Sunday, May 16, 2010

Easter 7

For this, say to the house of Israel, "So says Lord Yahweh, ‘Not for your sake, I Myself act, house of Israel, for if in My Name of holiness which you profaned in the nations, which you were there. And I make holy My great name, the one profaned in the nations which you profaned in their midst, and the nations will know that I Myself am Yahweh'–declaration of Lord Yahweh, ‘in being holy among you in their sight.' And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your land. And I will sprinkle on you water of cleansing and you will be cleansed from all your defilement and from all your surrounding idols; I will cleanse you! And I will give to you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will give in your inner parts, and I will get rid of the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. And My Spirit I will give in your inner parts; and I will act on you which work you walk in, and My judgments you will safe-guard, and you will produce."

The Israelites hadn't learned their lesson. They had been unfaithful to God back in Israel, so God had taken them captive in Babylon for some 70 years. But while there, they still kept messing up. God had given them His holy Name, naming them as His chosen people. But that Name of God they hadn't treated as a cherished possession. Instead of hallowing it, they *profaned* God's Name among the Babylonians, Medes and Persians. Now, you'd think God would just give up on such people.

How about you? You pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be Thy Name", but do you really mean it? Oh, perhaps you don't curse or swear too often, but that's only part of God's name being holy for you. Even if you are pretty good at holding your tongue and avoid taking God's name in vain, have you been using His Name in a holy way? Have you considered what God does to make His Name holy?

You profane God's name when you teach contrary to what God's word says. Don't think that you don't. Even if you don't teach Sunday School or bible class, you teach just the same when you offer advice that comes from sources other than God's word. If you offer your human wisdom tainted with sin, the common sense of this sinful world, instead of what God's word teaches, you profane His name.

Although you ignore God's Name connected to His truth by avoiding SS or bible classes, or devotions at home, God keeps on instructing you with that word anyway. He sings it to you through the voice of your Pastor in the liturgy. He proclaims it to you in the readings & in the message of the sermon. God says, "Though you've been unfaithful teachers of my Word, I can't do anything but faithfully teach it to you. For that word bears witness of the Name of Jesus, your Savior Who died for you!"

You profane God's name whenever you live contrary to how Scripture says you ought. Don't think that you don't. Even if you never cuss with God's Name, you still profane that Name whenever you sin in other ways. For God's Name claims you to be His Own; yet you often act like you don't belong to God at all (whenever you gossip, lie, speak judgmentally, bad-mouth, or degrade your neighbor).

Though you live like you don't bear God's Name, God still lets you live, even though the wages of sin is death and all. You are a rebellious house like that of Israel in Ezekiel's day, but God doesn't deal with you like you deserve. Instead of your death, your heavenly Father sacrifices His Own Son to death at the cross in your place! His body is given for you there, and His blood is shed for you on Calvary. You eat that body and drink that blood for your forgiveness, and for your life restored!

You profane God's name when you simply forget who you are in Christ Jesus. You are not your own, but you've been purchased by a great price. Yet you act like you are independent from God, doing your own thing, following your own whims and neglecting to consider what God, your Owner, wants from you. You bear bad fruits, instead of those good fruits God would have you produce.

Though you fail so often to act like a child of God, God loved you enough to adopt you anyway! He gave you His holy Name at your Baptism, sprinkling you clean to bring you into His heavenly family. He took your old sin-sick heart of stone and removed it from you, nailing it to Jesus' body on the tree. In its place, God gives you the very pure heart of the flesh and blood Jesus as your very own! In Baptism, you now have a holy residence so that His very Spirit was given to live within your heart!

Yes, on our own we would be miserable failures in all we teach, in how we live, and in who we think we are. But you are not on your own. Your God is faithful toward you even when you are not. He cleanses you of all your sin, gives you His holy Name, and even produces good works through you!

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