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08.09.09 Ephesians 4:21-5:2 Living in Christian Community Sermon Start

by on August 4, 2009

Biblical scholars used to speculate that Ephesians was something of a baptismal catechesis (teaching), and this Sunday’s reading shows why. Images of being reclothed in Christ, being members of one another, being sealed with the Holy Spirit, and the moral injunctions all contribute to the sense that this letter is intended to teach us what it means to be baptized in Christ and by extension, what it means to be the church.

Scholarly debates aside, it is a great passage. When we come across a list in scripture, it’s helpful to remember that these ancient texts were written in a particular historical and cultural context. Thus I look for enduring principles underlying the items on a list and not to the items themselves for God’s word to us today. For example, “do not let the sun go down on your anger” suggests the principle that we have to deal with our anger and not let it fester. But I know some people who try to apply this verse literally and will stay up all night trying to resolve a conflict.

Some of the principles which guide my reading and preaching of this passage include: our mutual indwelling in Christ (and through baptism) (4:25); the acceptability of emotions despite a critique of behavior based on emotions (4:26); righteousness as a means of serving others (4:28); following the divine example of forgiveness (4:32); emulating Christ’s example of faithful living (5:2).

And this passage gives me an opportunity to reprise my critique of WWJD. Instead of asking what WOULD Jesus do, since that has been clearly revealed, we’re called to remember what DID Jesus do, and we’re to do it with our own lives, namely, live faithfully, “relying on the Spirit’s guidance and worshiping God with our lives by serving our neighbors, cultivating community, and inviting others to join the exploration of faith.”

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