Pentecost 12, 2015, Glen Carbon, IL. Ephesians 5:15-20
5:15-16, Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
In the German city of Strasbourg on the Rhine, the cathedral clock features Christ and the twelve Apostles, as well as four figures representing the four ages of life: childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. Amid the four figures marking the ages of people stands Death, who strikes the bell on the hour. The clock challenges people to stop, look, listen and then ask themselves, “How am I living my life? How am I using this day? How am I using this day for Christ?” St. Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith for good works which God has already prepared for us to do.
Paul writes in his epistle to the Ephesians that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom (the church) is joined together.” We are being built, together with all other believers in Christ Jesus, into a home in which God lives by the Holy Spirit.
Last week Paul urged us to, “imitate God as His dear children, and live in love just as Christ also loved us.” Today Paul tells us that through faith we have risen from the dead and Christ is shining on us and through us. Therefore, “Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise but as wise.”
However, living wisely is not as easily done as walking along the level and shaded trail that passes through Glen Carbon. Consider Abraham of old, chosen in God’s wisdom to implement God’s plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Christ. Through Abraham God would bless all the families of the earth. Our call as the church and as the body of Christ is to do the same thing. God’s plan hasn’t changed since the days of Abraham, but was fully revealed in Jesus Christ when the time was ripe. The church is his instrument for carrying out that plan. Yes, that includes St. James along with all the others believers gathering this morning throughout this community and the world.
But Abraham discovered the difficulty of walking wisely when in Genesis 20, for the second time, he passed off his wife, Sarah, as his sister out of fear for his life. When confronted by Abimelech, Abraham feebly tried to explain, “I thought, ’There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.” It turned out that Abimelech did fear and trust God, walking in God’s wisdom.. It was Abraham, the father of faith, who was faithless and fearful for his own life more than he feared and trusted God.
We have already taken care of our failure to imitate God this past week and feared where the world’s going more than we feared and trusted God. I no sooner announced the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, than we began a conversation. Quoting words from John’s first letter I cautioned you, “If we say we have no sins, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” You, without blinking an eye responded, “But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I said, in effect, “If that’s the case, let’s go ahead and confess our sins, no point in trying to hide our failings.” So you said, “Most merciful God”…and so forth. And I said, “In the mercy of almighty God…” and so forth and we were on our way to worshiping our merciful Lord who in Jesus cleansed us of all that would separate us from God. Where else, but in the church are you going to hear such saving words this week?
But we have a calling to carry out the rest of the week. Therefore, we have need to pray that, Our Lord would give us spirit of wisdom that we be focused on Christ and clearly see what it is he is calling us to do. Part of the wisdom we have in Christ is that recognizing that though the days in which we live are evil, that is not the whole story. We know that the world is God’s good creation and that all days are God’s gifts. Living in the time of Jesus resurrection the Holy Spirit has given insight into Jesus words in our gospel lesson when Jesus says, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus was speaking of his body which was nailed to the cross; is now raised. He is seated on the right hand of God in the heavenly places where all our spiritual blessings are being held in trust. However many took offense at Jesus words and abandoned him. He then asked the twelve disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” There are a lot of words being bantered on the TV talk shows this morning, but how many of them are words of eternal life? Indeed, where else would we go? A pastor told of being on vacation and was determined to enjoy the opportunity to be away from it all. The first Sunday morning he reveled in the freedom and put his chair on the beach and read the entire morning away. The second Sunday found him in the mountains. He had his book already picked out and settled into a rocking chair on the porch of their lodge. However, as the clock ticked closer to 10AM a certain restlessness set in. It was almost as if his soul was hungry. He said to his wife, “Come on we’re going to church.” She responded, “I’m ready, I’ve just been waiting for you to be ready.” So they got in the car and drove a half hour to church. He says, the music was odd, the sermon was preachy, and the people were most ordinary. Nevertheless, wrote, “I left that sanctuary humming and smiling and refreshed-somehow back in sync with God, with myself and with the world.”
Paul gives some guidance in order to live our life in sync with God’s will during the coming week. God’s will is not to shine the light of Christ on the world in order to condemn the world. Since we have the light of Christ’s grace, mercy and forgiveness in us we, the church, are to “walk as children of light,” shining that same grace, mercy and forgiveness on another and the world in which we live. We are called to shine the light of Christ on these evil days to release these evil days and those who live in their darkness from the grip of sin and death separated from God and makes God out to be their enemy. The task of the church is not to shake our heads nor to rant and rave at the sorry state of the world but to expose the evil to the light of the Gospel in order that more and more might join us in the household of God; that more and more might become places in whom God dwells through the Spirit.
Here is something really breathtaking, the church is God’s chosen instrument to bring the light of Christ to everyone – yes, everyone, and everything. That is, the plan of God for the uniting of everything, not only on earth, but for the whole universe. Because we, the church, his body, is completely filled by Him and He fills everything in every possible way. We are a beachhead for God’s redemption of the entire universe.
To that end St. Paul urges us “to be filled with the Spirit,” that we might address one another, “In psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father.” God has given the church high privilege and opportunity. He also gives even greater resources in his grace. We will hear him saying to us in our closing hymn, “Go my children, with my blessing, never alone, waking, sleeping, I am with you: You are my own.” Thus truly as we sang in our opening, this is a day of rest and gladness, a day of joy and light. To that we can add nothing more than our Amen.