We had another great sermon on Sunday. This one was about holiness, based on the section in the Sermon on the Mount about “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-48) and Moses’ call to holiness (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18). I got so much out of the sermon that I’m going to devote three posts to it. Today: Law. Tomorrow: Gospel. Next day, a really thought-provoking quotation.
In the most basic sense, Pastor Douthwaite explained, “holiness” means “set apart.” So being holy means, on one level, simply being different.
From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 7 Sermon:
We use that word “holy” a lot in Church, but what does it mean? Well it literally means to be set apart; to be set apart for a godly use. And in this context, the context of Christians living in an increasingly non-Christian world, in an increasingly anti-Christian world, perhaps we could say it like this: BE DIFFERENT. Don’t be like the world, don’t act the same, don’t go along – be different.
But we’re afraid to be different. We try to be like the world, and want to be liked by the world. We don’t want to stand out and be made fun of. But your mother was right. Your mother was right when she said: if everyone else jumps off a bridge, does that me you have to?
No, be holy. Be different. Be set apart for the Lord. For He has set you apart. He has chosen you to be His son, His daughter. He has brought you into His Church. He has forgiven your sins. He has given you His Spirit. Which makes you pretty special, pretty important. And so, He says in Leviticus, be different. Don’t be greedy and harvest everything right up to the very edges of your field – be different. Don’t try to get as much as you can by dealing falsely and lying – be different. Don’t oppress, or withhold, or be partial – be different. Don’t hate or take vengeance or hold a grudge – be different. Be holy. I am the LORD.
I am the LORD. Did you notice that is said over and over again? I am the LORD. I am the LORD. But that’s not just God saying: I’m God and so you have to do what I say . . . or else! (Like parents say sometimes!) No, that’s not who God is. I am the LORD means: I am the one who created you and gave you life. I am the one who promised you a Saviour to redeem you and give you eternal life. I am the one who provides for you and cares for you. I am the one who chose you. I am the one who brought you out of Egypt. I am the one who promised you a home. I am the one who is on your side and will always be. I am the LORD.
And you are mine. You don’t have to worry about those things. You don’t belong to the world and its ways. You belong to me, and that makes you different. So be different. In a selfish world, be different: be selfless. In a world that more and more sees death as the answer, be different: choose life. In a world of sin, be different: be holy.