I know I am delayed in posting this! I have no excuse, other than things have been busy at church, I’ve been trying desperately to fit my workouts in and I’ve been trying to make the most of my time at home (ie I started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and ever since nothing is safe from purging).
Here is Sunday’s sermon!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
August 16, 2015
Living A “Careful” Life
Does anyone else find themselves saying that phrase from time to time? (Or – for some of us – more often than that?)
Poor Bruce; I have a tendency to be a little overdramatic at times when it comes to my fear that something bad might happen. Take, for example, this past winter. It was snowing (of course) and Bruce had been at work since 5:00 am. As the day went on, the snow got worse. I kept getting text messages from Bruce letting me know that people were calling out because of the weather and he was going to stay and help. This happened until about 9:00 PM when the stored finally closed and Bruce texted me, “I’m leaving work now.”
Awesome! Let the praying commence.
“PLEASE BE CAREFUL,” I texted back in all capital letters.
So I prayed, I paced and I finally got on the treadmill to run out my anxiety while I waited for him to get home. 45 minutes later, my phone went off.
“Marc and I were helping someone get their car out of a snow bank. I’m leaving now!”
Okay, bless his Good Samaritan heart, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME??
“Okay, but please, please, please, please PLEASE be careful!!!!!”
“No, really. I’m serious. Be careful.”
I spent the next hour on the couch clutching my rosary beads until I finally saw his truck pull into the driveway.
(At which point I ran out of the house with no shoes or coat, jumped about two feet to hug him and screamed, “I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE HOME!”)
(My neighbors must love me.)
When we say these words, we are generally trying to protect someone from something.
Be careful driving home.
Be careful when crossing the street.
Be careful when you’re out in the sun.
Be careful in the water.
Be careful on that ladder.
Be careful with that chainsaw.
The ramifications are usually negative when we use the phrase, “Be careful.” There usually is something to fear.
So what is this scripture trying to protect us from?
The author of this letter to the Ephesians begins this passage, “Be careful then how you live.” What is the author trying to protect us from?
Let’s think about this for a second: What if the author was not trying to protect us from something? What if, instead, the author was trying to free us to something?
“Be careful then how you live.”
First of all, let’s talk about the context that scripture was written in. Like many of the letters in the bible, the Book of Ephesians was written to a community that thought the second coming was imminent; they thought that the end of the world was right around the corner. There was a sense of urgency in this letter because the space between earthy life and everlasting life was diminishing and there was a real fear of what was going to happen next. In a way, “Be careful then how you live,” in this context meant, “Be careful, because when Jesus comes back, we want to be ready for this.”
But in saying this, was the author trying to protect them from something? From what? From Jesus? From everlasting life? No; I think that the author was trying to free them to something. I think that the author was trying to free them to Jesus; I think that the author was trying to tell them to take care in how they lived their lives; to live their lives in a way that – when Jesus came back – they would be freed to this realm of everlasting life.
Now, we do not have the same sense of urgency today, but do we have our own sets of issues and brokenness that create real stress and fear in our lives. Our world is not perfect; we are not perfect. We face challenges and heartaches. Tragedies strike when we least expect them. We experience pain that is real and realities that seem hopeless. This passage is so relevant in our world today, not because we need to be protected from something, but because we, too, need to be freed to something.
I think the author is trying to free us to a new way of life: A way of life where God’s overwhelming love defines our existence. A way of life where the Gospel is not just the story of Jesus’ life, but a radical call to action. A way of life where individual members of the Body of Christ work together to live out what God is calling them to do.
I know that in life there are a lot of things that are out of our control, but this scripture reminds us that – even in the midst of that uncertainty – we need to live our lives carefully because the way we live our lives matters.
What we spend our time doing matters.
How we spend our money matters.
The way we interact with other people – how we treat other people – matters.
The way in which we seek happiness matters.
The author of this letter is telling us to be careful how we live our lives not because something bad might happen if we don’t, but because something incredible and grace-filled could happen if we do.
Bad things will still happen; unexpected things will still arise; tragic things will still strike. But we are being called as children of God to live our lives in a way that does not let those things win. We are being called as children of God to live our lives strengthened by God’s all-encompassing love. We are being called as children of God to have courage in the face of fear, strength in the face of weakness and peace in the face of war.
How we live our lives matters; the small pieces of our lives come together – and they matter. We need to be careful as we put those pieces together.
I am not talking about striving for perfection (because God knows I am far from that!). But I am talking more about a way of life; a way of life that makes our world – and the lives that we are living in it – better.
Okay, so how do we do this? How should we live our lives so that God’s love can win in the midst of our imperfections and brokenness? How can we live our lives so we can be free from the crap that is constantly wearing us down?
Let’s look at what this morning’s scriptures have to say about it.
Ephesians 5:18 – “Be filled with the spirit.”
Imagine yourself as an empty and unsteady vessel – and then imagine yourself being filled to the top with something that will make you strong. This is what happens when we allow ourselves to be filled with God’s spirit.
This starts here, at church. We need to make our faith a priority, not only within the structures of our church institution, but also out in the world, in our lives. We need to allow ourselves to be filled God’s spirit so that we can be a living reflection of God’s love into the world. We need to allow ourselves to be filled with God’s spirit so that we do not have to walk through life alone and so that others can see that they do not have to walk through life alone.
Ephesians 5:20 – “[Give] thanks to God the Father at all times.”
Even when we are experiencing grief and sadness, we need to praise God. Think about this: Even if we are grief-stricken and broken, as soon as we make that connection to God through our praise, we let God in. And once we let God in, then God can work to heal us.
Psalm 34:13 – “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”
Okay, okay, I know that this is kind of a tough one and that we all need to blow off some steam from time to time, but we need to try to (even in those moments when it is so difficult) to speak with love.
In a way, speaking with hate versus speaking with love is kind of like eating junk food versus healthy food. The junk food may taste better at first, but the healthy food will make you feel better in the long run.
If we speak with love, we are putting love into the world.
And the world needs more love in it.
Psalm 34:14 – “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”
Peace is not always the easy and often-travelled path.
But it is the path that we are being called to take.
This list is only the beginning; each one of us can find our own way to live with a faithful purpose.
Listen; the resurrection will mean nothing if we do not live our lives as a real testament to God’s love. How we live matters in this world and that is a truth that we need to take seriously in our lives. We need to be careful in our lives; we need to be careful in our steps, in our words and in our actions. We need to be careful so that God can you use us to do something miraculous and full of grace in our lives.
So think about this as you leave this space. Let us be careful in our lives. Let us be careful, but not in a scary, something-bad-might-happen way. Be careful in a faithful, God’s-grace-is-about-to-amaze-you kind of way.
Thanks be to God!