October 22, 2012

The Inevitable Messiness of Being Human, Pt 1

by Clint Archer

Here’sa  glimpse into the sausage factory of expository preaching. Recently my commitment to consecutive exposition was acutely tested. I tackled the chapter every seminoid dreads from the day he graduates, namely Leviticus 15 (you know, the heart-warming one about emissions and discharges of various bodily fluids). The challenges of preaching this sticky wicket are manifold.

bodily fluids clean up kit

First, the preacher himself needs to understand why there is legislation on bodily leakiness in the Bible. Second, he needs to publicly read and explain the text without blushing or evoking any unsolicited giggles from the congregation. Third, the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed from the text, and not just gratuitously or tangentially, but in a way that people grasp the connection and are moved to worship. And finally, application for today needs to be drawn from the Mosaic Law, which is fulfilled in Christ and no longer binding on Church-age believers.

No sweat.

When I surveyed how other preachers dealt with the text, I noticed a trend toward lumping chapter 15 in with a sermon on leprous uncleanness  from chapters 13 and 14. So, most pastors tended to passionately preach up a storm from Lev 13-14 on the picture leprosy is of sin and Christ’s power to make clean the unclean–and then incidentally append a footnotish concession that chapter 15 provides another illustration of this truth by portraying a different type of uncleanness. A slight “ahem” would often punctuate the part fo the sermon where the unmentionables were mentioned.

I thought to myself, “Chickens! I’ll play the man, and preach an entire sermon on the chapter. With the courage of a seasoned expository janitor I’ll mop up the mess on aisle 15 with my dry wit.”

SCRUBS -- Pictured: Neil Flynn as The Janitor -- NBC Photo: Mitchell HaasethShortly after my soliloquy –during the part of my exegesis where I simply read the text multiple times– I started to change my tune, and thought “Perhaps the chickens had the right idea after all. It would have been smart to have grafted this into last week’s sermon. Oops.”

Anyway, I plunged into the flow of the text, practically drowning in bodily fluids, but determined that one way or another I would wring application from this chapter. In surrender to the Holy Spirit, I allowed Him to guide my study.

As it turned out, 2 Tim 3:16 is in fact true: all Scripture, even Leviticus, is breathed out by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, and training in righteousness. Who woulda thunk?
The (somewhat cumbersome and ineloquent) sermon outline that floated to the surface was:

3  MESSY REALITIES ABOUT BEING HUMAN SO THAT YOU GRASP HOW UNAVOIDABLE YOUR UNCLEANNES IS AND HOW MUCH YOU NEED A SAVIOR TO CLEAN YOU

1. GOD MADE US MESSY; 2. GOD WANTS US CLEAN; 3. GOD MAKES A CLEAN

Today we look at the first one:

God made us messy.

As a result of the Fall and subsequent Curse (Gen 3) humans have been left in a state of broken messiness in every conceivable way: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many sermons address the need we have for spiritual repair. But Leviticus 15 presents our physical grossness and portrays a picture of how unavoidable our uncleanness is.

yukThe inevitable leakiness of our bodies is a reminder that simply being human makes us unacceptable to a pure, holy, clean God.

At the Fall in Gen 3, everything fell. The universe fell. Our bodies, our emotions, our will, our spirits, everything. Work was a blessing before the fall, but when work was cursed it became impossible for a man to find fulfillment in his work. In fact, in the very text of the pronouncement of the Curse, one bodily fluid featured prominently: sweat (Gen 3:19).  {Fun fact: humans sweat 227 litres a year–enough to fill a Honda Accord’s gas tank three times–amounting to 204,300 litres in a 75 year lifetime.}

Bearing children would have been an untainted blessing before the Fall, but when childbearing was cursed (Gen 3:16) the joy became mixed with pain and discomfort. One bodily fluid we associate readily with emotional pain is tears. {Fun fact: Human basal tears could fill the average bathtub each year.}

But the most persistent pain in childbearing is associated with blood. From the time a woman hits puberty, her body hurts her every month until she gets pregnant (her period). Then it hurts her while she’s newly pregnant (morning sickness), then it hurts her while she’s very pregnant (antenatal kung-fu in the womb), and then it hurts to deliver the baby (or so I’m told), and then there’s the pain of nursing, and the torture of sleepless nights. And the inconvenience of parenting persists until finally the offspring all come of age and leave the nest (the age used to be eighteen, but thanks to Playstation and chronic laziness it’s now closer to twenty-three for boys). But then there is the pain of not having them in the house, or “empty-nest syndrome.”

Why? Why would God do this?

Tune in next week Monday for the answer.

[Please note that Clint will be abroad on a missions trip by the time this post airs, and is not ignoring your comments; just delayed in responding.]

Clint Archer

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Clint is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. He and his expanding troop of Archers live near Durban, South Africa (and pity anyone who doesn't). When he is off duty from CGate, his alter ego blogs at Café Seminoid, clintarcher.com
  • busdriver4jesus

    Props to you for preaching through Leviticus! I’m just finishing 6 months in the book, and am pleasantly shocked to see a Master’s grad working through an OT book (other than Dan or Zech!). The Holiness Code is so important and applicable for today… I look forward to your future posts on Lev.

    • pastorarcher

      The importance of exposition through the OT was drummed into us in every class in seminary, including the NT survey classes! I’m grateful for a church that has an morning and evening service. We always to NT in one and OT in the other. Thanks for checking in. (and praise God for airport wi-fi zones).

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.bastian.507 Andrew Bastian

    Great article… but you might double check the sweat math

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