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Sermon based on Hebrews 9:11-14
All of us enjoy certain liquid refreshments. My morning often begins with a cup of coffee. In thinking of liquids there is one we all cannot do without. This liquid is blood. Blood is the liquid of life. It surges through our bodies bringing oxygen and nutrients to all the cells that make up our body. Even though progress has been made technologically and medically, there is no synthetic substitute for blood. It is a precious human commodity.
Growing up as a member of Little Church on the Lane, in Charlotte, NC we always had blood drives every quarter. Members would donate blood and on one particular Sunday the people in worship were recognized who donated blood. At New Philadelphia Moravian as part of a Stewardship Fair, we one year invited community agencies to set up a display as a way of members engaging in our Worship +2 ministries. The American Red Cross accepted our invitation and as a result an annual blood drive was created at the church and this continues there today.
While it’s easy for us to donate blood, we sometimes forget about the blood that was actually donated upon the cross for each of us through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Because of his love, and our need, Jesus offered the world the sacrifice of His blood. Through his death upon the cross, Jesus has offered to each of us a great gift.
Throughout Scripture, we can learn that the death of Jesus was necessary for our salvation. First Corinthians 15:3 says:
For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
In our epistle lesson this morning from Hebrews 9, the writer illustrates the importance of the sacrifice of Jesus. He implies that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is superior to animal sacrifices that took place in the Old Testament. Here in Hebrews an Old Testament custom is mentioned concerning sacrifice. This practice was that on the tenth day of the seventh month of each year, the high priest offered the sacrifice of animals to atone for the sins of the people. Symbolically, the high priest would take not only his sin but also those of the people they were called to serve. He would go to the Holy Place or Temple, and there a sacrifice was made. Several different animals were used. The blood of bulls was used to offer an apology for the sins of the high priest. The blood of goats was used to offer an apology for the sins of the people. A special red heifer was used to wash away the sins of any who had contact with the body of a dead person. In the New Testament we see that rather than the blood of animals, Christ offered his own blood for our sins. His was and is and always will be the perfect sacrifice. Despite His sacrifice it is interesting to note that many people who struggle with accepting Christianity have difficulty in making sense of the death of Jesus, because it is an event of violence.
Christ entered into a world full of violence and hate thousands of years ago. Some might say that little has changed in our world today given recent headlines in our world and nation. Our world is filled with evil people and with violence. We live in a world in which people are victimized again and again. We think of those who are poor and homeless, those who are abused, murdered and even how the natural resources of the earth are often plundered. Yet despite this reality Jesus came among us and announced that God forgives sinners, and promises a bright future to the poor and brokenhearted. Jesus came and welcomed strangers. Despite this message of hope for all, Jesus entered into a violent world and at the hands of other humans experienced a tragic death. Yet his death had purpose. His death was a human necessity, the necessity of our own making that one person who came preaching of justice, freedom, peace and love should become the sacrifice for all of humanity and their shortcomings. Christ’s sacrifice was superior and in his sacrifice there was finality. Verse 12 from Hebrews indicates that Christ entered the holy place that was in the presence of Almighty God. No longer would an animal sacrifice be made; the sacrifice of Jesus was a complete and final sacrifice. His blood offered that which no animal could give. The blood of animals removed the outward stains of sin; they cleansed the body but not the soul. They were unable to remove the guilt of sin. Christ’s death offered us forgiveness as 1stJohn 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
As we speak of removing guilt, I am always struck by the emotions of people who are involved in trials at the moment a verdict is announced. When the jury pronounces “not guilty”, we often see people’s eyes well up with tears and they soon look for family and friends to hug and embrace. In our busy world, we as Christians have heard those words in our lives yet we sometimes forget their importance. Through God’s grace we are declared “not guilty” because Jesus has paid the price for us. Christ is the source of our salvation. What a great freedom that is! We need only ask forgiveness and we are granted forgiveness from God. Next Sunday we will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion that is one of the most visible and symbolic expressions of seeking God’s forgiveness.
Each fall we as members have been encouraged to examine our lives where we can make sacrifices and do without to help provide support for God’s ministry through Christ Moravian Church. As I think of the subjects of stewardship and sacrifice the late Dawson Trotman is an individual who comes to my mind. Some have argued that He has left a legacy of discipleship on this earth that will never be matched. Those who have served in the military perhaps recognize his name. Trotman founded The Navigators in 1933. The Navigators influence of outreach has grown since that time. Headquartered in Colorado Springs their ministry is one that is prevalent throughout the world. More than 4,600 staff members of 70 nationalities serve in more than 100 countries, where over 170 languages are spoken among 220 different cultures. This ministry originated for the purpose of creating Bible teaching materials and they later expanded this from that initial emphasis on helping to create disciples among military personnel to reaching college students, laypersons and now prisoners. At the heart of the Navigators was the discipleship of people, grounding Christians in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study and service.
We have often heard how God often calls the most ordinary of people to do the most extraordinary of things. Trotman was no exception. During high school, he was an exceptional student, student body president, and captain of the basketball team. However upon his graduation from high school his life began to drift dangerously towards an early grave. He gambled and drank heavily. He became a noted pool shark to support his gambling and drinking addictions. A late night encounter with a local policeman was the catalyst for a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ. Drunk and unable to find his car, Trotman was arrested at an amusement park. Fortunately the officer saw a deeper problem than alcohol. “Son, do you like this kind of life?” the officer asked, “Sir, I hate it,” Trotman replied. The policeman encouraged him to change his lifestyle. Two days later he attended a youth gathering at a local church where contests were conducted for memorizing Scripture. He was the only person in the group who memorized the ten verses on salvation. He memorized more verses about spiritual growth for the following week. Several weeks later one of the verses on salvation flashed through his mind and at that time he asked Christ to change his life. He spent the next several years committing his life to one of prayer and studying God’s word. In 1933 he was asked to visit a sailor, Les Spencer and share God’s word with him. As they were studying the scriptures outside a school, a security guard asked what they were doing. Trotman told him they were studying the Bible and began sharing passages with this guard. Spencer was so impressed with his knowledge of Scripture and commented that he would love to learn how to share Scripture with his fellow sailors. Out of this simple encounter, the Navigator ministry began. Spencer led another sailor to become a Christian and the process continued.
Sadly his life abruptly ended in 1956. While on vacation at Schroon Lake in New York State, he noticed two young girls in their boat having trouble in the rough waters and than saw their boat capsize. Trotman was an excellent swimmer and went after them jumping out from the boat he was on. He lifted one girl out of the water, and then he went down and got the other girl and lifted her out of the water. Following this rescue he went underwater himself. A few hours later they found his body. Time Magazine ran an article the following week on his life and beneath his picture was this caption, “Always holding somebody up” In one sentence that was his life summarized. He chose to share God’s love in his encounters with people and to lift people up rather than bringing them down.
Are we doing this in our lives? Who are we holding up? God wants everything from our heart, our understanding, our strength, our love, and us. Our Scripture passage from Hebrews shows us we are worth more to our creator than any burnt offerings or animal sacrifices. We are worth the life and death of His only Son. On the cross our Savior held our sins up for the world to see. Jesus Christ died for us. The cross of Christ is God’s own gift of love. This love shows God’s forgiveness and friendship in the midst of our world. By freely taking up the cross, God in Christ forgives sinners. Christ offered his blood for our sins, simply because of his love.
Two Sundays from now, on November 18thwe have a rare opportunity where we can hold up others and hold up our church as we present our covenant cards to support our ministry at Christ Moravian Church. Through our generosity we can reach out to others in our community. We can plan needed programs that will help us all grow as Christian disciples. Together let us celebrate our motto and theme for ministry in the year ahead, “Loving to Serve, Serving to Love”
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
November 4, 2018