LWML Sunday 2014
Today we are going to think about smelling. We do it a lot. I mean with this. I am not saying we smell a lot. We can’t taste food without it. We can walk into our home and before we can see a problem, we can smell it. If you are not a smoker, and I am not one, and you are house hunting you can smell right away if the owners of a house smoke cigarettes. Back when I was a kid, and my dad smoked a pipe in those days, we would come back into the house after an activity and start doing this as soon as we walked into the family room, if my dad had the Sir Walther Raleigh going. And we can remember smells. As I was typing this story, I could smell it, like I was there 35 years ago.
Well, blessings to the women of the LWML, our Lutheran Women in Mission, and all of you this morning as we celebrate what the folks in the LWML do, and our need to be in mission: Sharing God’s Word and Sharing God’s Love. That is what Paul was getting at in the Epistle today when he reminded us that we are to be fragrant sacrifices and offerings before God and around one another. People should see God’s love and mercy and grace in what we say and do, and we are empowered, equipped, ready to do that by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The book of Ephesians, written by Saint Paul to the saints of Ephesus in the decade of the 60’s is one of the letters that Paul wrote from a jail cell in Rome. He writes, despite his own dire situation, a word of encouragement to those in the church. Paul understood that since His conversion on the Damascus Road his life had been one of great trial and tribulation. When Saul met the Lord Jesus whom he was persecuting, he was in his own words a premier Israelite circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law blameless (Philippians 3:4b-6).
Paul had come to the realization what all the faithful in Christ have come to understand under the power of the Holy Spirit. We understand that none of our labor is acceptable to God. We understand that none of the things we do with hands, lips, brain, are acceptable in His sight. All our works are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6) although some men may be very pleased and impressed with our achievements. And I get this. We live in a society that praises achievement. People (usually) vote for the candidate that cuts taxes, who gets something done. All America praises Derek Jeter and his 3465 hits. Or Aaron Rodgers who threw 4 TD’s last week in Chicago. We praise success, achievement, people who can just do it. But none of our deeds alone rise to the Lord Jesus as fragrant offerings or are acceptable to our Father in heaven as pleasing sacrifices. Our God sees all our work as filthy rags, not one worthy of meriting any attention from Him.
In a sermon on this text proclaimed on the Third Sunday in Lent by Dr. Martin Luther these words were spoken, “This expression Paul takes from the Old Testament. There the temporal sacrifices are described as being ‘a sweet-smelling savour’ unto God: that is, they were acceptable and well-pleasing to him; but not, as the Jews imagined, because of the value of the work or of the sacrifices in themselves. For such thoughts they were chastised by the prophets often enough. They were acceptable on the ground of the true sacrifice which they foreshadowed and encircled. . . .Paul’s thought is this: The sacrifices of the Old Testament have passed. Now all sacrifices are powerless except for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself; He is the sweet-smelling savour. This sacrifice is pleasing to God. He gladly accepts it and would have us be confident it is an acceptable offering in our stead.” We do not earn salvation or forgiveness by what we do, but it still smells good to God when we do the right things here.
Let’s try going at this with this idea: In Ephesians 5:2 the Bible tells us to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Jesus shows the love of God to us by forgiving our sin, healing us when we are sick, showing us the love of God when we are lonely, and giving us comfort when we are worried. We are baptized for the forgiveness of our sin and after Baptism God the Father sees us, knows our names, and gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes us want to do things that please God our Father. When we do good things, kind things, God-pleasing things, they are like good smells to God. When we do bad
things, they give God the Father no good smell.
Now we know what good smells are, yes? Everything I think of is food: bread baking, a beef roast in the oven, steaks on the grill, an apfel kuchen cooling on the kitchen counter. Do you think helping others will be a good smell to God? God the Father loves it when we help others so it is a good-smelling sacrifice and offering to God.
Now we also know what bad smells are, right? An overflowing diaper pail. Stale eggs or milk that is too old. Your favorite team after they have played terribly in a game. Don’t we say at those times, “They stink!” Regarding this text, Do you think fighting will be a good fragrance to God the Father? Or lying? Or cussing? Or grumbling? Or gossiping? These things are sinful and are not good smells to our Father.
I think you understand, don’t you. Jesus has saved us from sin, hell, and death so now we want to please God the Father of Jesus and our Heavenly Father. We want to do things that are a sweet smell and fragrant offering to God like Jesus did when He died to save us. We want to live a baptized life that is a sweet smell to God.
Do you think that when we love one another it is a pleasing offering and sweet fragrance to God? Of course it is! God loves us, Jesus loves us, and They want us to love one another. We pray that God will fill us with love for one another, a sweet-smelling fragrant offering of sacrifice and thanksgiving.
Remember? In the beginning the Holy Spirit comes to a virgin named Mary and a Son is born to her and Joseph who is named Jesus. This Jesus at eight days old is dedicated back to His Father in the rite of circumcision, a fragrant offering to the Lord. There is a wedding that is running a bit short on wine. Jesus turns water into the best wine and the Father catches that scent as a fragrant offering. Blind people see, deaf people hear, lame people have their limbs restored, sick people are healed, lepers are cleansed, seas are calmed, demons are cast out, mute people speak, the hungry are fed, demon possessed are delivered, captives are set free, severed ears restored, and if that were not enough, resurrection and life become the new normal. Our Father receives all these acts as fragrant sacrifices and offerings. The Lord rejoices, the angels dance, the Holy Spirit rejoices because our Father is well pleased. That is the plan and design of God. That Jesus Christ is the perfect, fragrant sacrifice and offering, the Lamb slain and risen.
Understand that when you in obedience to Matthew 28, As you are going, make disciples-share the Gospel with some soul in need of encouragement-the Father receives that as a fragrant sacrifice and offering. When you, water-baptized, blood-covered, Holy Spirit-filled, consecrated, and anointed Daughters of Zion in the LWML give your pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars in the interest of missions, our Father receives every single sacrificial mite as a fragrant sacrifice and offering. When we all in faithful obedience, study the Word of God to show ourselves approved, when we dwell together in unity, when we faithfully hold the confession of the church in this perverse generation, when we speak faith, when we love one another, fragrant sacrifices and offerings rise up to our merciful, holy, and gracious God and Father.
Every act of obedience, every work of the saints of God, every act of faith, every word spoken in faith rises up to the Father as a sweet-smelling savor and sacrificial offering. We have the awesome privilege of bringing joy to the heart of our Father by not simply performing deeds of which He would approve but also in the words of Saint Paul to the Romans in the twelfth chapter, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
So, dear saints of God, let’s strive with all our Holy Spirit inspired faith to fill the heavens with fragrant sacrifices and offerings by not simply doing, but by being those sacrifices and offerings to our loving God and Father. Now may the peace of Christ that passes all understanding rule and reign in our hearts as fragrant sacrifices and offerings to our gracious God and Father, in the name of our matchless Lord Jesus Christ we pray.