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Clues For Living Wisely

August 19, 2018

CLUES FOR LIVING WISELY

August 19, 2018 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

New Millennium Church/Lakeshore Drive Baptist Church

 

Ephesians 5:15-20


15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise,16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Living God,
you are the giver of wisdom and true discernment,
guiding those who seek your ways to choose the good.
Mercifully grant that your people,
feasting on the true bread of heaven,
may have eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When I shared the title of this sermon with Cindy Boyles (music leader at New Millennium/Lakeshore) she jokingly asked whether I could get the sermon to President Trump.  Whatever anyone may think of the current U.S. president or any other leader, I suspect each of us can think of someone we believe desperately needs help on how to live wisely.  

However, I don’t think this passage was intended for political figures such as President Trump because the Epistle to the Ephesians wasn’t intended for public policy leaders.  Whether the epistle was penned by Paul (while he was awaiting trial in Rome during the era of Emperor Nero) or by an admirer of Paul, the condition of the Roman Empire – or Emperor Nero for that matter – wasn’t the primary concern.  

 

Ephesians was written out of concern for the church in general – for followers of Jesus.   In this epistle the author shared hopes, concerns, and a deep sense of reverence for the church.  We read about the mystic union between the church and God our Creator, Christ our Liberator, and the Holy Spirit our Sustainer.  When we understand Ephesians from that perspective, it becomes clear that the title and content of this sermon is not aimed at President Trump, Governor Hutchinson, or any other public official.  However, much we need wisdom in public officials, whoever wrote Ephesians didn’t do so with that population as a primary concern.  

Ephesians was written to and for followers of Jesus, people like you and me.  This epistle was written to inspire us concerning our prophetic and priestly roles as God’s representatives in a world beset by “principalities and powers” – human and demonic.  According to whoever wrote Ephesians, those human and demonic forces are responsible for suffering, oppression, and violence to God’s creation and creatures.  This epistle was written and probably circulated among communities of Jesus followers across the region of Asia Minor to inspire and guide them about their living – what was once referred to as their walk – as people of divine grace, truth, joy, hope, and peace.  

  The five verses we’ve read from Ephesians 5 are admonitions that followers of Jesus – as the church – can and should live wisely despite human and demonic oppression, cruelty, and wickedness.  Ephesians 5:15-20 apply as fully to us as they were intended for the followers of Jesus to whom this letter was written.  


Live wisely!  That’s the main thought of this passage summed up at verse 15 where we read these words:  Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise.  

Wise living doesn’t happen accidentally.  Wise living doesn’t happen naturally.  Wise living is the product of intentional choice and conduct.  Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise is a message of cautious imperative, not an idle comment.   It says that there is a crucial relationship between wise living and careful living.

Wise living is intentional.  Wise living is thoughtful. Wise living is alert. Wise living is careful living because wise people realize that there are harmful forces in the world that can and will seek to distract and direct us away from fulfilling our calling as people of holy purpose, power, and passion.  Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise.  

To put it in popular phrasing, “stay ‘woke!”  Being ‘woke is to be thoughtful, intentional, and “on it.”

Wise living requires we realize the time – meaning the era – we are living through.  The Greek word that has been translated into English as “time” in verse 16 – which reads making the most of the time, because the days are evil – is kairos.  Kairos does not mean “clock time,” but refers to what might be called situational time or decisive time or tactical and strategic opportunity time.  

Kairos is what we mean when we speak of someone being “out of time” or when people say “now is the time to …” do or not do something.  Living wisely requires that followers of Jesus recognize that we are living in a crucial era.  

The situational moment we are living through now requires that followers of Jesus act – live – with clear heads, steady hands, and stout hearts.  American musician, composer, and actor Morris Day (lead performer in the Time) poetically asks in one of his songs (The Bird) “What time is it?” I suspect the author of Ephesians was saying that we don’t have time to waste with dull thinking and thoughtless action.  

What time is it?  We are living in a challenging and fast-moving time.  We are living in a time when followers of Jesus must not be foolish, careless, reckless, thoughtless, or dull-witted, but must understand what it means to live as Jesus lived to the glory of God.  

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit … tells us that our situational moment – kairos – requires clear-headed living.  What time is it?  This is no time for self-induced mental disability!  This is no time for followers of Jesus to be simple-minded consumers of any and every idea and trend. 

What time is it? We live in an era when principalities and powers are using every tool at their disposal to steal our loyalty from the example of divine grace, truth, justice, peace, joy, hope, and power God has provided in Jesus.  This is no time to be dull-witted.

What time is it?  Politicians and profiteers are working overtime and investing billions of dollars to hijack public education so that opportunities for knowledge are stolen from children from working, lower income, black, brown, and red families and communities.  This is time for us to be alert!

 

Finally, wise living requires a constant sense of worship  – meaning God’s “worth-fulness.”  [B]e filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:18(b)-20).  

When people say “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good,” they don’t mean that all things that happen to them feel good.  They don’t mean that all the people they encounter are good.  They don’t mean that they feel good all the time.  Don’t get the “worth-fulness” of God twisted.  

From the rising of the sun until the going down of the same, God is worthy to be praised.  

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, God is worthy to be praised.

Sometimes my path seems drear, without a ray of cheer, and then a cloud of doubt may hide the light of day.  The mists of sin may rise and hide the starry skies.  Yet, God is worthy to be praised.

Wise living is worshipful living because God is worthy all the time.  God is worthy of our trust all the time. God is worthy of our praise all the time.  God is worthy of our devotion all the time.

Worship is not a private exercise.  Worship is a shared experience because we live for God in community with the rest of creation.   So the Africans who inspired the faith of my ancestors understood the importance of singing their way through the situational moment – kairos – of their experiences.  They lived every moment threatened by the terrorism of racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, militarism, the brutality of capitalistic idolatry, and the oppressiveness of sexism and white religious nationalism.  

 

Yet they sang their way through dangers toils and snares.  They sang prayers.  They sang praise songs.  They sang grief songs.  The wisdom of their lives produced Mahalia Jackson, Ethel Waters, Alberta Morris, Aretha Franklin, Andrae Crouch, Glenn Burleigh, Edwin Hawkins and countless other geniuses of sacred song.  

I especially like how those African elders expressed the heart of worshipful living that is wise and wise living that is worshipful in hymn 541 in the African American Heritage Hymnal.  

Walk together children, don’t you get weary, walk together children, don’t you get weary, walk together children, don’t you get weary, there’s a great camp meeting in the promised land.

We’re gonna walk (sing, pray, work) and never tire, walk and never tire, walk and never tire, there’s a great camp meeting in the promised land.

Amen.

 
©Wendell Griffen, 2018