12th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop C – 17)
August 28, 2022
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
The word sacrifice has numerous uses in English. In baseball, a batter sacrifices himself to advance a runner. Fathers and mothers sacrifice their own desires for the needs of their children. Soldiers sacrifice their lives for their brothers in arms. In each of these situations, the individual gave up something, sometimes their lives, for the benefit of others. We sometimes call these self-sacrifices, right?
Now let’s go way back thousands of years to a time when the word sacrifice had a different meaning. In the centuries before Jesus was born, making a sacrifice was a huge part of the temple worship. The Jews sacrificed a variety of animals, bulls, sheep, goats, doves, for themselves. The animals didn’t willingly line up to be sacrificed, it was done to them. They were sacrificed by the people to express thanks, to ask for peace, and most importantly to take away sin and guilt of their unintentional sins. There wasn’t any self-sacrifice at the Temple.
The most important day in all Jewish life was the Day of Atonement, a day of sacrifice for all sin and guilt, including intentional sins and rebellion against God. On this day, a goat was sacrificed, and its blood taken into the Holy of Holies, the place in the temple where God resided. It was offered to God to atone for, to make up for, the people’s sins and to restore holiness to the Temple caused by the impurity of the people. It was a day of ritual, culminating in the restoration of the people’s holiness through the forgiveness of their sins.
But then the day came when all those animal and grain sacrifices were no longer needed. The day came when one sacrifice was made that made all those other sacrifices obsolete. The day came when Jesus made a once-for-all-time sacrifice. On a cross-shaped altar, Jesus shed His blood for you. The crosses here in our sanctuary are beautiful and clean. The cross of Christ was anything but, and I would love to have a cross here in sanctuary that has a the figure of Jesus dying on it, because that’s what the sacrifice of Jesus really looked like. If you had looked at Jesus’ back, his blood would’ve been matted to the wood of the cross. His face would’ve been streaked with blood from the crown of thorns. Blood would’ve oozed out of the nail holes in his hands and dripped down his wrists and arms. Blood would be rolling down his side, where a spear had punctured him. And blood from the nail holes in his feet would’ve crept down the cross and onto the ground. This is anything but a beautiful scene, and we can’t lose sight of His suffering, but neither can we lose sight of why Jesus made this sacrifice – you are the why.
He did this to take away the sin of the world, to take away your sin. Jesus sacrificed Himself to atone for the guilt of your intentional and unintentional sins. Jesus sacrificed His life so that you will live eternally with Him. On the altar of the cross, His blood was shed so you would be clean in God’s eyes. The writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” We come into God’s holy presence only because Jesus has made us holy by His holy blood shed on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice is the only sacrifice that sanctifies us before God. Jesus’ sacrifice is once-for-all and for all times. His self-sacrifice means you are forgiven! You have peace with God. In this greatest act of self-sacrifice, you are saved from Death and Hell.
Time of sacrificing animals is over and Jesus will never be sacrificed again. The sacrifices needed for forgiveness are done because we can’t add any thing to what Jesus did on the cross. But other sacrifices are still to be made. As the author of Hebrews says, “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” We still make sacrifices to God, by both what we say and do.
In church, here at Emmanuel, we make sacrifices when we praise Him with our hymns and prayers. We offer sacrifices when we stand together and confess our faith in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We offer sacrifices when we bow our heads and give thanks for the food we receive at home, at the former Kathy’s or the Dock-It. We offer sacrifices of thanksgiving when we count our blessings and thank God for the gifts He gives to us every, single day. We even offer a sacrifice when we tell others about Jesus’ love for them, when we share with them God’s Word of Law and Gospel, and how He calls everyone to hear His Word and receive eternal life.
Today, the writer of Hebrews also gives us a list of good things to do, ways we sacrifice our time and money, to sacrifice of ourselves, in the way we live. He writes, “Let brotherly love continue.” We’re family, and we care for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We sacrifice time and money to make Emmanuel our home. We pray for one another. We visit the grieving. We help the hurting. We listen to those who just want to talk. We speak only kinds words to and about others.
When the author mentions showing hospitality, we can show that in so many ways. It’s hard to know who really is poor and who is just trying to con us, but when we can, we provide food, drink, and even a place to stay for those in need. You make a sacrifice to God whenever you reach out to the less fortunate: the homeless, those in prison, those in the hospital or nursing home. You sacrifice yourself when you support our Vacation Bible School and all the kids that come through our door that week. You do so when you welcome people to our congregation, even if they’re sitting in your pew.
How many of us have struggled with our finances? We think we don’t have enough money. Maybe we don’t have enough money. Maybe we want more and more. Maybe we think if only I had more money, everything would be okay. But then today we hear, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” It’s hard, oh boy, I know it’s hard, but sacrifice to God also means giving Him our fears and our worries. Sacrificing means that you believe Him when He says He will never leave you nor forsake you. We look to Him knowing that He will provide for us, and we sacrifice to Him when we acknowledge what He has given us and praise Him for His gifts.
The author of Hebrews sums it perfectly. “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.” Our entire life is one of sacrifice. We look to His Son as the sacrifice for our sins. We look to sacrifice all that we have and are to give Him thanks! Sacrifice in combat, for our kids, or to our Lord is never easy, but now that Jesus has made that ultimate sacrifice, we sacrifice our lives to Him.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen