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Holy People Holy Lives

February 23, 2014

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany                                Trinity Lutheran Church

23 February 2014                                                                    Murdock, NE

Leviticus 19:1-2 (3-4), 9-18

“Margaret, there’s been a rumor going around all week that Kuhlman is going to preach from the Old Testament reading today.  I was hoping that he’d preach about bacon or some such thing.”  

 

“I heard that rumor too Fred.  If he does, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay awake.  Did you see what the Old Testament reading is for today?  Leviticus!  Is that even in the Bible? How will that meet my felt needs today?  I’m already starting to doze.”

Well, don’t snooze just yet Margaret, Fred and the rest of you!  Good grief.  Hear me out.  Yes, I know it’s dicey and quite risky, but I am going to do it!  I dare to preach a sermon from Leviticus.  Have you ever heard a sermon from Leviticus?  Today you will.  And the sermon’s subject?  I don’t think there’s a preacher around that would chance it.  But I will.  So you better hang on to your hats.  Buckle up tight.  It’s going to be quite the ride with today’s sermon.

“You will be holy,” the LORD says, “because I, the LORD your God am holy.” 

There you have it.

Holiness!  I know it’s shocking.  A Lutheran sermon on holiness?  Yes, indeed!  And 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 confess, 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:  “You will be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”   This is a command.  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 will 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 you through the giving of His Holy Name.  Check it out.  Numerous times in the text the LORD declares His Name:

Verse 2:  “because I, the LORD your God am holy.”

Verse 4:  “Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves.  I am the LORD your God.”

Verse  10:  “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen.  Leave them for the poor and the alien.  I am the LORD your God.”

Verse 12:  “Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God.  I am the LORD.”

So too in verses 14, 16 and 18!

God asserts and gives Israel and you His holy Name. By giving you His Name in Holy Baptism He does the incredible.  He gives what He expects or commands.  He shares His holiness with you His sinners!  Otherwise, you could never enjoy His presence.  Without His holy Name that bestows or gives the Lord’s divine holiness you would remain God’s alienated, estranged and rebellious enemies.

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

Through His priestly ministry Jesus holies you.  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.”  You sinners are holy in and through His Good Friday suffering and dying.

Jesus then communicates and bestows His holiness to you 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 your bad consciences with His Word of forgiveness.  With His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper Jesus again gives His holiness to you His sinners.

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 YOU ALL DRINK CHRIST’S BLOOD AND HAVE YOUR HEARTS SPRINKLED BY IT FOR YOUR 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 the Most Holy One Jesus comes right into your life, interrupts your busy schedules, and takes all your pollution, rot, gunk, and filth – all your 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 covers you with His holiness 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 coats you His sinners with Christ’s perfection.

“You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”  Now, listen very carefully.  The gift of holiness from Jesus is to be maintained in your life.   You want to maintain His gift of holiness, don’t you?  Good.

And that’s done by obeying God.  Yes, that’s right I said it, obedience to God!  In other words, living according to His holy Word.  He expects you to hear His Word and then remarkably, you WANT TO DO THE LORD’S WILL as a Christian.  That’s how you said it earlier in the service when you made your confession in order to hear the absolution:

“Forgive us,” you said to the Lord.

“Renew us,” you said.

“And lead us,” you said.

Why?  Here’s what you said to the Lord.  “That we may DELIGHT IN YOUR WILL AND WALK IN YOUR WAYS TO THE GLORY OF YOUR HOLY NAME.”  That’s right!  You, the forgiven Christian, WANT to do what God wants.  Walking in His ways.  That’s holy living!

Holy living according to the Lord’s Word means that you use your body properly.  In your body you will want to avoid sexual immorality of any kind.  Anything that adulterates marriage between a man and a woman or profanes it you will abstain from it.  I have to say this because your old Adamic self, the world and the devil tell you that there are better words to hear on this topic than the Lord’s.  You know:  “Did God really say …?”

Sexual sin of any kind contradicts your calling to lead holy lives.  Instead of desecrating the gift of holiness that Jesus gives with sexual sin, you are to offer your bodies as holy sacrifices to God.  You are to use your bodies appropriately.  After all, your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Consequently, you are to conduct yourself according to Christ’s gift of holiness and not according to unholy sinful desires and deeds.  To be very frank – that means having a sexual relationship only within the confines of holy marriage between one man and one woman.

Holy living or life lived according to the Lord’s Word is a life that is lived not for yourself, but for others.  Jesus holies you so that you can be of service to your neighbor. That includes respecting your parents, taking your family to church to worship the Lord, helping the poor, protecting your neighbor’s property, telling the truth and being honest with each other.  It includes paying employees what they’re worth and what they’ve earned, blessing folks with disabilities, doing the work that’s required, building up people’s reputations, not perverting justice for selfish gain, etc.  The text summarizes holy living – life according to God’s Word in this way:  “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here you need to repent.  Seriously!   Yes, that’s right!  I dare to say even that!  It is time to repent of your sin.  After all, you love yourself more than your neighbor.  You hurt your spouse, your children, your classmates, members of your community and of your congregation.  Repent of your profaning Christ’s gift of holiness that He has given you.  It’s time to die to sin.  And return to Jesus.  For with Him there is plenty of forgiveness that sanctifies sinners to go around.  For you.

Jesus promises to you today:  “Your sin belongs to me.  I’ve died for it.  I forgive you.  Now, here today, I’ve gathered you to myself in my holy Name in order to eat 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.” 

Happy living in Christ’s holiness!  That’s faith in Jesus and love for the neighbor in need.  For that He gives you His Name.  Watch and listen for it.  It happens again at the Benediction.  There He’s puts His holy Name on you.  To have good use for you as His faithful servants in the world.  As His hands.  As His mouth.  As a little “Christ” to serve those in need.  To speak God’s word of forgiveness to other sinners.  For such faith in the Lord and love for the neighbor you have the Leviticus text as well as the Ten Commandments.

Are you still awake?  Margaret?  Fred?  That wasn’t so bad was it?

“You shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.”

 

Happy Levitical living!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

  

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