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Epiphany 7

February 20, 2011

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Click here to listen to this sermon.

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

20 February 2011

 

Leviticus 19:2

 

Holiness!  When it comes to holiness the Lord has that market cornered.  Don’t get any holier than the Lord!  All throughout the liturgy we confess this truth, don’t we?  “For You alone are the holy one.  You alone are the Lord.  You alone are the Most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.”  That’s the Gloria in Excelsis.  And then there’s the Sanctus:  “Holy, holy, holy Lord!  God of power and might.  Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”  Watch how many times we say, sing, and pray this truth. 

 

And now the most holy Lord says, not just to Israel, not just to His disciples but also to you and me:  “You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”   This is both a command and a promise. 

With this Word the Lord announces His will for you.  If you’ve ever wondered what God’s will is for your life, well, there you have it.  “You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.” 

 

In addition, this Word is a promise.  He wishes to be your God.  How?  By dwelling right smack dab in the midst of us.  That’s Jesus.  God in the flesh Jesus!  Holy One of God Jesus!  But He doesn’t just sit idle – twiddling His thumbs.  Holy God Jesus gets right in the middle of all things and interrupts our lives in order TO SHARE HIS HOLINESS WITH US!  To bestow and give His holiness!  This is one of the main reasons Jesus came down from heaven.  He brings all of His heavenly holiness to us!  In order to give it to – sinners!  Otherwise we could never be in His presence.  We would remain His alienated, estranged, and rebellious enemies.    

 

“You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”  Command and promise.  What He commands He gives!  Lost and condemned sinners like us can never do a holiness job.  Holiness is never a human achievement.  IT IS ALWAYS A GIFT FROM HOLY LORD JESUS HIMSELF!  Sinners can only be holy through Jesus as He shares His holiness with them! 

 

Through His priestly ministry Jesus holies us.  Listen to how He prayed in John 17:19, “For them I sanctify myself THAT THEY TOO MAY BE TRULY SANCTIFIED.”  Hebrews 10:10 says that, “WE HAVE BEEN MADE HOLY through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  And Hebrews 13:12 states:  “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate TO MAKE THE PEOPLE HOLY through His own blood.”  We sinners are holy in Jesus. 

 

Jesus communicates and bestows His holiness to us through His Word.  He says in John 15:3:  “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”  In John 17:17 Jesus prays:  “SANCTIFY them by the truth; your word is truth.”  Paul writes in Ephesians 5:26 that the church is HOLY – CLEANSED  by the washing with the water of Baptism and the Word.  Jesus cleanses our bad consciences with His Word of forgiveness.  With His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives His holiness.

 

This is very remarkable.  After all, in the Old Testament only the priests and the most holy things in the tabernacle/temple were sprinkled externally with the blood of the sacrifices.  BUT THROUGH CHRIST’S DEATH AND THROUGH HIS HOLY SUPPER WE ALL DRINK CHRIST’S BLOOD AND HAVE OUR HEARTS SPRINKLED BY IT FOR OUR INNER AND COMPLETE CLEANSING AND SANCTIFICATION. 

 

Hebrews 10:22 states this truth.  “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” 

 

Absolutely amazing.  Jesus is holy.  We are sinners.  Mixing the two is like throwing a match on to gasoline.  So the Most Holy One Jesus He comes right into our lives, interrupts our busy schedules, and takes all our pollution, rot, gunk, and filth – all our unholiness – SIN – in His body.  Carries it all to the cross.  Dies for it and with it all.  He who knew no sin is made to be sin on the cross.  MAXIMUM SINNER!  Bearing all sin.  And all its consequences.  Death.  Damnation.

 

In exchange He bestows His holiness to us sinners in His Spirit-filled Word, Baptism, and Supper.  That’s why water and blood gush from His side at Calvary.  Water – Baptism.  Blood – Lord’s Supper.  The means by which the Spirit bestows Christ’s holiness.  How He covers us with Christ’s perfection.    

 

“You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”  The gift of holiness from Jesus is to be maintained in your life.  And that means obeying God.  Yes, that’s right I said it, obedience to God.  He expects you to hear His Word of forgiveness and believe it.  To trust His with all your heart.  To have no other gods except Him.  To eat and drink Christ’s most holy body and blood on a regular basis and to believe that it is for the forgiveness of your sins just as He promises.

 

In addition, the New Testament urges us who have been given Christ’s holiness to avoid sexual immorality of any kind.  Sexual sin is completely contrary to our calling to lead holy lives.  Instead of desecrating the gift of holiness that Jesus gives with sexual sin, we are to offer our bodies as holy sacrifices to God.  We are to use our bodies appropriately.  After all, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Consequently, we are to conduct ourselves according to Christ’s gift of holiness and not according to sinful desires. 

 

And there’s a reason for this.  The Christian life is to be lived not for yourself, but for others.  Jesus holies you so that you can be of service to your neighbor.  It is as Jesus says in the Gospel reading for today.  No more of living like it’s “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  No more of that!  Instead:  “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you … Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”      

 

So, repent.  Yes, that’s right, let us repent of our sins.  For profaning Christ’s gift of holiness that He has given us.  It’s time to die to sin.  And return to Jesus.  For with Him there is plenty of forgiveness to go around.  For you.  For me.  He brings you into His loving presence.  And He graciously says:  “I forgive you.  Here.  Come before me.  Take and eat.  Take and drink.  My most holy body and blood given and shed for you.  I give it to you for your cleansing and holiness.  After all, that’s my cup of tea.  And as often as you eat this bread and drink from this chalice you proclaim my death that counts for you.” 

 

“You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”  Happy living in Christ’s holiness!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

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