Posted by: Johnold Strey | July 8, 2011

Installation Sermon on Leviticus 8

The following sermon was preached by Pastor Michael Carr (St. Peter Lutheran Church; Clovis, CA) at my installation service at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights on Sunday afternooon, July 3, 2011.

The pastors who participated in the rite of installation

Sermon Theme & Parts:

CHRIST’S HOLY PRIESTHOOD

  1. Cleansed, clothed, and covered
  2. Set apart for service

Sermon Text: Leviticus 8:1-15, 18-19, 22-24, 30

 I.

To the church of God in Citrus Heights, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

What an exciting day! You have given your finest for months: gold, linen, wood, thread. Now today, the work of the divinely gifted Bezalel and Oholiab and their associates will be unveiled. A tabernacle has been constructed. The equipment is all ready. Now you have been called together to watch something you’ve never seen before, something new. Moses speaks. It is the only words that he says: “This is what the LORD has commanded to be done.”

Moses brings Aaron and his sons out as separate. Moses washes them with water. Moses takes the beautifully prepared garments, gifts from you and all the people, and puts them all on Aaron – the garments, the breastpiece the turban and crown. Then he pours oil on Aaron and everything else in the tabernacle Then he repeats with Aaron’s sons, cleaning them, clothing them Everything is beautiful. Everything looks clean.

Then things get bloody. The pattern is repeated again and again. Aaron and his sons do the thing that they do in the entire service. They place their hands on the bull then the first ram, then the second ram. Whatever their hands touch, Moses comes up to and slaughters on the spot. The blood is splattered or smeared over everything. The fresh new clothes are spattered, the altar is spattered and Aaron and his sons have blood smeared on the extremities of any exposed skin: their right ear lobe, thumb and toe.

It was a silent sermon being written by God himself and preached by Moses’ actions: Here’s what it said. 

  • Even your best and finest gifts are human – from human hearts and hands. Well-made, pretty and expensive doesn’t cut it. They need to be perfect. They too need to be smeared with innocent blood. Nothing is fit for service without being covered with the blood of the substitute.
  • Aaron and his sons are dirty. They need to be washed.
  • Aaron and his sons need different clothes, clothes of the finest materials and given to them to wear for free.
  • Aaron and his sons are guilty. The people had been instructed about the sacrifice. When you sin, you sacrifice. Your guilt is transferred to an innocent animal that dies in your place. Aaron and his sons are no different. They are set apart for a special job, but they are not sinless, not by far. They too need an innocent substitute. They need to be covered by the blood. Notice that this is repeated again and again.

This all was a silent sermon and the focal point of the sermon is the focal point of every sermon – Christ crucified. God is the author who devises the plan in his infinite wisdom. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh to carry out the actions needed to complete the prescribed plan. His ministry spoke, “This is what the LORD has commanded to be done.” Over and over again he would tell it his disciples, “It is necessary, it is necessary… I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). I must keep going (Luke 13:32). I must suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:46).” Human kind is purely passive. The only thing humans are good for is to transfer sin onto an innocent head and watch him bleed out so that they can be covered with it, so that it can cover every one of the gifts that they produce and give.

What an exciting day for you here at St. Mark’s. You have provided from your plenty a gorgeous sanctuary, a beautiful campus, salary for bevy of staff and called workers – and even for this new pastor. You have provided voices that sing, a full pipe organ and beautiful baby grand piano to accompany those voices. Now in this service your best gifts all come together to celebrate the installation of your new pastor. But even your best gifts are imperfect. They are imperfect because they come from you.

So God went into action and carried out his plan for you. God chose you. In eternity he set you apart to be his own. In the waters of baptism you too were washed with water – water which saves you, which washes away your imperfection, which connects your hands to Christ’s head and transfers your death and guilt onto him and his innocence and life to you.

In that water he also clothed you. You were as spiritually naked as Adam and Eve were physically. Though you may have tried to fashion enough paltry good deeds to cover your shame before God, it would not do. So God gave you clothes that would cover you, clothes that are not your own and are provided for free. Christ clothes you with himself, his compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

In the Lord’s Supper you are graphically reminded with all five of your senses that you are covered. Jesus promises to give you the very body that died for you and the very blood that covers you even now, so that you can approach a God of grace and not wrath.

These are things worth repeating. Repetition is the most valuable learning tool there is. Though baptism was a one-time event for you, you repeat it again and again in your mind as you daily remember that you are dead to sin and alive to Christ. When the sign of the cross is made here at St. Marks you remember: I am washed and clothed, washed and clothed. The font stands here to speak that sermon to you again and again. You were passive. God was active.

In the song of praise you sing boldly what God has planned and done for you, “Lord God, Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world.” Then our mouths open to show what desperate beggars we are: “Lord have mercy on us. Create in me a clean heart, O God…cast me not away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me!” Every week, the liturgy repeats the sermon again and again: Christ crucified for you. God has done everything. You have passively received from him blessing after blessing.

The church year repeats again that you are cleansed, clothed and covered. It follows the plan of salvation from Christ’s first jaw-dropping appearance until his second. Again, God is the subject of the sermon, his action is salvation and we are those who receive the benefits.

Pastor Strey, even if I hardly knew you or knew you not at all, I would say with all confidence that you are just as guilty as the other human beings sitting behind and beside you today, yes even the one who stands in front of you. Though you are being set apart for a special job here, you are not sinless, not by far. You too need an innocent substitute. You too need to be covered by the blood, clothed with a wardrobe not your own and cleansed from every spot and stain. And you have been. God has brought all of his big promises to bear on you, even you.

You are a talented and capable man with extraordinary gifts. But, like the people of Israel, even your best and finest gifts are human – from a human heart and hands. Well-trained and skilled doesn’t cut it. They need to be perfect. They too need to be smeared with innocent blood. Nothing is fit for service without being covered with the blood of the substitute. And covered they have been.

II.

Aaron and his sons went through this extensive ritual of being cleansed, clothed, covered because they were being set apart to serve. They would repeat for the people what had been done for them. So people brought their sins and laid them on their sacrifices. The priest would slaughter. The blood would cover.

So too every member of this congregation and every called worker who serves it has been set apart for service. As Peter said in his first letter: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Christ joyfully sacrificed everything for you so that he could enable you have the joy of sacrifice in return. What are those sacrifices?

  • First of all, a heart broken by sin and healed by your Savior – a soul which exhales the toxin of sin and inhales of the rich life-giving oxygen of Christ’s forgiveness.
  • Not conforming to the pattern of the world.
  • Being transformed by the renewing of your mind through the Word of God.
  • Speaking as Jesus speaks, confessing his name.
  • Praising him by proclaiming what he has done.
  • Knowing and doing God’s will
  • Meeting needs with loving service, sharing with others
  • Not thinking of yourself as highly as you do.

In other words, the sacrifice is that you no longer live, but that Christ lives in you.

Pastor Strey, you are a priest set apart in full-time service of your fellow priests. You serve a kingdom of priests who serve your God and theirs. The job of Great High priest has been taken. The entire check list of things you have sacrificed will never compare to his list and what his sacrifice accomplished. The role of King is filled. For all of your leadership, it’s still his Kingdom and you’re just living it. There is only one Prophet who matters. As eloquent as your words may be, unless they are anchored to his Word, they are a house built on sand.

Set apart for service. Set apart to sacrifice starting with our own egos. That is a tall order indeed. Who is fit for such a task? Certainly not Aaron and his sons. Certainly not the members of St. Mark’s. Certainly not you. Certainly not me! That’s why we were passive. That’s why we are called to repeat what he has actively done for us.

Every week you will stand behind that baptismal font. May you and every member of St. Mark’s remember their baptisms even as my children remember theirs at this very font.

Every week you will stand in a white robe. May you and every member of St. Mark’s remember that you have been covered in brilliant white perfection.

Every week you stand behind a pulpit because you are proclaiming the authoritative declarations of the King. You will repeat the promises, repeat the words which tell us how God did it all for us. May you and every member of St. Mark’s be transformed inside out by those words of life for hungry hearts and thirsty souls.

Every week you will wear a stole – the yoke placed upon a beast of burden. That’s what you are to God You are a creature designed by him for specific work in his fields and on his farm. You carry the yoke of the ministry, but all the members here  are also horses – beasts of burden, each of you unique and different. You have been broken by God for service to him as he sees fit. May this sanctuary be the stable in which he washes and grooms you, feeds you and gives you rest. But may this sanctuary also be the carriage house where you are prepared for lives of service in his kingdom. May this place, the ministers who serve and people who gather to encourage one another equip us for the lives God has created us to live in humble and joyful service to his glory and his glory alone.

Be what God has made you. He has set you apart for service. He has cleansed and clothed and covered you. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).  Amen.

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