Sunday sermon 20 September 2015 – What lurks beneath?
Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22:19-27; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
I went for a walk in Bayside yesterday – there is this dam – dogs and kids walking happily around. A man was cleaning his high windows with an extended brush. Others were enjoying their upgraded houses and pools and trampolines in the back garden.
Like the vicious dog on the corner – hidden behind high walls – you don’t know what’s on the inside of those houses.
And on the water you find ducks and in season their ducklings. Pukekos in and out of the bush. Tuis in the trees and no one playing dangerous games on the green overlooking the water. Like rugby or football.
But under the water? What’s really there? Not big enough for a Nessie. But there are fish and eels. And who knows what lurks down there?
You just don’t know what’s underneath – or what’s on the inside of people. Jesus knew. He spoke to religious people in a scathing onslaught – comparing them to whitewashed tombstones – clean on the outside but full of dead men’s bones beneath.
Mat_23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
1. So what have we been saved from?
When the Israelites celebrated liberation from slavery – they knew what they were saved from.
When the angel passed over Egypt the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintels and doorframes of their houses saved them from death. And then they were rescued from slavery – set free!
They knew what they were saved from.
Do we? This Sin?
Sin is pernicious. Malicious, wicked, evil and malevolent. As God said to Cain before he killed Able – when he was so enraged because God rejected his thoughtless offering (does he reject our shoddy little offerings when they too are second best? Great question!) “Sin is crouching at your door!”
Gen 4:3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. Gen 4:4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, Gen 4:5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Gen 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? Gen 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
That’s what we are saved from! Something that can send us into the wilderness far from God and life!
Gen 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4:10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Gen 4:11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. Gen 4:12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
At this meal – this communion meal – this new Passover in Christ -there is much to be thankful for! This is no McDonalds Happy Meal! This is a major coup! A huge victory! The liberation of a greater concentration camp than Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Buchenwald (there were more than 70 of them) of all the refugee camps and war zones, and of all places where people are enslaved – more than all of these across the world combined! (John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he gave…”. 2 Corinthians 5:14 – “one died for all”. 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ died for sins once for all”).
When the commandments are given in Exodus 20 – this is how they begin: Exo 20:1 And God spoke all these words: Exo 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Exo 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
When we gather we should always declare that through CHRIST’S DEATH we have been brought out of our slavery and darkness into His wonderful light! (1 Peter 2:9)
But wait! And there’s more! There’s freedom from slavery to sin. The transformation means we become slaves to righteousness, with an addiction to truth and holiness.
And if you remember anything from our study of Galatians you may remember this: Gal 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
And then Romans 6 reminds us: Rom 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Rom 6:19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
Our salvation is through Christ the Passover Lamb. (Remember those words: “Behold the Lamb of God…” – spoken by John the Baptist in John 1:29,36).
We are rescued! We should know what we were saved from!
And were are baptised into Christ (Galatians 3:27) – into his death (Romans 6:3)– and by the Spirit into his body ( 1 Corinthians 12:13) which is the new family of God in which we are meant to die to sin. (Gal_5:24) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
SIN IN CHURCH
So when Paul talks about the problem of sin in the church – you can see where he is coming from when he wants it removed like a cancer that lurks beneath, or an infection that eventually spreads through the whole body.
Which brings us to that marvellous passage of 1 Corinthians 5.
2. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us – the bread of sincerity and truth
This is what characterises a Christian church and community. Paul talks about what’s on the inside when he talks about yeast. Leaven. Something that works on the inside unseen in itself but obvious when the bread rises.
The Communion Festival celebrates Christ our Passover sacrifices for us. He says:
1Co 5:7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1Co 5:8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
Leaven initially about leaving in a hurry? No time to wait. What is this leaven story?
Kenneth Chafin’s Commentary is really helpful here: The analogy of the leaven, used by Paul in verses 1Co_5:6-8, came from the process of preparation for the Passover. Here he compares the immorality that cannot be tolerated and must be rooted out from the church with the leaven that had to be discovered and gotten rid of before the time of the Jewish Passover.
On the first day of Passover all leaven must be removed as a symbol of Israel’s liberation from the sins of Egypt. No leaven could be present in the bread that was eaten in the Passover meal lest there be risk of contamination.
Paul was saying, “If this is not handled promptly and incisively, it will eventually permeate the whole church.” Paul had learned that a church will eventually adjust to what it tolerates, and he had a dream of a different kind of church. (The Preacher Commentary – Kenneth Chafin).
We see this today! It’s not okay! And what a great picture – a dream of a DIFFERENT kind of church indeed.
And of course if you read the whole of 1 Corinthians 5 you will see how bad the sin in that community was at the time.
A final story from my life: I was first elected onto a Board of management in a church almost 40 years ago I think. My minister wanted a youth representative there. And I learned what happens when you put things off that are festering underneath. The church hall was a massive place – bigger than the massive church. The board was often afraid that God wouldn’t provide – so they didn’t always fix things or attend to what was beneath.
It was either wood borer or wood rot that did them in years later. One night – by God’s grace when no one was in the building – the hall roof fell in.
You have to deal with what’s going on within – underneath the veneer.
As we draw this to a close we hear from TOM WRIGHT – these final thoughts from this amazing New Testament thinker are really powerful, especially when he shows that leaven here represents our old behaviour (from which we have been rescued):
At the first Passover, each family slaughtered a lamb for their evening meal, and put its blood on the doorposts of the house so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ them and spare them, while the firstborn of the Egyptians were killed. When Jews of Paul’s day kept the Passover festival, they sacrificed lambs in the Temple, continuing the tradition and keeping fresh the memory of God’s great deliverance. The early Christians saw Jesus’ own death as the climax, the culmination, of this whole tradition. He was the real Passover lamb, and his death had won deliverance for the whole world.
The whole Christian life, from this point of view, becomes one long Passover-celebration! That’s what it’s all about. Every breath a Christian takes is a silent Passover-hymn of gratitude to the God who has acted to save the world through Jesus, the true Passover lamb. Every action a Christian performs is part of the endless ceremonial of the Passover-celebration.
And at this Passover there must be no leaven. Paul does not, of course, mean that Christians must not eat leavened bread. It’s picture-language. The equivalent of leaven within this new Passover-life that Jesus’ people are called to live is the behaviour which goes with the old way of life: ‘the leaven of the old life’ is the kind of behaviour that pagans engage in before conversion, and ‘the leaven of depravity and wickedness’ is the kind of behaviour that Christians can be lured back into if they aren’t careful.
Leave old behaviour
What they need instead, Paul insists, is the ‘unleavened bread’ of genuine Christian living. We might have expected him to explain that as ‘holiness’ or ‘purity’, but instead he speaks of ‘sincerity’ and ‘truth’. ‘Sincerity’ doesn’t just mean ‘doing what you really want to do’; some of the wickedest things in the world have been done by completely ‘sincere’ people in that sense. No one was more sincere than Adolf Hitler.
The word Paul uses speaks of a purity of motive. It isn’t just that motive and action must be in tune with each other; that’s true of most criminals. Both alike must spring from the purified source of a will realigned to the purity of God himself. The mention of ‘truth’ indicates that at the heart of all misbehaviour there is a lie: the lie that says God doesn’t mind, the lie that pretends this one time doesn’t matter, the easy but deadly lie that imagines that this was after all how humans were supposed to behave. (Wright, Tom (2003-03-21). Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 61). SPCK. Kindle Edition.)
In my words – it’s not okay!
Finally – in summary – watch out for:
- What lurks beneath
- Sin is crouching at your door
- That we go for the bread of sincerity and truth!
(The rest of the message not shared on Sunday follows in summary)
3. The New covenant
I love the passage from Jeremiah 31 – “they will all know me” – in the church.
How well do you know him? (Last week we talked about how knowledge about God’s character helps us live it out).
And knowing him is allowing him to speak into our lives and clean out the leaven.
Servanthood is it in this new Covenant celebrated in the New Passover – Christ our Passover. There is nothing surprising that we should serve.
So just after the institution of the Communion meal it’s no surprise that this takes place;
Luk 22:24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
Luk 22:25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.
Luk 22:26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Luk 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
It all fits together with the example of the lamb of God Jesus. Remember Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
4. The visible gospel in the bread and wine.
The meal of this New Passover proclaims the message of the good news of Christ’s death as the Passover lamb.
This is a visible gospel sacrament. We heard this well known verse read to us today:
1 Cor 11:26: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
This is action and proclamation. This is about our alliance with Him. Our loyalty to Him. Our public support of the Gospel cause.
The visible sign represents not just servanthood but sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Posted on September 23, 2015, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged bread, Christ our Passover, lamb of God, leaven, sin in church, sin is crouching at your door, sincerity, truth, what lurks beneath, yeast. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.