+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Theme: Kingdom Parables
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Jesus said, “This is how it will be at the end of the age.”1 He said it in the context of teaching parables. The reality we now experience will undergo radical transformation at the coming of Christ in glory. But the seeds are already being sown and bearing fruit. The leaven of God’s grace is already working through the dough. The parables are all emphasising the same truths. The kingdom of God cannot be presented in a single analogy. The parables of the hidden treasure and the valuable pearl teach the incomparableness of God's kingdom. His love is so deep and His grace so profound they exceed all earthy points of comparison. God Himself gives up His very own Son so that He may possess us as His treasure. Just as God Himself remains incomprehensible, the scope of His kingdom is beyond our grasp. But the Holy Spirit gives us images, insights, and understandings.
Looking forward to the restoration of all things is part of Christina hope. In heaven, all relationships will be reconciled. All creation will be in complete harmony with God. When we reflect upon the astounding richness of life on our planet, it shouldn't be hard to picture a heavenly paradise that's even more vibrant. The Almighty's creation has been subject to decay since the Fall, and still, it's a magnificent tapestry of colour, coordination, and communication. And as technology, and the means of studying things become more proficient and precise, we're finding the universe (from the very large to the very small) to be more mind-boggling than ever. The conviction that the universe is self-organised, a result of random forces, becomes less convincing with every discovery that is made. The more we learn, the more evidence accumulates that points to a purposeful Creator. This should not be a surprise for Christians. We believe that God is the Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
The God who created us is more than capable of providing for us. That is why Jesus comforts us saying, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”2 Seeking the kingdom always involves seeking truth. Jesus tells us to seek righteousness. Like yeast in bread God transforms us from the inside. Genuine repentance means the heart is mended first and our actions follow.
Good intentions do not necessarily lead to godly outcomes. The old adage is: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." The will of God always takes precedence over the rules of men. Constructing our own truths will not only fail to resolve the issues that trouble us, it will invite the judgment of God.
Seeking the righteousness of God is not a pie-in-the-sky platitude. It involves struggling with the leaven of forgiveness in our relationships. If God has forgiven a sin, who are we to retain it? By what authority can we hold a grudge against a repentant person when God has commanded us to forgive? Do we not at the same time make a plea and a promise when we pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?" Do we sit in the judgment seat of God? The question is rhetorical. Of course, the command to forgive and the transformation of the heart are not one and the same. The wounded heart does not easily warm again to the one who caused injury. Repeated offences leave deeper scars. Our selfish natures want revenge, not pardon. We want our pound of flesh.
Dear friends, people who cannot come to terms with the possibility that the grace of God in Christ can and does extend even to the most degenerate sinner, unwittingly exclude themselves from the purview of God’s forgiveness. We are each accountable to the Almighty and none of us is a position to quantitate the transgressions of others. We cannot restrict the forgiveness of God to those we deem undeserving. Do we falsely think it’s easy to remain spiritually humble? The sins of greed, or lust, or selfishness might seem easy to recognize within ourselves. But do we think we can judge someone’s repentance more accurately than God can? Thanks be to God that He has placed all judgment into the hands of His Son! Only in Him can justice and mercy be kept.
We can be pressed very hard in the struggles of life. The temptation is always there to give up or give in. We may become fatigued with unreconciled relationships or resentful about hardships or missed opportunities. Yet the Christian is never without hope. The parables teach us God is at work. Christ is hardly out of resources, determination, or ability. He is faithful to us because He is true to Himself. His love does not fail. It could hardly be proclaimed any more passionately than Paul does today in his letter to the Christians in Rome, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”3
When Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”4 He wasn’t speaking in riddles. He wasn’t illustrating a parable. In the most graphic, forthright, and tangible way possible He was making it clear that His death was a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. The message of the cross does not lend itself to speculation. In the end, it is either ridiculed as foolish idealism or believed as the one necessary and complete act of salvation. Many great plans in the history of the world have ended up being all talk and no action. It’s not the case with our Saviour who walked out of the grave defying death’s power. He has been given all power to intercede for His church and to rule it with love.
Our gathering here is a fellowship in that love. Here we share in the holy blessings of God. We do it in reality and in truth. We are real sinners meeting with the living God. Our sins can only be crucified by Him who was crucified for all. We’re not here to discuss theories about parables. We’re in the kingdom of light and truth and hope. Think of the blessings we receive in this place: the forgiveness of sins, heavenly mana, and the strength to live the baptismal life! The action of receiving holy communion is an act of proclamation of the sacrificial work of Christ. The apostle says, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”5 This meal is not only a remembrance of an event, it is a participation in the life of God. In Christ shadows become substance and parables become reality. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
23 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Matthew 13:49
2 Matthew 6:31-33
3 Romans 8:38-39
4 Luke 23:34
5 1 Corinthians 11:27