Sermon Starters

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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Series B

Option #1: "Some Helpful Advice from the Owner's Manual"
Ephesians 4:29-5:2
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.S., M.Div.
Note: For the sake of coherence, I have chosen to add verse 29 to this pericope.
1) WHAT TO AVOID (4:29-31)
Word Pictures in the New Testament: v29: corrupt (sapros): rotten, putrid, like fruit (Matthew 7:17f), fish (Matthew 13:48); here the opposite of agathos (good); for edifying as the need may be (pros oikodome˘n te˘s chreias); for the build-up of the need, for supplying help when there is need. Let no other words come out. v30: Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God (me˘ lupeite to pneuma to hagion tou theou); "cease grieving" or "do not have the habit of grieving." v31: bitterness (pikria); old word from pikros (bitter), in NT only here and Acts 8:23; Rom 3:14; Heb 12:15; clamour (krauge˘): old word for outcry (Matthew 25:6; Luke 1:42); see Colossians 3:8. Be put away (arthe˘to˘): first aorist passive imperative of airo˘, old verb, to pick up and carry away, to make a clean sweep.
2) WHAT TO DO (4:32-5:1)
Word Pictures in the New Testament: Be kind to one another (ginesthe eis alle˘lous chre˘stoi); present middle imperative of ginomai, "keep on becoming kind (chre˘stos, used of God in Romans 2:4) toward one another." See Colossians 3:12f. Tenderhearted (eusplagchnoi): late word (eu, splagchna) once in Hippocrates, in LXX, here and 1 Peter 3:8 in NT. 5:1: Imitators of God (mime˘tai tou theou): this old word from mimeomai Paul boldly uses. If we are to be like God, we must imitate him.
Word Pictures in the New Testament: An offering and a sacrifice to God (prosphoran kai thusian to˘i theo˘i). Accusative in apposition with heauton (himself): Christ’s death was an offering to God "in our behalf" (huper he˘mo˘n), not an offering to the devil (Anselm), a ransom (lutron) as Christ himself said (Matthew 20:28), Christ’s own view of his atoning death. For an odor of a sweet smell (eis osme˘n euo˘dias): same words in Philippians 4:18 from Leviticus 4:31; Paul often presents Christ’s death as a propitiation (Romans 3:25), as in 1 John 2:2.
Barnes Notes on the New Testament on Ephesians 4:32: As God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you--as God, on account of what Christ has suffered and done, has pardoned you. This is to be the rule which we are to observe in forgiving others. We are to do it "freely, fully, liberally." The forgiveness is to be entire, cordial, constant. We are not to "rake up" old offences and charge them again upon them; we are to treat them as though they had not offended, for so God treats us.
1) That the forgiveness of an offending brother or sister is a DUTY which we are not at liberty to neglect.
2) The peace and happiness of the church depend on it. All are liable to offend their brethren, as all are liable to offend God; all need forgiveness of one another, as we all need it of God.
3) There is no danger of carrying it too far. Let the rule be observed, "As God has forgiven you, so do you forgive others." Let a man recollect his own sins and follies; let him look over his life and see how often he has offended God; let him remember that all has been forgiven; and then, fresh with this feeling, let him go and meet an offending brother and say, "My brother, I forgive you. I do it frankly, fully, wholly. So Christ has forgiven me; so I forgive you. The offence shall be no more remembered. It shall not be referred to in our contact to harrow up your feelings; it shall not diminish my love for you; it shall not prevent my uniting with you in doing good. Christ treats me, a poor sinner, as a friend; and so I will treat you."
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Children's Message
Ephesians 4:32: ...Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Visual aid: a can of air freshener
This is the time of the year when we ride bicycles, motorcycles, convertibles, and in all kinds of cars and trucks with the windows rolled down. The other night two trucks passed me and there were young people riding on the back of the trucks.

With all that fresh air blowing at us in this warm weather, sometimes we have to smell things we’d rather not smell. There’s a skunk that someone ran over; here’s a raccoon on the highway that decided to run right under the wheels. That was last Tuesday, and he’s still there. You can imagine what he smells like by now.

I bring this up because the Bible describes our sin this way. Right before the flood, the Bible says: "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways" (Genesis 6:11-12). When Moses was on the mountain with God, the people started worshiping other gods. The Lord told Moses: "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt" (Exodus 32:7). God says that we are CORRUPT with sin. That means "Sin stinks!"

He has a remedy. Your mom buys air freshener to deal with the problem of odors in your home. God has his own air freshener. Paul says in today’s text: "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

When Noah came out of the ark, he offered up a burnt offering. Then the Bible says: The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done" (Genesis 8:21). Animals were killed and their bodies burned on an altar to cover up the corrupt odor of sin. It smelled like steak on the grill. Paul says that Christ died for us and his sacrifice covers over our sin. (SPRAY AIR FRESHENER)

God will never condemn anyone who has faith in Jesus, because Jesus’ death covers over the bad odor of sin. Jesus is our Savior and the world’s air freshener. (SPRAY AIR FRESHENER) Now He wants us to live His life of love in our lives. So do your part about sin’s air pollution. Live a life of love and let's freshen up this sinful old world. (SPRAY AGAIN)

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Option #2: "God-Flattery is the Sincerest Form of Imitation"
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.
Point: Jesus became like us. Are we more and more becoming like Him?
Problem: We oftentimes "grieve the Holy Spirit" by not imitating God and by failing to live a life of love.
Promise: Because God made Christ walk the path of sacrifice and give Himself for us, the Holy Spirit more and more empowers us to love and to live like Him and, as a result, to lead others into such a love and walk.
1. C.S. Lewis, in his Four Loves, begins by making the fundamental distinction between "Gift-Love" and "Need-Love." He notes that in Gift-Love we are near to God in likeness, for then we live according to the image of our Creator and Redeemer. It is precisely through the love that pours itself out for others that we are most like the divine. On the other hand, it is only through Need-Love, a love that longs to be filled with the love of another, that we can truly approach God--for what else are we than children in need of our heavenly Father's love? It was the profound recognition of this Need-Love that inspired Luther's theology even until his very last words, "We are all beggars." It seems clear that in the confusion of these two kinds of love lay many of the misguided answers to the question of Christian imitation. To regard our neighbor only as a source of our own fulfillment or as a means toward a higher more spiritual end (for example, salvation) is to turn love into selfishness. Likewise, one approaches dangerously close to the pride of the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14) when our love for God is regarded as a gift that fills a divine need... As C.S. Lewis concludes, we must never mistake "Like for Same." (Erik Herrmann)
2. "Malice" is the secret root of all: "fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable." (Chrysostom)
3. "Forgiving" in 4:32 is not the word(s) traditionally used to express forgiveness but, instead, from the root for "grace" or "gift." In other words, "do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify, to show one's self gracious, kind, benevolent" (Strong's), as God doesn't just "say" forgiveness but gifted us with His Son and continually gifts us with His Spirit.



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