Monday, March 5, 2018

Third Sunday in Lent (B) 2018

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

Text: Exodus 20:1
Theme: He is OUR God!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God. Etched in stone (twice) they were given through Moses. These decrees of God do not come without context, however. They are not arbitrary regulations of a jealous and short-sighted Deity. The prologue of God’s directives through Moses is important., who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”1 In other words, there’s already history between God and His people. God initiated the relationship in the beginning and now He’s renewing it in dramatic fashion. He is a God who rescues, saves, and redeems.

So, God speaks to His people in love. Believers are redeemed, but we still live in a fallen world. Remember, when it comes to your propensity to sin, it’s not likely you are exceptional or special. The commandments weren’t written because you’re the only one whose mind gets flooded with lust, heart gets overcome with greed, conscience gets overwhelmed with worry, or whose will is stubbornly arrogant and self-centred. God has seen it all. Opportunities to participate in ungodliness take on a new look with every new technology that comes along, but the motivations of the human heart remain unchanged. We are conceived in sin and without God’s intervention would continue along that trajectory.

Don’t think for a moment, though, that you can achieve anonymity by morphing into the crowd or blending into the multitudes. Comparison to others is an age-old way to alleviate guilt. The refuge of comparison is a popular one. Yet, any pacification of the conscience is hollow. Just because you feel you’re meeting society’s standard of morality doesn’t excuse your guilt before God. Repentance that involves shifting the blame is not weighted with true contrition. The Holy Spirit breathes fresh air into the life of the soul that is truly penitent. When we try to hide our sins, we’re just playing games with God.

It’s important to remember that God has not given us the Ten Commandments to restrict our enjoyment of life. Again, they are not arbitrary rules, nor are they obsolete. The Ten Commandments are the parameters of God’s will for our wellbeing. They are perfect guidelines of love. We can only be certain that our attitudes, words, and actions are godly when they are within these dynamics of love. Still, even our best efforts fall short of God’s standard of holiness. There is no ‘close enough’ when it comes to following God’s will. Willful disregard of God’s will is certain to have consequences. We require forgiveness and restoration.

Christ meets our need in two important ways. Firstly, He kept all of God’s law perfectly and He credits His fulfilling of the law to believers. Secondly, He makes payment for our sins by offering His own life in sacrifice in place of ours. This is the core truth of our faith, and it is expressed in many ways throughout the Scriptures. St. Paul writes today, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”2 The apostle calls God’s saving work foolishness to the perishing. That is, it is illogical and unintelligible to the unbelieving mind.

But in what way is it illogical? While anyone can grasp the basic concepts of love and even sacrifice, and most can understand the martyrdom of someone for a cause, it’s impossible for the human mind, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, to appreciate what grace really means. The gospel is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It will always be counter-cultural because it doesn’t originate from humans but from God. It doesn’t matter if there are a million different cultures that change countless times over the course of human history, the gospel will never be innately understood. It must be proclaimed, taught and received as a gift. It is the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel isn’t just an abstract decree of God, though. Jesus said today, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”3 It was a provocative statement, and, in the minds of the Jews, arrogant, They have a logical response, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?”4 The conversation is so important, St. John gives us an explanation, “But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead He disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”5

Of course, dear friends, without the resurrection, the passion of Jesus becomes a tragedy. All the unjust suffering, the unwarranted accusations, the unrighteous condemnations that Jesus endured, His excruciating humiliation and death would just be a footnote in the history of religion had He not risen from the dead. Without the resurrection the plan of salvation would have failed, and all the effort invested would have mostly gone to waste. Having the risen Jesus doesn’t mean we can downplay the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. The two events are one seamless reality like the two sides of a single coin. The power of the gospel to enlighten darkened minds and convert unbelieving hearts is sourced from these events. Your baptism has the authority of God’s covenantal promise because through it you participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This bread and wine carries forgiveness because His body broken and raised empowers it.

We cannot submit God to the rules of plausibility. If we could, He wouldn’t be God. What kind of God would it be who was unable to contravene the observable laws of nature? What kind of God would it be who is unable to find the lost, heal the sick and raise the dead? What kind of God can’t be present wherever and whenever He pleases, especially in this sacrament? We can compose all kinds of theories about God and debate them, but we’re not finally interested in speculations. Jesus is the hard evidence of God among us. “They will call Him ‘Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’”6 “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”7 And again, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”8 Think of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him… and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead.”9

The Almighty begins the Ten Commandments by saying, “I am the Lord your God.”10 We can stake our confidence in that. Lent is the journey of understanding God’s deliverance. Jesus makes good on all of God’s promises. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday In Lent
4 March 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Exodus 20:2 2 1 Corinthians 1:18
3 John 2:19 4 John 2:20
5 John 2:21-22 6 Matthew 1:21
7 Colossians 2:9 8 John 1:14
9 Acts 2:22-24 10 Exodus 20:2

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