Sermon for April 6th, 2014

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

April 6, 2014, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Romans 8:1-11

Sermon Theme: “The Spirit of God Dwelling in You”

(Sources:  Emphasis online Illustrations; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 24, Part 2, Series A; original ideas; Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle A; online songs; online movie summary.)

 Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 During World War II, a Dutch family was arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews in their home.  The family was placed in a cattle car of a train to be taken to one of the death camps.  They rode all night and spent the time fearful of what lay ahead. 

Finally, as daylight was breaking, the train stopped. The door of the cattle car was opened, and they were told to get out.  Fearing the worst, they looked around . . . and they saw they were not at a death camp.  In fact, they weren’t even in Germany.  They were in Switzerland.  During the night, some courageous and daring person had tripped a switch and sent the train to Switzerland and freedom.  Instead of being sent to certain death, they were welcomed to new life.

That’s the message in our sermon text from Romans today.  Paul says, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  The Holy Spirit has set us free to a new life of living for the Lord in this world and looking forward to heaven itself.

The Apostle Paul always spoke boldly about the Holy Spirit, whereas today, especially among Lutherans, there’s a tendency to shy away from talking too much about the Spirit of God. 

Back in the 18th Century, the Congregational Church of Machias, Maine, installed a stained glass window honoring their founding pastor.  The lettering on the window described him as “full of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone today describing a person – even a pastor – using such exalted language.  Can you imagine, at our annual church barbecue, one of you introducing me to guests, saying, “I’d like to introduce our pastor, he is full of the Holy Spirit.”  Yet, you know, that’s pretty much what Paul, in our sermon text, says ought to be true of every Christian.  Every Christian should be full of the Holy Spirit.

I think the reason is that people have tried to make the Holy Spirit too esoteric, and too complicated.  The country hymn, “Heaven’s Grocery Store,” says it more simply:  “I just couldn’t miss the Holy Ghost for it was all over the place.” 

Unchurched people sometimes have very distorted views about what Christians believe, and what Christians will require them to believe or do should they want to be a Christian.  In the movie, Steel Magnolias, Annelle, the recent beauty school graduate, tried to get Ouiser (Weezer) to come to her church. 

Ouiser, played by Shirley Maclaine, was the grouchy woman who says she has been in a bad mood for forty years, said that she wasn’t going to Annelle’s church, because they might make her eat a raw chicken or something like that.   You don’t have to eat a raw chicken to have the Spirit of God dwell in you. 

The mind of the unbeliever is slave to sin, while the mind of the Christian is controlled by God’s Spirit.  The former leads to death, while the latter leads to life eternal.  If Christ is in control of our lives, our sinful natures, what Paul calls “flesh,” are dead.  You see, living “in the flesh” means living a life that hates God and loves sin.   

  Living “in the flesh” means setting our minds on the things of the flesh, not of the Spirit.  That means living self-centered lives.  God’s Spirit would have us think of others, for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on, for and with others.  Yet, we often live “in the flesh,” thinking only of what is going to benefit me.  We see ourselves always as number one.  Anything that keeps me from getting what I want when I want it no matter whom I hurt must be expelled from my life…….including God.

Setting our minds on the things of the flesh also means chasing after all kinds of immoralities, from pornography to fornication.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see why God wouldn’t like this.

This living “in the flesh” is the very opposite of pleasing God, as the Spirit would have us do.  It is actually hostility to God, because it means having another god – self – ahead of the true God.  Since God would have us love Him and love our neighbor, serving our own flesh makes it impossible for us to please Him, because sin controls our life.

It’s like an elderly man who’s stopped by the police around 2 a.m. and is asked where he is going at this time of night.  The man replies, “I’m on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse, smoking, and staying out late and the effects they can have on the human body.”

The police officer asks, “Really?  Who’s giving that lecture at this time of night?”

The man replies, “That would be my wife.”

We need God’s Holy Spirit in us, because our flesh is so weak.  In trying to explain how the Holy Spirit works, Derl Keefer used the analogy of comparing germs to sin.  He said that a modern operating room in an “up-to-date” hospital keeps their operating instruments in a solution which keeps them germ-free.

The only way to be kept free from the germs of sin is to dwell in the presence of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is a perfect antiseptic against sin.  When we grieve the Holy Spirit and wander away from Him, sin has an opportunity to work its deadly action in our lives.  We must dwell where we can be safe, — in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Unlike surgeons and surgery, however, you don’t have to be put on a waiting list to access the Holy Spirit; the access comes by grace through faith.  And to paraphrase Annelle, you don’t have to eat a raw chicken either.

It’s really not what you have to do, but what God did.  Paul says in our text, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the Law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

In the song, “Heaven’s Grocery Store,” the singer keeps asking the angel how much does he owes, saying, “How much do I really owe?”  the angel smiled and said again, “My child, Jesus paid your bill a long time ago.”  Amen.

 The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.