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 19, 2012

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 15)

August 19, 2012

Text: Eph. 5:6-21

The voices in our culture, even many voices in the Church, would have us believe that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between the desires of our flesh and our Christian faith. They would have us believe you can be a Christian and still have sex with whomever, whenever you want. You can be a Christian on Sunday and still be ruthless and greedy every other day of the week. You can be a Christian and still be open to other gods, other religions. You can be a Christian and still doubt what God says about various things in His holy Word. After all, it’s an ancient book with an ancient worldview. These times are different. So, live together outside of marriage, or have sexual relationships outside of marriage, and just wink and nod when the pastor talks about how that’s immoral. We all know everybody does it. Look at the pornography on the internet and justify it in your mind as, well, maybe not all that bad. Compartmentalize the Christian faith so that it doesn’t get in the way of the party on Saturday night, so that it doesn’t interrupt your entertainment and your self-fulfillment. You can be a Christian and still walk in the fruitless works of darkness.

Except you can’t. That’s St. Paul’s point in our text this morning. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6; ESV). Now, it is true that we’re all sinners, and it is true that God forgives our sins because of Christ. It is true that all our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, that they’ve been washed away in Baptism, that whenever you commit a sin you can bring it to God in confession and be absolved of all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is absolutely true. That is the joy and freedom of the Gospel. But we dare never use the Gospel as an excuse to go on sinning. When we do that, we show that we don’t really believe the Gospel in the first place. Because when you know the life-giving mercy of God’s forgiveness in Christ, you no longer want to sin. When you do sin (and you do, every day, it’s a daily battle), you grieve over the fact that you have offended your God. You repent. You run to Him again and again for forgiveness and consolation and you seek to amend your sinful life. You try not to do the sin anymore. Because you know that it grieves your God, that it is not His will for your life, that it is harmful to you and to others. So you daily battle against the flesh, crucify it, drown it again in Baptism. And by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who has enlightened you with His gifts, you know that the voices in our culture, and the rogue voices in the Church, are speaking empty words to you, words that would rob you of your faith and bring you once again under the wrath of God.

“Look carefully then how you walk,” says Paul (v. 15). Don’t participate with the sons of disobedience, the unbelievers, in the works of darkness (v. 7). At one time you were darkness (v. 8), but not anymore. That was your former life, before you came to faith in Jesus. Now, you’re baptized. Now you’ve been enlightened by the Spirit. The Lord Jesus is in you with His very body and blood. You’re light in the Lord. “Walk as children of light” (v. 8). Live your life in such a way that it is consistent with your faith. For walking the light, you will produce the fruit of the light, which is all that is good and right and true (v. 9). A Christian’s aim should always be to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (v. 10). We should always be asking that question of ourselves, “What would be pleasing to the Lord in this situation?” And we know what is pleasing to the Lord, and what is displeasing, because He has revealed it to us in the Holy Scriptures. So do not take part in the unfruitful works of darkness (v. 11). Those don’t help anybody. Rather, they cause great harm, harm to you, harm to those around you, because they are inconsistent with love. Instead, expose those evil things for what they are. Call a sin a sin, whether society wants to hear it or not, whether your family and friends want to hear it or not. That’s your responsibility as a Christian, even if it brings you persecution. Expose those evil things, not in a spirit of meanness or hatred, but in the light of Jesus Christ, so that it can be dealt with and forgiven. For when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible (v. 14), and there aren’t any more secrets. All is out in the open now, so that it won’t have to come out on Judgment Day when it’s too late.

You see, the difference in you is once again your Baptism into Christ. Paul even quotes in our text what is probably an early baptismal hymn: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (v. 14). Your Baptism is nothing less than a resurrection from the dead. For you were born spiritually dead, unable to come to God, as Jesus says in our Gospel: “It is the Spirit who gives life… no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:63, 65). The Spirit gives life in Baptism and shines the Light that is Christ, the Savior, upon you so that you come to the Father through Christ. You don’t want to fall back into the old ways, back into the darkness, back into spiritual death. So look carefully how you walk, lest you stumble. Walk as wise, not as unwise (Eph. 5:15). Don’t be foolish. Search the Scriptures so that you understand what the will of God is (v. 16). And don’t be given to drunkenness and carelessness (that’s what the word “debauchery” means… it means careless and reckless immoral behavior). Instead, be filled with the Spirit (v. 18). Be intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you don’t need the old works of darkness, the works of the flesh. You don’t have to search for fulfillment in alcohol or sex or whatever else. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you’re filled with Christ, and with the Father, with the Triune God who created you and redeemed you to be His own. And for the first time, you find true fulfillment.

You see, Jesus has saved you out of emptiness and fruitlessness and vanity, the meaninglessness that you feel so acutely in this fallen world. He has something better for you. He shed His blood for the forgiveness of all your sins, for your blindly walking in darkness. He died for you. He is risen for you. And He gives you new life in His Word and Sacraments. So, leaving the old life behind, you come here, to the Church, as often as you can, to be renewed and refreshed by the life-giving Spirit of God as He comes to you in the Word of Jesus and the Sacrament of His body and blood. Feeding on His flesh and drinking His blood, you have eternal life now, and Jesus will raise you up bodily on the Last Day (John 6:54). So now your time is filled with something other than the works of darkness. Those simply are not an option for you anymore. Instead, your life is now filled with praise for your Savior. You address one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. You sing and make melody to the Lord with all your heart (Eph. 5:19), “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20), because worship is the response to all that God gives you in Christ and here in the Divine Service as Christ is really present with us in His living voice and in His body and blood. You can’t help but sing His praise for all that He does for you. And you submit to one another in love. You do it out of reverence for Christ (v. 21). You submit to one another because God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, submitted Himself to death for you. And He now lives in you, He who is risen from the dead and reigns to all eternity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God.

Next week we’ll learn about what this means for wives and husbands as the living picture of Christ and the Church. You see, far from being empty words that seduce you to more emptiness, like the voices in our culture, the words of holy Scripture have concrete things to say about your concrete situation. They are full words about very real things. For they are the Word of God. Hold to these words. They give life. For they are the words that shine the light of Christ, which no darkness can overcome. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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