12th Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2015
Ephesians 5: 15-20 You can click on this link to open the reading in Oremus Bible Browser
In her book “The Hiding Place,” Corrie Ten Boom writes about her and her sister’s time in a German Concentration Camp during WWII. Among the multitudes of terrors and hardships, the fleas in the new barracks to which they were assigned drove Corrie crazy with the itching and pain. Her sister insisted that they give thanks for the fleas. “Because that is what the Bible says, ‘give thanks in all things.’”
Admiring her sister’s deep faith, Corrie submitted, and the two gave thanks each day in their prayers. As it turns out, the German guards hated the fleas too, and so rarely came into the barracks where the two sisters slept. While other women were harassed even at night, the women in the barracks with Corrie and her sister were preserved from those tortures.
The Apostle who writes to the Mother congregation at Ephesus and to the growing congregations around her continues to give instruction in what the life of Christians looks and feels like. He’s talking to us too. When you hear his words, you can see what the situation is in which they live. We think we are the only Christians living in a world with people who are ‘spiritual but not religious.’ We think that we are the only people of faith surrounded by a world that with morals that shock us, and think that as long as you don’t hurt anyone, you can do pretty much whatever you want. We think it is only our time in which multiple brands of Christianity are at war with each other, pointing fingers and telling other believers that they are totally wrong in their belief. We think it’s only now that people of faith tell you that you’re failing to meet God’s demands, and that you’re probably going to Hell.
This letter starts by telling this faith community about the source of their salvation and the source of their power. It is through the blessing of God, delivered in Jesus, the Christ that we are invited into God’s family. It is through a relationship with God’s love, demonstrated in the ministry and death and resurrection of Jesus that we have the power to stand up for what God loves and desires in a world that can be so evil and mean. So this half of the letter talks to them, and to us, about how the people of God live. Last week we heard that we are members of one another – like our arms and legs are members of our bodies – and that anything that hurts one member hurts them all. So we were told how to speak to each other and how to be kind and tenderhearted to each other.
Continuing with his exhortation, the Apostle now looks at the times in which we live and the time that stretches before us until Jesus comes again. Don’t kid yourself, he says, these are evil days, but you can still do the things that make a difference in the world around you. Don’t give in to despair and dull yourself with stupid things that distract from your mission as God’s people. Instead, let the Spirit fill you with the love that God has to share. God’s will for you is to be filled with joy, to care for those in need, to notice injustice and work to change the systems that oppress people. God’s will for you is to sing praises to God with each other, filling up on the Spirit as you breathe together and to carry that sound in your heart as you separate from each other after worship. And God’s will for you is to give thanks, for everything, and all the time.
When I was growing up, we called the sacrament we celebrated Holy Communion. Now more and more often, we hear it called the Eucharist. It’s a Greek word that means ‘giving thanks.’ Can you think of the words we use in our Communion liturgy that says that? “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, it is right to give our thanks and praise.” We say it every week as we prepare to gather around God’s table to taste and see that the Lord is good. One of the nice things about kneeling at the altar rail is that we see each other across the table.
After a few really big detours in the life I had planned, I began to understand that everything that happens to us in life is a blessing. Sometimes we get to look back and see what the blessing was, and sometimes, I’m not sure we ever will see it until we get to God and hear how it worked. But I think of Corrie sleeping in that bed with the fleas, and her grudging prayer of thanks that saved her and her sister from worst agonies that others suffered. And I think of all the blessings and privileges that are so easy to assume will be yours, and I weep with gratitude for all the things that have gone right in my life. And I thank God for all we have and are here at Our Savior’s. We are small but filled with life. We worry, but God has always given us what we needed to do the ministry before us. We have been through times when it was hard to love each other, but we are still here listening for God’s call for us, and depending on each other for support to be whatever we need to be.
Pray with me:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly places with every spiritual gift. Jesus, we ask for your continued blessing on our work and our life together, and also for your Spirit to fill us with the love htat only you can give. May your grace continue to lift us when we are tired and worried. Amen.