only do because of God’s patient will and persistent intervention. The lone sparrow does not fall to the ground without the Father noticing. Think of what that means for God’s attentiveness to us.

God is just. Only the crucifixion can teach how He is gracious at the very same time. Jesus’ words today are serious and sobering. He speaks of bringing division and not peace to the world. He warns against idolizing family and teaches about bearing the cross. Christianity does not allow for divided loyalties. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 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.”1

How does it happen that we build our lives on so many false assumptions? Fear drives so many behaviors. Many of them are destructive. Many things we fear don’t even materialize. Christ tells us not to worry for good reason. Sinners see what they want to see. It’s in our nature. But the Holy Spirit equips us with eyes of faith and He constantly adjusts our prescriptions. That involves realigning our priorities. We shouldn’t fear those who have little real power over us, but Him who has the ultimate power.

Christians have a proper fear of God’s holiness, His presence, and His word. Reverence, awe, and respect should characterize our disposition towards Him who created the universe, judges, and redeems it. We should be comfortable with God, but not flippant. We should be at home in His house, but not disrespectful. We can be familiar without being irreverent. We can be conversant without being discourteous. There must always be space in our piety for God’s majesty and His complete sovereignty. We should pray constantly for His blessing, but we cannot prescribe the time and manner of His intervention. But we should never doubt that His love is absolutely incontrovertible. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”2

Only in His strength can we bear our crosses. It’s been nearly 500 years- it was June 25th, 1530 to be exact- that our Lutheran forefathers made a courageous stand for the Christian faith. They put their integrity, their livelihoods, and their lives on the line in order to cling to the truth. They took seriously the words of our Lord here in Matthew, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”3

They were champions of the truth and tireless advocates of the gospel. They led a worldwide reformation. Yet, their concerns are mostly out of fashion again. We venerate trend-setters and lavish praise on athletes and Hollywood stars easily forgetting that their personal lives are often very poor examples to those who would be their apprentices. We lift them up as champions of society when often they are building their own kingdoms.

Truly great champions are those who persevere in their daily vocations and do it with integrity. Those who persevere not for selfish gain, materialism, or recognition, but for the wellbeing of others. Such achievements cannot be made without the Holy Spirit. In spite of the mixed (the seeking of self-glory) motives of frail humans, God still accomplishes most of His work in this steady humble way, and not in showy and grand gestures. The Pharisees loved to stand on the street corners and pray ostentatiously,4 while believers are told to pray modestly and humbly.

Making good on promises has fallen on hard times lately. Think how many laws, rules, and regulations are established because people do not readily keep their promises in family or community, personal or professional life. Litigation is at an all-time high and the legal system is overwhelmed. More significant yet is the breakdown of dependability in personal relationships. The health of marriages and families is a direct indicator of the health of communities. (In a few moments Rodney and Laurel will be making a serious promise before God and to one another. It’s a promise that relies on God’s strength and compassion to maintain.)

We have a God who keeps His promises. He set the rainbow in the sky as a reminder He wouldn’t again flood the earth in judgment. He had something more radical in mind. He hung His Son upon a cross and so fulfilled His covenant with humanity. He didn’t offer an insufficient way to redeem us. He promised Sarah would have a son and she did. He promised David would have an heir to his throne and he did. He promised to rise again on third day, and He did. And He makes a promise to you in baptism.

You are baptized into the death of Christ. Your sinful nature was crucified with Him. Sin’s ultimate power in you has been broken. Christ has overcome it. The Scripture says, “The death He died, He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”5 This core truth of Christianity changes everything. We are reconciled to God. The holy God who cannot tolerate sinners in His presence now becomes the friend of sinners. His favour rests upon us. John says, “Perfect love drives out fear.”6 Christ is perfect love. Furthermore, believers are no longer held captive to the world view that this life is an end in itself. There is something more, much more! The Father was ‘unfair’ to His own Son so that we can enjoy His blessings eternally. You are worth more than many sparrows! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
25 June 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 10:28-31
2 Romans 5:8
3 Matthew 10:32-33
4 See Matthew 6:5
5 Romans 6:10-11
6 1 John 4:18