Friday, May 16, 2014

When the fear and uncertainty of change grips you


This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries
 with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 1:4-9

Everything changes over time but there are two that always remain the same:  the sins of men and the grace of God.  The only difference between the church of Corinth and the church of Cleveland is time and location, but in every other respect they are the same:  always going astray like sheep; always in need of the inspired word to restore them to right faith, right praise and to righteousness of life in Christ.

Before Paul gets down to business in this epistle he remembers to give thanks for the grace of God which the Corinthian church had received in Christ Jesus.  We should do the same because we, too, are saved by grace, and such mercy must never go without thanksgiving and praise of the highest magnitude.  This is why the church sings and why theology is always accompanied by music, because speech alone is inadequate for the job.  The grace Paul praises here so highly is the kindness that God manifested by sending His Son to die for the life of the world, and by which He reconciles us to Himself.

Paul also reminds the Corinthians that they were enriched by God in all speech and knowledge.  Like theology and music these two items are also inseparable.  As there can be no confession without faith, nor can there be faith without confession.  In the Greek world, and especially in a cosmopolitan city like Corinth, eloquent speech was highly prized.  As people today flock to movie theaters to catch the latest flick every weekend, people at that time would gather to hear eloquent rhetoric; oratory that would make them laugh or make them cry, it did not matter which, so the Corinthian church, influenced by the practices of the culture around her, was not always faithful in her doctrine, but often she was more interested in orchestrating emotions like the world around her did.  In this respect the Corinthian Christians were like many churches today where any theological content there might be getting lost among the projectors, performers and pastors who are wired up like rock stars.   Now as then people fall into the trap of worshiping the worship more than the Lord who is the true object of our praise.  This is why sound Christian doctrine must always be the subject of the church’s speech and of every Christian’s confession.  In the church only the testimony about Christ matters:  the blameless life He lived for us, and which is credited to our account in heaven’s eyes, the innocent death He died in order to right all of our wrongs and His glorious resurrection from the dead which promises eternal life to all who believe and are baptized.

We cannot turn back the hands of time and stand before the cross on which Jesus paid the wages of our sins, nor is that the plan.  Instead we obtain all the benefits of Messiah’s sacrifice from the church as she baptizes, teaches, absolves and feeds us with His own Body and His blood.  We are further confirmed in our salvation by the church’s repetitious liturgy, which we need to pray over and over again because there is no other way for hapless human beings, who suffer from “spiritual ADD” as we do, to retain the hope of the Gospel in their daily struggles with sin, death and the Evil One.

But for all the errors that marked the church then and now we can take special comfort in the last two verses of today’s epistle lesson where Paul affirms that God is faithful!  The faith by which we believe the Gospel, which apprehends the remission of sins and grasps everlasting life is God’s gift from beginning to end.  It is the most precious commodity on earth which we neither obtain by our own reason, nor manage by our own strength.  God gave it to us in baptism and sustains it in us by means of the Word and Sacraments, and we can be certain that He will bring it to its rightful conclusion at the end of our lives when we will no longer need it because we will see Him face to face.  By this faith we are acquitted of all sin and reckoned to be blameless in the sight of God, and this is a good thing.  It means that no guilt of sin, no accusation of the devil, no criticism of the world and no self-condemnation can attach to us. In Romans 8:33 St. Paul asks, “Who shall bring any blame against God’s elect?” and answers his own question with this positive confession:  It is God who justifies!  With all charges against us dropped, and with all fear of punishment for sin off the table, our joy knows no bounds, and the oft repeated phrase of Scripture “fear not” begins to make perfect sense.

Who does all this for us?  No man, no dumb idol, false religion or vain philosophy, but only God who is faithful!  We should keep this gem of theological knowledge fresh in our minds at all times.

When we fall into temptation we should confess:  God is Faithful!

When we suffer the inevitable consequences that sin brings to our corrupted flesh and to our dysfunctional world we should profess:  God is Faithful!

When we are lacking in daily bread, courage, wisdom, strength or comfort we should declare aloud:  God is Faithful!

When we are sick, troubled, paralyzed with fear or tortured in our souls we should sing all the more loudly St. Paul’s great refrain:  God, who called us to be His for eternity in Christ, is Faithful!  Amen.

~Rev. Dean Kavouras

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