This Sunday, Pastor Bob returns as we continue our exploration of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. This section of the text calls us to do something incredibly difficult: understand God’s will (v17). I confess that I am not very good at doing this. Are you? And with this instruction to understand God’s will, we are then advised to live in a way that seems almost utopian. Is this achievable? And then to top it all off, we are told to constantly give thanks.
I confess that sometimes I find giving thanks in the face of challenging circumstances to be nearly impossible. Even so, I think it’s exactly the right thing.
Ephesians 5:15-20 (CEB)
15So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. 16Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. 17Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. 18Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: 19speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; 20always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Consider these questions:
- Paul’s letter challenges us to be people filled with gratitude in the face of everything, the good and the bad. How do you receive this challenge? Does it seem reasonable? Unreasonable? Something else?
- We are reminded that being filled with the Spirit can show up in several ways, primarily musical. Do you have a musical outlet through which you can share God’s Spirit? (Note: I believe this can have broad possibilities)
- When you express gratitude for something (small scale or large), how do you feel? And how does your spirit feel?
Post-Sermon Update on 8/21
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
In exploring ideas of gratitude, we first took time to consider our own personal imperfections. We must be vulnerable and honest with ourselves and with others about the areas where we have room to grow. Because it is only in acknowledging our failures that we can leave space for our community and our Creator to fill in those gaps. And if we can open ourselves to being completed by God and our faith community, we can know a sense of hope – not in spite of our failures, but because of our failures.
In doing so, we can lift up our hope as Paul reminds us to do by making music in honor of God. A portion of the song sung to close the sermon goes like this:
In my darkest night, you bright up the skies. A song will rise.
Consider these questions:
- In what ways have you failed? In doing so, what happened? How did you respond?
- What was the “outside” response to your failure? Did friends/colleagues respond in some way? Where was God in this experience? Assuming these experiences have been positive in some cases and negative in others, explore this broadly.
- Is it possible for you to experience hope in experiences of failure? Why or why not?