Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lamb of God, Pure and Holy

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon from "Lamb of God, Pure and Holy" (CPH LENTEN SERIES) I am using it as the foundation for a Lenten Series I have outlined according to Franzmann's partitioning of Romans chapter 12. It is entitled Sacrifice of Life + Life of Sacrifice. It is an attempt to more firmly ground in the minds of the parishioners I am called (as well as honored and humbled) to shepherd that Christian stewardship (not financial alone) is the natural fruit of faith in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Stewardship is sanctification and sanctifiction can begin nowhere but at the cross of Christ - our justification. Franzmann's outline is found below.

The Christian Life as Life of Faith
The Christian Life as Life of Love
The Christian Life as Life of Hope
The Christian Life as Life of Vocation

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18–19

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Beloved in Christ – Perhaps the weather does not show it as much as we would like but “spring cleaning” is just around the corner. That time of year to open the windows that have been closed for so long. Searching in the darker recesses of our rooms and homes to allow the fresh and bright newness of restored warmth and glow into what; at this time of year seems like a - forever darkness. It is necessary now and then to stop and do some major cleaning around our home and work. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but the frantic, frenzied lives we live seems to leave little time for either one. And this neglect begins to show after a while.
You may be one can live with a certain amount of clutter in your house, but no matter what your tastes messy souls are another matter altogether. The season of Lent arrives to school us all in repentance; call it…spring cleaning for the soul. And for that reason Lent is such a good thing, spiritually speaking. For forty days you and all Christians join with Christ as He makes His way to His cross. You, through faith, confess His bitter sufferings and His redeeming death. Mournfully you attend His grave, and are raised to newness of life by His glorious resurrection.
Lent is a season of repentance - that is, it is a season of deliberate and focused intention to turn away from sin. But because repentance involves both sorrow over sin and faith in Jesus, faith that brings forgiveness and new life, Lent is also a time of cleansing and renewal - cleansing and renewal in and by Jesus, the Lamb of God. May it be that by God’s Holy Spirit in and through the Word that you spend this Lententide: airing out stale souls, clearing out the clutter of sin-filled hearts, tossing out the trash, and finding refreshment and renewal in the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanses you from all sin.
From the recognition of spirit deadening sin from which we must repent; turn to the sinless Lamb of God. He comes clearly into focus in the words of the apostle Peter, who writes that Jesus is “a lamb without blemish or defect” 1 Peter 1:19.

Our fallen nature demands that we be again reminded how unique Jesus is in that department; otherwise the devil and sinful flesh leads us to see Jesus as any other person – a well intentioned man to teach us how to be better…to ourselves and maybe even to others. This false understanding does not recognize Jesus for who He is – and it is judged accordingly as sin and sin is punished by God. The Bible teaches that the Son of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary as true man, like us in every way save one: He was without sin. Therein is the lifesaving and sin forgiving difference. Jesus faced the same temptations you and I face each day. The marked difference is that Jesus resisted those temptations, while too often we give in - or even embrace certain temptations to sin with open arms. Because we are defiled and contaminated by sin it should come as no surprise when we feel dirty and polluted, for we have fouled ourselves not just in what we do but also in what we say and even how we think. There is truly nothing good in us when it comes to our sinful nature. We are thoroughly blemished in our sin. These blemishes are not surface but it goes to the heart of your being and we are disqualified from the presence of God and so stand under His wrath and judgment.
Salvation and eternal hope is NOT found in sympathy, empathy or even compassion. Rather it is found in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In His suffering and on the cross, Jesus expended His life as the price to pay the debt of death – for God proclaims that the soul which sins is the one that will die. And so Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was made to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God. All who trust in Christ not only find their sins removed and absolved, but by faith in Jesus they share in His holiness; before the throne of Almighty God - you stand -- holy – even as Christ is holy, without spiritual blemish or defect.
The fisherman Peter turned apostle teaches that your heavenly status in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, also has a profound effect for the life you live here on earth: “you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” 1 Peter 1:18.
How do you recognize this empty way of life? It is most vividly revealed in the desire to live solely for yourself. Modern parlance seems to define it as our “freedoms,” but what it boils down to is the freedom to do as you please, the freedom of an unbridled will. The Word of God calls such selfish freedom – what it truly is -- bondage. “There is a way that seems right to a man,” we read in Proverbs, “but in the end it leads to death” Proverbs 14:12. Wherein then does the Christian find true freedom? Martin Luther here makes a faithful statement, the Christian is both "a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none" and "a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." Freedom to live for God and this reveals itself in service to one another. That we may grow in such maturity and faith during Lent we will build on this the foundation of Christ and His offering of Life. Each day we have both the honor and responsibility to live in the love and as we heard in the sermon last week reflect the light and grace of God in Christ. Your growth in the Christian faith is never a simple decision on your part but is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word, by the Holy Sacraments, in and with Christian counsel and exhortation. The Lord God bless our worship throughout Lent that we may come to see our freedom foe what it truly is – freedom from death and hell – freedom to live for God and for others.

Christians, life is more that what you can gain for yourself. True Life is what Jesus Christ has gained for you. His is the Sacrifice of Life -- in which you find your life -- a life of Sacrifice.
By His grace, you belong to Him. In Him you find refreshment for your souls. Unshoulder your burdens, put away your sorrow, set aside heartache and pain. All this and more the pure and holy Lamb of God has taken with Him to the cross that by His death He would redeem you, make you pure and holy like Himself, and set you free to live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness; even as He is now risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. Amen.

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