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A Royal Priesthood

May 18, 2014

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Fifth Sunday of Easter                                                  Trinity Lutheran Church

18 May 2014                                                                    Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

1 Peter 2:2-10

 

Well, it doesn’t get any better than this today!  Little Cohen Eugene is given the gift of Holy Baptism and the Epistle is from 1 Peter 2!  Just marvelous!  God is very generous with His giving!

 

1 Peter 2 declares who you — the Good Friday-ed, died for, and baptized – are!   Who are you?  Let’s hear it again.  “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His [God’s] own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  Who you are is set in contrast to who you used to be!  In other words, since Good Friday and your Baptism have taken place, you ain’t (pardon my bad English) who you used to be!  You’re different.  Everything’s changed between you and God!  For the better!  Salvationly better!

 

Here’s what I mean and this is the text’s point.  Apart from I-AM-THE-WAY-THE-TRUTH-AND-THE-LIFE’s divine Good Friday Blood you were spiritually dead and damned in your sins.  Forever under the wrath of God!  You were alienated from the divine life of God.  The apostle puts it this way:  “You were not a people … BUT NOW YOU ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD.”  Outside of the crucified and risen Jesus you had no divine mercy.  But now that Jesus has died, risen and put His divine Name on you in Holy Baptism “you have received [divine] mercy.”   You can stand in the Father’s presence in holiness and honor – the holiness and honor that Jesus has given you – His!

 

Thanks be to God that He did not leave you sinners in your sins and all its shame!  Thanks be to God that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest of your salvation, into your skin and bones to redeem you by His bodily Good Friday death and Easter resurrection!

 

This is absolutely incredible.  God did not abandon you, His sinners into dark loneliness – the outer hellacious darkness that your sin deserved.  Instead, through the bloody death of Jesus and His glorious resurrection you have been brought into the holy light of the Father’s presence.  As your Great High Priest, on the cross Jesus offered His perfect and holy Body as the one and only sacrifice that could ever atone for your sin.  Therefore, He has brought life and immortality to light FOR YOU!

 

Like Cohen Eugene, you have been joined to Jesus’ Good Friday death for you in Holy Baptism.  In addition, through Holy Baptism your Great High Priest Jesus put you into His Holy and Royal Priesthood.  The baptized are priests!  Yes, there are priests in the New Testament Church.  And that’s you the baptized!

 

So, hear again the titles you’ve been given by the Father for the sake of His Son Jesus.  “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special [or as the King James Version puts it] peculiar people.”

 

Today I want to focus on one of the particular titles from the Epistle.  It’s:  a Royal Priesthood.  Through Holy Baptism Jesus has made all of you including Cohen Eugene member of a royal priesthood.  Yes, you who are baptized are priests and you live in a “hood.”  As neighbors live in a neighborhood so the baptized live in the royal priesthood.  Side note: this is especially delicious because “Cohen” is the Old Testament Hebrew word for “priest.”  Again, I repeat, in the New Testament and in the church all the baptized are priests.  Little Cohen’s name is very appropriate, wouldn’t you say?

 

Now, what is the good use that the Lord Jesus has for Cohen and all of you as priests in the royal priesthood?  Or to put it another way, how does the Lord want you to live IN and FROM your Baptism in the world?

 

Verse 5 gives you the answer.  Listen.  This will blow your mind.  It says that the baptized priesthood is “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

 

Did you hear that?  You are to offer sacrifices.  Spiritual sacrifices.  Acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Well, what are these spiritual sacrifices that you are to offer?  I will give you five from the Scriptures.

 

First, there is the priestly sacrifice of … [are you ready for it?] … the priestly sacrifice of REPENTANCE!  That’s Psalm 51:17.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.  A broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise.”  How do you say broken and contrite heart?  The Bible calls it REPENTANCE!  The heart that is broken by sin is laid before the only One who can heal it.  To be repented is to have your old Adam (your old sinful nature) put to death daily.  After all, that’s all that can be done to the old Adam.  Because your old Adam does not want to let God be the Lord over your life he must die every die so that the new man, the new creation, spelled F-A-I-T-H may be raised to live a new life before God.

 

In this life you never move beyond a broken and contrite heart, that is to say, REPENTANCE.  Repentance is your priestly spiritual sacrifice.  You daily lay your sin-broken heart before the Lord.  You say:  “I’ve sinned Lord.  Against You.  Against my neighbor.  I’m heartily sorry.  Forgive me for Christ’s sake.” REPENTANCE:  This is a priestly sacrifice that God will not despise.

 

Second, there is the priestly sacrifice of your life lived in the body.  This is Romans 12:1.  Listen.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”  Wow!  Offer your bodies in self-sacrificial service for the sake of others.  In other words, you are to live – NOT FOR YOURSELF – BUT FOR OTHERS!  Everything you do with your body is to oriented FOR SERVICE. Priesthood is servanthood!

 

For example:  why do you work?  To earn a wage or a salary.  Duh!  That’s a no-brainer!  But the baptized priest works not for selfish reasons!  It is so that you can put food on the table, buy a house, clothes, etc. for your family.  To care for them.  Extend this to everything you do.  Every aspect of your life in the body.  Your life is to be lived for the benefit of others, not selfishly for yourself.  The priestly sacrifice of living not to be served BUT TO SERVE is most pleasing to God.  For then you’re living like a little Christ.  That’s the good use the Lord has for His baptized priests.

 

Third, there is the priestly confession of Jesus in your words and in your actions.  This is Hebrews 13:15-16.  “Therefore by Him [Jesus] let us continually offer THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE TO GOD, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”    The sacrifice of praise or the fruit of our lips is done in the liturgy and in our daily lives.  Remember what the Epistle for today said.  You, the royal priesthood, “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  You do that with the various parts of the liturgy and the hymns.  Giving praise to God for His creating you, redeeming you, and sanctifying you.

 

The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26 uses the “proclaim” word with regard to Holy Communion.  Check it out:  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you PROCLAIM the Lord’s death until He comes.”  In the Old Testament the priests would stand before the tabernacle proclaiming the praises of God.  Now, today in the church, you highest act of praise IS TO RECEIVE THE LORD’S BODY AND BLOOD IN THE SACRAMENT!  Every time you go to Holy Communion trusting His words and promise, you are giving praise and thanks to His Name.  That’s why another name for the Lord’s Supper is Eucharist.  Eucharist means:  thanksgiving!

 

Speaking of “thanksgiving,” you sing a portion of Psalm 116 before you eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament.  “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?  I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  And then after the Supper is ended that’s precisely what you do.  “We give thanks to you almighty God, that you have refreshed us through this salutary gift …” is what you say after He’s given you His Body and Blood with the promise of His forgiveness.

 

Now, while the songs of praise and thanksgiving in the liturgy end after the Benediction, the life of worship continues as you live priestly lives in the world.  In your various vocations, mother, father, husband, wife, employee, employer, teacher, student, son, daughter, etc. you are to live faithfully and honestly.  Living as the Lord’s priests doing good works for the sake of others and sharing what you have with those in need.

 

Fourth, there is the priestly act of giving monetary gifts to the Lord.  This is Philippians 4:18.  The apostle Paul calls the collection of money that the Philippian Christians gathered to support the ministry of the gospel “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”  Let’s be honest and frank.  Money is not evil in itself.  However, it can be abused and used for evil purposes by both the rich and the poor.

 

But you are priests.  You are to handle and use the things of God.  Money is of God.  From God.  Money is His gift to you to be used properly.  He entrusts some with more.  Some with less.  The big question is this:  how are you as a priest in the Royal Priesthood going to use the money God has given you?  Will you hoard it in greed?  Will you hold on to it as tight as you can in the idolatrous anxiety and worry that God cannot be trusted to take care of you if you let loose of some of your cash?  Or will you offer your gift of money from a glad and generous heart anchored in the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus?

 

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver.  That’s 2 Corinthians 9:7.  In the Greek the word translated as “cheerful” is “hilaros.”  That’s where we get our English word:  “hilarious.”  Better translated then:  God loves a hilarious giver.  Giving hilariously is a “sweet smelling aroma” to God’s nostrils.  Generous or reckless giving, if you will, is an acceptable sacrifice with which God is very delighted.  Not because of the size of the check but because the offering is given in faith and love.

 

Fifth, there is the priestly intercession or prayer on behalf of others.  That’s Psalm 141:2.  “Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”  You, as priests, are to pray.  You are to speak to God on behalf of others.  You intercede for them in the Name of Jesus.  You do this in your daily prayers as well as in the Prayer of the Church every Sunday when you pray for all sorts and conditions of people.  You pray for the church, her pastors, for those in authority, for peace in the world, for good weather, for the sick, the dying, the unemployed, etc.  It’s called the Prayer of the Church because you as God’s priests, His church, come before Him in all boldness and confidence – holding up those who need His help and care.  All this is in connection with the Second Commandment – using the Divine Name properly in prayer for the sake of those in need.  And God promises to hear us.  “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me,” (Psalm 50:15).

 

So, the spiritual sacrifices that the baptized royal priesthood offers to God through Jesus Christ are:  repentance, offering your body in service to others, praising God’s name, giving offerings, and prayer.

 

All of this you and Cohen are given to do because God in Christ has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  God has built you into a spiritual house founded on that Rock who was rejected by men but chosen and precious of God, even our Lord Jesus Christ.  He has good use for you and Cohen – His baptized, Royal Priesthood.

 

This is how you live in and from Holy Baptism.  Happy Baptism Day Cohen!

 

And now “to Him [Jesus] who has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever,” (Revelation 1:5-6).  Amen.

 

 

 

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