Last Summer Take Away
August 26, 2012
Friends, thank you for the opportunity this summer in providing for you some thoughts on our scripture readings and how God teaches us how to apply God’s word in our every day living.
Look on the STW website: www.stthomaswhitemarsh.org under Sunday School to follow along with the Sunday School teachings beginning September 16th. Each Sunday School lesson will have a take away for our households as well.
We’ll see you in worship and in Sunday School. Enjoy these last weeks of Summer.
Theme: Be Prepared
School begins in just a short while. What do you need to prepare yourself for the best year ever? GET JESUS ON YOUR SIDE!! BRING YOUR BACKPACK TO FAMILY WORSHIP SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 2ND FOR BLESSING OF BACKPACKS AND KNOW YOU’RE CARRYING JESUS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO!!
The First Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
Put on the whole armor of God.
The first Christians practiced in secret, always battling the forces of the Roman Empire which reigned and ruled in the first 300 years of the faith. Christianity was illegal until 313. Christians spent their days defending the faith. In fact, in Ephesus, these first Christians may well have been forced to worship in the temple of Emperor Domitian, rather bowing down to our Lord God in Jesus Christ. It’s no wonder these first Christians got confused about how to practice following Jesus. All too often they mixed up the Greco-Roman pagan religion with their new found freedom in Christ.
It’s easy to get ourselves mixed up in what we’re supposed to believe. The temptations for the Ephesians are great. They are great for us as well. Think of all the enemies we struggle with every day who disguise themselves as our friends: too much caffeine, too much t.v., too much Facebook and television; not enough sleep; not enough leisure and family time; too much work; all our vices; what the letter writer calls, “enemies of God”. Then, the author comes along and says, get ready, get dressed up in all the armor that’s going to help us keep Jesus in our life and fight against those enemies.
C.S. Lewis said, “if you want religion to make you comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” From the get go, practicing truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation, has not been easy. And, the writer of the letter to the church of Ephesus knows these folks have a real uphill battle in front of them. In fact, practicing our faith as Christians has never been as easy as simply defying those obvious evil temptations.
Once Christianity was legalized, then Christians persecuted other Christians according to what they believe. While trying to solidify what we believe in the councils of Nicea and Chalcedonia, “orthodox” Christians refused to tolerate more moderate Christians, calling them heretics. For hundreds of years, in the name of God, Christians have found ways to persecute one another. Even today, with our presidential race, right and left winged extremists are prepared to do battle every chance they get.
A history of persecution teaches Christians that we’re fighters for what is just and right. The author of Ephesus, however, cautions us to fight with love in our hearts and peace on our minds. In so doing, we prepare ourselves. We wear the armor of God to protect us from the arrows of hate, and jealousy and revenge, known as spiritual forces of evil, We are to prepare ourselves to do battle arming ourselves with truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation.
Let’s be clear, the writer of the letter to the church of Ephesus, is talking about falling prey to the current trend of the time; or dismissing wrong because we live in a culture of instant gratification and anything goes; conforming to whatever is the current trend, regardless of the consequences. Practicing our faith is counter cultural. We bend the other way. We do not flow with the stream. We are Christians and we’re armed in the Spirit of God in Christ. To keep strong in the faith, we need to practice. We stay in our faith community. We come to worship, every week. We stay in the Word and read our Bible every day. We saturate ourselves in prayer for strength and courage. We share our gifts of service remembering that as Christ’s own, we care for one another. Practicing our faith prepares us for the tough stuff and keeps us out of trouble!
Practice this week: give kids an opportunity to put on the armor of God. Create your own warrior with the necessary attributes below.
Name your forces in our world that stand in the way of you practicing your faith. How do you want to armor yourself with:
Let us pray:
Spirit of God, we confess that we put on airs more often than we put on the armor of God. We are guilty of girding ourselves with lies instead of the truth. We try to protect ourselves with arrogance, superstition, and self-reliance instead of righteousness, faith, and your gift of salvation. Our footsteps do not follow your path of peace. And we are quick to use your Word to attack one another, instead of striking out against the sins we personally commit. Forgive us, Holy God. Prepare us with the wisdom and strength to change our ways, so that we may live as your faithful ambassadors of the Good News.
The Gospel Reading: John 6:56-69
Do you also wish to go away?
This is the final of five “bread of life” readings mentioned in our lectionary. This bread of life discourse is set in the context of the impending Passover Feast and the miracles of Jesus Feeding the 5,000 and Jesus Walking on the Water. In these miracles and teaches of Jesus we learn Jesus is not just another Moses who talks with God to have a miracle meal. Nor is Jesus just a prophetically phenomenal teacher. He is God in the flesh; God incarnate. In him, we may feed on our one true God and dwell eternally in God. Jesus is the living bread who comes from heaven to give us a life of hope, love, mercy, protection and promise. Our God dwells among us and with us in the person of Jesus Christ,
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.” Jesus’ words draw for us the picture of Holy Communion. But, there is a mystery to this meal. The Spirit moves throughout the community gathered. The power of God is cooked into the bread and distilled into the wine, not because of us, but, because, Jesus says so. So, while, just like the many followers, the eye witnesses of Jesus, the teaching is difficult and disturbing. And Jesus knows how difficult the teaching is. Knowing God through the person of Jesus, dead, risen and risen again, in the holy meal of bread and wine, is difficult. Right there, in front of Jesus, many turn away.
Jesus wants us to believe. We want to believe. We want to believe in our God who rescues us from pain, who loves us beyond comprehension; so much so he’s willing to die for us. We want to follow our God who forever gives us life in him that is everlasting, hope and glory. This promise is in Jesus Christ. Can we believe? Jesus says, practice.
Practice sharing in the holy meal of bread and wine. Practice spending time with others who want to practice a life following Jesus. We might need to get new friends. Others did. Not all could follow Jesus. Many turned away. But, not the twelve. They are prepared for a life in following Christ. Only here in verse 67 of John’s gospel does Jesus name his closest, “the twelve”. The twelve will not turn away. They are committed. They’re in for the long haul. The journey will not be easy. The writer of Ephesians has already shown us that followers of Christ must prepare themselves for the journey.
Practice: prepare ourselves for a life with Christ by connecting with others who follow Christ. Get prepared through DOCC (Disciples of Christ in Community), a teaching and small group reflection time that befriends us as followers of Christ and is known to transform our lives.
Get prepared by matching up as a mentor to a Confirmand in sharing your faith journey, agreeing to pray with one another, supporting this young person as they prepare to make a mature commitment to their faith next June.
Prepare yourself for a life with Christ through service: sign up to help in Second Saturday Sales and see the face of God in all those in your path; when Harvest Fest comes ‘round, come, share a snack or a light meal and sit with moms and some dads; people who want to prepare themselves for a life with Christ and need folks like St. Thomasers to show them the way. Prepare to be Jesus in the world by showing up for worship, wearing a name tag and saying hi to the stranger. St. Thomas’ does this really well.
Get prepared to be Jesus an help others get prepared. It will change our lives.
Thanks, my friends, for preparing me for a life with Jesus. I’m grateful.
Let’s pray: Living Lord, Source of life, you feed us with the spiritual bread and cup of your love and deliver us from darkness to light. Encompass us in the circle of your protection, that, secure in your sustaining power, we will be prepared in your wisdom and strength to challenge the evils of our time. Amen.