Ephesians 5:1-9 (LWML Sunday)
“Something Smells . . . Good”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
October 5, 2014
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text this morning is the Epistle lesson for LWML Sunday, from Ephesians 5:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).
(Sniff, Sniff) Do you smell something? A nasty odor? It’s quite a stench, actually. No, I don’t think it has anything to do with that dirty pair of socks you put on this morning. No, it’s not the smell of someone who hasn’t showered in a few days either. I just can’t put my finger on it. But something smells foul and disgusting.
(Sniff, Sniff) Oh no! It’s us! We’re the ones that smell! We’re the ones giving off a foul stench. And it has nothing to do with bodily cleanliness. It’s an odor coming from within us. It is the smell of those who are tainted with sexual immorality and all kinds of impurities in our thinking and speaking, in our doing and desiring. It’s the unpleasant scent of greed. Take a whiff of that ghastly aroma of ugly and foolish talk and vulgar speech that comes out of our minds and mouths. The smell is enough to gag someone. You don’t smell it?
Truthfully, neither do I. But God does. We are all quite accustomed to the smell of sin. You and I are very used to the scent of our own greed and impurity, so much so that we don’t even notice it. We’re immune to the stench. But the foul aroma of our sin makes God gag. If you can picture it, the smell of our sinfulness makes God so sick to His stomach that He feels like He wants to throw up. If you’ve ever had the occasion to smell something really gross and disgusting that it turned you stomach and made you want to gag, then you know how our sins affect God.
Our immorality and uncleanness, our greediness and selfishness, our ugly, foolish, and vulgar speech, and our idolatry are gross and disgusting to God. As you and I don’t want to be around foul smells, so God doesn’t want to be around the stench of our sinfulness. Indeed, He cannot be because God Himself is holy. His holy wrath would consume both sin and sinner to destroy the unholy smell by ridding it from His presence. Along with Isaiah we too would cry out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts!” (Is. 6:5)
That’s truly what we each are by nature, a lost and condemned person. And that stinks! And it’s not just the smell of our sins, it’s our sins themselves—the words, actions, desires, and thoughts that go against God’s commandments. On account of our sins, the wrath of God is coming. We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and displeasure, physical and eternal death. Our sins disqualify us from the inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5:5)
So can we do about the smell of our sins? What can be done about our immorality and impurity, greed, and wrong speech? Perhaps there is something we can do. In the Old Testament, God prescribed sacrifices for sin that would cover over the sins of the people. And not only did the sacrifices make atonement for sin, they smelled good to the Lord. Again and again we read in Leviticus that “the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to Yahweh.” The fragrant offering of fire-grilled meat and vegetables and oils and frankincense created a smell that was good, signifying that God would hear the prayers of His people and forgive their sins as the smoke of the sacrifice went up into heaven.
However, these sacrifices with their fragrant offerings have to be repeated over and over again. They have to be performed at the tabernacle or in the temple in Jerusalem, neither of which exist. Does this mean that there is no way to atone for our sins? Is there no way to rid ourselves of the horrible smell of our sinfulness?
Wait a minute! (Sniff, Sniff) Do you smell that? Something smells . . . good! It is the scent of a fragrant offering, but an aroma far better than that of the Old Testament burnt offerings and sacrifices. And yet, it is the fragrant odor of a sacrifice. Indeed, it is the scent and smell of the perfect self-offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the aroma of love that wafts to the heavenly Father from the tree of the cross on which Jesus suffered, shed His holy blood, and died for our sins. It is the smell of grace and mercy coming to meet our senses from the cross and the empty tomb, for Christ has died for our sins and is risen from death. The fragrant offering and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has saved us by atoning for our sins. Our sins stand forgiven! We are rescued from the wrath of God and the punishment of death!
Once we were darkness, covered in the horrible smell of sin and condemnation. But now we are light in the Lord, and we smell great! Listen to what Paul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wrote about us in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2:15 CSB) The pleasing aroma of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross covers the stench of our sin. Forgiven by Christ, we no long stink! To God our heavenly Father, we are pure and pleasing to Him because we are forgiven in Christ and given new life in Him. Jesus makes our lives a fragrant offering to God.
“Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children and continue to walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave up Himself on our behalf as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We imitate our heavenly Father by showing the same large-hearted forgiveness to others as He has shown to us in Jesus Christ. We don’t simple follow the Church’s example of love, but you and I are enabled to love because of what Christ did for us. And the chief way to imitate God and to show the sweet smelling love of Christ is to forgive and to love others in a sacrificial way. This is what happens to us because we have been recreated in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to be the aroma of Christ to the world. For God, through us, spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. (2 Cor. 2:14) Think of it this way. Some things are recognized by their smell—a rose, pizza, coffee. God the Father wishes to be recognized through His Son, Jesus Christ. So a person like you who speaks the truth about Jesus in the Gospel of forgiveness is just such a pleasing aroma from God! In you, people recognize the fragrance of Jesus!
So the aroma of the knowledge of God comes from Christ through you to others. This truly has been and continues to be the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and our congregations Women’s Guild. These Lutheran Women in Mission have received the forgiveness of their sins through faith in the fragrant offering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As members of His family, they now are enabled to be fragrant sacrifices and offerings before the Lord by being the hands, feet, and mouths of Jesus. When you in the LWML, for example, give your pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars for missions, our Father in heaven receives every single sacrificial mite as a fragrant offering and sacrifice.
And the same holds true all of us. When we study the Word of God, when we give joyfully to the work of the Kingdom through our gifts and offerings, when we speak forgiveness in Jesus’ name, when we love one another, when we tell others about Jesus our Savior, fragrant sacrifices and offerings rise up to our merciful, holy, and gracious God and Father. Every act of our life of faith in Christ rises up to God the Father as a sweet-smelling aroma.
(Sniff, Sniff) Do you smell something? (Sniff, Sniff) It’s us! And wow, we smell great! We smell wonderful! We smell pleasing to God because you and I are the fragrant aroma of Christ! With sins forgiven by Jesus who offered Himself on the cross as a fragrant offering and sacrifice for us, our lives are now a wonderful-smelling offering to our Savior and God. Amen.