Summary: We are all slaves, but where you bathe and what you eat tell whose slave you are. There is a slavery that gives the appearance of freedom, and a freedom that only comes in slavery.
Sermon: Bathing, Eating, and Slavery
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, July 25, 2004
Occasion: Trinity VI
Text: Ro 6:19-23, Mark 8:1-9
Who: Mark Woolsey
We are all slaves, but where you bathe and what you eat tell whose slave you are. There is a slavery that gives the appearance of freedom, and a freedom that only comes in slavery.
Ro 6 is a very difficult chapter for us Americans. We were founded on liberty and then fought a subsequent war that removed even the name of slavery from our midst. To hold a slave today would be akin to beating up little children. You can murder babies, fornicate, and sodomize, but don’t even mention the "S" word or you are likely to be drawn and quartered. Yet the Scriptures not only mention that unutterable word, but have the gall to tell us we are slaves! What about free will? What about choice?
My first point today is that you are a slave, and you have no choice as to which master you serve. Your master is either sin, or it is righteousness. You do have a choice as to how you will serve that master, but not which one you serve. Consider any type of slavery you can think of, 19th American, 1st century Roman, 13th century Arabic, etc, and imagine the following scenario. A slave comes up to his master and says, "You know, you’ve been quite mean to me recently, so I have decided to leave your service and go be a slave to a nicer man." What would happen to that slave? Well, if he lived thru the beating, he would continue to serve his hard master until his master decided to sell him, or was forced to release him by some power greater than himself. Many preachers will read this passage and preach a sermon entitled, "Pick Your Master" as if you have any choice. There is no choice in this matter because you have no power or desire to leave your master of sin. But thanks be to God, that’s what the cross did for us. At the cross sin was relieved of those chosen by God. Not a one was lost or hidden by Satan to prevent God’s purpose from being accomplished. Every one of you washed by faith in the water and blood of baptism have been set free from sin and enslaved to righteousness.
This brings me to my second point. You know whose slave you are by where you bathe. What does bathing have to do w/slavery, sin, and righteousness? Everything. Listen to St. Paul just a few verses earlier than our epistle reading: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." In our baptism we were bathed with such a water that no dirt can ever cling to us again. In God’s heavenly accounting book we are spotless. Do you have trouble believing this? Why - do you doubt God’s power or desire to clean you? Let no one be gulty of such blasphemy! When He cleans, He cleans completely. God has washed the filth of our sin-slavery completely away and given us new garments to clothe our clean bodies. You say, "But all I can see is my dirt." Good. Because every spec of it has been transferred to Christ’s body, and all His purity has been given to you. Always remember what it took to make you clean. That great transfer occurred in your baptism thru faith. You say, "But my faith cannot make me clean." You are right. Your faith cannot. But God can and does. He supplies even the faith through which He says we are clean. You say, "But my faith is so weak." I say, "If you are weak, then eat!" You ask, "But what can I eat that will make my faith stronger? What spiritual food will so surpass the physical that it will give me this kind of strength? Must I search the world over like Indiana Jones to find this hidden manna?" I tell you no you do not. That food is right here today. It is bread, but a very special kind of bread.
My third and final point is found in today’s Gospel reading. We find Jesus has preached three days to 4,000 people. At the end, what does He command? Give them bread. His disciples complain, "But we have no bread." Jesus knew this and told them to bring up what little they did have - just 7 rolls. What are 7 rolls to 4,000 desert-famished people? It is enough. Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread and distributed it until all were full. Today, if you are desert-famished, low in faith, and hounded by the remains of sin in the flesh, come to the feast. When the bread is put in your hands, you take it with the hand of faith. You are lifted up to heaven and feed on Christ Himself. His body is true food, and His blood true drink. Come by faith, and see your faith increased. Come and eat, and gain a little more strength to fight on. Come, take the medicine of immortality and slake your eternal thirst. Eat and drink from our Lord, for He is generous. As you eat and drink give thanks to your gracious master, whose slave you are, yet who serves us Himself. We are helpless to serve Him except He serve us first. Slavery to Him is true freedom.