August 12, 2018: 12th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, The Holy Spirit brings peace, harmony, and balance to our lives and our souls. The Spirit applies directly to us the life-saving work that You purchased for us on the cross. So, today we ask that You send the Spirit upon us all, that we open our hearts and minds to Him, and that we then use His gifts and apply them on a daily basis in all our relationships. Amen
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 30—5:2
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Every year at this time my thoughts turn to marriage. The second week of August has the most wedding anniversaries of any other week in our congregation. And now, with the passing of the years, those milestones number well over 120 years! Leading the pack are the Laffins with 39 years, congratulations!
What keeps couples together for that long? The world would say: luck. But we know better. It is God’s grace, alone, isn’t it? So, when I came across today’s epistle I had to preach on it. For it really is all about God’s grace applied to relationships, including marriage, in our lives.
Each one of us, married, single, or child has been “sealed for the day of redemption.” In other words, our future is secured by the love and forgiveness won for us by Christ on the cross. The Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who makes this possible. For He showered God’s blessing upon each of us. He’s the One Who brings us the knowledge and reality of this comfort. That’s why St. Paul reminds us not to “grieve the Spirit” by acting otherwise.
Grief is a human emotion. But if you take Paul’s words here seriously, you also have to confess that it is a Godly emotion. And it is not a positive one. So, how can any of us avoid foisting this kind of negativity upon God the Spirit? Again, listen to our lesson: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Have you known bitter people? People who held on to a grudge or a hurt and let it warp their mind? I have. Such grudges destroy marriage, friendships, and makes us not too fun to be around. Rage and anger are obvious marriage destructors. Neither one stems from a clear mind. Both come from our egos being upset. Thus, both stem from pride. “Brawling and slander” don’t seem to go together to our Christian ear, but they do. Physical, bodily violence is one side of the coin of pride and lashing out, slander or verbally beating another down is the other side. And if that wasn’t enough to scare us, Paul includes this: “every form of malice.” Malice comes from the Latin word: malus. It means evil. You all know when something stems from evil or is evil. You know it instinctively. One good test to use is: “if my mother was here right now, would I say, think, or do this or that? Would she be proud of me, or disgusted?” Another test is: “Do my actions or words glorify and honor God, or do they grieve the Spirit, Who sees and hears everything?” Friendships or marriages that employ such things never last long. The fruit they bear is sour and makes everyone who eats it sick of body and sick of soul.
But, for the Christian, we’ve been redeemed and re-created for something much more uplifting and beneficial! “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Kindness is a “thing.” It is an action toward another human being born of compassion. Compassion is literally “feeling another’s pain, putting yourself in their shoes, and experiencing all the burdens that they are feeling.” Both sides are to do this in any relationship. And then after experiencing such personal intimacy, you both need to take the only action that can bring about healing. That being: forgiveness. Moreover, such forgiveness is one-sided, yet mutual, at the very same time. You are to forgive generously as the Lord forgave you. That is, before you ever dreamed of asking for it, Christ forgave your sins on the cross. If both parties operate in this same way, unity and joy will become an instant blessing. And remember: when God in Christ forgave us, He didn’t later take it back. It wasn’t partial. It wasn’t a long, drawn-out process whereby we had to jump through hoops to earn it a little at a time. No, it was complete and whole the instant Jesus said: “It is finished” on the cross. No contingencies there…..
What keeps marriages going year-after-year? What keeps friendships alive through the decades? What makes for happy, well-adjusted people? “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
The love mentioned here is agape love. Unconditional, self-giving love. Sacrificial love. It is a parent trudging off to work each day to provide for their children instead of letting them flounder. It is a spouse submerging their own ego for the happiness of their husband or wife. It is the friend who keeps trying to help their floundering friend even though they are often rebuffed or scolded for it. It is a fellow believer who is hurting, and instead of ignoring them, you keep coming back with: “What can I do to help?” It is praying for your spouse and your friends daily. That’s our God and that’s our Savior, isn’t it? Love moves Him to keep working on us and never taking “No” for an answer. And eventually, eventually He breaks through because as Scripture says: “Love never fails.”
No matter whether you’re married or single, your life as a child of God is to be “a fragrant offering and sacrifice” to the One Who laid down His life for you. Every relationship with another you will ever have is an opportunity to do so. But, marriage by its very nature is probably the most day-to-day example.
I have a Christian friend who uses this mantra in dealing with people: “Is what I’m doing or saying beneficial and not harmful in any way?” We all need to keep that attitude in mind. For when it came to saving our eternal souls, that’s exactly what God did…..Amen