Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 14)

August 12, 2012

Text: Eph. 4:17-5:2

St. Paul paints a contrasting picture for us this morning between walking in the futility of the unbelieving mind on the one hand, and, on the other hand, having the mind renewed in the Spirit of God (Eph. 4:17, 23). The unbelieving world, the Gentiles, as Paul calls them in our text, you and I before the Spirit takes possession of us, walk with our minds fixed on futile things, fruitless things, empty and worthless things. Such a mind is, Paul says, “darkened in… understanding, alienated from God” because of “ignorance” (v. 18). In other words, such a mind couldn’t find God if eternal life depended on it. Which is just another way of stating the bondage of the will, that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, that I cannot love God, and I cannot even really love my neighbor, not in a way that pleases God, with the self-sacrificial love of Christ. I cannot do these things on my own, by my own power, because I’m bound to sin. I was born that way. I inherited it from my parents, who inherited it from their parents, each generation passing along the fatal disease acquired for us by Adam in the Garden. This is the darkness you and I are born into, beloved, born spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. And so we are captivated by futile things, idols really, false gods. You can clearly see the unbelieving world continuing to run after these things. What are the values of the world? Pleasure. Greed. Status. Self-interest. The illusion of self-preservation. St. Paul says that “They” (that is, those who walk in the futility of their minds) “have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (v. 19). This is the liturgy of the idol of the self. This is self-worship. You can observe it in almost any television program, in the media, in what is called acadamia. The world’s values are all about me, myself, and I. Be true to yourself, is the creed of the world. And so if you begin to believe this yourself, if you give ear to the siren song of the world, you will find yourself walking in the futility of your mind. You will become obsessed with sex, money, power, stuff. You will become obsessed with yourself, curved in on yourself as the theologians say. And because these things are futile, empty, you will never be satisfied. You will endlessly covet more. You will never feel whole. That’s the futility of the whole thing. In the end, you will be left with only yourself, Godless and, as you seek to be your own god, unable to deliver. And you will either attempt to numb yourself with even more futility, or (God grant it!) the Holy Spirit will take you captive by the preaching of repentance.

Repent, beloved. That is not how you learned Christ (v. 20). That is not how you’ve heard about Him and been taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus (v. 21). The reason you are so susceptible to the allurement of futility is that you were born into this futility. You confess that in the liturgy when you say that you are by nature sinful and unclean. But God has done something about this. You are baptized into Christ. God has snatched you out of the darkness of unbelief, the bondage of sin and death and hell, and made you His own, His child. He has washed your guilt away in the blood of Jesus Christ. He has given you Christ’s own righteousness as a gift. In your Baptism, you have died with Christ. That is what Paul means when he says that you “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (v. 22). He’s talking about the death of your sinful nature, your old Adam, his drowning in Baptism, his crucifixion in repentance. Repentance is nothing other than a daily return to Baptism. In repentance, you daily put off the old self. You daily reject that walk in the futility of the fleshly mind. And, in Baptism, you have been raised with Christ. Christ is risen from the dead. You are baptized into this reality. And this means not only that you have eternal life and the sure and certain promise that Christ will raise you from the dead bodily on the Last Day, but that you have newness of life now. Newness of life… that’s sanctification, being made holy, and it is the Holy Spirit who does this as He daily renews your mind according to the mind of Christ. He daily clothes you with your new self, the new creation in Christ Jesus. He creates you once again after the image and likeness of God. That likeness was lost in the Garden when our first parents sinned. But in Baptism, it is renewed. You’ve been made new! Don’t go back to the old way of darkness and death. Walk in the light that is Christ Jesus.

Now, this is a daily battle, because you still have the sinful flesh. You are at the same time a saint in Christ, and a sinner in the flesh. It’s a battle for Christians, for you, not to walk in the futility of your fleshly mind. Unbelievers don’t have this problem. They don’t battle against the futility. But you do. Because your Baptism is a call to arms. St. Paul will talk about this later in Ephesians chapter 6, where he talks about you being outfitted with the whole armor of God. The thing about Baptism is that it makes you a target of the devil. He wants you back. God won’t give you back. Thus the battle. But remember, the Holy Spirit is renewing your mind. It is God who fights your battles, just as He fought for Israel of old. Anytime Israel thought they were fighting their own battles, they would lose. But when they believed in the LORD of hosts who fought for them, the LORD would grant them victory, sometimes even without weapons, because He was doing all the work. The Holy Spirit fights the battle for you. He renews your mind. And yet, it is still a battle. It is still hard. It does still hurt. Because it requires the daily death of the flesh.

Put away falsehood, Paul says. Speak the truth (v. 25). That doesn’t come easy to us. Repent of your falsehood, your breaking of the 8th Commandment. Believe the Holy Absolution spoken upon you today, and speak the truth. Be angry, but do not sin. Just give that one a try, I dare you. Repent of your sin against the 5th Commandment, your murdering of your neighbor in your heart. Believe the forgiveness of Christ poured into your mouth from the chalice today, and resolve the conflict with your neighbor in a God-pleasing way before you go to bed tonight (v. 26). Don’t give the devil an opportunity to escalate the situation and bring your soul into peril (v. 27). Don’t steal, whether openly, or craftily, in a way that appears right in the eyes of men. Repent of your sin against the 7th Commandment. Believe that He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, will also graciously give you your daily bread. Labor honestly, in His Name, so that you can share with those in need (v. 28). Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking. Repent of your sin against the 2nd Commandment, muddying the Name of God by your sinful words and deeds. Believe that your sins have been washed away in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and call upon that Name in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, confessing the faith to one another and building one another up, as fits the occasion, that such speech may give grace to those who hear (v. 29). Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, with whom you were sealed in Baptism (v. 30), by living according to the world’s values. Christians have a different set of values than those of the world. Be who you are called to be in Christ, in Baptism, as a child of God. Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and all malice. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (v. 32). Die to yourself. So you were wronged. Bear it. Forgive, as Christ bore it and forgave you. For in this way you imitate God, your heavenly Father, as any beloved child imitates their parent (5:1). You reflect the image and likeness of God in which you have been created anew. You walk in love, the love of Christ with which He loved us and gave Himself for us on the cross, and you, like Him, become “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v. 2).

St. Paul calls us this morning to walk with minds renewed by the Holy Spirit, living in the world, but not living according to the world’s values, according to the futility of their minds. Instead of chasing after empty things, impotent idols, worshiping the self, we are called to be filled with the Spirit and the gifts of God which He gives us in Christ. After all, God redeemed us to be His own by the blood and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He has put His Name upon us. We are His children. We belong to Him. In fact, the Lord Jesus has redeemed us for this very purpose, that we may be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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