August 14, 2018
“Life as a Prayer” ~ sermon for August 12, 2018
Our New Testament reading this morning comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Paul is admonishing his new followers to remember what he taught them, to uphold the lessons of kindness, compassion and forgiveness that mark the new Christian.
The title of this particular passage in my study bible is ‘Rules for a New Life.’
These rules are as applicable to our lives today as they were for those early Christians in the first century.
Hear now a reading from Ephesians 4:25-5:2.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
Creator God, as we grow and mature into the creation you envisioned, we become more certain that it is community which makes us strong.
Through our collective hopes, dreams and endeavors, we push through the barriers of time and distance, race and economics, gender and religion.
We pray that we continue to widen the circle of your limitless inclusion until we are all truly one.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
The sentence that precedes this morning’s text says “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ..”
Our reading then provides some of the ways that one might do this.
Simple rules that anyone can follow:
- Speaking the truth to our neighbors;
- Do not sin in your anger;
- Do not let the sun set on your anger;
- Do not make room for the devil;
- Work honestly;
- Only let words that build up come from your mouth;
- Let your words convey grace;
- Do not grieve the Holy Spirit;
- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving;
- Be imitators of God.
These are all things that we can do with a little bit of effort.
The important first step is making up your mind that you want to do these things.
You must commit to making your life a ‘living prayer,’ a testament to your faith.
Earlier this year Mary O’Neill and her family had visited a museum in London that contained an exhibit entitled ‘Church Coat.’
The explanation said: “This traditional coat was worn by a man specially for going to church in Transylvania. Wearing such a church coat displayed the man’s Protestant faith, his connection to the Saxon-German community and conformity with its strict codes of behavior. Smoking, drinking, swearing and bad behavior were forbidden when wearing it.”
The coat is somewhat elaborate, made of sheepskin, wool and leather with embroidered flowers.
It would definitely stand out in a crowd.  (check out the link on the website for a picture)
This seems like a literal interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
The gratifying message in Paul’s message is that he believes that we can change our behavior.
Adopting the ‘rules for life’ allows the early followers to be changed by their new belief.
They will no longer be tethered to ideas and practices that are not life-giving.
Rather, once they have ‘clothed themselves with their new self’ a new life will begin.
Earlier, Betsy and Charlie sang a beautiful song titled ‘A Living Prayer.’
This song is the plea of someone wanting to follow Paul’s ‘rules for life’ but knowing that it cannot be accomplished alone.
The song is a testament to the presence of God in every aspect of our lives.
One of the things I love about this song is that all of the references to God are personal and internal.
God is present within, giving strength to bear; eyes to see; a voice inside.
“Take my life and let me be a living prayer, my god to thee.”
This is the same message Paul is delivering to his followers.
He is helping them to learn that a relationship with God is intimate, private, personal and transformational.
We seek God’s presence in a communal setting like worship, but the daily, moment-to-moment relationship is all our own.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing us strength, vision and hope in a world full of challenges.
We have been gifted with faith.
We know that we don’t stand alone.
Embrace that love.
Let it become part of who you are.
If you need to put on a coat to remind you who you are, do it.
But otherwise, let your love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and care shine forth for others to see.
Caleb and Olivia gave us great illustrations of what it means to be clothed in true righteousness and holiness.
Their work on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation stands as a shining example of Paul’s ‘rules for life.’
Let your life be a living prayer.
Work at it.
Strive to be imitators of Christ.
Let us pray.
Gracious, holy, powerful God we thank you for granting us the ability to transform our lives for good.
Help us to put away all evil and to embrace your rules for life.
Grant us the grace, we pray to recognize that the lives of everyone around us is enhanced by our commitment to what is good.
Strengthen our faith that we might have the courage to stand up for what we believe; to name injustice in the world and to work to transform it.
We thank you for the gifts of Caleb and Olivia, working to make our world a better place.
Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort- family and friends of Shirley, Jane, Nancy
For those who are trapped in a cloak of despair, we pray that your Holy Spirit might free them.
We pray for among us who are tormented by addiction, illness, loneliness and grief – send your Spirit to comfort them and bring them to a place of peace.
Hear now our silent prayers as we turn our hearts to you….
Jesus taught them to pray in these words…Our Father