Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the Gospel reading this week is a continuation from last week as Jesus expands on the theme of bread from heaven I decided I would have a look at the Epistle reading from Ephesians.
It is very brief but packed with gems and instructions on how to live. Paul says we are to be wise. David in the Psalms talks about walking in Wisdom, so we must be careful how we walk, not as the unwise but as the wise. The walk of wisdom is all about walking in love and light and repentance and good works because we’ve been called by God to be part of His body which makes up His holy temple. We are to be as different from wickedness as light is from darkness.
We are to be careful how we walk. This requires wisdom. The idea is that we are to walk as people who know: we are to be intelligent, informed, and skilled. We should be good at walking in the light because we are called for that very purpose. Just like a soldier preparing for battle. He pours over battle plans and area maps for hours. He doesn’t want to risk getting lost on the battlefield so he memorizes every landmark and mine field. He’s aware of troop placements and battle lines. He’s prepared and aware of his surroundings, his resources, and his mission.
So walking in wisdom requires a lot of time and energy. Paul says You have to focus on making the most of your time, because the days are evil and the time to shine is limited
This candle represents one life. When it is lit the life begins.
[LIGHT THE CANDLE]
The candle’s life is short, and when it’s over, that’s it.
But the question really isn’t how much time does the candle have, but how will the candle be used while lit? We are children of Light, and our purpose is to shine in the darkness demonstrating God’s righteousness and truth.
There was once a man who bought a beautiful box for his wife. The box had flowers on the top and they would glow in the dark. As it was for her birthday he hid it away in a drawer and left it there for a few weeks. On her birthday it was given to her all wrapped in a lovely parcel. She was delighted and could hardly wait until the evening. When it got dark she looked at the box but it did not shine; it had not changed at all. They both waited until it got really dark but the box never did shine. They felt a little cheated because the box was bought to shine. Then a little note fell from the packaging. It said, 'If you want me to shine all night, you need put me in the sun all day.' The box would only glow if it was left out in the daylight. They left it out all the next day and, true to the words, all night it glowed with a splendid light.
Only when we walk in the light will we shine for the glory of God. Unlike this candle we choose how and when to let our lights shine, but (just like this candle) we don’t know how long it will be until we’re snuffed out.
[BLOW OUT THE CANDLE]
Paul says, “make the most of your time.”
Wisdom understands that today is the day to let your light shine because your time is limited and because the world is in deep darkness, that was written over 2000 years ago and we are still in deep darkness today.
[RELIGHT THE CANDLE]
Don’t get drunk with wine for that is debauchery or decadent. We all know how drunks behave, they can fall over, they can act foolishly and they are known to sing loud and sometimes rude pub songs! Paul encourages us to be filled with the Holy Spirit sing and make music.
What is music?
If Beethoven said he didn’t know what hope is there for the rest of us?
We look to music for so much.
To cheer us up.
To calm us down
To inspire us
To rouse us
To distract us
To dispel bad thoughts
To give us rhythm and form when our lives stress and we are all over the place. Music gives harmony to a discordant world.
Why is it that Handel’s Messiah is so much more than an aide-memoir for the words of Isaiah?
Why is it that the last night of the Proms is far more potent than any appeal for a cool Britannia?
What is it about music that reaches the parts that mere words cannot reach? And why – and how – do I – do we, as Paul urges the Ephesians, ‘make melody or music in our hearts to the Lord?’
Hymns and Psalms are an essential part of our worship and have been for many centuries. It is one of the things we have missed so much during this Pandemic, the ability to sing our praises. In Old Testament times Psalms were the earliest form of song, they were sung as the priest and people ascended the steps to the temple. If you look in the bible at heading of many of the Psalms it will say songs of assent. The best way to remember scripture is by song.
Hymns as we know them became very fashionable in the Victorian era, and we have many great examples still in our books today, and some of the best known have scripture at their heart. Great is thy Faithfulness, At the name of Jesus and many more especially those written by John and Charles Wesley.
We could just sing the words. We could moan about new songs that we don’t like. We could stand in silence while everyone else sings.
But if we are filled with the Holy Spirit we cannot help but sing the story of our faith, the story of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, sing of and our love for God. In our hymns singing we express that which is in our hearts and pour them out as worship, with all that we are, with all the words in our mind and with the music of our soul.
Finally Paul ends with the most important instruction of them all; ‘giving thanks at all times and for everything in the name of Jesus’. We know it is easy to give thanks when things are going swimmingly but when the tide turns? And giving thanks for everything – remembering that Paul was writing all these letters either in prison or between prison sentences!
That old hymn that we never sing today would be a very good place to start.
‘Count your blessings name them one by one’
So Lord, help me to walk in wisdom
Help me to shine your light and love into a dark world
Set me to music, and as the lark let my life soar and sing until the candle finally goes out. Amen.
Blow out candle.
11th Sunday after Trinity