August 9, 2015 by Ken Dale
While I?m not a great fan of the programs, I am aware that there are a number of reality? and extreme makeover programs on television.? An ol? clunker of a car that hardly runs is made over into an eye catching ?chic magnet? or ?guy magnet (or whatever that would be called).? Homes receive that same wave of the magic wand.? Even the human body itself undergoes some unbelievable transformations ? and of course on television it all happens in? 30 to 60 minutes.
As we age sometimes health issues arise that may call to us for a makeover ? just the other day I saw that you can get ?plastic surgery?? without getting cut..? Then there are diets and life-styles.? I?m sure many of you have heard me use the phrase ?that?s why God made lipitor.? (usually mentioned as I eat fried seafood)? — one way to deal with potential heart disease.? Another of course is exercise and diet and that takes time.? We know making needed changes doesn?t happen within 30 to 60 minutes.
What about our spiritual lives and our spiritual understanding of what the heart is all about?? Not in a physical sense but having heart in terms of love and compassion.? Our scripture reading this morning from Ephesians is Paul?s checklist for the spiritual extreme makeover of the heart and so life in Christ.? Today we live in a world where much of the publicity is about fear.? The reality of ISIS and events such as the theater shootings are but examples of how that fear seems to continue to build.? We live a world so very much different than ever before where it is increasingly difficult to trust.? But then, it seems I?ve heard that my whole life, and whodathunk it would get to this point?? Yet, I can hear my grandparents making that same kind of statement.
We who have gathered here this morning gather in faith and gather with a self-understanding of our being God?s children.? We are not about fear nor are we about terror.? Do we make a difference ? individually and collectively??? I believe we do, but like diet and exercise, it takes time.? And I believe a disciplined life of faith will make a difference not only in our lives as individuals but in the life of our community and so our world.
So what does Paul say is on this checklist?? First Paul says speak the truth.? I think of the first of the Four Agreements in a book of the same title by Don Miguel Ruiz.? Speak with integrity.? Say only what you mean.? Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.? Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.?
Second, we are called to address our emotions, more specifically anger.? We don?t need to explore the levels of anger in our world today, for it is obvious at the level of life as individuals and between nations and everything in between.? We live in an age of rage and it?s easy, way too easy to become incensed over the slightest actions. ?We are getting into that awful time of elections again ? already ? and look at the place and level of animosity and behavior that is at work.? ?Too often the result is a rush of emotion and a dramatic outburst. ?Not sure which candidate it was but loved it when I heard one say, ?I?m not running against anybody ? I?m running for something.? ?Paul reminds us not to let the sun set on our anger and not to give evil an opportunity.? What a great challenge are those words ?repay no one evil for evil.?
I am very intrigued with the third as Paul speaks of labor.? ?Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.?? An interesting concept don?t you think?? How does that speak to us in our society which encourages us to build our assets and financial empire as large as we can ? bigger is better, more is better.? But for whom?? Paul?s sense here is clear that we are to labor not just for ourselves but so that we can help those who are in need.? We have what we have, maybe because we worked hard to get it ? but we have it also that we may be of help to those in need.? Sharing with the needy is often called charity, but charity is not just sharing with those in need, it is also behaving in such a way that good will befall those in need.
The fourth radical remodeling is our speech.? ?Let no evil talk come from your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying ? for building!? Paul seeks that our words build for the lives of others ? that our words impart grace to those who hear.? What are the fruits of the words we say ? again that first agreement comes to mind: Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.? Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Throughout the passage Paul says avoid destructive behaviors and do the things that build up.? Discard the spiritual clutter of wrath, bitterness, anger, clamor, slander and malice.? Make room for the spiritual collectables of kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness that facilitate unity and cooperation.
Isn?t that compassion?? Compassion is a feeling but it can also be a way of seeing.? The implication is that we have empathy that allows us to envision ourselves in the place of another person.? We become aware of another?s suffering in some way and that is coupled with our wish to relieve that suffering.? There is so much suffering in this world ? we cannot deal with it all at once, but we can do what we can do.? To do that we cannot turn our backs on it in our little corner of the world whatever or wherever that may be.? To be tenderhearted requires us to see ourselves in the position of another.? And Paul follows that tenderheartedness with mercy ? forgiving one another as we have been forgiven.? Again a huge challenge ? but one that allows living out our faith in such a way that evil is overcome.? Getting even only continues what was wrong in the first place.
And it all takes commitment ? a willingness to surrender ourselves to the upward call of Christ.? Paul calls the Ephesian church and so us to be imitators of God ? walking in love as Christ has loved.? These are the things that make for Christian community and there is an important point.? We act as individuals but we are also to act as community ? to act together because our combined efforts are needed.
The story is told of a very talented organist back in the days before motor-driven or electric organs.? The organist gave a magnificent concert in which the big pipes sent forth? glorious, thunderous tones.? After the people finished congratulating the organist the little boy who had worked with all his might pumping the bellows remarked, ?We did pretty well, don?t you think??? The organist scornfully replied, ?And what did you do??? He gave the boy no credit at all.
A month later, during another concert the organist came to a stormy passage that required all the wind of which the bellows were capable.? Suddenly the organ began to fade away.? The organist signaled for more wind.? Instead the little boy pulled aside the curtain and said, ?Is it I or is it we??
And it makes a difference ? one or a community.? This church is about community.? My retirement brings opportunity for this church to move into a new chapter with a renewed focus on faithful service.? It has been an amazing nearly 37 years as a pastor and this is an amazing church I have had the privilege to serve for nearly 11 years!? This is a strong church with so many God given gifts to utilize as it moves forward.? The vision becomes a reality when those gifts of time, talents, treasures, thoughts, dreams, visions, and ideas, and the list goes on – that we have individually are combined together as a community effort.? God is always at work in those efforts.
There?s an old Charlie Brown cartoon where Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn?t.? ?What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?? asks Linus.
?These five fingers,? says Lucy, ?Individually they?re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.?
?Which channel do you want?? asks Linus.? Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, ?Why can?t you guys get organized like that??
Lucy chooses a fist.? But think what Schroder does with his fingers playing the piano.? We are no different.? Those hands with the same five fingers (though I?ve noticed quite a few ?here with 4 ?) ?can be wrapped around a hammer or a paint brush to do some good, or play an instrument in praise to God, or be outstretched at the end of an arm reaching out to help another in some way ? perhaps even something as simple as inviting or welcoming them to church.? It?s working together.
The point is that Paul calls us as individuals of faith and living out our faith can make a difference ? Paul would encourage us to organize for kindness, tenderheartedness, compassion, helping those in need, encouraging others,? — there ? there is five names for five fingers.? We are called to be imitators of God.? There?s a great challenge for you ? and there?s a good thought to end on!