Monday, November 16, 2009

Hebrews 10:11-18; Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; November 15, 2009

11And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:11-18 (ESV)

Grace and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hope looked at the dirty pile of clothes lying on the floor by the washing machine. It was a mountain that never seemed to go away. Every time she attacked the hill, every time she rallied her forces to conquer it; the hill sprouted anew. Instead of getting smaller it grew taller or wider or someone would dump a basket from the upstairs bathroom onto it. It was a hopeless task. It would never be done. Nothing she could do would ever end the job. It was “laundry everlasting”; dirty shirts, shorts and socks that multiplied. And yet, Hope persisted. The job was there to be done; she was the one to do it.

That’s a picture we can understand, “laundry everlasting.” We know it because it’s in all of our houses, maybe not so much for those whose children are grown and gone, but it was true for you, just as it is for those of us whose children are helping to build that mountain of never-ending work. But it’s a job that has to be done.

In a way, that’s what the writer of Hebrews is talking about here in this text. 11And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. He’s talking about the priest offering sacrifices for the Jews every day in the temple. There were sacrifices for every type of sin. There were burnt offerings made for general sins, there were offerings for unintended sins and mistakes, there were offerings for sins that required restitution. The blood of bulls, lambs, rams, sheep, goats and turtle doves spilled every day over and over again to take care of the never ending mountain of sins that God’s people committed. And these offerings were made repeatedly, many times a day, and yet the people’s sins were always before them. Each offering wasn’t an answer to sin because each sin required a new sacrifice. Before one sacrifice was finished a new one was required. The mountain of sin couldn’t be assaulted by sacrifice because no amount of them would ever make a dent in it. Every time a sin was removed by sacrifice a new batch was added to the festering pile. “Sacrifice everlasting.” A task that had to be done yet was never finished. That’s exactly why the priests stood, they were to be attentive to the task, and to sit was to say the job was done. An endless stream of blood from bulls and goats could never get the job done. They could never take away sins.

Do you see your sins this way? I think the mountain of dirty laundry might help us to see it. Every time we wear our cloths we leave them dirty. It’s not just dirt on the outside, but sweat and oil from on the inside. If they lie around the house they begin to smell. We can’t help it, it’s the way our bodies work.

Sin is kind of the same for us. It’s the way our bodies work now. Every time we do anything sin is a part of it. When we do good for someone, we hope someone sees us so we get the credit. When we are sitting alone we think about things we shouldn’t think about. Men think thoughts about women. Women think thoughts about men. We want what isn’t ours to have. And we take by deceitfulness what we can’t get legally. We cheat when it really doesn’t even matter. And we lie when lying isn’t even necessary. If we had to make sacrifices for each and every sin, the mountain of dead animals would stack to the top of the steeple for each one of us. “Sacrifice Everlasting” is what would be required. Your mountain of sin; my mountain of sin can’t be reduced by blood. Even your own blood spilled wouldn’t be enough to pay the price.

And that is really the point. That’s why God commanded the sacrifices. He wanted His people to see the effect of sin in a very graphic way. He wanted them to see that blood was necessary; lots of blood. He wanted them to see that death was necessary; lots of death. And He wanted them to see that nothing they could do would take away their sin. Not the blood of thousands, not anything they could do with their own hands. The mountain of sin grows every moment, and it requires death and blood.

12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. It says. Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice. It was one sacrifice that stood in the place of the thousands. One time for all sins, one man, one God, crucified, dead and buried. God wanted the people to know that the sacrifice of His Son was greater than all the blood ever spilled in the temple. His one single sacrifice for sins was not just one sacrifice is was “Sacrifice Everlasting.” It is the complete sacrifice for sin. The life of God given for the sins of the world. The life of a bull or a goat or a lamb has value. The life of a human being has great value. But none of them can pay the price for the sins of even one person. But the life of God is priceless. The life of God is eternal. The life of God is immeasurably high. That’s the life that Jesus Christ gave on the cross. That’s the life that is enough to pay for sin. In fact, the life of Jesus Christ is more than enough to pay for all the sins of the whole world no matter how long the world goes on, no matter how many people live and sin. The life and death and resurrection of Jesus is a price that is so great, no mountain of sin will ever be as tall. Jesus assaults the mountain of human sin with such force that it evaporates in to nothingness. And he sat down at the right hand of God. The job was done, and Jesus sits down. The text says 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. It’s talking about you and me, perfected by Jesus’ sacrifice, for all time. Job done, once and for all.

And as usual that’s not all the text has to say to us. Holy Spirit also bears witness to us. The fact that we even see this mountain of sin, this every growing dirty laundry is God’s work in us through the Holy Spirit. I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds. As we live and work and play every day God has given us His law. That law is like a mirror that shows us that every time we turn around that we’re adding to our pile of sin. The law says don’t commit adultery, which we may not do physically, but even the thoughts in our minds condemn us. The law says don’t steal, we may not actually get around to taking things that don’t belong to us, but the desire condemns us also. We don’t like it but actually that condemning law is really the gift of God, it is the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Jesus himself said that he came to help the sick. And the law that God has placed in our hearts shows us every day that we are very sick. And just like that ever growing mountain of laundry no matter how good we try to be we can’t remove our own mountain of sin. That’s really what the law is all about. It’s not there to tell us how to clean up our own act. It’s not there to tell us how to get right with God again, its primary purpose is to show us the mountain.

Now if that were all, we’d have a pretty terrible life, never living up to what we can’t live up to. Helpless and hopeless, we have nowhere to turn. But we can turn to God. And the Spirit is at work there, too. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” It’s not that God is forgetful. He doesn’t remember our sins because He has taken care of them. He has paid the price that we can’t pay. He has done the work necessary to remove the mountain of sin. It’s not because of a thousand sacrifices made in the temple; it’s because of the One Sacrifice. It’s not because we’ve done it right and gotten our act together, it’s because God Himself, made it right, in Jesus Christ. That One Sacrifice brought to us more forgiveness than we’ll ever need. 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. There is nothing more that needs to be done. No more blood spilled on stone altars. No more good works to set us in good standing. There is no longer anything to do, because Jesus Christ has done it all for us.

Here is where Jesus gives that wonderful gift to us; forgiveness for that mountain that we can’t handle. Every day we add to it and every day Jesus removes it. He does it here in His Word and Sacraments. Over and over again, it never ends. One Sunday is just like the last. We say: “For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, renew us and forgive us, and lead us….” And your Pastor says: “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” And it is so because of that Jesus promise. And the next Sunday we say it again: “For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, renew us and forgive us, and lead us….” And your Pastor says: “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” But we don’t do this over and over because it doesn’t work. We do this over and over because it does. We do it over and over again because Jesus has already removed the sin by His blood. We do it over and over again because we need to be reminded over and over again. We need to hear it to receive it. We need to hear it to believe it. It’s done! I’m forgiven because of Jesus. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” That’s what it’s about really its “Forgiveness Everlasting.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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