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Private Confession: By Appointment

Reflecting Holiness

September 4, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

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Pentecost 15
(Trinity 14)                         
REFLECTING HOLINESS
II Corinthians 4:6

 

            Sermons certainly are an acquired taste. The adult human has to do quite a bit of adjusting to sit still and pay attention even for ten minutes, sometimes longer, not just to a sit-com, or a stand-up comic, or a play by play, but to an exhortation. So if you want to fidget, go ahead. I know I would if I had to be inactive during this time. There is also a certain art to naming sermons. So look at today’s title – if anything ever promised Dullsville, right? “Reflecting Holiness” sounds so pious and good for nothing. No wonder people think Christianity is a boring religion.

 

            Once there was a young man who loved music. He lived in the same town as Vladimir Horowitz. So one day he decided to sneak into the great master’s house to hear him play the piano. He got in OK, but he was terribly disappointed. Horowitz spent two hours and forty minutes plying nothing but scales and arpeggios. He played the major scales, the minor scales, the corresponding arpeggios, and the diminished arpeggios, again and again. If that were all the young man knew about Horowitz, he would conclude that he was a boring musician. So if all you know about our religion is the memory work, the basic devotions, and the proof texts, you might well conclude that Christianity is boring. Do not be deceived. Such things are the scales and arpeggios of the faith, but genuine Christianity is far more than these exercises. Remember that all these things are about you. Also this sermon is about you. The Holy Sacraments are about you. In fact, they are what makes it possible for you to be a Christian when you walk out of this building.

 

            Still don’t think holiness is about you? Well, what does that word mean? Holiness is a kind of light that God Himself sheds upon you. He wants that to enlighten the world. You have to start near by before you go far off, so enlightening the world has to start with this congregation. Holiness is walking in that divine light. Jesus gives you that. He brought grace and truth, divine power, divine mercy. His very presence made every situation better. He did miracles, and spoke merciful words. The difference is He wasn’t a sinner. He had light within Himself. We don’t have that, but we have mirrors that God gave us in our Baptism to reflect the light that comes from Jesus.

 

            What can reflected light do? Once the city of Syracuse in Sicily was being attacked by Spartans. The enemy had a fleet, while the local people had not so much as a ship. But they did have a wise man named Archimedes. He made some huge mirrors, put them on stands that could pivot, and placed them in key positions around the harbor. As the Spartans sailed in to attack, he had the citizens focus the sun’s rays on the enemy ships, setting them on fire. Next time somebody suggests that you “spread a little sunshine” remember what sunshine can do. Now just as Archimedes didn’t make the sun, so we don’t make ourselves holy. But Archimedes was a good steward of the sun, so we can be good stewards of the grace God gives us, of the promises and forgiveness and hope that come from Jesus. Because He is gracious to us, we can reflect His grace, focus it on our neighbor’s needs, and see what we can accomplish.

 

            “Holiness” isn’t a bad word. Don’t be alarmed when I call you a “saint.” Don’t think of yourself as a caricature of every bad church cliché of the past three centuries. Because you are one of God’s saints, you have that curved mirror in which you reflect all the power of God. You don’t just reflect His sweetness and goodness, you also reflect His jealousy and passion. If your image of a masculine God looks rather feminine, then your mirror isn’t true.

 

            But suppose something goes wrong with our sainthood. What if the Spartans attacked Syracuse on a rainy day? We get a good bit of spiritual rain in our lives. The devil towers over us, blocking out the light of God’s Word. And if that were not enough, we defend ourselves from the light. That isn’t really so foolish. You see, holiness brings heat as well as light. It tans our pale spiritual hides. It shines on our pride and vanity, on our lust and ignorance, on our envy and sloth. We can’t wait to put up a parasol.

 

            God did something about that, too. He became one of us. He penetrated through the cloud cover, came under the parasol, became one of us and died. He did what each of us must do – died. Maybe it is about Him, but it’s about you, too. He made Himself the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world, and doing so He drove away the clouds and broke the parasols. The greatest treasure of all time came in an earthen vessel, which was important because that way it would not blind us by its brightness. We beheld His glory because He was incarnate, flesh and blood, flesh that was killed to reveal the true Light. Then came the miracle that He who died was not dead, He who was cut off was not cursed, He whom the world had judged was now prepared to judge the world. That is the sunshine our mirrors are supposed to reflect. He is the image of the invisible God, and we can focus Him wherever needed.

 

            You don’t have to care about these things. You don’t have to care about the church, or seek the good of your fellow saints. They don’t own you. But you don’t own yourself either, thank God. Jesus does. He paid for you with His blood. The mirror that lets you reflect holiness is His gift. You never know when enemy ships will appear on the horizon of your life. But the means of grace are here for you. They focus God’s sunshine on you, so you can be the mirror that focuses it in the right place. If the enemies accuse you, burn them. If they tempt you, burn them. If they cause offenses, burn them. “The hosts of God encamp around the dwellings of the just.” Holiness, to be sure, always involves the cross. But it also involves victory. AMEN.