Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hope to Which You are Called

Ephesians 1: 15-23
Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday

“I pray…that you are given a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know God, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which you have been called…”

Today’s church is so organized.  Thanks to Arius, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine – many others, we’ve got doctrine.  And to Luther and Calvin and others for reforming the cause.  We’ve got sacraments, liturgy, liturgical music, dogma, denominations, all of that’s laid out for us.  All we have to do is come.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the first century, church – if you could even call it that – was much different.  They were just figuring out how to gather as people who had maybe witnessed, but more likely heard of Jesus’ ministry and untimely death and resurrection.  Paul gathered many groups together in different places around the Mediterranean and would continue to minister to them from afar. 

In today’s passage Paul has received good news about a community of believers in Ephesus.  And he writes a letter back to them.  Paul loves to write letters to his people. They are prayed for and praised for their faith, their love, and he prays for their enlightenment to be able to see the hope for which they are called. 

Hear now Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus (CEV):

I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.  So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers.  I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God.  My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God’s people.

I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us followers. It is the same wonderful power he used  when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven.  There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers. He rules over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well.  God has put all things under the power of Christ, and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything.  The church is Christ’s body and is filled with Christ who completely fills everything.
Photo by Linda Bradford
My Dear Confirmands, this is my letter to you.

Your faith today is vibrant.  I can see a brilliant red aura around you.  The spirit has filled your soul.  You may not know or believe that yet, but it has.  You are here by choice today.  You may not have started confirmation that way, most kids don’t, so you honored God, yourself, your families, and your church and you stuck with it!  

I can say that boldly because I’ve observed you throughout the year, through the questions you’ve asked, the ones that you did not ask, through your essays, through your doubt and confidence in God’s grace, through your enthusiasm you’ve shown, the empathy in your hearts for those who are affected by cancer and your determination to put an end to cancer, – it’s all there, make no mistake about it…..God’s got a hold on you!  The call upon your life today is as great as it was at your Baptism.

Called before you were even a twinkling or inkling in your parent’s eyes, God made a claim on you.  You were born and called, a child of God made perfect in every way.  And you were called once again at your Baptism and your parents and family and church promised to love you and to teach you the ways of Jesus.

And now today.  God called you yet through another threshold of faith, to a deeper relationship, with more maturity, with a lot more questioning – as it should be.  God called you to speak for yourself and to affirm your Baptism by your confirmation.  It is a big deal.  And you were ready.

Paul prays for the people’s hearts to be enlightened so that they can see the hope to which they are called.  He prays that they will have a spirit filled with wisdom, much revelation from God so that they can see, that they may know the hope that God has for them.  That is a good prayer, and one in which I pray for all you.  God’s hope hasn’t changed.  God’s hope was just as crucial to lives back then as it is today. 

So, what is God’s hope for you?  Well, as presumptuous as it is, I’m going to tell you what I think God’s hope would be!  That’s what preachers do!

God’s hope is for you to believe, always.  Today you believe, tomorrow your belief may not be as strong – depends on the circumstances of your life.  Life often throws you curve balls out of nowhere.  They can zap you of your energy, your emotional stability; rob you of your spiritual self, leaving you empty.  When times like this happen, your belief, your faith in an ever-present God will be challenged. 

But believe in God’s goodness and God’s steadfast capacity and ability to hold you close and get you through, even when you can’t feel it.  And when you can’t feel it, hold on to your belief intellectually.  Because eventually, with the spirit, your head will transform your heart.  God will pick you up and put you in another place, a better place, a place where you can see and feel your faith and belief all over again.  So one of God’s hopes is for you to believe.

God also hopes that you will know.  That you will know how much you are loved by the one who created you.  God loves you as you are – no need to put on false pretenses about who you think God wants you to be.  You are who you are, or in the word of Popeye, “I yam, who I yam”.  For God you are perfect in every way.  Can you always strive to do better?  Of course, that’s why we have minds, to tap into our talents so that we may reach our highest potential.  But if you don’t, if you falter or of you fall or fail, God will forever love and forgive you. 

You also must know that this church loves you.  Each member of Orange Congregational cares for you and celebrates your life.  I love you, we love you and we all care deeply and hold you very close to our hearts. So another of God’s hopes is that you will know.

Finally, God hopes that you will love.  God hopes that you will love life intensely.  There is so much beauty and bounty in the world, so much science and understanding, and knowledge.  So much potential for good, and justice, and for decent, ethical living – be a part of it!  Love God, love one another.  Love with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.  That, to love is to be in the world, not of it, remembering who you are and whose you are.  Love is to be an active, vital participant in life, in your life, and in the life of those around you.  Love because you are loved.

God’s hope is perpetual.  God’s call upon your life is firm, it’s a done deal.  From the dawn of existence, in Paul’s time, until today, the hope to which God calls you is to believe, to know and to love.  Quite simple really.  This is God’s hope for you. 

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you this, your Confirmation Day, and always.


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