Pastor's Sermon
August 12, 2018
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
The Twelfth
Sunday After Pentecost
  Rev. Matthew C. Rauh
 
May It Be Said You Are the Spitting Image of Your Father!
 
     “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
 
     They say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  This is a cliché to describe how children often are very much like their parents.  I think this is true.  I see more and more of my father in me.  My father always liked things to be where they are suppose to be.  “There is a place for everything, and a everything has a place,” he said to us.  Well he always had this habit of rearranging the pillows on the sofa so one is on one end and the other is on the other.  As kids we use to tease him.  We hear him coming and quickly put the pillows out of place, maybe on the floor and pretend we didn’t notice it.  Sure enough, when he walked through the room, he would stop and put the pillows where they belong.  God has a sense of humor.  Guess who puts the pillows in their proper places?  We kids.  We are very much like our father.  How about you?  What features or traits do you share with your parents? 
     God the Holy Spirit encourages us today that we become more like our father.  But he is talking about our adoptive father, God the Father. 
 
I.  You are his children and he is your Father.
 
     “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
     Our epistle reading today is a very short section, only five verses and in the English it has only 87 words, but Paul crams so much into this short reading.  First, we find the Trinity.  Did you catch it?  We have God the Father who loves us.  We have God the Son who offered himself up as a sacrifice for us.  And we have God the Holy Spirit who puts a seal or label on us that says, “Deliver to heaven.”
     Paul also puts into this short section the gospel, and not just once, but four separate times.  The gospel tells us how God feels about us and what he does to save us.  Yes, Paul is going to tell us to avoid and get rid of anger and other bad things, but he can’t help himself; he must also include the gospel. 
     One gospel message says, “… just as in Christ God forgave you.”  The word for forgive here comes from grace.  It means to show favor or grace to someone.  I am involved with a Christian nursing home and they have charity care (the same word used here) where they refuse to kick someone out if they can’t pay the bills.  This text reminds we owe God something.  We owe him a perfect, holy, sinless life.
     We can’t pay what we owe God so God forgives us our debt.  That is gospel.   And that leads us to the second gospel message which tells us how.  “…  just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  I have friends who adopted children.  One adopted a child from China.  Another adopted a child from Bulgaria.  Another adopted a child with birth defects from the inner city.  But adoption costs lots of money.  It is not that kids are up for sale.  You don’t just want to stick a kid into any family.  You make sure they are good parents for that child.  So there are tests and background checks, travel expenses and legal fees and it costs money.
     God paid a price for you.  Only it wasn’t money.  It was his own Son.  It would be like trading your own child to adopt a child from Africa.  Jesus gave himself up for us.  His perfect life and innocent death pays for our sins.  He made himself an offering to God that pleased God so he forgives us for the sake of Jesus Christ.
     And there is still more gospel here.  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  In ancient days you would put a seal or some mark on your property like ranchers branding cattle.  Well, God has put a seal on us.  It happened at your Baptism when he placed his name on you.  But it is not just baptism that is the seal; it is faith that trusts all that Baptism offers.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit who works, nourishes and sparks saving faith in us.  The fact we believe proves we belong to God.  He paid the price and now he put his mark on us as his own.
     And the last gospel message here tells us what is the result,  “… as dearly loved children.”  My mother spent a few years in an orphanage.  Then one day a family gave her their home and raised her as their own.  My friends who adopted children did the same, even giving these children their names.  We are adopted by God the Father.  He gives us his home, his name; he loves us, raises and takes care of us as his children.
 
II.  So imitate God your Father.
 
     So we are the dearly loved children of God our Father.  But are we like apples who don’t fall far from the tree?  Do we find ourselves becoming more and more like our Father?  Not always.  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
     I can still see my mother roll her eyes.  She got us all dressed and ready for church.  It was back in the days when boys wore suits and girls wore dresses.  She called out to us to get into the car for church, only we didn’t run from the house.  We ran from the back yard where we decided to play.  Clothes were dirty, faces smudged, hair a mess.  I lost one shoe.  I can still see my mother’s eyes roll.
     Imagine all the time and effort God spent in saving you from sin, death and the devil.  Picture the agony Jesus endured:  the rejection of people; whipping; mocking; carrying his own cross; nails; death; even hell itself.  Imagine the work the Spirit spent on you, coming in the gospel to spark faith in you, and to change you, washing you clean and holy and ready for heaven.  Now imagine how it makes God feel if we polishes us all up for heaven and we immediately go run right back into sin.  It grieves him.
     Jesus died for us.  God forgives us.  He has made us clean.  Now he encourages us to stay clean by avoiding sin.  Did you notice that Paul didn’t talk about the big whopper sins?  He didn’t talk about murder or adultery.  He brings up bitterness, rage, anger, arguing and calling each other names.  I never heard of anyone being sentenced to jail for twenty years for being bitter.  But bitterness is not good.  It eats away at a person.  We don’t want to hang around a bitter person.  Bitterness betrays an utter corruption of humans.  It is part of us.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we can be bitter.  It can also lead to other sins like anger, arguing and name-calling.
     There is an old phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Wrong.  This section tells us that name calling does hurt.  It hurts the person when we call them a name.  It hurts us and our reputations.  It hurts and grieves God.  Yes, we are freed from sin in Christ.  Yes, we are forgiven.  But there is a danger sin still poses against us.  If we tolerate it, even want it, we are beginning to trade Jesus and heaven for sin again.  That is why the devil continues to tempt us to be bitter, argue and generally unloving to each other.
     You can literally find hundreds of books on anger management.  You can take counseling for it.  Even the unbelieving world wants to get rid of bitterness, anger and fighting.  There is some good advice out there.  Fight anger with humor, honesty, good communication, count to ten before speaking, etc.  These can help.  But God has a solution and it is so simple.  Get rid of it.
     Get rid of it.  In our text, the Greek word for “get rid of” has the idea of sending something off.  It made me think immediately of an Old Testament tradition.  Once a year a mayor would call the citizens to gather in the center of town.  He would have a goat there.  He then placed his hand on the goat and declared that this goat now has the sins of the people on it and they would drive it away into the wilderness to die.  I suppose animal activists would get all upset, but you appreciate the picture.  An innocent person, here a goat, will take your sins away.  It is a picture of Christ who takes away the sin of the world.  When you find bitterness, and anger and any sin in your life, get rid of it by putting it on Christ who already died for it.
     Then, get rid of it in your heart and life and replace it with something else.  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  “Just as Christ,”  it says here.  These are the virtues of a holy, perfect, God!  Sinless means kind and compassionate and forgiving just like Christ.  Imagine the marriage, the family, the workplace, the news, politics, if people actually appreciated what Christ did for them and got rid of bitterness and rage and so on, and replaced such things with kindness and compassion and above all, forgiveness? 
     So, does the apple fall far from the tree?  Are you more like or less like your father, God the Father?  The answer is yes.  Yes, there are days when it seems as though we are high on the Christian mountain and the devil’s temptations bounce off of us.  And yes, there are days when we are bitter, angry, depressed and we can see the devil circling us every closer.  The key is Christ and the cross.  Get rid of your sins there.  And then get rid of bitterness and anger and name-calling.  God adopted you.  Christ died for you and cleans you up for heaven.  The Holy Spirit put his seal on you.  So, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Then it can be said of you, “Boy, you are the spitting image of your Father.”  Amen.
 

Readings:
1 Kings 19:3-18
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51
The Psalm:  Psalm 34
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