|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 18, 2015||Proper 24, Year B||Isaiah 53:4-12, Mark 10:35-45|
|The Feast of St Francis||October 4, 2015||The Feast of St Francis||Matthew 11:25-30|
|Pentecost 18, Year B||September 27, 2015||Proper 21, Year B||James 5:13-20|
|Pentecost 17, Year B||September 20, 2015||Proper 20, Year B||Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Psalm 54, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37|
|Pentecost 16, Year B and Baptism||September 13, 2015||Proper 19, 2015||Mark 8:27-38, Psalm 116:1-8|
|Pentecost 15, Year B||September 6, 2015||Proper 18, Year B||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration||August 16, 2015||Pentecost 12, Proper 15||Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55|
|➤Pentecost 11, Year B||August 9, 2015||Proper 14, Year B||Ephesians 4:25-5:2|
|Pentecost 10, Year B||August 2, 2015||Proper 13, Year B||Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 19, 2015||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 12, 2015||Pentecost 7, Year B||Ephesians 1:3-14|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 5, 2015||Proper 9, Year B||Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Pentecost 5, Year B||June 28, 2015||Proper 8, Year B||Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30|
|Pentecost 4, Year B||June 21, 2015||Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B||2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41|
|Pentecost 3, Year B||June 14, 2015||The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6||2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34|
Pentecost 11, Year B
Sermon Date:August 9, 2015
Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 14, Year B
" Salvator Mundi" – Leonardo da Vinci (1500)
This past Thursday night at our monthly jail Bible Study, a prisoner started off our discussion with this question.
“So if you were challenged by someone who was going to take your life depending on whether or not you were a Christian, and you said you were, and then they killed you because you’d said you were Christian, would you go straight to heaven?”
The ten men there pretty much agreed that yes, the person would go to heaven because he had died professing his belief in Jesus.
But then another prisoner pointed out that it’s not just what we say we believe, but it’s how we live out those beliefs, because how we live reflects what we truly believe.
One reason I like hearing from the men in prison who come to the Bible study is that they cut straight to the chase on just about everything we talk about.
Being locked up has given them a different perspective on life—everything is in bold relief for them. Sin, redemption, salvation, damnation, heaven and hell, grace, mercy, wrath—these concepts echo through their minds and hearts as they ponder where they’ve been and where they want to go with their lives when they finally get out of prison.
Salvation is way up at the top of the list—because the men who self-select and come to the Bible study know that they’ve messed up, and they want to grow into something different.
Meanwhile, we are pretty content with our lives and our place in the world as good law abiding citizens.
But these same questions apply. If we say that we believe in Jesus and that we are Christians, then how do we choose to live?
In this world, we all have different perspectives based on aspects of our own lives—the color of our skin, our gender, how much money we do or don’t have, the experiences we’ve had in our lives, what happened to us as children, what political party we claim, and more—all of these things influence our perspectives.
This is why I like hearing from the men in jail at our Bible study, because they’ve realized that it’s not acting from our particular perspectives,
but instead, how we live out our Christian beliefs that’s most important, because how we live shines a direct light on what we really believe about God, about our relationships with our neighbors, and with creation itself.
The writer of the letter to the Ephesians knew this—how we live out our beliefs IS of the utmost importance, and so the writer shares some advice about how we are to live as Christians in this world, and also what’s at stake.
At stake—the quality of our relationship with God. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.”
God wants us to be imitators of God—to be proactive lovers.
And in order not to grieve God and, instead, to become the proactive lovers that God wants us to be, the writer of Ephesians states that what we have to do is to put away ALL bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and instead, to love and forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
This advice is so basic, and so hard to do, that we tend to forget it and forget to do it.
Our society encourages us to feel bitter, wrathful, and angry and to want to act with malice. If my personal rights are infringed on in any way, then the norm is to feel resentful, bitter, and all the rest, to stay stuck in that emotional morass, and to act in ways that reflect my displeasure.
And yet, reacting in resentful and bitter ways to the situations in which we find ourselves can grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Because in many cases, our anger and the responses that come out of that anger help us justify behavior that goes directly against our baptismal vow of respecting the dignity of every human being.
We end up wanting to get even. Let me hurt you even more than you’ve hurt me. “Don’t get mad, get even.”
So are we supposed to just lie down, to be doormats and to be passive about life, just taking what comes with a sense of resignation?
God asks us to be proactive.
The writer of Ephesians tells us—“Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”
The men in Bible study Thursday night pointed out that learning to be imitators of God and living in love as Christ loved us is the work of a lifetime—that we are always growing into what this means in our lives—that every moment we live is full of discernment about how we carry out this command to live in love.
It’s not just the big dramatic stuff like one man at jail Bible study who is so angry with his stepfather for beating his mother that he’d like to kill the man—it’s the little stuff too, like standing in line with a bunch of grumpy, complaining people, or being in a group listening to people complain and bemoan the state of the world and succumbing to the poison that is swirling through the air.
Soon, you’re feeling grumpy as well. And when someone snaps your head off, or beats the drum of doom, the natural reaction is to respond in kind. And all of a sudden, you’ve made room for the devil to go to work and to spur on your own feelings of discontent, helplessness, anger, and bitterness—increasing your desire to act in wrath and in malice to make the point that things aren’t the way that you believe that they should be, to retaliate rather than to be a proactive agent of God’s merciful love here on this earth.
Now the church is the body of Christ, and so we claim this idea that the writer of Ephesians states—that as a church we are all “members of one another,” and that we will relate to those, even those with different perspectives in our midst, with kindness.
And I believe that we at St Peter’s do make an effort to do this for one another for the most part. It’s our mandate as Christians.
But the effort to live in this kind, forgiving, proactively loving way cannot stop when we go back out into the world each Sunday after being here. We have to carry this way of life out with us into the world so that we can make space for God’s love to flow into the world.
God expects us to be proactive lovers in our families, our communities, and in our country, and anywhere else that God sends us.
The imperative to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” rests on the foundation of going out into the world planning to respect the dignity of every human being we meet, to carry out our work with kindness and to leave the devil in the dust by giving up our wrath about the state of our lives and of the world, and to be proactive lovers instead.
We will fail at this.
But failures on our part keep us humble—because living respectfully and lovingly is impossible in our day to day lives without God’s help. That’s why we come together each week to worship God and to come to God in prayer, and to seek strength from God, who is present to us in here in bread and wine and word and music. We also gather to seek strength from one another, and every Sunday we confess our sins against God and our neighbor and we resolve once again to try to live in love, as Christ loved us, in all that we say and all that we do—to be proactive lovers.
How you live reflects what you truly believe.
Do people see and feel God’s love with them when they are with you?