Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“Fragrant Sacrifices and Offerings” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

S-1452 17SAP/3A 10/05/2014 Hymns: (O) #39; #244; (S) #633 LSB; (C) #496

Texts: Jeremiah 26:1-15; Ephesians 5:1-9; Luke 11:14-28

Theme: “Fragrant Sacrifices and Offerings” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Question: “What is your favorite perfume?” LWML Sunday Sermon

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for this glorious celebration and observation of the LWML Sunday is from Pastor Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

Today, by the grace of God, I give thanks and praise for the servants of the Most High God—the Lutheran Women in Mission and declare God’s glorious blessings and congratulations upon these faithful servants. As we celebrate and observe this special day, we ask the Holy Spirit to be among us and strengthen us ALL in our walk of faith that is rooted and grounded in the One who Himself became the ultimate Sacrifice—Jesus the Christ; whose sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross became a sweet smelling offering in the nostrils of God both in heaven and on earth.

Jesus is the One who calls us to follow His example by being imitators of Him. He lived in perfect obedience to the Father’s will, by keeping the Law in our stead and giving His life as the Lamb of God on the Altar of the cross as a fragrant sacrifice for the human race. This He did with the greatest joy in His heart to win our salvation.

Beloved in the Lord, if you were going to buy your spouse a very special gift, what would you get her/him? If the price was high, would you still get the gift anyway? What if you can’t afford to pay for it? A slight PAUSE.

A story is told of a groom who wanted to impress his young bride by buying her some nice perfume. Walking into an upscale Nieman Marcus store, he told the salesperson that he didn’t have much money but wanted to buy some very good, cheap perfume. The salesperson stared at him in disbelief for a minute and then responded, “Cheap perfume?” Sir, theirs is no such thing here.” The young man ended up buying his bride a nice iron instead. “Who needs that expensive stuff in the tiny bottle anyway?” He said.

Isn’t that how we treat God at times? We want to serve Him and indeed do love to serve Him, but at times we feel we neither have the time, the funds, nor the desire to do so. And so we come with the same attitude as this young groom saying to God, “I want to serve You…but.”

I say this because we are all—pastor and people are guilty of this attitude. Soon you will be asked (If you haven’t already) by the nominating committee to serve the Lord and His Church on a specific board. More often than not, we say, “No” just because we don’t want to take the time. Rather than going to the throne of grace in prayer seeking His wisdom and will for our lives, we let our own desires and our own wills determine what we should do. I implore you when someone asks you to serve, prayerfully consider it as the highest honor and privilege to serve God. This service is indeed a fragrant offering and sacrifice that pleases God our Savior.

As followers of Jesus, we listen to the Apostle Paul who in the text today encourages us to live a life that reflects the sweet aroma that pleases God. What is this reflection? To be imitators of Christ as He Himself became the sweetest aroma in the nostrils of God.

We have many examples in Scriptures of men and women who sacrificed and gave a fragrant offering unto the Lord. Think of King David: At a high cost slaughtered many cattle as they brought the Arch of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Consider the sacrifice of the wise men that traveled over a 1000 miles and gave gifts that were very expensive showing their commitment to the Incarnate Child of Bethlehem—giving Him the highest respect. Mary poured out a very expensive nard on Jesus’ feet. Likewise, Paul gave His life for the sake of the Gospel and sacrificed much to get the Gospel so that Jews and Gentiles can hear that Christ is the fragrant offering of our salvation. PAUSE.

As you look around this holy house you will see many of the quilts that demonstrate the sacrifice of the ladies who spent time sewing and stitching every square cloth in love and give it to someone in need. You know of the work of many of these ladies who deliver meals on wheels, play bingo, assist during someone’s sickness and prepare meals during the celebration of the new life—all of these activities demonstrate their life of service—in imitating Christ as a fragrant sacrifice to God.

But not all of us are involved in the ministry. Many of us just sit in church without a care in the world about how we can be imitators of Christ. We only take BUT don’t give back—and if you do, it is only in reluctance when we feel guilty. It is not spurred out of a heart that is filled with gratitude to what Christ has done for us—giving His life as the Lamb slain on the altar of the cross.

This shows the reality of our fallen condition. We are at once sinners and saints. We have the terrible stain of sin upon us and at the same time have the wonderful promise of resurrection glory upon us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This wonderful fragrant and gracious sacrifice on our behalf is the one that God receives as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. This is the ultimate sacrificial offering but there are many others worked by our Lord Jesus in obedience to our Father. Remember?

In the beginning the Holy Spirit comes to a virgin named Mary and a Son is born to her and Joseph who is named Jesus. Prophecy proclaims the birth of this Child and angels sing the birth of this Child. The shepherds and wise men rejoice at the birth of this Child and our Father receives this miraculous birth as a fragrant sacrifice and offering. This Jesus at eight days old is dedicated back to His Father in the rite of circumcision, a fragrant offering to the Lord. There is a wedding that is running a bit short on wine. Jesus turns water into the best wine and the Father catches that scent as a fragrant offering. And there is more!

Blind people see, deaf people hear, lame people have their limbs restored, sick people are healed, lepers are cleansed, seas are calmed, demons are cast out, mute people speak, the hungry are fed, demon possessed are delivered, captives are set free, severed ears restored, and if that were not enough, resurrection and life become the new normal. Our Father receives all these acts as fragrant sacrifices and offerings. They reach to His nostrils and the Lord rejoices, the angels dance, the Holy Spirit rejoices because our Father is well pleased, the incense has been lit, the fire is burning and the perfect sacrifice, the blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24) is set to be shed. The perfect offering is so sweet and fragrant a sacrifice to the Father that it has the power to cover and remove the sin of all humankind for all time.

That is the plan and design of God. That Jesus Christ, the perfect fragrant sacrifice and offering, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world in whose book the names of all who live and die and rise by faith in Christ Jesus have been written. (Revelation 13:8) And not only are their names written in the book of the Lamb and in the heart of the Father but their works of faith, good works prepared beforehand in which they walk, rise to the throne of our Father as fragrant sacrifices and offerings.

Understand that you have been called upon to imitate the One who came to serve and not be served. Remember beloved that every act of obedience, every work of the saints of God, every act of faith, every word spoken in faith rises up to the Father as a sweet-smelling savor and sacrificial offering. We have the awesome privilege of bringing joy to the heart of our Father by not simply performing deeds of which He would approve but also in the words of Saint Paul to the Romans in the twelfth chapter, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So, dear saints of God, let’s strive with all our Holy Ghost-inspired and Spirit-filled faith to infuse the heavens with fragrant sacrifices and offerings by not simply doing, but by BEING those sacrifices and offerings in the nostrils of our loving God and Father. Amen.

Now may the peace…


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