August 15, 2021

Righteousness

Passage: Ephesians 5:15-20

Ephesians 5:15-20               “Righteousness”                 8-15-21

 [prayer] “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, ESV).

          In the Gospel according to Matthew Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6, ESV). For about three weeks now the Lectionary texts have been all about watching how we walk, and considering how others see Christ in us. These last three passages including today are all about putting the quarreling and bickering aside, and focusing on the upward call of God in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:14). This morning’s passage encourages us to know what is what, and to recognize what is really important. What is really important is the Truth. The Truth is Jesus Christ is God. God gave God’s life for each and every one of us because God loves us. God is probably not thrilled with where we are, but God loves us all just the same. The result is God put God’s money where God’s mouth is and laid down God’s life so that we might all be saved. Amen? Amen! I’m sorry. I’m not convinced. Jesus laid down His life so that we might all be saved. Amen?! Amen!! If we have been saved. If we are truly in a right relationship with God, we should act like it. Amen? Amen! If we are going to act like we are saved, then we need to do our best to be in right relationship with everyone around us. Amen? Amen! Being in a right relationship with God, and being in a right relationship with everyone around us is the definition of righteousness. Amen? Amen!

         The Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15). This prompts the immediate question, “What is the will of the Lord?” When Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all of the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). To put it simply, if we are going to call ourselves Christians, and tell people we are Christians we have got to do a whole lot better than telling folks Jesus is Lord and then doing whatever we want with our lives. Amen? Amen!

         So let’s talk about how we talk to one another when we do not agree. This Covid thing and the Delta variant is tough stuff. We are watching before our eyes the way the Scientific method is supposed to work. Scientists make a hypothesis, or an educated guess, and then test it out. However, as the scientists test their theories about Covid the information to us, the public, changes. The facts are not so steady or reliable. Medical Science is still scratching their heads about how the Corona Virus works and is spread. Which means we are left with a whole lotta questions that take time to answer when we want our answers in 10 seconds or less. Anybody with a feeling or an idea, or an opinion can get on the internet and spread their words like wildfire as if they are facts. What’s worse is instead of reasoned responses the person who yells the loudest is often given credit for having the right answer. There is so much half information, untested theories, busted theories and mistaken guesses that it has become hard to know what is the truth anymore.

         I am going to simplify some of this for all y’all this morning. Facts change. Facts change. Facts are based on our understanding of the evidence. As our understanding of the evidence changes, the facts change. The Truth does not change. The truth changes us. Amen? Amen! Honestly, it does not matter how the facts change. We have a responsibility to do what is right according to Christ. Whatever the facts are we are expected to love God and love our neighbor. What is the will of the Lord? The will of the Lord is that we should all hunger and thirst for righteousness. That means we should be careful how we talk to each other, and about each other; both when we are out and about in town, and in our homes. We should not waste time getting caught up in pointless arguments on social media - I admit. That is sometimes a challenge. However, Christ is calling us to abundant life. Now, there is an abundance of stupidity on social media, but that is not abundant life. Just because you have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTock account it does not mean you are an expert on infectious diseases. The bottom line is either we follow the Truth, or we do not. Either we allow God’s Truth to shape who we are, or we do not. “Do or do not. There is no try.”[i] If you believe this is true and Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life then it does not matter how loud we shout, or how right we “think” we are, we have to do what Jesus Christ taught us to do. We have to do what Jesus Christ commanded us to do. We have to follow the example Jesus set for us. We have to lay down our opinions, attitudes, wants and desires at the cross of Jesus Christ and live our lives according to God’s plan. Following God’s plan is the path to abundant life. Amen? Amen!

         Now, I know the Covid thing has a lot of us scared. A lot of us – including myself, are tired and frustrated with all of this Covid mess and the interruption it has brought to our everyday lives. Honestly, I don’t like wearing a mask. Wearing a mask has become a reminder things are not as they are supposed to be. As much as I do not like it this point has occurred to me. Maybe we need a reminder the world is not as it is supposed to be. Maybe we need a reminder that we broke the world at the Fall when we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This world is NOT right. WE are responsible. Many of us have accepted that simple fact. Many of us have even become comfortable with that fact because this is the place where we live. Which means we don’t like to be reminded of our mistake, and we don’t like to be reminded the world is not right because we have become comfortable as if this were our true home. My sisters and brothers, facts change. The fact this is the place where we live is a temporary thing. There will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21). In the new heaven and the new earth, the dwelling place of God will be with humanity (Revelation 21:3). God will be with us all the time. We will never feel far from God or alone again. We will be wrapped up in God’s grace like cuddling in a warm blanket on a cold morning, and God will be as close to us as the humidity on a hot August afternoon. The facts will change, and the new heaven and the new earth will be our dwelling place.

         We should not get so caught up in the facts of this world that we miss out on the joys of the world to come. Amen? Amen! We should not get so caught up in fighting with one another or bad mouthing one another in this world that we are unprepared for the world to come. Amen? Amen! I suggest what we should do is put God first. We should practice what we speak. We should practice our lives living as if God is in charge. Amen? Amen! Honestly, God really is in charge. We should practice living that way now. We should sing the songs as if we are already in the New Jerusalem. We should learn the stories in our Bible. We should practice, “addressing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all [our] heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21). Now is the time to practice and make a habit of growing in God’s righteousness so that when we all get to heaven we will know how to act, and we will know how to love, and we will know how to live with one another in the Kingdom of God. Amen? Amen!
In the name of Jesus Christ,
  Amen.

[i] Kershner, Irvin, and George Lucas. The Empire Strikes Back. United States: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1980.

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