Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pentecost 14 Sermon: "Cleansed in Jesus"

+ Pentecost 14 – August 30th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B, Proper 17: Deut. 4:1-2, 6-9; Eph. 6:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” so it’s said. Well if that’s the case, I imagine many of us – including my desk – are in a pig-pen of trouble.

Scripture is full of the language of clean and unclean. Even so, it sounds a bit strange to our ears.

Maybe we think of Mr. Clean and those scrubbing bubbles – after all, a shiny head must equal a shiny house.

Whatever it may be, we tend to think of cleaning as a procedure: take a shower, pick up our room, or change a diaper.

In Jesus’ day the Pharisees thought similarly. They set up rules and regulations to keep the OT laws to keep clean. They had turned God’s instructions – which were given to reveal their holiness - into a list of procedures which they claimed made them holy.

They didn’t understand that… Jesus came to make the unclean clean.
Hence all the hullaballoo about clean and unclean food in Mark 7.

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.

The disciples were confused. Maybe we are too.

After all, they knew their OT. Maybe you recall your Bible lessons from Catechism or Sunday school. God gave Israel the dietary laws of clean and unclean food. Leviticus 11 outlines it in Food Network detail. Mammals that chewed the cud and had cloven hooves were fine, but if they did only one or the other – no soup for you. So that meant no camel steaks, rabbit stew, or pig roasts. Seafood was fine provided it had scales – no shellfish. And those are just a few highlights.

What does this mean? No bacon, bratwurst, lobster, or many other tasty things we eat.
Why did God give Israel all these instructions on clean vs. unclean? Was he allergic to shellfish? Was it for disease prevention? No; it was simply this: Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.

You see, in the Biblical view of things, clean is synonymous with holiness. Holiness has to do with God setting something or someone apart. Consecrated or set aside. God’s giving of his holiness was not about procedure but proximity. The closer you were to the Tabernacle or Temple, the closer you were to God’s presence - the place where his glory dwelt. Once you were cleansed you could draw near to God safely. That’s what the tabernacle and all the sacrifices was about: making the way safe for unclean sinners to become clean and receive God’s holiness.

To be clean was to be set apart; chosen by God. It was about proximity to God’s holiness, not a procedure to earn his holiness. It was about being in the presence of God and being able to see, touch, taste, hear, and even smell his forgiveness.

So God called OT Israel a holy nation. Set apart by God from the other nations of the earth. Out of Egypt, into the Promised Land. Israel was holy, consecrated – for one purpose: to bring forth the Messiah in the fullness of time. Now that the Christ has come in the flesh the fast has ended. The feast is here. What was unclean is now clean.

And thankfully Mark gives us a helpful parenthetical commentary on the cleanliness controversy:
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
To be sure, Jesus is teaching something completely different. Jesus declared all foods clean. The Christ has come. Israel fulfilled its purpose. Jesus came to make the unclean clean. So enjoy your bacon covered scallops – or not. It’s not about what we eat or don’t eat that makes us unclean before God.

Rather, it’s what comes out of our heart that makes us unclean. That sinful, ravenous beast within each of us. That’s the problem. Out the sinful heart of each of us come evil thoughts. Ever have one? Speaking for myself I find myself amazed and yet disgusted all at once. I said that? I did that? My thoughts, words, and deeds – all of it unclean. No. Food isn’t the problem. Food can’t fix our unbelieving heart.

So what’s the answer? How do we get clean? A procedure? Eat this or that? No. Being cleansed before God isn’t a procedure; it’s about proximity. What will save us? Grace, not works. Gospel, not Law. The Words of Jesus, not the regulations of man.

Only Jesus can cleanse this sinful heart of mine, and yours. And he does. Just like he did for the leper in Mark 1: If you will, Lord, you can make me clean.
I will; be clean.

Jesus came to make the unclean clean.

And with Jesus comes God’s presence. His glory revealed in a suffering servant. His holiness hidden in humility for you.

Jesus does the truly outrageous thing. He – the clean one – cleanses us by taking into himself all our sin and uncleanness and brokenness. And he gets as close to you as the Word in your ears, as the water splashed over your head, as his body and blood that goes into our bodies. Jesus’ holiness and cleanliness from sin isn’t achieved, it is received.

And so we pray the words of Psalm 51: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

We sing those same words as we go to receive cleansing in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus gives us a food that truly does enter into us and make us holy. The bread is his body. The cup is his blood. Holy food that makes us holy people.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10)

Rejoice, Jesus came to make the unclean clean. And if the Son washes you clean, you are clean indeed.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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