“We versus Me”

Ephesians 1:3-14

12 July 2015

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.

 

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

 

Prayer.

 

Words matter.

A pet peeve of mine is when I hear some people

Making a reference to other people and themselves.

I don’t recall if I was taught the proper use of English in this circumstance

At school,

In Sunday school,

Or in our home at the dinner table.

The location is less important than the point.

I was taught that it is respectful

To refer to other people before the self.

For example,

Cynthia, Christian, the family, and I went to Hamilton for fireworks;

Not,

Me, Cynthia, Christian, and the family went to Hamilton for fireworks.

Lifting up others before the self

Is a small but symbolic way of respecting others,

Loving others,

Before self-interests.

 

Words matter.

John Wesley is often incorrectly cited

In place of his less famous brother Charles, who said,

“Unite the pair so long disjoin’d, knowledge and vital piety.”

The Wesleyan movement,

Which, we as United Methodist,

Continue to resound as the driving, central core,

From the beginning recognized the value of an educated faith.

Thinking Christianity trumps

“Three Blind Mice” Christianity

Every day of the week.

Listen to scripture.

Read what others think.

Observe how scripture touches the lives of others.

Pray.

Wait for the still small voice of God

Before making a declaration of faith.

This is learning.

This is knowledge.

 

Balancing a faith that is continually learning is Vital Piety.

Vital Piety,

Not to be confused with Personal Piety,

As hijacked by western, American Evangelicals.

Vital Piety

Is pleural, not singular.

Vital Piety, for the brothers Wesley,

Was a combination of personal holiness and community virtue.

(“Christianity, Education, and Modern Society,” Jeynes, W., Martinez, E., 2007, pg. 45)

 

Words matter.

The author of our Epistle to the Church in Ephesus this morning,

Often attributed to the Apostle Paul,

Goes out of the way to make this letter pleural, not singular.

Writing from prison in Rome,

Paul brings focus to the Church, the Body of Christ.

He speaks in a spirit of we, including me.

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

– Ephesians 4:1-3

The letter is packed with plural pronouns:

I, me, you, him.

These are replaced with

We, they, us, and our.

This should greatly influence the way

We experience Ephesians

And apply it to our living faith

Today.

The plurality of the Apostle’s letter

Should greatly influence the way we think about Church.

 

1. God adopted us as His children through Jesus Christ.

Adoption is a one way street.

God chose you and me

And there isn’t any going back.

Baptism can’t be undone.

You and me;

We are adopted siblings.

We’re siblings;

Brothers and sisters.

We are in it together.

We are in it for the duration.

So let’s make the best of it.

 

2. God’s grace is rich and lavish,

Which includes the forgiveness of our sins.

In spite of every regret, sin, and bone headed mistake

Any of us have made,

God, through Jesus,

Has cleaned our slates,

Washed us clean,

And given every one of us an opportunity for a fresh, new start.

If God can be so generous to our sisters and brothers,

So should we.

God has made us rich with love,

Let us lavish this love

Upon one another.

Love those who are especially hard to love.

 

3. God’s plan is to gather up all things in Him, things in heaven and earth.

God is making plans for His adopted children’s future.

You and I, as responsible parents, make plans for our children’s future.

So, too, does God.

No one is being singled out.

All are treated equally, fairly, and with love.

We are all on the boat

Or the boat doesn’t sail.

All means all.

Got it?

God ‘s plans are to bring us all to Him.

The world divides us,

So, yield not to the temptations of the world.

Politics divide us.

Greed divides us.

Violence divides us.

Division and disagreement is not the solution to the world’s problems.

God is.

God unites us

When God gathers all things in heaven and earth to Him.

More so than the Marine Corps,

No one gets left behind.

 

4. God gives us an inheritance through Christ

That we might live for the praise of his glory.

What’s in it for God? You may ask.

God lavishes us with grace

Seeking only our praise in return.

Praise God.

That’s all.

It really is that simple.

Praise

Doesn’t mean grumbling,

Ignoring the need of neighbors,

Or continuing to sin.

Praise

Means everything we think, say, and do

Is for the purpose of praising our God.

Get an education, for the praise of God.

Raise your family, for the praise of God.

Build up this church, for the praise of God.

Reach out to neighbors in need, for the praise of God.

Love God, and love others, for the praise of God.

 

5. God saves all who hear the Gospel and believe in Him.

The only ones who erect barriers to God and God’s kingdom

Are you and me.

Let us sit on our hands,

Hold our tongues,

And leave the judgment up to God.

I’m too darn busy to decide who’s in and who is out.

Besides, I have terrible judgment

And I’m guessing, you do, too.

Leave salvation up to the Savior,

You know,

Jesus.

Jesus knows who believes.

Jesus knows what to do with those who don’t.

Can’t we trust in Jesus to know His job and to do it well?

Of course He knows His role.

Of course Jesus knows how to save.

He’s only been at it for two thousand years.

 

Words matter.

Twenty-seven years ago

The United Methodist Church

Published a book titled:

Words That Hurt Words That Heal, Language About God and People”.

It was a church wide study from the 1988 General Conference

(the global gathering of the United Methodist Church).

The premise of this work is this:

How we speak of God,

How we describe the God of our experience,

The words we choose to witness to the God of our faith,

Have the ability to hurt or heal,

To build up or tear down,

To draw others closer to God, or push them further away.

Yet, it is more than just speaking about God

As a Divine mother or father

And using correct pronouns in ordination papers and liturgy.

This helpful missive

Continues to expand sensitivities

Building a more inclusive Church,

Throwing open doors

To those who have been previously excluded.

Blow it off as political correctness, if you so choose.

But do so at the peril of tomorrow’s Church.

Words matter,

Sisters and brothers.

Therefore, discipline the tongue.

Speak civilly, respectfully, and at all times with love.

Chose words that heal.

Chose every word in such a way that brings praise and glory to God.

 

So, you and I;

Together, we make we.

We are only we

When we recognize that baptism has made us one.

One birth.

One baptism.

One family, gathered in by our loving God.

That’s how we roll people.

That’s how we roll.

Amen.