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The Seventh Sunday of Easter, 21 May 2023
A Sermon on Ezekiel 36:22-28 by Vicar Robert Alan Shivers

Ezekiel 36:22-28 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.’”

Holy Communion: I will Be Your God

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

What is love? I’m not talking about the kind of love you have for a significant other. I am talking about the kind of love you have for a child. In the book of Proverbs, we see the love that was felt for the children of Israel by the number of times they were addressed. Throughout the book, we find that the writer makes an appeal for the children to listen to the wisdom being spoken to them. But we find that, just like in the book of Ezekiel, no one heeded the wisdom that was given to them. Generations of wisdom was forsaken. Generations of the loving fear God’s people had for Him was forsaken. And we see that, though the punishment was given, God’s love, which is a different kind of love, known as agape, never was taken away from His people.

What happens when you break any one of the ten commandments? You are turning away from God. When you worship other gods, when you forget the sabbath day, when you covet, when you steal, when you commit adultery, you are turning away from God. The Ten Commandments shows us our sins, it shows us that we are not living Godly lives. We may try to, but we fail each and every day. That is why Christ was sent and why he died on the cross. Proving to us, that God’s love was never taken away.

The Holy Spirit led you or your parents to your baptism. You became cleansed with the water and the word. The old Adam and the old Eve were drowned, and thus they are drowned daily. Your uncleanness was washed away. You became of one body with the whole catholic church. You were then led to follow the commands that God gives us, just as God gave commands to His chosen people, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” We must remember that the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah, which are the 613 commandments, are not what redeems us. Why? Because we are sinners, and in every action there is sin. We cannot save ourselves. What is unclean cannot become clean without the power and intervention of something great and pure. Sin starts in the heart and in the mind. Thoughts turn to words, words turn to actions, and in each step there is sin. So we can try all we want to redeem ourselves, but it is only through Christ that we are redeemed. So we as sinners profane God with not only our thoughts but our words and our actions. When we do not act in a reverent manner in God’s house, we profane it. When we teach contrary to God’s word, we profane it. Those who say that God is not our Heavenly Father or that Christ is not male are profaning the Holy Trinity. If you have an issue with being told that, then you should reevaluate your faith and why you are teaching and preaching. Why do I say this? Because sadly we have preachers and teachers of God’s word that do not follow the faith, we have fellow brothers and sisters that not only believe the woke mob teachings, but actively lead people astray through identity politics which have no place within the Church.

Our Heavenly Father desires for us to follow the Ten Commandments as well as the command to love one another, as Christ loves us. But the Old Adam and the Old Eve prevents us from doing so each and every day. They prevent us from showing the same love that God shows us. God is not a fool, He knew there would only be one way for the world to have a snow ball’s chance, and that is through His Son. Christ’s purpose was to not only die for our sins, but to teach mankind how to live and what to believe. Why? Because the old teachings and the laws were not cutting it. For some, they followed the law exactly, or so they thought. Their pride blinded them from the reality that they were sinners. For others, they knew they were not following the law exactly, though they tried. The law was meant not only to provide His people guidance to live Godly lives, but to show the agape love towards one another. If we narrow down Christ’s two commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you” then we find that they cover the ten commandments completely. If we obey these two commands then we follow God’s desire for obedient and loving children. But, again, we fail to do so. That is why it is important to understand and believe that Christ is our redeemer, our salvation, and our only way to even come close to being able to be with our Heavenly Father. Without Christ, we are up a creek without a paddle.

We know that we need him, that without him, there is no salvation. But we cannot come to Christ on our own, nor can we come to this faith through our own means. Only the call from the Holy Spirit allows us to come to this faith. But the old Adam and the old Eve actively work to keep us away. With Holy Communion we are also called to participate in the blessed sacrament, to receive our Lord. He is present in the bread and the wine. To receive him is a blessing, for you will receive the forgiveness of sins. Do not forsake that gracious gift. If the true words of institution are spoken and the true faith is preached and taught, why would you keep yourself from receiving our Lord? What do you have to gain? I will tell you, there is nothing to gain by keeping yourself from this gift. If anyone believes that receiving Holy Communion each week degrades it then they have forgotten the meaning of the sacrament, they have forgotten that they are receiving Christ himself in the bread and in the wine.

We live in a world where Christ is cursed consistently. God is cursed consistently. Reasons vary from person to person, situation to situation. But whatever the case, no one should curse the one who created us, the one who gives us the blessings we receive every day. Though there are many who swear against God, it is through those who know Him, who know His love and His mercy, that His name will be vindicated, just as He promised to do through the Israelites. We are children of God, to curse him is to curse our Father. Many can imagine the pain and anger felt by their earthly fathers if they were to swear against them. A loving and patient father does not deserve such damning language, and so our Heavenly Father does not deserve it for He gives us life and He gives us the gifts we receive. It is right there in the Ten Commandments: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Luther tells us that “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks”.

How do you deal with people that mock you for your faith? How do you deal with people who openly swear against God? You pray for them. It is easy to curse those who mock you and oppose you, but we are told to pray for our enemies, and for those who hate us. It is easy to say, but it is hard to do. I struggle with this command from our Lord. So I know that you struggle with it as well. What is important is that we try to show the love of Christ to those who hate us and to those who have hurt us. For if we show the same love Christ has for us, we are practicing the faith. For those whose conscience is not cleared, receiving that kind of love is what they need most of all. Many stories throughout history have been shared of people showing that love, and they find that their abusers, or their perpetrators, break down into tears. Now I am not ignorant to the fact that there are many abusers and many perpetrators of heinous acts that do not feel remorse, that they live their lives thinking that what they did is acceptable. But I also know that forgiving those who have hurt you allows you to move past the anger and hatred. It allows you to live a better Christian life. So let us all try to forgive those who have harmed us in some way, and try live by the agape love that we receive from our Lord.

What can you take away from today’s sermon? We should NOT profane God. We SHOULD let the Holy Spirit guide us so that we may show the agape love through following the commands from Christ and from God. So go in peace my dear brothers and sisters. For you can leave here knowing that God’s love is above His anger and disappointment. You can find His love at the fount, at the altar, and most importantly, on the cross,

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Vicar Robert Alan Shivers
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina