A Life Worthy
Occasionally, I start my sermon preparations by going online and doing a simple word search for the topic. When I typed in “what is living well?”, I got a wide range of responses.
- “Living well gives you the energy to engage with life in a meaningful and fulfilling way.”
- It’s lifestyle program/app from WebMD and few dozen other companies
- Lots of self-help/mental health program
- Dozens, maybe hundreds of songs talking about the good life and how the songwriter defines it
- And hundreds of pithy quotes which range from the philosopher Betrand Russell saying, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” to pop singer Ariana Grande saying, “I like Aurora, ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ because she’s just sleeping and looking pretty and waiting for boys to come kiss her. Sounds like a good life – lots of naps and cute boys fighting dragons to come kiss you” (When you grow up in fantasyland maybe fantasy becomes your reality?”
The truth is everyone has an opinion on what the good life is. And I think the good life for most people revolves around what they are comfortable with. Good for most of us is safe, comfortable. We want to surround ourselves with those things which bring a sense of ease to us. Even people who love work seem to love the work more for the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of satisfaction it brings more than the actual work itself. Good life, for most people, means good for me.
And to honest, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being safe or comfortable or well-adjusted. Frankly, it’s a great place to go to reset and stay in a positive frame of mind. For those who can do so, do so. Mind you, don’t think of it as something you deserve or something God has given you because you deserve it. We’re not preaching a prosperity gospel here. But I will say being in a positive life situation gives you a good place to minister from to those who don’t have it.
And I think that’s what the writer of Ephesians may be getting at here. The second half of the letter starts with “I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God.” In other words, the writer is saying your life should demonstrate that you value accepting God’s invitation to change the direction of your life. We should realize there is an inherent worth to being called to live the Jesus Way of Life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And each of us has a calling. It’s not just the ‘professionals’ in the Jesus Way who are called; we are all called, each of us who walks this path together. So, each of us needs to understand the value of the calling and what we are called to do.
Speaking of which, what are we called to do? Well, according to the writer of Ephesians, a great deal. According to the passage, we are called to humility, gentleness, patience, sustaining and encouraging each other in love, living in unity or purpose and direction by the peace of the Holy Spirit, using our gifts and calling to build up those pilgrims around us, and growing into mature disciples of Jesus. But the passage spends most of the time on two things: unity and maturity. These themes are woven into and around everything said here. Notice in the beginning, the writer says, “make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” They go on from there to say we are one body (community), one spirit (one sense of inspiration), one hope (a trust for a positive future) and have one Lord (allegiance), one faith (way of life), one baptism (again, community), one God and Father of all (again, allegiance).
The writer, however, recognizes we are all different people. In the same way we all see living well differently, we are likely to have had different journeys of faith leading us together. We have different talents and abilities to be used in this community of pilgrims. These differing talents are to be used in ministry that brings us and those around us together around the ‘ones’ I mentioned before. We are to “to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son” so that we might “become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.” The idea here is we use the sense of unity, sense of directed purpose toward a common goal, to help those around us who are called in growing toward maturity as pilgrims.
And so often, the greater body is divided. One will say this way is the right way or that thought is the right thought. From the first Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 to the so-called worship wars, culture wars, and creations of the three major branches of Christianity and the 40,000 or so denominations beneath them, we have failed at unity. Culture, preference, fear, anxiety, control, hubris, arrogance, all these things get in the way of unity. The truth is everyone in this room falls on a scale that runs from one extreme to the other with some falling toward the edges, some falling toward the middle. Yet, we manage to get along and do ministry. Maybe others don’t know about your preferences. Maybe people keep more of that under wraps out of fear. But no two people in this room share the same exact opinion and yet we work together to encourage and bring other pilgrims alongside us for the journey.
That said, I think we need to develop a new attitude toward unity. For many these days, they hear unity and think, “I’m not giving up my rights!” “I’m not giving in to them!” “They’re not taking X,Y, or Z away from me!” For many people, coming to unity is about losing something. Unity has nothing to do with winning or losing a war that people in power created to stay in power. It isn’t about choosing sides to defend distractions which are aimed at keeping us from seeing the real problems of the day. Unity is recognizing that we can live together by living the ones—one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism—and maturity is being able to say I may not agree with you, but I can still work with you, something most everyone here does at work or school every day. Maturity is recognizing we are all in, or should be in, a growth process on this pilgrim journey. A mature, unified body of pilgrim disciples could change the world. That is if, they can let go of the politics of the day to embrace the Way of Jesus everyday.
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