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The Weekly Word for August 9, 2015
4:25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Sermon: Great Expectations Part 4: “Surrender”
This morning my Great Expectations sermon series continues with another look at Chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
This chapter is so important that it takes two weeks to talk about it.
Last week, the expectation placed on us by God is to grow up.
We cannot let our faith remain immature.
This week, along with expecting us to grow up, God is calling us to give up.
Now I know that sounds harsh.
Or it sounds like the total opposite of everything we do here during worship where we talk about love, grace, and hope.
Well God is not telling us to give up on those things.
There are other things God wants us to give up.
Back when I was in grade school my friends and I played a game.
It was called “uncle.”
The more popular name of the game is “Mercy.”
Let me read you what Wikipedia, that “trusted” font of information, says about “Mercy.”
“Mercy is a popular children’s game of strength, skill and endurance in Britain, Canada, Pakistan, India, U.S., also is played in the Middle East and Far East Asiain places like Malaysia and Brunei – although its exact origin is unknown.”
A game of strength, skill, and endurance.
I just thought it was a game of “let’s see just how much pain I can give someone and get away with it.”
The exact origin is unknown.
Well, I can tell you where the game came from.
It came from a bunch of children in school who got bored.
And I will guarantee it was a bunch of boys who came up with this game.
Now this might surprise you but I was not very good at this game.
Well, that is not entirely true.
I was good at one thing.
I was good at being the guy everyone wanted to play.
I was always quick to give up.
As soon as someone put an arm bar on me, or grabbed my wrist, I yelled “Uncle!”
But I never cried.
Even then I felt like I had too much to live for to be permanently wounded because my friends and I were bored out of our minds.
So I learned that giving up was not always a bad thing.
Especially when it came to the sins Paul writes about today in our lesson:
Sins such as:
But I will be honest that it was not always easy to give up.
There have been times in my life when the last thing I wanted to do was give up.
The first thing I wanted to do was get even.
Middle school and high school were not easy for me.
I bet those times were not easy for many of you.
Especially the times when we felt like we were being bullied.
Or being picked on.
And we wanted to fight back.
My dad would always tell me…pleading with me…, “Jon, turn the other cheek.”
And I would answer, “Dad. I’m running out of cheeks.”
But looking back, I am so glad my dad kept telling me to turn the other cheek.
Because I wasn’t looking to get even.
I was looking for revenge.
But I just could not go through with it.
Because a lifetime of regret was not worth a moment of victory.
Now I am sharing this with you because in our letter today, Paul is pleading with the Ephesians to:
Turn the other cheeks
Put away falsehoods
Do not steal
Do not talk evil
In other words, give up
Give up the things they used to do.
Give up the things they wanted to do to other people.
Give up the actions that cause hurt, injury, hate, and even death.
When the feelings of revenge, retribution, bitterness fill your hearts,
Give those feelings up.
And give them over to the Lord.
In a way, cry out for “Mercy.”
The “mercy” for having such thoughts to begin with.
The “mercy” to pray for the ones who have hurt you.
The “mercy” to turn over all the hurt and pain to the one who loves us more than anyone else in our lives.
The mercy to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” and the mercy to realize that “God in Christ has forgiven you.”
The Great Expectation from God is to stop the old way of doing things.
Especially when it comes to dealing with other people, including the people we hate.
Or the people who have hurt us.
But the expectation is also we stop hurting others as well.
Whether it is through our actions, our words, or our INACTION, stop causing pain to people around us.
Remember… we are called, expected, to “forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven us.”
Whether we like it or not we are members of one another (4:25).
What we do to one another DOES matter.
Now, I am not saying to never get angry.
That’s almost like telling you to stop breathing.
It is something that we all do.
Because we are human and we are not perfect.
But what I am telling you is that anger is ALWAYS disruptive.
Anger ALWAYS is corrosive to the community, the church in which God has called us to be.
Anger does not make us better people.
God makes us better.
God makes us different.
God makes us believe that “Mercy” is not a bad word, but a beautiful part of faith.
And that giving up is not always a bad thing. (more…)
Ella Bunting Open Arms August 2015 Newsletter
The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Newsletter for AUGUST 2015 is available now.
Just click on this link: August 2015 Newsletter
The Weekly Word for August 2, 2015
Ephesians 4:1-16 Maturity- Grow Up!
1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
This morning, we begin to take a deeper look at the 2nd part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Part II of the letter is made up of Chapters 4,5, and 6.
This week and next we will cover the fourth chapter.
Chapter 4 begins with “therefore” which implies that the earlier material in the letter leads directly to what Paul now wants to cover for the rest of the letter.
And what Paul wants to talk about is “Growing up.”
When I served St. Michael Lutheran Church in Unionville, PA, the congregation was about 45 minutes from Philadelphia.
So as an avid sports fans I kept up with all the local sports teams.
Especially the Philadelphia Phillies.
My interest in the Phillies was two-fold.
One was their new stadium which is a real beauty and a great place to watch baseball, which I had the fortune of doing many time.
The second reason I followed the Phils was their manager.
The winter of 2004, the Phillies missed out on the playoffs for the 11th straight year.
And that didn’t sit well with the fans.
So in 2005, the Phillies hired a new manager: Charlie Manuel.
Charlie was born in West Virginia, and then was raised in Buena Vista…Virginia
He had a real interesting accent.
Let’s say it wasn’t exactly “Northern.”
And because he talked differently many people, the fans and the press, thought he was an idiot and treated him like an outsider.
In 2005, Charlie’s first season as manager, the Phillies missed the playoffs by 1 game.
In 2006, they missed the playoffs by 3 games.
Both years what killed the team’s chances were slow starts to the season.
Then came 2007.
As the season started, the Phillies stood at 3-10, and there were rumblings about Charlie’s future.
It all came to a head after that 13th game, when a sports radio personality names Howard Eskin addressed Charlie after the game about the manager’s inability to get angry and motivate the players.
Well, Charlie challenged Howard to a “meeting” in the manager’s office, where, Manuel promised, he would display temper.
And while other players were being interviewed you could hear a very angry and loud manager about 20 yards away from everyone else.
Charlie let Howard have it.
And at the end he yelled probably the greatest quote I ever heard:
He said, “I been growed up!”,
“I been Growed Up.”
Now what does a baseball manager have to do with today’s reading from Ephesians?
I’m glad you asked!
The first part of Ephesians is all about the setup.
The second part of Ephesians is the instruction.
And Paul is addressing an issue in the Ephesian church.
And in our church today.
According to Ephesians 4:14, believers are seen to be in need of a warning to “grow up.”
What does that mean?
In chapters 1-3, Paul talks and defines the love of God, and how the grace we have been given is a gift that cannot be matched.
And now he talks about how this gift cannot be WASTED.
Paul wants the people to take what they have been given, the lessons he has taught them, and DO SOMETHING WITH THIS KNOWLEDGE!
While Paul is grateful that the people have come to God and become believers of Jesus Christ, Paul also says that coming to belief is not enough.
While it is one thing to come to God with the excitement and openness of a child, it is another to take that and let it change you.
And so I ask you:
Has your faith in God changed you?
Are you the same person you were ten years ago?
How about five years ago?
How about 12 months ago?
Or a week?
Are you different by being a Christ-follower?
And before you quickly say, “Yes,”
I want you to really ponder those questions.
Has your faith in God changed you?
Or have you spent all your time trying to change God?
“Pastor, I don’t do that! I love Jesus!”
Oh I am not questioning your love OF Jesus.
I am questioning of your love IN Jesus.
I am questioning your duty TO Jesus.
Because in my opinion, we have a lot of growing up to do.
I see Christians who do not study their bibles.
I see Christians who do not show love for their neighbor, especially their enemies.
I see Christians who spend their times building walls and telling what people are not allowed to be a part of God’s kingdom.
I see politicians use their faith as a way to gain power and influence.
I see too many people who claim they love Jesus, but at the first sign of trouble they run away.
They give up.
I see Christians who do not come to church and worship on a regular basis.
I see Christians who will make sure their children make every team sport,
every band competition,
every academic competition,
but when it comes to making that same dedication to God and the church…God always comes in second.
“Pastor! It’s just that Sunday is family time!”
Really? When did family time start to NOT include worship?
I see young people going into high schools who have no idea that there are TWO testaments in the Bible!
I know what some of you are saying, “What’s a testament?”
So before you answer yes to my original question, “How has your faith in God changed you?”
I want to you think of the examples I shared with you.
Do any of those examples speak to you?
You see, growing up, being mature, is knowing that being a Christian comes with responsibility.
See? I got the word in there!
The expectations can be found in Ephesians 4:12 where we find a simple statement of the purpose of God’s gifts: “to build up the body of Christ.”
All gifts are given for the sake of the increase of the whole.
Rivalries, competition, judgmental evaluations are precluded.
If you are not building up, you are tearing down.
Paul knows what this transition is like.
In 1 Corinthians he writes, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”- 1 Corinthians 13:11
And so this morning I want you to join me in growing up.
Folks, you need to be in church.
And I do not mean once in a while.
You need to be in this community weekly.
You need to be showing your children who God is.
You need to be here to help this Church grow.
And I do not mean in numbers or attendance
I mean grow in ministry and active in the passion of this community which is to make Christ known to all around us.
Members, whether you have been here for six months or sixty years or beyond:
You need to let old hurts go.
And you need to open your eyes when it is YOU who have hurt others.
You need to hear and listen to the words that we say in our Confession.
We have been forgiven.
And we are called to forgive others.
We are not called to keep old hurts hanging over people forever.
We are not called to pick at the scabs of old wounds.
We are called to heal.
We need to stop worrying about getting back the people we lost and concentrate on the people we can bring in.
But I believe what we need to do most of all is…
HAVE SOME FUN, PEOPLE!
We need to look at growing up as an exciting time.
Not a bad time.
It is a time for mystery and miracles.
Let me refer back to the 2007 Phillies.
And I want to share with you why I fell in love with that particular team.
The Phils were playing a road game in Colorado when a serious rain storm started in the 7th inning.
As the teams ran to their dugouts, the field crew started rolling the tarp onto the playing field.
Well the wind was so strong that the tarp kept rolling back.
And at times there were field crew members being swallowed up by the tarp!
That’s when the Phillies went into action.
The whole team ran back on the field and helped the crew roll out the tarp and rescue the people who were “eaten alive” by that tarp.
The players joked afterward that is was the first time they had ever unrolled a tarp, so they just wanted to look like they knew what they were doing!
“We thought guys might get hurt, so we went out there,” Shane Victorino said. “It was funny, I guess, to see us go out there and act like we knew what we were doing.”
The Phillies received an ovation as they returned to the visitors’ clubhouse, completely drenched.
“They were having fun,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “They were out in the rain like little kids. Sometimes things like that definitely get you to relax and enjoy things, and it carries right into the game. This game is about being totally relaxed and having fun.”
Folks, we need to be excited and actually joyful in the gift of life we have been given by God.
When I have a bad day, I hold on to these truths:
God loves me.
God forgives me.
God has placed people in my life to REMIND me of that love:
Family, friends, a wife, a son, a church.
To have a mature faith is to hold on to these types of truths.
And whatever your truths are, whatever and whoever comes to your mind as the rock, the foundation in your lives,
Remember that God loves you.
God forgives you.
Remember that we need to give praise for the baptism that saves us,
the Communion that feeds us,
and the fellowship, the community, that encourages us.
And we need to be glad.
Be glad at the God who loves us.
Be glad at the God who is pulling for us.
urging us to grow IN our faith,
and IN our hearts.
And part of being mature,
Being all GROWED UP in our faith
Is to never lost the ability to smile, to rejoice, and be glad in all that God has done.
And is doing.
So what happened to Charlie Manuel and his Phillies?
Well as the 2007 unfolded, the New York Mets held a 7 game lead on Sept. 12 and only 17 more games left in the season.
The Phillies went 13-4
Mets went 5-12
And the Phillies were NL East champions for first time since 1993.
I remember watching every pitch from my living room.
And when the final strike was called I jumped up and down.
I heard fireworks.
I heard the roar.
The Phillies had growed up.
Can you imagine the cheers the roars God has for us if we take that next step in our faith?
Let’s not just imagine it.
Let’s make it a reality.
The Grace Summer 2015 Newsletter Now Available!
Open Arms New Prayer Shawl Ministry
The Ella Bunting Open Arms Group has begun a prayer shawl ministry that will donate shawls to those going through chemo & radiation treatments. The Group is looking for people to donate their time to make knit or crocheted shawls. These can be any pattern you are comfortable working with. Sign-up sheets are outside the church offices, contact the church office, or contact Leslie Miller to be a part of this new venture.