A Living Sacrifice
A Homily for Epiphany I
January 10, 2021
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Romans 12:1-5
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Have you ever stopped to think about what it means to be a living sacrifice to God? Paused to contemplate that phrase that we pray each time we come to the Lord’s table, that we would “offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee”?
We pray these words, but I wonder if they are just words that we hear and then before we know it, we find ourselves in another part of the liturgy.
But what the prayer book echoes from St. Paul, and what the saint himself is saying is that by God’s mercy – we are being called – we being formed into a people that live to one end – we live to the end that our whole lives might glorify God. We live to the one end that our whole lives might be given to God.
We are being transformed in a heavenly people – a people who reflect God’s glory in every moment of our lives.
It is so easy to become distracted in this world. It is so easy to focus on the paltry, the mundane and forget that we are citizens of a far country – we are being made citizens of a far better place.
One of the things that I found so troubling, as people clamored, and Christians pundits tried to tell us how we should vote this coming year – as they brought up so many things – many good things:
Vote for the pro-life candidate they told us.
Vote for the pro-social justice candidate others told us.
Vote for the one who cares about the minority, or the economy.
But few – if any – told us to vote as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Few if any seemed to care about the eternal consequences of our actions. It seemed to cross so few Christians minds that, yes, we have a beautify country here – but God has made us citizens of a far, far better country.
A friend and I chatted as we watched the events of Wednesday unfold.
“How do we come back from this?” I lamented.
“I don’t know,” he responded, “but I do know that we urge our Christians to follow Jesus more closely.”
Urge our Christians to follow Jesus more closely, “I appeal to you, therefore, brother,”
I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, “by the mercies of God, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice.”
Present yourselves as a living sacrifice.
Present yourselves as a living sacrifice.
I am afraid for too long, I have watched Christians be happy to live in the world, to be of the world, to live as ones conformed to this world, and I have been complacent. I have not said “my friends, do you not see that you are dying? My friends, do you not see that you are citizens of a far better country? My friends let us live as citizens of heaven!”
My friends, I think the Lord is calling us to repentance, the Lord is calling us to perfect fidelity to Him, and nothing else.
The Lord is calling us to present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice.
This week, and in fact right now, I challenge you to cry out to the Lord – ask him for wisdom as to what it means to present yourself to Him as a living sacrifice. Ask him for his mercy that we can do this. Ask him for wisdom as to how he is transforming your life – that you may live a life that it set apart for him. How to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
Let us, right now, take a moment to ask Him this.
And if the Lord has put upon your heart a sin you are to repent of – repent – if the Lord has revealed to you something you are trusting in that is not Him, flee. If the Lord has shown you ways in which you need to cling more tightly to Him, cling, hold tightly to Him.
My friends – what would you lives, what would your world look like if you followed Jesus intimately, followed Jesus closely.
My friends – do not be conformed to this world.
If your lives look just like your non-Christian neighbors.
If you become angry when they become angry.
If you are given to sexual immorality, as so many in this age are.
If you are given to consumerism – when others around you are hungry.
If you are given to worldliness – repent and turn to Jesus all the more heartily.
Are there ways in which you need to trust more deeply in Christ and perhaps are thinking “but what about,” and instead of seeking God, seeking His merciful kindness – if you are seeking to justify yourselves – my friends - flee unto Christ.
St. Paul spends the first several chapters of the Epistle to the Romans showing how each and everyone of us is dead in our trespasses, how each and everyone of us needs a new birth – how each and everyone of us needs Jesus to make us alive.
We need this new life in Christ regardless of –
We need this new life in Christ regardless of who we are – and it is Christ that transforms us into a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God.
It is Christ who makes us into a unified people who are pleasing and perfect to our heavenly father.
St. Paul twice talks about being acceptable to God – but if we think of what the saint is talking about as simply meaning acceptable, we miss something.
For Christ has already been made the acceptable sacrifice for us. Christ has already died for us that we might live, and Christ has already been raised so that on the last day we too might be raised in Him.
Christ has already made us acceptable – not by our works, but by His work in us.
God is calling us to live as pleasing sacrifices.
We are called to live in total fidelity to Him – for this pleases him.
Can we desire anything higher than to live in a way that pleases our heavenly father?
And in all this God renews our minds – renews our minds not that we would be conformed to this world, not that we would be catechized by secular norms – but that we would be conformed to the will of God, that we would be formed by the Spirit, formed by God’s truth.
Would your life look different if you paused regularly – if you asked, not yourself, but ask God “dear Lord, give me wisdom in this moment to do your will?”
Someone once suggested that I take a moment before each transition in the day and return to God, return in prayer to Christ – return to Him and ask Him to continue to give me wisdom.
I am still not great at this but by God’s grace I strive towards this – what if you took a moment when you woke up, when you make coffee, when you get in your car, and get to work, or the grocery store or your friends house and say a little prayer – a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer asking for wisdom, would you life look different?
Would you become humbler?
I think we are often prone to justify ourselves – I can think back on my life – on more occasion than one where I thought to myself “but I deserve this,” or “I need this,” as I knowingly dove headfirst into sin.
I can think of more than one occasion where I thought the other foolish, and myself far more superior.
And this is the pattern of sin – if we survey scripture – how often does the sinner, when confronted by God, justify him or herself. How often does he or she shift blame, or act as though it’s fine because they are some how special.
Think of David – who forces himself upon another man’s wife, and then had that man killed.
Thank of David, who when confronted about this – becomes irate that anyone could do such a thing, who is angry before Nathan the prophet reveals that it is him who has committed such an awful sin.
Do “not think of (yourself) more highly than (you) out to think, but to think with sober judgment.”
If we raise ourselves up so that we are so needed that we are above reproach, not because our lives are above reproach – but because we are some how special, we miss what God has called us to.
We are called to humility.
We are called to dwell in the faith which God has given us.
We are called to live every day in grace, live every day in the wisdom which the Holy Spirit has given us.
We are called to live as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.
Let us live in this humility – let us live as living sacrifices that we may live in a manner that is pleasing to God.
For we are one body.
I think we have all been sick, I think we have all had a part of our body rebel against us.
I remember one day, over the summer, when I was in college I woke up with stomach pain. Being a stubborn young man, I ignored it. I went about my day without a care in the world – but I felt worse and worse.
“I just need to sleep it off,” I thought, “I’m glad I have the next couple days off.”
I rested and felt even worse.
My weekend ended and I headed back to my summer job, but I became dizzy.
I told my supervisor this and they asked if I could help for another 30 minutes, so I did.
I felt worse.
Finally, someone made me go to the health clinic and they told me it was time to go to the hospital.
A friend drove me, and soon I was diagnosed with appendicitis.
I ignored a little part of my body – I ignored the pain I was in until I became cripplingly in pain.
There is no unimportant part of the body of Christ – but each is important, each is called to live as living sacrifices, each is called to serve God in their own way – but they are not any less important.
Is a member of the church in pain? Then listen to them.
Is a member of the church in need? Then help them.
Is a member of the church wise or experienced in a way that you are not? Then seek their wisdom.
The beauty of the church is that she is not a homogeneous body, she is not made of people with the same life experience, she is not made of people with the same political convictions, she is not made of people with the same socio-economic status, she is not made up of people of all one race.
But we are all one in Christ.
We are all united in the Body of Christ and each one allows the church to function – to flourish, but only if we are united in Christ.
So, this has two consequence – first – what you do affects everyone else.
We are not little islands who can live as we please – but if one member of the body decides to rebel against God, decides that they should be able to live as they please.
Our choices affect the whole body.
In Christ we are no longer autonomous islands – but we are united – one to another.
Our joy – gives joy to the whole body.
Our sorrow – does not isolates us but unites us.
Our sin – affects not just you – but the whole body.
We are made one in Christ.
The second consequence is this – we will not all be the same.
The person sitting next to you this morning may have a different favorite color.
The person sitting next to you may be a different gender, or race, they may come from a different background than you.
The person sitting next to you may have voted differently than you in the last election.
The person sitting next to you may live in a different part of town than you.
And these differences are good – we need to variety in the body of Christ – we need the diversity in order that the church may flourish. We need each other so that we can better live to the glory of God.
And each of us has different gifts – different purposes – and one is no higher than the other – but rather – each one is needed that we may all live as living sacrifices to God.
My friends – if all of this is overwhelming – if all of this seems like too much – God’s mercy and grace is bigger – God’s mercy and grace is grander than we can ever imagine.
If you feel yourself overwhelmed – return to this – start here – cry out to him, for he is the one sacrifice for us – the one acceptable sacrifice for our sins.
Then pray that the Lord would give you wisdom through the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Lord would renew your mind – that each day – we would see what the Lord is calling us to. We would see how the Lord has created us to be.
Let us, by the faith that he has given us – not be conformed to this world – but live out each day of our lives as living sacrifices.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.