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“Good content”/ Sermon for January 7th, 2024 / Epiphany 1 / Hope Lutheran Church, Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht

Text: Romans 6:1-11
Theme: Good Content

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Intr – Dear friends in Christ, which one of these do you consider yourself capable of carrying with your own hands?
_a 120lb flour bag;
_a bag of potatoes with that same weight;
_a 100l plastic garbage bag.

I don’t know what your answer is, but I know I won’t be wrong if I said that you are able to lift all three. Not just separately but even together at the same time. How could that be?

Well, they would only need to be…empty.

Some applications for this illustration in the Light of Romans 6, our epistle for today.

1 – Dead to sin

The first one – we all walk heavy laden along our road, with problems sometimes as big as a garbage bag. They look to be too difficult to carry or at least to be pulled aside. This happens when we want to deal with them only with our own ability, rather than remembering that God is the One who can empty them, reduce their weight, and make them less threatening and easier to carry along.

One of our biggest enemies, the one who needs to be emptied daily, shows up in our epistle for today. Paul speaks of ‘killing the old man.” Or old woman. The one who is constantly trying to make our hearts say “_ I can _ I want _ I will.” “Do you really need God in your life? He sounds more like an imaginary friend to lean on to have some comfort and meaning for life”.

This is a great danger for daily life. But it is a much bigger threat if we transpose it to the spiritual area, especially when it comes to salvation, when we think that we can do a little better so God will love us better. “I can help, I can contribute, I can please God at least somehow”. Here we need to be emptied of our pride. We need to be emptied of the false image we build about ourselves, perhaps based on the spirit of the day that claims like it goes in that song: “You don’t have to change a thing, the World can change its heart”. However, we do need to change. And so does the World. The change is in Christ. It is also an exchange in which our empty hearts are filled by God’s love in Christ. He carried everything on His body and nailed on His Cross so that we may empty our existential garbage by His Cross and receive a new and fresh heart.

 

2 – Living for God

The other application for today’s illustration is the importance of content.

Now on a different perspective: The emptier we are intellectually and spiritually, the easier we will be carried around and anywhere even by the weakest idea, the shallowest ideological claim, the weakest quote with a nice picture that seems to be carrying the truth but in reality, is giving us a nudge to the wrong direction.

Here we see the importance of God’s good content. When we are filled by what God offers – content, substance, strength – it will not be easy for every wind of doctrine and false ideas to whirl us around.

As we are filled with His Good Content, comes another related topic, resisting to sin. As Paul teaches us in the epistle:What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”[1]

However, resisting sin is not easy in and of itself; let alone when it includes going against the flow in many ways in our world today.

Let me give you an example, a text I read online sometime ago about self-control. The title of the article was “The myth of self-control”. Listen to some parts of it: “As the Bible tells it, the first crime committed was a lapse of self-control. Eve was forbidden from tasting the fruit on the tree of knowledge. But the temptation was too much. The fruit was just so “pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,” Genesis reads.  The takeaway from this story was clear: when temptation overcomes willpower, it’s a moral failing, worthy of punishment.

Modern-day psychologists might not blame Eve for her errant ways at all. Because what’s true today was also true at the beginning of time (regardless of what story you believe in): Human beings are horrible at resisting temptation.” Another excerpt: “Several researchers I spoke to are making a strong case that we shouldn’t feel so bad when we fall for temptations.” And on it goes.[2]

First, when it comes to sciences that study mind and behaviour, we are happy for many helpful advancements in those areas. That being said, as Christians we want to be very careful about what we read and follow, as becomes clear from this report – and other examples.[3] There are many ways in which winds of false doctrine may come disguised as helpful counseling for life, from many areas in human sciences, blowing content inside our hearts. And if we leave room for it, there is no doubt it will find a cozy place to remain there. Old Adam and Eve, our old self, is fond of this type of relationship.

We need God’s good content. We need the change in the person and in the conjugation of the verbs that Christ brings about to our hearts:
You can – through me
You give me everything – so I can live;
You strengthen me – so that I can continue;
Baptism and Holy Supper– God’s action fills us with Grace.

He fulfills our being with the solid content of His Word and Grace, enabling us to resist temptation, so that we will call it for what it is – wrong. And we will point to His forgiveness for every situation in any of us falls for them.

 

As you look to your life right now, what is the difficulty you need to be carrying on at this time? What is the burden that weighs on your shoulders, on your soul? What is the temptation that keeps knocking at your door? Do not waste yourself away trying to trust yourself, and to carry the wrong content around. Deplete it, drain it out, clear it totally in the arms of the Father. He will exchange it for a heart filled with the good content He has for us for all times.

Also, if you are changing things so that temptations don’t find you, don’t leave a forward address. This is what we do sometimes, we think we can manage our dark side and our Achilles heel. “You cannot have a clean garden if you always leave a little corner for the weeds”. War against sin means Law and Gospel in daily life to resist it. In Christ we have the solid content of His Word and Grace to fight, stand, remain firm, and carry on.

 

Cc – Emptied of the content that does not help – dead to sin – and filled up with the right content, – alive for Christ, full of His grace and love, our mind, our arms can always continue to fight in daily life. Because the heart would be filled up with His love and forgiveness – up to the brim. And more.

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[1] Romans 6, www.esv.org

[2] https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/11/3/13486940/self-control-psychology-myth

[3] Like when we heard some time ago the American Psychiatry association declaring “traditional masculinity” as harmful. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/01/10/american-psychological-association-traditional-masculinity-harmful/2538520002/

 

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THE MARGARET TOWRISS’ MEMORIAL SERVICE AND RECEPTION

This Saturday, February 24th, we will hold The Memorial Service, followed by a Reception, for Margaret Towriss, wife of our former Pastor Rev. Ron Towriss, and co-founder of Hope Lutheran School.  Given the impact of her legacy both in Church and community, we anticipate a large attendance for both events. Therefore, we wish to share general information about the events with those attending in person.

SERVICE

-Memorial Service: 1:00PM @ Hope Lutheran Church (3151 York Street)

-Church capacity: aprox. 300

-Overflow area: As the Sanctuary and the Narthex become full, there will be an overflow area in four classrooms in the South annex for those willing to watch the Service together.

-Livestream: the Service will be livestreamed on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hopelcspoco

-Parking lot: It will be open on a “First come, first served” basis. When full, it will be closed, and people are invited to park in the adjacent streets and in the neighbourhood. However, drivers can still drive through to drop of passengers by the Church door, and then drive away.

-Overflow Parking: We have graciously obtained the permission from the Ecole Pionniers to use their Parking lot as overflow parking. Hope’s School Bus will be available for shuttling people from that parking lot to the Church from 12pm-4pm. Address: 1618 Patricia Ave

-Memorials: The Towriss family’s suggestion is that memorials be directed to The Hope Lutheran Bursary Fund. A Memorial box to deposit your donation will be available at the Church, as well as QR codes printed in the Church bulletin.

RECEPTION:

-Event: Following the Service we will have a standing reception in the gymnasium (since there’s no room for tables for such a large attendance). However, coffee stations will be placed in other areas of the building, allowing attendants to spread out more comfortably.

-Chairs – Several dozen chairs will be available around the Gym’s Court, which we hope will be left open for seniors and people with special needs.

-Space: During the reception, attendants may feel free to make use of our facilities as needed - Gymnasium, Narthex, Sanctuary and South Annex.

Hope Lutheran Church and School and the Towriss family thank you in advance for your understanding of the exceptional circumstances of both events. But especially, for your presence and support. Thank you!