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Archive for the ‘Ephesians’ Category

Ephesians 4:12

 

1.  Way In

a photo I appreciate from the 1960s

march organized by Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr.

black people and white people

walking together

in the front row, linked arm-in-arm

Dr. King, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

a man carrying a Torah scroll, and a man carrying a cross

we can talk a long time about everything that separates this scene

race, theology

but for the cause on that day, Civil Rights

the image for me is “Unity”

there were many things these folks were able to set aside that day

and take a stand for justice

although we think of justice in legal terms, with respect to the American constitution

this is an image for me of commitment to biblical justice, in the Judeo-Christian tradition

jPvm

right relationships among all things in the created order of things

Bridge

this reading, then, comes from the Apostle Paul,

a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of the Gentiles

the very one, the Pharisee

who spent a career violently persecuting followers of Jesus

He said himself, “I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison (Acts 22:4)

the very one who was bound by every law and commandment to reject the Messiah

until he saw the light of Christ – and it changed his life

now he writes to the church at Ephesus, asking for their prayers

“to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (6:19-20)

2.  Tell the Story – in chapter 3 of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes

I, a prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, with

humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love

making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

There is one body and one Spirit

one Lord, one faith, one baptism

one God and Father of all – above al, through all, and in all

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift

some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and some teachers

to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ

3.  So What?

Lead a life worthy of your calling to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ

a worthy life is lived with

humility, gentleness, patience, and love

to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

a worthy life is lived, by grace, with the gifts of Christ

some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers

a worthy life is lived, with the gifts of Christ for the work of ministry

preaching the good news

as Jesus preached in his hometown of Nazareth

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18-19)

work of ministry

reconciliation, forgiveness, justice for the sake of the saving love of Jesus Christ

feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned

works of ministry

it’s not our works that save us

rather our works are our grateful response to the one who saves us

because whenever we do unto the least of our brothers and sisters – we do it for our Lord Jesus Christ

our salvation is not a thing we wear on our sleeve to show how special we are

rather it is a calling to profess his saving love to the world

as Francis of Assisi said, to preach the gospel every day, and even use words when you have to

it’s not so much who we are on the inside,

but who we are as we live out our calling

and we do all of this, not to build up ourselves, or our individual churches but to build up the Body of Christ

That brings me back to unity

the unity of the Spirit that is characterized by:

humility, gentleness, patience, and love

let me take a little survey

raise your hand:

Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, United Methodist, Church of God, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Episcopal, Full Gospel, Wesleyan, Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, Pentecostal, Church of the Brethren, Presbyterian, Praise Ministries, Nazarene, non-denominational (not bound by a particular denomination), anybody else?

praise the Lord, we really cover the map

we could spend a whole lot of time discussing where we differ

doctrine, practice, sacraments, worship style, liturgy, music

we could be raising hands for this or that all night long

now let me ask you this:

raise your hand if you love Jesus

… if he’s the Lord of your life, who saves you and sets you free

… if you trust him, and call on his name

keep your hands up if he’s always there for you

… if he knows your name

… and promises never to leave you nor forsake you

… if he was born for you

if he died for you

if he rose again for you

… if he saves you from the power of sin and death

keep those hands up

now look around

friends/saints, this is the body of Christ

we may come from different places, but we are all the body

worship may look different from one house to the other on Sunday

but we are all the Body of Christ

and this is where we find our unity – what we hold together

and this is where we can make a difference

for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ – in our community

Now take your seats and let us pray

Lord God we thank you for calling us together

we thank you for each one here tonight

we thank you for saving us and calling our name

Now we ask you to lead us

in our community, show us how to be your people

there are people around us, your children

who don’t have enough to eat

who can’t find jobs, and afford decent housing

who suffer and try to heal themselves

and there are too many times this leads to addictions

and separation

Lord Jesus, we are regular people

but we are your people

and your Word teaches us how to be a community of faith

we appreciate the traditions in which we worship you

here we find meaning to our lives

we worship your name

and learn to love you more

But Lord we want to do better

we want to show the world, for your sake,

that there is unity in the Body of Christ

so anoint each of us with the spirit of unity/togetherness

and show us ways to come together

so the world can see that you have called us as one Body

there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female

but one in your name

Remind us that you have not saved us to put us in the trophy case

but you have called us to ministry

just like you always call your people

we want to be your vessels

and we want you to fill us with

humility, gentleness, patience, and love

to equip all the saints

to build up the Body of Christ

for your sake

so let it be.  Amen

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Ephesians  4:17 – 5:2

Imitators of God

 

1.  Way In

    I have been a Beatles fan since as long as I can remember (5 or 6 years old)

When I lived in Mississippi

Aunt Mary Joyce went to New Orleans to a concert

when I heard the Beatles on the radio

thought they were at the studio in town singing for me

stacked the records up on my record player

played one after the other

some of you may not know what I’m talking about – stacking the records up

wanted a Beatles haircut

wasn’t going to happen

my Daddy cut my hair

    on a stool on the back porch or yard

    one style – buzz

funny, that’s a cooler haircut today that it was then

in fact, Miller and Jack both wear it like that now

but when I was a kid, with my (uncool) buzz cut …

one kid at school wore his hair Beatles-style

black, collar-length

“mop top”

I idolized that kid with the Beatles haircut

now, I don’t remember his name

I knew it then,

and I wanted to be like that kid

because I wanted to be like the Beatles

John, Paul, George, or Ringo

with a cool haircut, cool clothes, play the guitar or drums

sing, and be cool

I wanted to imitate the Beatles

wanted to wear my hair like them

And I think I still do want to imitate them

every time I get new glasses, I try on the round silver frames like John Lennon wore

and every time, my face is still too round to wear those frames

Bridge

Weird to think about the Beatles this week related to the Ephesians text?

I guess I was remembering that strong urge to imitate people I loved

That’s where my mind went as I read Paul’s words,

        exhorting the readers at the church in Ephesus (and us) to be imitators of God

Not to look cool

not as if we can really imitate God

But we can imitate God, so far as we can, made in God’s image,

    follow the life he would have us to live, transformed lives

shaped by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ

 

It is through Jesus that God has reached out to touch the hand of humankindSistine 2

    following Jesus is how we can imitate God,

and here, Paul tells us how we can do it

this is what the scriptures mean in calling us to be imitators of God.

2.  Tell the Story

Paul’s letters, like this one

meant to be read and passed around the churches

This letter was sent to the church at Ephesus,

and sent along to us

Paul says to stop living like the Gentiles

Gentiles were not only non-Jews

since they were not part of the temple faith, they were considered to have no belief in God

Said to be darkened in their understanding

excluded God from their lives

hard-hearted and callous

concerned only with what makes them happy

The early church was concerned with building a community of faith among unbelievers

how to practice the ways of Jesus among people who were strange to them

how to live transformed lives

without conforming to ways of the world

Paul says, don’t be like this, “You know better.”

You have heard Christ

Been taught in Christ

Don’t live like the Gentiles; instead, live like you’ve been with the Lord

lay aside the old self – corrupt and deluded

be renewed in the spirit of your mind

put on the new self

put on new clothes

the ones God made for you

Today’s reading from Ephesians tells us what those new clothes look like …

    how we can be imitators of God, living a transformed life.

Paul gives us specific examples

Tell the truth with love because we belong to each other

Don’t let anger control you

nothing wrong with being angry and injustice

but don’t be consumed or centered in anger

it will distort your thinking and behavior

don’t let the sun set on your anger

deal with it or make room for the devil

Work honestly for what you need

don’t steal it … don’t take it from somebody else

and remember to use some of it to help others

keeps reminding us of this….must be real important

Put aside gossip and slander

take control of what you say

show respect for others

speak words that build up instead of tear down

remember we belong to each other and to God

3.  So What?

Imitating God is living a transformed life

we have seen God act in Jesus Christ

therefore imitate him

Paul gives these examples as a foundation

failing to do so “grieves God’s spirit”

Transformed living is not just for our benefit

not just to make us feel good or keep us out of trouble

it is to build up the body of Christ

the Body of Christ – the church universal

this is how we have learned Christ

Conclusion

Let us work always to set aside ways that don’t build up the body

ways that are self-serving, or closed

seeking only to reach out to those who are like us

and always seek to live the ways Jesus teaches:

treating others, especially strangers, with the respect and love due to a person made in the image of God

building one another up as Christ has built us up

Put on the new clothes of righteousness and justice

imitating God in the way we live and relate to other people

Living a transformed life is how we imitate God

May we let his love show in all we do

walking in love just as Christ loved us

giving himself up for us

offering his life for us

… as an example

As Christ has given this for us … how can we give any less?

I hope you will join me

because I am preaching to myself today

and if I am preaching to you, too …

let us put on the new clothes, the new ways of Christ

living in this way, that makes life worth living

living for the sake of Jesus Christ

and buldging up the community of faith

and seeking to be a community where it is easier to do good

this is the church Jesus wants

more interested, I think, in our spiritual health

… our Christian friendship and outreach

of each person

not so concerned with the how the building looks

but more interested in how we use what we have

to promote, exhibit, and live the love of Jesus

     living as imitators of God

        for the sake of Jesus Christ

                                                for this community and for the world

 

                                          So may it be with us.   Amen.

 

 

 

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