Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sermon - Philippians 3:17-21 - Lent Midweek 5

Philippians 3:17-21
Lent Midweek 5
April 6th, 2011

Pride, Coveting, Lust and Anger. We've been examining these deadly sins in our season of repentance. God's word calls us out, points the finger right at us – dead to rights. But then the Gospel does its work – Jesus, our loving savior, takes away sin, defeats death, and by his Spirit creates a new heart in us. He is the only antidote to deadly sin.

Today another sin – Gluttony. All of these deadly sins we've looked at so far can be done largely in the darkness of the heart. They may or may not produce effects to be seen. You can't usually tell if someone is lusting or coveting. Maybe you can see their anger. But gluttony tends to be a different story. We tend to wear this sin on our sleeves – or rather, on our bellies, hips, and thighs.

Some of us, even pastors, are more familiar with this sin than others. Some of us are a walking object lesson in such sins. But counter to some of the mixed messages we get from our culture, let's call this sin a sin, and confront it head on.

Gluttony, like all sins, takes something good – in this case food – and twists it into something it wasn't meant to be. God gives us food to nourish our bodies, and also for enjoyment. Daily bread is a gift. But gluttony falls under, “too much of a good thing”.

It's not just eating too much, either. Drinking too much – now there's a whole different sermon. Or what about misusing our food in other ways? St. Thomas Acquinas categorized 5 ways of being a glutton – including eating food that is too expensive or pretentious or eating at the wrong time, or even eating too eagerly. And this isn't even to mention the other side of the coin – do we neglect to help those who truly are hungry and in need? Does all this “more for me” mean “less for you?” No, misusing food isn't just about eating too much.

Isn't it interesting that the original sin of Adam and Eve had to do with food – a misuse of a food God had given. Oh you can eat from any tree in the garden – just not that one. But they crossed the line God had set. They took, and ate, and they died.

Gluttony is deadly, like all sins, and has spiritual as well as physical dangers. The physical dangers of obesity – well, we hear about them all the time. Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, the list goes on... But spiritually, the real danger is mentioned in Philippians 3 - that gluttony turns us away from God and makes our own belly our god.

“Their god is their belly, and their destiny is destruction”. Here Paul is talking about those who live as enemies of Christ! And what are they concerned with? What do they value most? What do they worship? Their own full bellies. Unfortunately, that sounds a little too much like many of us. Are we then, destined for destruction? Are we, in fact, enemies of Christ?

According to our old nature, yes! Our old Adam, with his pride and envy and lust and anger and gluttony – must be destroyed. That's what the Christian faith is about. That's what Jesus does. By repentance and faith, destroying enemies and making them into friends. Re-creating us in baptism, raising us from a walking death to an eternal life with him.

Jesus – who fasted 40 days in the wilderness and still had more than enough strength to defeat our enemy the devil. Jesus – who calls himself the bread of life, and give us to eat and drink of his body and blood. Jesus – who on the cross thirsted, but his greatest thirst was for our salvation. He was a glutton for punishment – the punishment for all sins, on the cross. And now death has been swallowed up in his victory over death.

He re-orders our lives by his love. He forgives even our daily sins. And he promises us a future.

Maybe part of what drives gluttony is some kind of fear that we won't have enough – so we better get as much now as we can. But trusting in the one who richly provides for us – we need not worry for tomorrow. Perhaps gluttony is a singular concern for my own pleasure, irrespective of the needs of others. Ah, but the Savior that loves us calls us to love our neighbor, even to feed the hungry. Even as he feeds us with his own self.

The opposite of gluttony, the counterpart virtue, is temperance – that is, restraint or self-control. We could never do such a thing on our own. But we pray the Spirit's guidance, the Spirit's work in our life, to complete the good work he has begun in us – the good work he will bring to completion on that day.

One of the ways Holy Scripture speaks of that kingdom to come is as a marriage feast. The same Jesus who turned water into the finest wine when the host of the banquet ran out. He will, in that day, prepare for us an eternal feast of joy. There will we eat in holiness and righteousness, with all the saints of God forever. There, at the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom which has no end.

Until then, we have a foretaste of the feast to come. A meal unlike other meals – a gathering with all the company of heaven. A food that doesn't tempt us to sin, but absolves our sins. A feast that brings eternal life. A provision that only God can prepare and provide. Here, at the altar. Here at the rail. Here with your fellow sheep, the shepherd feeds you. He prepares a table before you in the presence of the enemy. And in Christ, our cup of blessing overflows.

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