Sermon for August 26, 2012 Ephesians 6:10-20 “Praying For Power & The Power Of Prayer” This summer’s sermons will explore evangelism through the lens of basic Christian theology. Today: God’s Power To Protect Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChurch.org Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher To hear this sermon on podcast, click HERE: 120826SermonPodcast
To watch a video of this sermon, go to: http://youtu.be/TcpC_MGNzKA
Let us pray (again, but this time feel free to leave your eyes open and heads up…): O One who is present to us in so many ways and with so many names, we come to you not so much to seek an audience with you, as most certainly we already have that, but to immerse ourselves in all that is you in order to celebrate the ways your ways are our ways, and to become ever more acutely aware of the ways in which our ways are not your ways. O Creator God, we chose to eat the succulent fruit of the great tree of the wisdom of good and evil, the very tree from which you get your nourishment. We choose again and again in small, large, and just everyday-size ways to eat that fruit, thus seeing the world from a God-like perspective, your vantage point. As if we were children all done grown up and headed off to college, you sent us out into the world with your blessings, knowing full well we would kill our siblings, laugh at your wisdom, complain about your providence, question your guidance, idolize that which was finite, and ultimately betray you with a kiss. Nonetheless, you remained faithful to us. In the ultimate paradox of eternity, you both set out on a trek behind us, hiking boots and backpack in place, to remind us of your abiding love AND you stayed home with the porch light on, eagerly waiting for us to come to our senses, to remind us in no uncertain terms of your abiding love. Rather than making lists that usually prove someone else is wrong and we are right, help us to instead to seek to imitate you, especially by living in love as Christ loved us, and offering ourselves sacrificially to you and to our neighbor. What we call sin, O God, you see as a primal bond broken, a sacred trust marred, a birthright forsaken, but never an “original” part of who we are. Therefore, create in us a healthy conscience and a forgiving heart, O God. O Redeemer God, we are well aware that, no matter how many Sunday School classes we have attended, no matter how many theologically sound books we have read, no matter how many faithful masters at whose feet we have sat to listen and to learn, we revert to a
childish faith and a simplistic understanding of you at the drop of a hat – or the onset of a tragedy. We yearn for you to be the marionette god, who will manipulate us and our circumstances so that a fairy tale ending is as certain as is life itself. You aren’t, and you don’t, but you do promise that if we keep it real, you will too, and you’ll never, ever, ever leave our side. Similarly, we yearn for the Santa Clause god, who gives us all that we need, all that we want, all that we crave. Instead, you fill all of creation with an abundance of beauty and good things, and then cajole us to share, inspire us to give what we have away, long for us to see that there is more than enough, if we but let go of what we have. And we yearn for you to be the balloon god, one who is all spirit, but loathes these “mortal coils” with which we have been bound for our years upon the earth. Instead, you are the completely and fully and joyfully incarnate God, choosing not only to mold life into these complex and oftentimes problematic clay-pots-of-bodies you gave us, but to join us in the great parade of life by becoming nothing less than a living, breathing, sweating, peeing, dancing, laughing, loving body yourself in Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, redeem our perspective of you, O God! O Sustainer God, we want so much to pin you down, to make you our own, to domesticate, manipulate, and prognosticate about who you are and how you should be god in this world. You remind us, in gentle and audacious ways alike, that you will not be our pet divinity. You use your power in any and every way you wish, whether it is to open the lily, split the atom, or soften my hardened heart. Your power is more like the wind, then more like the fire, then more like the whisper, then more like the sunlight. In irony of ironies, you chose to come to us in the most fixed and finite way, as Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter born in Bethlehem, raised in Galilee, one who would teach, preach, heal, and be crucified in humiliation who would also live his faith in such amazingly ambiguous ways, at least according to human religion and custom, and who would lead us back to you not through lists of do’s and don’ts, but through parables and aphorisms, and eternal moments of living deeply, laughing loudly, and loving wastefully. You call us less to certainty and more to doubting, for you know, O wise and wondrous One, that you can do far more with our questions than with our certitude. You are also profoundly aware that if we open up the wellsprings of our loving hearts when we let go of our dogmatic certainty about how things have to go and how people have to be, then, in fact, love, which is the essence of all that you are and the first tenet in law’s list, can thrive. Therefore, sustain us, O God, with your elusive Spirit. O Creator God, O Redeemer God, O Sustainer God, we offer our prayers to you this day, and every day. Amen. My Beloved, we have spent the summer looking at the core doctrines of the church (give or take a few, and a little loose on the academics of it all) from the perspective of someone who might not have ever walked through the doors of a church building before. What I’ve hoped to have accomplished this summer was to invite us to a place where we are at least beginning to imagine a perspective other than our own as being important… no, even fundamental to our faith. This will be critical in the coming year, as we are finally pulling together our New Vision Team to lead this congregation through a visioning process that will allow us to think faithfully, strategically, and precisely about where God may be leading us in the future, so that we can focus our energies, our resources, and our hearts to try to fulfill that vision. It is so appropriate, then, that we end with this passage from Ephesians, which culminates with prayer. “Pray in the Spirit, at all times in every prayer and supplication,” Ephesians’ author writes. [Editorial Note: the following section was not preached, but I feel it is important nonetheless: I find it fascinating that this text, which concludes the letter to the church at Ephesus, has been used to “armor” Christians to “do battle” in the world. If one takes it as a call to arms, one loses entirely the meaning of the text! It is a spiritual struggle, for it says so, “For our struggle is not enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Many commentators would maintain, as would I, that the struggle the entire book of Ephesians has is with forces within our own hearts, our own heads, and our own communities of faith! That it has been used to gird up the loins of Christians against the world or Churches against society is baffling, at best, and deceitful at worst! If Jesus is “the Lord” about which Ephesians 6 is talking, then every piece of “armor” must be held up to his birth, life, teachings, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. Spiritual implements such as truth, righteous, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God are most effectively used to build up the Body of Christ and my own spirituality, rather than as armaments for some “other” outside threat. The most malice Jesus had was for the arrogant, self-serving, self-righteous leaders in his own faith tradition, and rarely for others, and never for the genuine, honest seeker. Therefore, the next time I see this passage paired up with an image of a medieval knight in full armor, I will puke! But let me not leave you with that image.] [The sermon continued here:] Let me leave you with a prayer. It is the prayer of the author of Ephesians, but it is every pastor and preacher’s prayer. It is my hope that this summer we have had some serious conversation about what it means to believe, and some fun moments about how the church’s message is all-too-often simply a reflection of our own prejudices and peculiarities rather than a word from God. I hope, in all humility, that somewhere along the way what I have offered will, indeed, help this amazing community of faith speak an ancient message afresh to a new generation of seekers hungering and thirsting for God in their lives. And so I pray: “Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.” Amen.