8/19/2018 Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Ephesians 5:15-20.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our second reading for today is from the fifth chapter of Ephesians and in it Paul outlines proper behavior for good living. In this short passage he tells his readers to be careful how they live. He is brief and to the point as he lists three things that we must do. That is be wise, be sober, and be thankful. It’s a short list but if we center our daily lives around these three we will transform not only our lives but also the lives of our family, friends, church, and neighbors. So be wise and understand the will of the Lord.
This type of wisdom does not come naturally to any of us. It comes faithfully. And, it is something that Jesus talked about a lot. Jesus said that the foolish man builds his house on the sand while the wise man builds his house on a sure foundation, that is, the foundation of the Lord. He said that a foolish man stores up treasurers on earth while the wise man finds his treasure in God’s kingdom. He pointed in another parable that a foolish man stores up goods in a barn, hoping that it will ultimately save him, while the wise man puts his faith not in things on earth, but on heavenly things.
In our consumeristic world, this is not an easy thing to do. But then we are not told to squirrel what we have for a rainy day and neither are we told to spend money and accumulate things in order to make sure we have a secure future. Our future is in the hands of God. I know that and so do you. So when I bought a new car I did so because I need reliable transportation and not because I feel that somehow a new vehicle will provide salvation, prestige or anything else. If by some incredible stroke of luck I should win the lottery, it would make life easier for me, but I know that all the money in the world can’t give me one minute of life beyond that which I will have on earth. There is no lasting value in things or money or power or prestige. As we all put on our pants one leg at a time, we will all one day leave this world in the same way in which we came into it…with nothing other than that which the Lord has given us.
There is a traditional story that puts this type of wisdom in proper perspective. In it, a man asks God, “What does a billion dollars mean to you who are all powerful?” And God says, “Hardly a penny.” Then the man asks God, “And what are a thousand centuries to you?” God answers “Hardly a second!!”
Thinking he has God backed into a corner, the man then says, “Then if that’s the case, O, Lord give me a penny!!” “Sure,” God replies, “In just a minute.”
Wisdom isn’t outsmarting God, wisdom is living in and with God. Wisdom is being in Christ and surrounded by Christ. Wisdom is eating and drinking from the feast which God has prepared for us.
The second thing that Paul tells us is that we should be sober. Now he’s not addressing people with addictive personalities here. With wine being an everyday drink, he is addressing everyone. And if you have ever seen anyone who has a few too many or perhaps engaged in the practice yourself, you know what being drunk can do. Overindulgence dulls the senses, slurs speech, makes you unsteady on your feet, causes unhealthy decisions and hinders relationships. Overindulgence in anything can cause some of the very same things. For debauchery doesn’t just deal with drinking. Debaucher is excessive indulgence in any sensual pleasure. And that, my friends, encompasses a lot of “isms.”
So we are to be sober. We are to engage in the world around us for God has blessed us with a myriad of things which we call pleasurable. But, the greatest pleasure of all is that which enlightens the spirit, brings joy to the heart, unites us with Christ, and sings melodies to the Lord. For, all the excesses in the world can only bring temporary satisfaction while life in Christ brings pleasure for a lifetime and beyond.
Finally, we are to be thankful. To be thankful is to recognize that what God has provided for us is not our right. It is not something that God owes us, nor is it something that we can earn. Everything that God gives us is a gift, and the appropriate way to respond to undeserved gifts is to give thanks to the giver. But, we live in a world which is full of expectations. Children expect their parents to provide them with cell phones, new clothes for the upcoming school year, drives to wherever they want to go, and a thousand and one other things. They don’t see these things as gifts from a loving heart, but as necessities that parents must provide. If they receive less, there can be behavioral consequences. If they get more, they expect more.
This attitude spills over to adult life. If one person has more than another, the one with less can feel unjustly deprived and the feeling of deprivation can become a motive for stealing or killing. I dare say that those on public assistance never thank the government and those who pay the taxes that provide the money to pay for the programs that support them. However, they are quick to become angry if something should be cut back or not increased. All because they feel that what they have been given is a right, and not a gift.
Instead of being thankful for what we have, we want more because we see things as rights and not gifts. But God has provided everything for us freely out of his love for us. Should we not give thanks to God who gives us all that we need for life here and life to come? Should we not be thankful for Jesus who gave his life for us? Should we not live as thankful people and feel blessed every day? Just think what that would mean to you in your life and how the world would be a better place if the words, “thank you,” came from more than lips – if the words came from a grateful heart.
So be wise, be sober and be thankful. These three things will make life much better for you and the world around you – and they will help you stay centered in Christ. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.