Monday, August 20, 2018

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: John 6:51
Theme: Life-Giving Food

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The Holy Scriptures are always very consistent in their witness. Though compiled over nearly 1500 years the theme of the Bible remains unchanged throughout. Since the Holy Spirit is the author this should not seem surprising. It is also evidence of the fact that the holy Christian church is one continuous and contiguous entity. Believers throughout the ages, unrestricted by the dimensions of time and space, participate in the life of God through common means. Those who are part of the church triumphant enjoy the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit by sight, we in the church militant, by faith. But the certainty of the latter is not less than that of the former. This is so because the Saviour who came in the flesh and reigns in that flesh is immortal. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”1

But we live in a constantly changing world. And it is the nature of human beings to become frustrated about changes they cannot control. The people who witnessed Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes were enthralled by His ability but they were not prepared to concede their need for a more fundamental rescue and recognize His divinity. Finally, when Jesus named Himself as the way of eternal salvation the matter is driven to a head. “At this the Jews began to grumble about Him because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.”2

This complaining and skepticism sounds very familiar. Remember what happened nearly 1500 years earlier. The Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt, yet they quickly lost patience with God in the desert. The Bible says, “All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!’”3 They thought they preferred to die rather than wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises!

The pathology of sin is expressed as a continuous diatribe of complaint against God. Our failures, hardships, and painful experiences are not easily accepted as our own fault. Like Adam blaming Eve and then ultimately God, we prefer to put the responsibility on others we claim have wronged us and finally God who has failed to help us. This pattern becomes a way of life. Unless called to account by God’s authority, we become unrepentant and feel justified in blaming others. No matter what happens, we see ourselves as victims and not the cause.
God reveals to us how things really are. Maturity in the faith is not reached by passing blame but by claiming guilt. Certainly, others have, and do, and will continue to sin against us. But that reality is not resolved by seeking revenge or by avoidance or by denial. What do we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”4 How difficult it is to forgive those who sin against us! But a genuine commitment to forgive others is a defining characteristic of the baptismal life. That which we receive from Christ- grace and forgiveness- is expressed in our relationships with others.

The Christian who is not continually engaged in the dynamics of repentance and forgiveness is not a true follower of Christ regardless of what other appearances are made. Paul said it directly last Sunday, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and sander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”5 Faith is not a matter of living independently from God but of needing Him more. The freedom Christians have is not about living without God’s support but being freed from the guilt of sin. Christ was crucified and raised and in baptism believers are integrated into His life, they are not set on their way to live apart from Him.

It was reasonable that the Jews understood God’s giving of manna as the standard expression of God’s provision. Now this Jesus seemed to be challenging that. How could Jesus’ multiplying of the loaves and fishes be a greater miracle than that of the manna and quail God supplied all those years in the desert? Jesus was seeking to lead them to a deeper faith. The manna was only temporary nourishment. Jesus Christ is eternal food. The manna could not prevent physical death. Even with unlimited manna available the bodies of the Israelites still succumbed to sin. But Christ has defeated sin and death. All who trust in Him will have their bodies raised from death and glorified for eternity. They needed to understand that baptismal water was thicker than Jewish blood.

From beginning to end, conception to grave, death to life- to eternity- God provides for our wellbeing of body and soul. To the skeptical Jews Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”6 The Bible is clear that all credit for being rescued from the power of sin and hell rests with God. The Holy Spirit makes the dead person alive. But every person possesses the power of spiritual death. Separation from God is always ultimately the fault of the individual. God may exact the punishment for rejecting Him, but He is never the cause of the rejection. The grace of Christ is universal. And though people can harden their hearts against God, no one has the power to awaken themselves from spiritual slumber. Beyond these truths we cannot probe. Nor do we need to. God’s promises are sure. His word is clear. His sacraments reveal and extend His mercy to us.

The importance of physical food we readily grasp. But we can hardly read John chapter 6, listen to Jesus’ words about the bread of life, and not think of the sacred meal we receive in the Lord’s Supper. Physical food is God’s gift to the body. Holy Communion is His gift to body and soul. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world.”7 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
19 August 2018 (9 August 2009)
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Hebrews 13:8
2 John 6:41
3 Numbers 14:2
4 Matthew 6:12
5 Ephesians 4:30-32
6 John 6:44
7 John 6:47-48, 51

Funeral of Kelvin Montgomery (15 August 2018)

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

Text: John 14:6
Theme: One Way, One Truth and One Life

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Kelvin, Luke, Ashley, Justin and Monique, his children, and especially you, Leanne;

Funeral addresses are not for the dead, but for the living. Kelvin has crossed the threshold to eternity, but we are still confined by the parameters of time. Kelvin has been released from all the burdens of this mortal life. He has no fears, anxieties, pains or griefs. He is at peace. And for this we give thanks, even in the midst of our sorrow.

We, however, still struggle on with the challenges and uncertainties each day brings. Our successes can be quickly overtaken by defeats. Our health can suddenly be surpassed by sickness. Our bright hope for the future can be rapidly overshadowed by doubt. It’s not without prudence that Moses prays in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”1 We know not whether we have one more day on this earth, 1,000, or ten times that many or more. But that’s no reason to panic or lose hope. A heart of wisdom learns to cherish each day as a sacred trust. Every breath you draw is a gift of the Creator.

So, the fact of mortality stands palpably before us. Death is not fictional. Being confronted with death can be as raw as it is numbing. It can fill the mind with anxiety as acutely as it blunts the emotion of the heart. Death cannot be manipulated by any power that we possess. It is the ultimate expression of vulnerability.

Our limitations regarding physical life mirror our capacities in spiritual life. Put bluntly: We have none. Therefore, God must come to our aid. And He does. Luther says it brilliantly when He describes the Holy Spirit’s work, saying, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”2 And there you have it! God takes in hand to accomplish what we could never achieve.

The Scripture says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”3 You, dear friend, are part of the world. There are no exclusions, no exceptions. You cannot go unnoticed by God; hidden away by the digital fa├žade of a cyberworld or lost in the anonymity of society’s relentless pursuit of self-indulgence. The Redeemer came for you and for your salvation.

It’s true, of course, that no one can believe for someone else. We can pray for others, support them, warn them about error, and seek to nurture their faith at every opportunity. But we have no capacity to secure a spot in heaven for anyone else. Jesus reconciles sinners and no one else can. God is not a chump. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Those who loathe Him will be left to their own schemes. But God is gracious far beyond our capacity to fathom. His mercy cannot be measured. Yet it was given tangible expression in the person of His Son. There is no darkness deeper than that which Christ endured. There is no evil more terrifying than what He confronted in those hours of His passion. There is no deception more sinister than that with which Satan attacked Him. Yet He prevailed and brought life, and light, and truth to the fore through His own death and resurrection.

We’re not here today to whitewash Kelvin’s sins or pretend he was a model citizen. That does nothing. Aside from the main offence of falsifying reality, it only propagates the common myth that that everyone is more glamorous in death than they are in life. I’m not talking about remembering the deceased from the perspective of cherishing the most positive memories. That’s part of the charitableness of human compassion. God calls upon us to put the best construction on everything. We’re talking here of a denial of sin’s power and presence that falsely soothes our own consciences. Nothing is finally more dangerous than to believe that sin is of little concern, a paper tiger. Sin, when left unaddressed separates us from God. He is the final judge.

Kelvin endured his share of trauma and sadness. He battled his demons. He had his regrets. But his life was also filled with blessings and adventures. His family and friends can attest to that. We just spent time reflecting on them. Memories are to be cherished, but they can’t finally set the heart at peace in times of loss. Only God can do that and there are no substitutes. If we don’t have the peace Christ gives then we have a false peace, a fictional peace. No one else can forgive sins. No one else can answer Satan’s accusations. No one else can raise the dead. No one else can bestow the gift of immortality.

The anxious disciples of Jesus asked Him the way to heaven. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”4 One way. One truth. One life. We need not labour over how we can storm the gates of heaven, impress God with piety, or negotiate some other way to slip into the kingdom. Christ has thrown the door wide open for all who believe. Salvation is by grace, through faith. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And that truth alone can finally mitigate our grief.

When Kelvin was baptized God made a promise to Him. It was a steadfast covenant of grace. It was a promise of an eternal inheritance that includes all the blessings of heaven. We heard a partial description earlier, “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”5 Heaven involves a newness, a restoration to life that far exceeds all that we can currently imagine. But at the resurrection on the Last Day believers will experience it in body and soul. Leanne, Luke, Ashley, Justin, Monique, all who feel the pain of loss; Kelvin is at rest. He has been released from the fallenness of this life. Thanks be to God!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Funeral of Kelvin Stanley John Montgomery
15 August 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Psalm 90:12 2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 John 3:16-17 4 John 14:6
5 Revelation 21:4-5 6 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
7John 14:2

Monday, August 13, 2018

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: Ephesians 4:30
Theme: Sealed By The Holy Spirit

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is never taken by surprise. So, He is never on the back foot. He can’t be thrown into confusion by circumstances that perplex Him. He is not reactionary. He isn’t lacking foresight. His intentions towards us are always characterized by a clarity of perspective that considers all factors that influence our well-being. From cradle to grave; from conception in the womb to consummation in heaven, God always seeks to draw us to the centre of His presence. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”1

God initiates His pursuit in baptism. St. Paul says believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit “for the day of redemption.”2 This sealing with the Holy Spirit is a reference to baptism. Baptism involves an unconditional promise in which the saving work of Christ is made available to the baptized. The Holy Spirit dares to assert that the sinner is reconciled to the Father purely by grace. The Spirit Himself gives the faith which trusts in the biblical promises. A clear distinction in identity accompanies these blessings. Believers have an inheritance that is not available to those who reject the forgiveness of God accomplished in Christ.

Society is changing. Christians are feeling the tension between worldviews that are pulling in opposite directions. Soon it won’t be nearly so easy to be a nominal adherent of the faith as it has been in the past. Discord over matters such as sexual identity and the sanctity of life are only symptomatic of a crisis at a deeper level. Contentious questions at the core of the issue include: Is creation purposeful- including our individual existences- or is everything the result of mindless, chaotic, mechanical processes? Is ultimate meaning limited to the experiences we have in the few days we walk this earth? Or is life here just a preview and preparation for what is to come? Is there someone greater to be accountable to, or is collective humanity the highest authority?

The evidence is pointing to the fact that fewer and fewer people believe they have anything to be saved from. More specifically, they don’t believe they need to be saved from anything that might imperial their current spiritual or eternal well-being. They don’t believe sin could finally separate them from God. They don’t believe in hell, which is nothing more (but certainly nothing less) than being completely estranged from the blessings and presence of God for eternity. Clearly, there are many things people want to be spared from in this temporal life. They want to be spared from poor health or traumatic experiences. They want to be spared from financial hardship. They want to be spared from broken relationships and stressful conflict. They want to be saved from a soiled reputation or slander and embarrassment in the public eye. In short, they want to be spared from the consequences of sin in this life but have little concern about the guilt of sin in eternity. Satan is very happy with those who are self-consciously self-righteous. He is pleased with those whose consciences are mistakenly at ease. A conscience at peace is not the same thing as a conscience falsely at ease.
God tests our faith, but evil forces try to shipwreck it.

When Jesus teaches His followers in the Lord’s Prayer to seek God’s help in times of temptation He’s not simply rattling off a pious-sounding formality. The testing of our faith is a very tangible reality. It is not a possibility or even a probability: It is a certainty. There are three foes that align themselves against believers; Satan, the carnal, unbelieving world, and our own sinful natures. If you don’t believe you face any real temptations, then the Scriptures issue you a clear reality check. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”3 And Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean.”4 Can you claim that you are free from lust, greed, selfishness, or jealousy?

The first port of call when facing temptation is your baptism. Spiritual battles require divine resources. The apostle reminds us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil…”5 The importance of your baptism doesn’t diminish over time, it increases. Martin Luther describes the implications in this way, “The Old Adam [that is, the sinful nature] in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that anew man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”6

In baptism we are cleansed with the gospel-rich water of life. The gospel creates the desire to follow God’s will. The commandments are then transformed. God’s law always retains its function of convicting sinners, calling them to repentance for their transgressions.
But now the law also becomes an affirmation of the desire the gospel has already created. So, for example, everything St. Paul mentions here in Ephesians when he says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,”7 is for the believer the desirable goal of living as a child of God.

Dear friends, baptism is not magical. There is no hocus pocus that goes on. But baptism does involve participation in a miracle. It ties us to the very core of Christian belief. If there is no crucified Jesus, there is no point and purpose to baptism. If there is no resurrected Jesus, there is no point or purpose to baptism. If there is no Holy Spirit, there is no power in baptism. If there is no almighty heavenly Father at the head of an eternal kingdom, then baptism as no real blessings to offer. It would be like an orphan being adopted by a corporate entity that had no place of residence, no house for the child to go home to, no family members to share life with each day. But, baptism isn’t a hollow religious ritual. It is the means by which God covenants with His people.

Christians don’t believe in magic, but we do believe in miracles. Life itself is miraculous.
The same God who was the Agent of creation was murdered on a Roman instrument of execution. The method was known as crucifixion. It was common practice at the time. But the slaying of this man was uncommon in every way. His death was the unique, all-sufficient sacrifice to atone for the sins to the entire world. The same Author of life forfeited His own. He laid it down in humility. He took it back again with authority. He walked out of the grave on the third day. Baptism takes us with Christ from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and beyond to the timeless presence of the holy Trinity. We’ll never surprise God. But He surprises us all the time with His boundless mercy. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
12 August 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 6:44
2 Ephesians 4:4-6
3 1 Peter 5:8
4 Matthew 15:19-20
5 Ephesians 6:12
6 Luther’s Small Catechism
7 Ephesians 4:31-32

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2018

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

Text: Ephesians 4:4-6
Theme: Unity In God’s Love

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christian teaching is never ambiguous or compromised by self-contradiction. We should expect this because the truth revealed in the Scriptures is a reflection of God Himself; His nature and His intentions. The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ- the infant in the manger who grew to become the victim of the cross- in His words, actions, nature, and essence are perfectly consistent in every way with the claims God makes in the Bible. Jesus was not some well-intentioned sage who began to identify as the Son of God over time. On the day of His resurrection He said, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”1 Sinners, on the other hand, are characterized by contradictions. We often vacillate back and forth and are led this way and that, depending on whose self-interests are winning the day.

Concern for consistent identity with the truth is what motivates St. Paul’s words in Ephesians today. He wants believers to understand clearly, not only their personal identity in Christ, but the unity they have in their fellowship together. Despite how it’s often been practiced in recent times, Christian faith is never to be understood as an individualistic religion. In fact, the New Testament (and even more so, the Old) knows nothing of a privatized practice of the faith that is so common today. We so highly value the privilege of idiosyncrasies and champion the right of independent self-determination in our culture that the notion of a common faith is nearly a foreign idea. “Who has the authority to tell me what I should or shouldn’t believe?” Well, that’s exactly the authority the Scriptures claim to have. They claim to transmit the tried and true wisdom of God. And they intend to do that for our ultimate good: Our salvation.

The unanimity we have in the faith is expressed by Paul in these words, “There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”2 Christian truth is a unity. Every facet of God’s promises, purposes, and presence are related intimately to all the others. It is woven into one seamless fabric. Similarly, God’s people are also woven into one fabric, joined as living stones into one temple, complementary members of the same body. We have fellowship in holy things: The word of God through which the Spirit creates and sustains faith; baptism, through which we are made partakers of a common inheritance; and the Lord’s Supper through which we are strengthened by the Lord’s own power and life.

Unity in the faith has an antithesis. Falsehood always divides. It is a many-headed monster. Lies and liars may have some common goals, but they can never be in agreement with one another any more than a lie can be in agreement with the truth. In the end, power or cunning wins out and the execution of agendas pervaded by falsehood is often ruthless. God Himself sometimes commandeers such agendas to work His own good. Still, it’s no wonder the Scriptures so consistently warn about falsehood. The danger to our spiritual well-being is acute. God’s warnings intend to drive us to repentance. When that happens properly, our faith begins to bear fruit.

Today we find the crowds who had witnessed Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5000 wanting a deeper connection. His work was bearing fruit. They ask Him, “‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.’”3 The response of Jesus is remarkable. He doesn’t direct them to the Ten Commandments or rattle off a list charitable works. He directs them to the source, the power of transformation and godly motivation: Himself. We must assume these Jews were genuinely interested in being followers of God. We’d be mistaken if we characterized the spiritual attitude of all Jews as Pharisaical. Jesus’ response isn’t sarcastic or rhetorical. The starting point is as simple as it is profound: Trust God. Take God at His word. Rely on His promises. Don’t second-guess His intentions. Don’t speculate about His motives. Depend on Him for everything.

The hard part about Christianity is not the doing, but the believing. Satan works many successful deceptions here. He is happy for us to have a hollow lifeless faith, which is really no faith at all. Christ is God’s revelation to us. The devil is happy for us to believe in anything and everything that disregards the necessity of Christ. If I say I believe in God but I don’t actually depend on Him in time of need, if I don’t rely on His wisdom or follow His truth, if I don’t find ultimate security in Him in the face of death, then my faith is a charade. If I don’t cherish the forgiveness that comes only through Christ’s death and resurrection, then my faith is nothing more than a token identification with the name or idea of God.

Jesus certainly wasn’t trying to squelch people’s desire to do good works. The Scripture reminds us, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”4 But, the mere performance of actions does not guarantee the genuine character of faith. All sorts of fine-looking things can be done from selfish, false, and evil motives. False humility is a particular penchant of human nature. We love to be praised for things while pretending to be modest. God can see through us as through a spotlessly clean window. Usually others can too. Jesus warned about Pharisees who “loved praise from men more than praise from God.”5

Today the apostle earnestly desires that all believers would “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.”6 The importance of maturing in our faith is made very clear, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”7 If we don’t have an anchor we float around wherever the wind and waves take us. The church can be properly compared to a ship- we might think here of the ark that saved Noah’s family- carrying all the believers who are passengers. Only within the ship can we be protected from dangerous stormy seas. Only when we are anchored to Christ are we finally safe.

Maturity of faith is something that can only be gained by experience. While any true faith is saving faith, including the faith of a newly baptized infant, not everyone’s faith is of the same quality. However, we need not worry about comparing. We need only to cling to our God who promises to be faithful. The Scripture says Christ is the “author and perfecter of our faith.”7

God is consistent in His mercy. He is constant in His love. There are no contradictions in His nature, in His actions, or in His intentions. Jesus Christ was hung on a cross for you and for me. He rose again, proving His power over death. And even though we will continue to be plagued with self-contradictions, falsehoods, and paradoxes, His forgiveness reconciles us to a heavenly Father who already sees us as being holy through His Son. One day, in our resurrected flesh, we will understand that not by faith, but in experience. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
5 August 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 24:44
2 Ephesians 4:4-6
3 John 6:28-29
4 James 2:17
5 John 12:43
6 Ephesians 4:13
7 Ephesians 4:14
8 Hebrews 12:2

Christian Burial of Ross DeCaux (3 August 2018)

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

Text: John 11:26
Theme: Immortal Life!

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Ross, David, Mark, and especially you, Jean;

Faith clings to truth that is inaccessible to experience. Ross’s faith has given way to experience. He now experiences the presence of God in a way we can only imagine. When Martha, the grief-stricken sister of Lazarus, affirmed her belief that Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day…Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”1 Essentially He was saying that the resurrection of the dead does not happen apart from Him. Christ is the firstborn from the dead. Heaven does not exist independently from Him.

What is heaven except the unhindered experience of God’s presence; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the presence of saints and angels? Heaven is not some mythical private paradise where we are left to our own isolated, secretive, and self-indulged existence. Heaven is not an ill-defined dimension where souls float around oblivious to their surroundings. Heaven involves the continual, joyous interaction with others in a state of resurrected glory- for all eternity. 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 Ross has crossed over from death to life. He has traversed the threshold of time and eternity.

Ross came to faith as a young adult, and that faith blossomed to maturity over the years. In the covenant of baptism Ross’s identity as a child of God was cemented. The beautiful thing about baptism is that it is a tangible expression of the seeking love of God. Unable to find God, He finds us. The Holy Spirit calls us by the gospel and brings us as lost and vulnerable lambs into His flock. Ross knew his shepherd was the Good Shepherd. He is good not simply in the sense of expressing tender affection for His people, but good in that as the righteous and holy Son of God He humbled Himself, wearing our sin to the point of death on a cross.

Consider what the Scripture says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”3 Dear friends, the Suffering Servant who gave Himself in sacrifice for sinners, the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, the only-begotten Son who was hung upon a cross and rose again from the dead has delivered us from the ultimate fear. Silenced are the accusations of Satan. Vanquished is the power of hell. Appeased is the demand for punishment. Our Immanuel, God-in-the-flesh has triumphed, and His power and presence are with us always. He said to His disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”4

These assurances sustained Ross in the regular routines of life. Ross was quite versatile in his employment abilities, enjoying a number of vocations before settling on almonds for the rest of his working career. His life was purposeful, and he was an actively engaged member of the wider community. A committed husband and father, he cherished his family and was concerned for their well-being. He developed a love for spreading God’s word, becoming a faithful member of the Gideon’s and Bible Society.

Ross understood though, that his standing before God wasn’t based on his moral integrity, his faithful service in church organizations, his status in the community, or any other virtue or accomplishment. Ross knew that the unearned and undeserved mercy of God in Christ for poor, helpless sinners is all that matters in the end. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith…it is the gift of God.”5 His grace is all sufficient. Ross was God’s forgiven child and he drew strength from that forgiveness each time the promise of absolution was declared to him in God’s house and each time the body and blood of Christ was taken upon his lips.

His spiritual vitality carried him through many physical and emotional challenges too. Ross was a fighter in his own quiet and determined way. He survived aortic valve replacement and bowl cancer twice over. He also endured the loss of a grandson, Luke, and was a steady presence for the family during that time of exceptional grief. Those experiences only sharpened his belief that every day is truly a gift to be cherished.

Dear friends, the finality of death is confronting even when you know it’s coming. There is no programmatic way to deal with grief. It can’t be pigeon-holed, pressed into a particular mould, or made to follow a certain set of parameters. You can’t just speed it up or slow it down at will. It dictates its own pace. Death alters reality, so grief involves adjusting to a new dynamic- one in which someone is missing. The emptiness cannot be replaced by artificial substitutes. It shouldn’t be ignored or denied. Only the Holy Spirit can soothe wounds that are too deep for the best of human intentions to heal. Only the Word of God can speak with authority to a need that mortal words cannot resolve. The Scripture calls the Almighty “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.”6

But, losing a loved one isn’t finally soul-destroying for believers because the loved one isn’t truly lost- they’ve gone ahead. Jesus said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you.”7 That’s exactly what He has done for Ross. Jean, David, Mark, take comfort in the knowledge that God’s promise to Ross has been fulfilled. He has received the reward of faith. He is now crowned with life. Ross now participates in life the way it was meant to be- freed from all of the complications of this fallen existence; free from sin, free from anxiety, free from pain, free from fear- in the presence of his Saviour. He enjoys immortal life. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Ross Gleeson DeCaux
3 August 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 11:24-25 2 John 5:24
3 Hebrews 2:14-15 4 Matthew 28:20
5 Ephesians 2:8 6 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
7John 14:2

Christian Burial of Colin Schwarz (2 August 2018)

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

Text: John 11:25
Theme: Resurrection and Life

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Colin, Dawn, and especially you, Sally and Anita;

“Therefore, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we adore and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of your glory.”1 These are the words that lead into the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian Divine Service. Colin Schwarz no longer sings these words in anticipation, as we do. He is part of the consummation.

The saintly and angelic voices that are joined in the magnificent heavenly symphony must be utterly beyond description. St. John describes what he experiences, “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”2 “In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’”3

Colin now keeps company with angels. He has fellowship with the whole host of heaven. He is in the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He doesn’t reflect back on past regrets. He doesn’t look forward to a better future. The present is his all-consuming reality. God’s glory, majesty, love, and compassion are unmediated and unrestricted. He lacks nothing. He wants for nothing. He experiences no disappointments, no unfulfilled desires, no shattered dreams. His life is unending. Hallelujah! God has brought His servant home.

Colin had music in his blood, in his heart, and seeping out of his bones. Would you like to hazard a guess at how much music has been found in Colin’s very modest sized unit at Riverview? The Finke River Mission was one of Colin’s other great passions. He was just as comfortable in the presence of those who spoke Pitjantjatjara or Western Arranta as he was in the presence those who spoke English. He was the chief cook for Aboriginal Pastors Training Courses for many years. There are many aboriginal sisters and brothers who are with us today in spirit. Colin knew, of course, that music is a universal language and he delighted in proclaiming the gospel in song.

Colin was industrious. You wouldn’t ever find him sitting around twiddling his thumbs or gazing at his navel. Among his many activities, he never took for granted the privilege of serving in God’s church. From playing the organ, leading signing, and conducting lay readings, to holding most positions in parish and congregational life and beyond. Communicating God’s wisdom, truth, forgiveness, and blessings was never a mundane formality, but an opportunity to nurture the faith of God’s people. Aside from singing itself, Colin was most happy when he was involved in such activities. His life of witness was visible and heart-felt.

So, did Colin understand that he was a sinner? Yes, he was very aware of his faults and his failings. No life is so perfect that death magically arrives only when every relationship is perfectly reconciled, every transgression is entirely forgiven, and every case of negligence is completely resolved. Sins of commission and omission are too numerous to count. We are sinners until our dying breath. Luther called us beggars. There are no exceptions. Ignorance or denial does not change the reality. Anyone who’s gone through life without being wounded probably hasn’t gone very far regarding human relationships. Interacting with others makes us vulnerable. We will make mistakes. We will have regrets. We will accumulate scars. Colin accumulated his share.

Yet, what is the response of our holy God to this quandary? He doesn’t wash His hands and leave us to our doom. The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”4 It says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”5 And again it says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”6 In Christ sinners become saints. Colin was sainted already in his baptism. In baptism we are co-crucified and co-raised with the Lord Jesus. Our sins are forgiven, and we are promised an eternal inheritance. Colin knew he was saved by grace. Believers live under the shadow of the cross looking forward to the bright glory of the resurrection.

Only a few weeks before his death, Colin invited my wife, Vanessa, and I over for dinner. Other things intervened, and we never enjoyed that meal together. It was disappointing, but I doubt either of us suffered from much regret. We often shared a more important feast. Many times, Colin received the sacred meal from my hand and I received it from his. When we kneel before the Lord’s altar here on earth it’s good to remember that the saints in heaven are on the other side of the threshold. We can be no closer to departed loved than when we commune with Christ in whose unveiled presence believers who have gone before are now in.

Dear friends, it can take some time to gage how the loss of a loved one will affect us. Some allowance for scope and not a small amount of patience are necessary. Death confronts the believer with gut-wrenching, bone-jarring finality. We are completely powerless to alter its course. Mortality is the ultimate helplessness. It can seem at first surreal, or completely dreamlike. Sights, sounds, and dates can be triggers for memories to come flooding in. The heart can fluctuate from sorrow, to denial, to hope and to gratitude. Sometimes this happens all in a very short period of time. But the Scriptures never scold believers for grieving. Jesus’ own heart was rent at the tomb of Lazarus. Grief for believers is not characterised by despair, but by hope. It is not dominated by bitterness, but by gratefulness. The apostle addresses believers, saying, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”7

Colin has fallen asleep in Jesus. It is a beautiful thing. It is the fulfillment of a promise. It is the preview of even greater things to come. The great day of the resurrection of the dead will be fantastic beyond imagination. Job said it this way, “I know that My Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes.”8 Our conqueror of death says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”9 That was Colin’s firm belief. His trust has not been misplaced.

Sally, Anita, Colin won’t be a regular part of your life anymore. But, like the rest of us, you won’t have to live on memories. Colin has been crowned with life. He has no regrets. Sorrow will not triumph over our joy. You can be certain that from the very moment Colin was received into heaven he was blending his voice with that celestial chorus of praise. To God be the glory! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Colin Schwarz
2 August 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Lutheran Hymnal p.16 2 Revelation 7:9
3 Revelation 5:12 4 Romans 5:8
5 John 3:16 6 2 Corinthians 5:21
7 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 8 Job 19:25-27
9 John 11:25

Christian Burial of Jean Reichstein ( 1 August 2018)

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

Text: John 14:2
Theme: In The Father’s House

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Jean, and especially you, Noel, Chris, Gloria, and Charlie, her children;

Losing a loved one often generates a strong mix of sorrow, frustration, relief, and even gratitude in people’s hearts. Grieving involves an irreducible complexity. But our gathering today truly is a celebration. Jean was ready to meet her Maker. She was ready to be released from the struggle. She was ready to be received into the place prepared for her in the Father’s house. She no longer has any worries or cares, trials or fears, pains or sorrows. She is home. She is at peace. Thanks be to God for His merciful love!

In our gospel reading today, the disciples were afraid of losing a loved one. They were understandably filled with apprehension. Jesus had been speaking for some time of His betrayal, His passion, and His death and resurrection. It wasn’t yet clear to them how these things would all happen or what the end result would be. Knowing their anxiety, He steadies their hearts and minds. “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.”1

And there it is, the promise that is the rock-solid foundation of our faith; words full of life and hope and truth. They are divine words, not human ones. After all, who dares speak into the powerful darkness of death and call it to account? All mortals are speechless in the face of it. We are silenced. We are stripped of all resources to confront it. All of our most vigorous protests, negotiations, or plea-bargains are meaningless chatter. All advances in medical science only prolong the inevitable. Death is the consequence of sin reaching maturity in each individual. Adam and Eve weren’t created to die. So, it’s natural to fear death as the greatest threat.

Sometimes people mistakenly think death is a natural thing and that the older one gets the more one should be comfortable with it. Undoubtedly God does use the loss of joy in living to increase the acceptance of dying. When the will-power is broken the end usually comes quickly. Fatigue dulls peoples’ perspectives and weakens their resolve. The fight to live simply becomes too hard. But if age and frailty alone decrease the fear of dying it’s only because Satan has gained the upper hand in the war of attrition. That’s why the Scripture says, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’”2 And so the Bible calls to recognize that death is a concession, a recognition of the fallen state in which are held captive in this sphere of existence.

Understanding this makes the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection all the more critical. Those who are attached to Christ are freed from the punishment of sin, freed from the power of death. Jean’s confirmation verse was the from the fifteenth chapter of John. It is the reminder of Christ that if our lives become severed from His we no longer bear fruit for His kingdom. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”3 But with Him, all things are possible.

Jean was confirmed in a then-vibrant congregation in Galga. That was in 1941. In those days, Sundays were set aside to be in God’s house and with one’s family. They were observed more faithfully as days of rest. Though manual labour was required for survival, the pace of life was not so frantic. The temptation to over-schedule was not so pressing. The war was also on at that time and that meant a more acute awareness of the things that should truly be valued. Life was recognized as precious.

My how times have changed! Many families don’t even eat meals together. Sunday is just another day for most people. And many struggle to find meaning and purpose in the present or the future. Darkness and depression encroach on many lives. Loss of hope is common. A spiritual centre of gravity no longer exists for many. The church right across the country is now in such dramatic decline that it’s likely to be labeled one day from historical perspective as precipitous. But comparisons are not our main purpose here.

We are here to reflect on and draw strength from the promises of the gospel. Salvation is by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake. Jean entered heaven in the only way possible: Through the matchless mercy of God’s Son. Earlier we heard the apostle Paul express it this way, “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.”4

It’s pretty hard to say it anymore convincingly or emphatically than that! Believers have an unbreakable promise that’s backed up with the Son of God’s victory over the power of death. He was nailed to a cross- the victim of Calvary. But the tomb could not hold him. In those events the debt of sin was covered, the punishment for disobedience was endured, the voice of Satan was silenced, the power of death was destroyed, light and life, peace and joy were secured for eternity.

Dear friends, our society is struggling to place proper value on the gift of life. Because death is not the original intent of God it’s understandable that grieving can be severe. Here one day and gone the next! That’s the cold, hard reality of death. Even when you’re expecting it, it can be a heart-numbing, mind-boggling, soul-vexing experience. Someone is lost, and we cannot replace them. We should never avoid grief or feel guilty about it. The death of a loved one causes a tear in the fabric of our relationships and it’s not easily stitched up. An identical piece can never be sown in. Every individual is unique and cannot be replaced. Jean Reichstein is no exception.

The promise of Jean’s baptism has now come to fulfillment. God claimed her as His own child and she now receives the family inheritance. That inheritance is no collection of sentimental objects or keepsakes or even memories. It is a place in the eternal kingdom of His glory. As the Bible says, “The Spirit Himself testifies…that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”5 Jean is God’s child. She now enjoys the glories of His heavenly kingdom. She is in the place prepared for her. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Jean Margaret Reichstein
1 August 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 14:2 2 Ecclesiastes 12:1
3 John 15:5 4 Romans 8:38-39
5 Romans 8:16-17