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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Jul 30, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 8th Sunday After Pentecost, Deuteronomy 7:6-9. There we read these words:

"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

We begin in the name of Jesus, Amen

Dear Christian friends: By most peoples’ standards, a hog confinement is probably a less-than-ideal place to spend the day. It is impossible to keep your clothes clean, even for a few minutes. A distinctive odor wafts through the air. Everything gets wrecked by the constant rooting and rubbing and rolling around. It is just a matter of time before someone decides to see whether you taste like chicken. But, despite its lack of appeal, what does the owner of the hogs see in his hog confinement? That’s right. Mmm… bacon!

In the Small Catechism, under the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther compared everyday life in this world to a valley of sorrow. "We pray… that our Father in heaven would… graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven."

In the Preface to same catechism, in another place, Luther’s description of daily life was much more insulting. Disgusted by you and even more disgusted by me, in addition to being continually disgusted by himself, Luther compared life in this world to a hog confinement:

All the people are supposed to be Christians, have been baptized, and receive the Holy Sacrament even though they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed or the Ten Commandments and [they] live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen (Preface to the Small Catechism).

If your glass chin can survive Luther’s insult, you might be able to agree with his point, at least a little bit. His point is twofold:

First, you routinely fail to hold the teachings of your Lord in your minds and in your hearts, as you ought. Oh, to be sure, you can recite the Lord’s Prayer without actually thinking; the majority here can say the Apostles’ Creed without opening the cover of the hymnal; and given a minute or two, most of you can probably identify each commandment by number.

You know these things, but do you know these things? Do you personally plumb the depths of the commandments, the creed and the prayer— making them your daily meditation—or have you contented yourself merely to scratch your fingernails across the surface of things?

Beyond that, would you dare to deny your actions, that you routinely fail to live out in your daily life the most basic things you have learned from Christ and now claim to believe?

Stained Glass Baptism Window

"[They] live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen." Insulting or not, there is more truth to Luther’s description of daily life than any Christian would prefer to admit or hear. Like a hog confinement, daily live might actually be a less-than-ideal place to spend the day.

It is impossible any of you to stay clean, even for a few minutes. The Lord your God placed a brand new set of clothes upon each of you in Baptism. Every Sunday, He uses His Word and His Holy Communion to wash your clothing spotless and clean.

But by noon on Sunday, some hog has already put a nose print on them again. The only thing worse for us than the filth other people produce is the filth we ourselves generate—and like hogs, we are not above wallowing in it.

A distinctive odor wafts through the air of our daily lives. It is the smell of death, and it only grows stronger with each passing day. You can try to shovel if you wish, but the flies will still gather. Here in this hog confinement of daily live, everything gets wrecked. Even those things that God has joined together get torn apart with impunity (Matthew 19:6).

For as long as you hang around the confinement, it is only a matter of time before someone gets bitten. In ancient Israel, hogs were unclean animals (Leviticus 11:7). In everyday life, you are unclean people (Isaiah 6:5). Yet what does the Lord your God say to you in today’s Old Testament, despite the dirt and the flies and the bitten ears?

God says, in paraphrase, "Mmm… bacon!" Stated more closely, "You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth."

You may be wondering, "How do I know that these Words apply to me and to all Christians? God spoke these Words to His ancient people, just after their Exodus from Egypt and long before Christ Jesus died for my sins." You are absolutely correct. You are not Jews. The Lord your God did not "bring you out with a mighty hand and redeem us from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."

Nevertheless, the Lord your God wants you to claim the Words of today’s Old Testament for yourself, to cling to these Words of promise with your own heart, and to regard yourself as "holy to the Lord your God" and "His treasured possession."

Today’s Old Testament was written for the Sons of Abraham. Yet God is so earnest that you hear and believe today’s Old Testament for yourself that He commanded His servant Paul to write, "Those who have faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith" (Galatians 3:7). Again, "the children of the promise are counted as Abraham’s offspring" (Romans 9:8).

When did you personally become a "child of the promise"? You became a "child of the promise"—you became "heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7)—on the day God baptized you, speaking to you His promises of forgiveness (Acts 2:38, 22:16) and life-long holiness in Christ (Galatians 3:27, 1 Corinthians 6:1).

For these reasons and more, God’s Words and promises spoken to ancient Israel are God’s Words and promises spoken to you. "You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God chose you… for His treasured possession."

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Life in the hog confinement simply makes this holiness impossible for you or me or anyone else to see. All we see is the dirt and the wallow. God smells the bacon.

Take comfort, Christians, in what God does NOT say to you here. The Lord your God does NOT say in today’s Old Testament:

"You are a people holy to other people." In other words, God does not promise here that your holiness will be visible to others. God certainly commands your good works and your repentant living, but the unbelieving swine of this world are often able to put together better behavior than God’s Christians.

You are going to walk out of here today and immediately get dirty again. Someone WILL stick a nose print on you, even if you somehow manage to avoid putting one on yourself. Rejoice and be glad that your God does not say to you in this Old Testament Lesson, "You are a people holy to other people."

The Lord your God does NOT say in today’s Old Testament: "You are a people holy to yourselves." In other words, God wants you to know that your holiness—the holiness He gives to you—is not something that you personally will see or feel, either. That, too, is a good thing, because daily life and daily thinking is way too dirty.

If your holiness was something you could see and feel, it would be totally ruined by that first bite you take out of someone else’s hide.

The Lord your God says to you today, with Words of mercy and grace, "You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God chose you… for His treasured possession." These Words mean that, no matter how muddy things get, or how many flies swarm about you, your God’s disposition toward you does not change.

"You are a people holy to the Lord your God." You are holy because of Christ Jesus and His sin-cleansing blood. You are holy because it is impossible for the promises of God to go unfulfilled. You are holy to the Lord because of who He is.

He is the Lord your God. He "set His love on you and chose you."

You are holy to the Lord because Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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