No Longer Strangers Pastor's Note



We come to the end of our six-week journey through the book of Ephesians, Paul’s letter to a church that was not quite in conflict but not quite engaged fully in the life of community full of redeemed sinners. A letter that reminds its hearers about all the great things God has done and then uses that powerful hinge word, “Therefore” to command them and us to begin to live lives worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

The basic thrust of the messages you have been hearing from the Good Shepherd pulpit have revolved around the idea that all of the divisiveness present in the world does not have a place among the people of God because in Christ we are already joined to each other as one body. All of the life that we experience as God’s church both inside and outside the physical building called Good Shepherd is meant to be received as a gift from God’s grace.

This is not the end

So, yes, we wrap up this sermon series but we can’t really wrap it up at all. We dare not move on to other topics of life and faith unless we have confidence that we have rooted ourselves deeply in this truth: that we are all one and we all worship the same God and the same Lord Jesus. Anything else that divides us from each other is sinful human nature: our pride, our ego, our discomfort with a peace that might include all people, and we must remain vigilant that it always remains at our core as faithful followers of Jesus’ way.

“Be careful then how you live,” Paul writes, “Not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time because the days are evil.”

The Foolishness of the Cross

Christian wisdom is different than the wisdom of the world. Paul always lifts up the holiness of Christian wisdom while denouncing the wisdom of the world. Christian wisdom will always strike the world as foolishness because we base our faith, the faith from which our wisdom flows, in the foolishness of the cross. Our faith, our trust, that our God so loved this world that he sent his Son to die on a cross for us.

And this faith is meant to be lived and expressed outside the walls of the church, in the world. It does not need to be sheltered or protected from the ups and downs of our lives. We need not pretend that as Christians all of our lives are perfect from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. It does not allow us to escape from the world. Our faith allows us to overcome the world and all of its division, all of its hatreds, all of the certainty it places in the opinions of the rich or the powerful. Our God, the God of the least, the lost and the lowly, is not a God waiting at the top of a mountain for us to achieve perfection before letting us into his presence. The Christian Gospel is a drama that reminds us over and over again about God’s descent to us, to be with us, as one of us, to transform and redeem us.

A Sanctuary & Battle Station

The same goes for the world. We are called today to live as people making the most of our time. This means that our faith is to be kept as both a sanctuary and as a battle station. It is not for someone else to live this way, it is not meant for some other group of people to take up this cause of bringing a foolish wisdom into the world, the call is being made to each of us here, right now.

There is no person, no time, no place that is too insignificant for us to seek God’s redemption of them or it. Time is precious, God takes it very seriously. So, yes, we do not even have to consider the things that we do to be particularly religious in nature. Every business transaction, every word we speak to our children, every swing of the golf club, the will of the Lord applies to each and every one of these.

Continuing the work of Redemption

The social life we encounter each and every day in our communities, our workplaces, our homes and our church is so thirsty and so hungry for contact with Christian grace. One of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal is our power to just pay attention to time, ourselves, our neighbors and our world. Sitting around a firepit as fall approaches, sitting at a table breaking bread with other people, each of these occasions are there for us to overflow with God’s grace and love so that the Spirit might continue God’s work of redemption… over and over again.

And so I leave you with an image to carry with you as we come to the end of this part of our journey: the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus had little or no need for religion. What Jesus needed was for men and women like you and me to follow him. And where did he go? Out of the synagogue and into the world. He walked roads, sat in fishing boats, was a friend to tax-collectors and sinners. We too are called to witness to the love of God in the world.

My friends, we are called to live lives of abundance. God has shown us over and over again that there will always be enough love, enough grace and enough mercy to extend that love to everyone everywhere. What we do not have enough of is time. So let us use our time wisely.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God.