Sermon for 09.03.23 “Coals for cleansinbg

Pentecost 14 (Proper 17), September 3, 2023
Text: Romans 12:9–21
Theme: Coals for cleansing
Other Lessons: Jeremiah 15:15–21; Psalm 26; Matthew 16:21–28

A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. The Epistle lesson serves as our sermon text for this morning.
C. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
Gracious and Eternal God,
We come before You today with minds fixed on Your Son, Jesus Christ, who
set His face towards Jerusalem, knowing the suffering and the rejection
that awaited Him.
As we reflect on His words, may we too be reminded of the path that we are
called to follow, the way of the cross.
Lord, grant us the wisdom to discern Your will, even when it is challenging
or difficult to understand.
May we resist the temptation to see things merely from a human perspective.
Give us the courage to embrace Your divine purpose, knowing that it may
lead us to places of sacrifice and service.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
A. There are some people out there that need a whole lot of hot coals
dumped on them.
1. There are folks that need to be set on fire.
2. That meanie, that menace, bury him, bury her in blazing embers.
3. Those bullies and brutes and backstabbing betrayers, drop blistering
anvils and grand pianos on top to feed the flames.
4. The antagonists, the abusers, the culprits and perpetrators, riddle them
with pinpricks and paper cuts.
5. Shower them all with salt and citrus until it sizzles.
I. Not just anyone who irritates or annoys us qualifies as an enemy.
A. But do they qualify as genuine enemies?
1. Do they fit the definition of that of a foe?
B. Let’s remember Paul’s speaking of people.
1. The apostle’s talking about individuals.
2. In our reading from Romans 12, he’s not got in mind inanimate
predicaments or intangible tribulations, but particular figures.
3. And he’s not alluding to just anybody who happens to differ from you in
the neighborhood whether because of background or behavior.
4. His snapshot of enemies inviting vengeance doesn’t depict simply
unpleasant or even obnoxious somebodies.
5. The contours of ones to smother with bread don’t silhouette essentially
anyone who irritates or annoys you.
6. The profile of the ones to suffocate with water doesn’t sum up basically
anyone who interrupts or complicates your day.
7. The nemesis shoes don’t suit just anyone who questions or contradicts
8. The enemy uniform doesn’t belong on just anybody who competes with you
for resources or rewards.
9. Neither he nor we can pin the villain’s tail on every childhood heckling
hellion, romantic rival, workplace counterpart, or political opponent we
come across.
C. So the apostle Paul doesn’t single out any from the lineup of usual
1. He doesn’t point to a rogue from the regular gallery, like the emperors
or the centurions or the tax collectors.
2. He doesn’t spotlight the chief priests or Pharisees.
3. He doesn’t target the Egyptian polytheists or the Gentile pagans.
4. All these he names as neighbors, not enemies!
Romans 12:14 (NASB95)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
5. He recalls Jesus saying:
Matthew 5:44 (NASB95)
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
6. He echoes Jesus saying:
Luke 6:27 (NASB95)
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate
7. In many cases, they occupy one’s own community and family.
8. An enemy, on the other hand, desires your destruction and that of
9. An enemy inflicts the misfortune and savors your suffering.
D. No, St. Paul’s Word of the Lord advises armoring up against another.
Ephesians 6:11–12 (NASB95)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm
against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the
spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
1. Ah, yes, the ancient serpentine adversary.
2. But should we share a table with Satan?
3. Should we be serving him supper?
4. Is Scripture really instructing us to have a drink with the demons?
5. Ought we live in peaceable harmony with the prince of darkness?
6. Certainly not, when this epistle says:
Romans 12:9 (NASB95)
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
7. Certainly not with what all the other texts that are connected with
verse 9, the Gospels themselves, and the entire Bible says.
8. We are to resist and run the other direction as fast and as far as we
II. The real enemy comes from the sin that resides like an infection inside
each one of us.
A. Paul knows a nearer enemy.
1. He warns of an even more sinister one.
2. This enemy looms in the mirror and intrudes upon our own mind.
Colossians 1:21 (NASB95)
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in
evil deeds,
Romans 7:18–19, 24 (NASB95)
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the
willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that
I do not want.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
B. You see, the real enemy resides inside.
Matthew 7:4 (NASB95)
“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your
eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
Matthew 16:24 (NASB95)
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he
must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
1. In Romans, Paul uses the Greek word anthrakas for burning coals.
2. From this, of course, we derive our English term anthrax.
3. It designates an infection brought about by the bacillus anthracis
4. The typical symptom presents as a section of necrotized (that is,
localized death of living) tissue with vividly inflamed crimson skin
surrounding the blackened lesion.
5. It also enacts the same effects invisibly and internally on lungs and
6. The germ feeds on hemoglobin proteins in the blood.
7. It can prove both contagious and fatal among animals and humans as well
as between the two.
8. The pathogenic particles may remain dormant in the environment for
extended periods, years even, only to reactivate under conducive
9. It’s why armies illegally employ anthrax as one of the most common
biological weapons.
C. The coals we would eagerly heat smolder already in us.
1. Our own sinfulness kindles and fuels the animosity we can’t wait to heap
on an enemy’s head.
a. The ignited tongues that lick sparks at neighbors,
b. the inflamed fingers that flick flares at anyone around,
c. they eject forth from the spontaneous combustion of our torching
d. We loathe others because we loathe ourselves.
2. Sinful selfishness singes, scorches, blackens us to conscience and core.
a. Our anxiety,
b. our arrogance,
c. our embarrassment,
d. our outrage,
e. All of this scalds us in body, mind, and spirit.
D. We see one another with the seared eyes of an enemy.
1. We treat one another with the charred heart of an enemy.
2. We make enemies out of everybody who has anything we want and all who
even appear to stand, however accidentally, in the way of our taking it.
3. We hurt worse and burn to a deeper degree than that of a literal,
physical inferno.
4. Things we have said, things we have failed to say:
a. we breathe the fire.
5. Stuff we have done, stuff we neglect to do:
a. we do the flame-throwing.
6. We set ourselves as enemy, an enemy even of the Law of God itself.
a. I am the criminal.
b. I am the animal.
c. I am the enemy, and enemies deserve vengeance.
d. We have met the enemy and they are us!!! (Master Commandant of the
United States Oliver Perry writing to Major General William Henry Harrison
after the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812)
III. But He, the Lord, has coals of His own.
A. The Lord Our God Has Coals for Cleansing Instead of Consuming.
IV. Jesus has become the burning coals that render the infection dead.
A. He puts in the apostle Paul’s mind a holy fire of healing and relief
rather than cremation.
Isaiah 6:6–7 (NASB95)
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand,
which he had taken from the altar with tongs.
7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your
lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
1. The fire Paul stokes glows with the sacrifice from the Day of
2. The hearth God tends radiates the burnt offering on the altar and the
cloud of sweet incense covering the Mercy Seat.
B. He’s thinking of the fire that high priest Aaron knelt at and
disinfected the Israelites.
1. He’s thinking of the fire that Isaiah felt purify him from all sins.
2. He’s thinking of the fire that Peter beheld and warmed himself with the
night before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
3. He’s thinking of the charcoal fire roasting fish that melted the guilt
and grief of his deserter disciples at the Risen-Again One’s post-Easter
4. He’s speaking of the fire that annihilates the evidence and puts the
past behind.
5. He’s speaking of the fire that cauterizes the pestilence and rot.
6. He’s speaking of the fire that sanitizes the contaminants and toxins.
7. He’s fanning the fire that fell on Pentecost and exhaled tongues and
fingers of flame onto heads and into hearts like an engine powering courage
and compassion for proclaiming the Good News and putting it into practice.
C. Jesus sweat blood in the sweltering hellfire of forsakenness to forgive
1. He tread the feverish distance from heaven to humankind upon the coals
our iniquities set alight.
2. He thirsted beside you in the smelting furnace of abandonment we deserve
but mercifully and miraculously avoid.
3. He eagerly ate the fuming wrath and swallowed the simmering punishment,
on your behalf.
4. Then He returned to the dirty earth from whence we once emerged, ashes
to ashes and dust to dust, and He quenched the curse once and for all.
5. Now out of the cinders like that of a phoenix, He has ascended with:
a. forgiveness,
b. salvation,
c. and everlasting life in his wings.
6. Jesus has become the burning coals that render the infection dead,
drawing out the poison instead of drowning the person.
D. Jesus keeps warm that which is cold.
1. Christ Jesus makes safe.
2. Christ crucified cooks feasts.
3. Christ alive and well takes care and lights ways and holds close and
shares joy.
4. He has emblazoned His shadow over us:
a. our whole selves,
b. our entire lives,
c. our identity
d. our history
e. our destiny.
f. The Lord declares through Paul:
Romans 12:19 (NASB95)
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God,
for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
g. The Lord repays us with vengeance all right, but it is His forgiveness,
gentle and relentless.
5. The Lord goes on to say:
a. Most importantly, you are mine.
b. And I know how to preserve what belongs to me.

A. Receive and rejoice, for you have died with Christ.
1. Believe and be glad, because you are rising with Christ.
2. Repent and release, since you will live and reign with Christ.
3. Help yourself to these cozy coals.
4. Help yourself to the declarative word of Him forgiving your sin.
5. Help yourself to His words promising everlasting resurrection.
6. Help yourself to the assurance in Scriptures and sermons and songs that
He delights to grace you, to favor you, come near you and go with you.
7. Help yourself to the sterilizing coals that crown and halo your head,
you baptized and beloved child belonging to God.
8. Help yourself to the atoning coals that lie upon your lips, you member
of the holy communion and honored guest at the Lamb’s wedding banquet.
B. If it works on you, it also works through you.
1. You have a genuine love in His name.
2. You have a brotherly affection at His house. You have an exceeding honor
in His service.
3. You have a zealous trust and a fervent spirit with His people.
4. Feel it strong enough not only to hold but to wield.
5. If it works on you, it also works through you.
6. No more need you loathe others or be evasive with them, treating them as
if they were enemies.
7. No more must you compare, compete, avenge with anvils, or hurt, burn,
and bury.
8. You may give them the best kind of coals you can give.
9. You may notice and listen.
10. You may assist and embrace and accompany neighbors until they become
brothers and sisters.
11. You get to turn the other cheek.
12. You get to go the extra mile.
13. You get to keep one safe.
14. You get to make another warm.
15. You get to cook feasts for the meanies and menaces in your life.
16. You get to take care of the bullies and hold the brutes close.
17. You may sorrow beside them, unpleasant and obnoxious, irritating and
annoying though they be.
18. You may celebrate together, interrupting, complicating, contradicting,
questioning as they are.
19. Hellions, villains, rivals:
A. look how God’s made it easy to identify who needs coals of kindness.
B. Counterparts, opponents, look how He’s marked where you may witness and
even participate in overcoming our evils with His good.
C. I know some people I’d like to heap hot coals on.
D. And I bet you do too, don’t you? Amen.
C. Let us pray:
Help us, O God, to take up our cross daily and follow You.
Teach us to lose our lives for Your sake, that we might find true life in
Let us not be lured by the fleeting riches and honors of this world, but
rather inspire us to seek the eternal treasure of Your Kingdom.
Forgive us when we falter, and strengthen us by Your Spirit to walk
faithfully with You.
Make us mindful of the promise that whoever endures to the end will be
saved and will be with You in glory.
We pray for those among us who are burdened, suffering, or facing trials.
May they find comfort in knowing that You are the God who understands pain
and walks with us through every valley.
Guide us now, O Lord, as we continue to worship You in Your house.
Let our praise be a sweet fragrance to You, and may our hearts be open to
hear Your Word.
May we be transformed by Your grace, that our lives would reflect the glory
of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
In His precious name, we pray,
D. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
E. In the Name of the Father…Amen.