The Pas Proper / Ordinary 20 – Pentecost + 13 – Trinity + 12
19 August 2018
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Psalm 111 pg 860
undaunted by death and fear,
who went to the depths to bring back life:
in the power of the cross
shape a people for service,
who break bread for a hungering world;
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
After hearing Paul’s words of encouragement and guidance to the Ephesian community, have you ever wondered what it looks like when we live out our faith?
I mean, we do live out our faith, in and to the world around us, as well as in the life of the church, but for just a moment, imagine yourself looking down at your actions, at your life and seeing the impact such living out of our lives looks like to the average person.
I wonder what it is we see?
When we look at the readings for today, we see Paul urging us to carefully consider how it is our lives look to the casual observer.
And although Paul was writing to a world where Christianity was a very new thing, today, we seem to be in a similar situation where the world sees and acknowledges only the worst actions of the church, ignoring, for the most part, the positive actions and their outcomes.
But having said that, We are the physical representatives of the body of Christ, and Paul reminds us that people will judge us by our actions, not only on our behalf but on behalf of others.
Paul tells us: “15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16)
This week, in the state of Pennsylvania, priests of the Roman Catholic Church have been accused of behaviour that does not honour the church, nor does it honour Christ and Christianity in any way, shape, or form. And this is a situation that makes us all sad for how these priests have lived out their faith, their vows before God.
This is something that, if we choose to do nothing, we may, more often than naught, find ourselves coloured with the same brush. A side effect of justice issues where to do nothing in the face of “days are evil” points to us as complicit with the actions of those doing evil actions.
And this brings us back to the words of Paul. He tells us: “17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 … be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. ….20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:17-20)
This is important, and today, it may be more important than ever before.
In a world where social media makes any and all feedback, especially negative feedback to be an almost instantaneous, yet eternal stain on the world, and upon the character of the one called into question, then we are encouraged to follow Paul’s advice, to adhere to the psalms, hymns and songs from the spirit.
As Christians who have not had anything to do with the scandals currently dominating the news in regards to the state of Pennsylvania, Paul’s words today ask us how will we respond?
How will we live into the words of Paul, into the promises of Christ, or into the Wisdom of Solomon in light of such allegations?
In this case, perhaps we can take a lesson from Solomon, today?
Today we see him, the chosen descendant of David, assume David’s throne, and be honoured by God with a request.
God wants to know what Solomon needs to be a good ruler of God’s people, and Solomon asks for the gift of wisdom.
We, on the other hand, want to know how we can live into the promises of God, into the teachings of Paul and of Jesus, as we strive to live out our Christian promises in the world around us, when the world wants so much to believe that all of Christianity is the same.
We are able to see this as a challenge, to see this as one calling us to a better model. We are able to see it as a moment of redemption allowing us to set the better example than we have seen so far, in the way Christianity is held up by social media, by the news, by the way those who aren’t Christian see us and our actions in and through the community all around.
Paul tells us, tells the community at Ephesus: “15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity.” (Eph5:15-16a)
Yet, at the same time, we are not expected to sit upon our pews, and let the world sail by; rather we are encouraged to live our Christian faith in the world, to the world, and throughout the world. Always treating everyone as we wish to be treated, and honouring Christ in all persons.
If we look at the epistle lesson, we can hear the words of Paul urging us to be upright and active in our lives of faith.
If we look at the world around us, we can see where such demonstrations of faith are meant to be a balm, a salve to the aches, the sores, the needs of the world around us.
So, then the question stands: where is it that we can see the world needing our talents, our efforts, our faith?
Where is it that God calls us to action, perhaps something we’ve not been active in before?
If we’ve volunteered, or been active, in one area or activity, perhaps God is calling us to grow and stretch and try something different?
If we have been comfortable doing this activity, how can we grow to do something more? Something different? How is God calling each one of us to grow in our expressions of faith?
In the past, we’ve contributed, and continue to contribute to the local soup kitchen. We supported and continue to support the Northern Gateway Community Chaplaincy, and we’ve supported The Pas Homeless Shelter through a food based ministry, as well. In addition we have our Men in Aprons monthly breakfasts, as well as our Soup & Sandwich Lunches, both of which help us to make new friends in the community as we break bread together, in Christian fellowship.
Perhaps it’s time for us to look in a different, possibly not food related direction. Perhaps Paul is calling us to explore something a little different? Not to discontinue the above, but perhaps to see how we are called to be active in the community in a different way?
After all, we make prayer shawls for those in need, as well as contributing to the Christmas shoe boxes, to White Gift Christmas, for those in need, and last year, we did Handbags of Hope for our local women’s shelter.
All of this, interestingly, contributes to areas of the community that are unable to reciprocate, to give back to us in the way in which we have generously given to them in their journey.
This, however, doesn’t mean that we give up on our morals, on our ideals to make the world, and our corner of it a better place.
And this is what Paul is getting at in his words to the community at Ephesus, or even in our corner of Manitoba, of Canada, of North America.
Yes, the world is a place filled with troubles, with trials, with tribulations, and even with evil.
But, really, that just raises our bar higher so that our efforts reach over those levels of trouble, trial, tribulation, and evil that fill the world and make us stand out all the more.
This congregation has, for a long time, supported with food and finances the less fortunate of our community, and this is something that we should be quite proud of doing, and yet we continue to do this, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of those who have needs.
And yet, it is something that feels like it wears on our lives: the constant need of those who are less fortunate than we are.
But having said that, todays gospel tells us that when we eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood, he is in us and we are in him.
But that doesn’t mean that we’re all on an even keel in regards to advantages in life, or financial situations.
Some people are unable to contribute to the wellbeing of society in the same way that others can, yet we are all part of the same body.
And we come back to Paul’s words, telling us, reminding us: “17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Eph 5:17)
Paul urges us to be the best of who we are able to be. He urges us to reach out, as well as within to understand the words of Christ, the teachings of the apostles, to be the best of who God sees we are capable of being.
God sees us serving our community, serving our brothers and sisters. Serving but not expecting anything in return, and this, this is the most difficult of all.
The world has changed, yet hasn’t changed. It’s still willing to gravitate to the worst that it can find in regards to those of us who are Christians, who live the Christian lifestyle, who follow the teachings of Paul and the examples of Jesus.
And then, the question lies with us, will we allow the world to colour us with that brush?
Or will we follow Paul’s advice, today, and live into these teachings and show them the best of what Christianity has to offer in our actions, in our words, in our deeds?