Sunday, August 9, 2015

Imatators Of God

Jesus death and resurrection always has two meanings.
It is a sacrifice for sin, and a model of the Godly life.
The first one we usually get pretty good.
The second one usually gets muted and lost.
My College Chaplain used to talk about this a lot.
In his view the Church sold out to the first one and totally forgot about the second.
It is easy to see why.
I myself don’t like to talk about the second, because it leads to moralizing.
It leads to the law.
It leads to self-righteousness, hypocrisy.
There are too many dangers involved.
But as we continue to talk about the letter to the Ephesians we have to talk about it.
Because that is what the text is talking about this morning.
I want to say that if you weren’t here for the first three sermons I gave on Ephesians please go and read them on-line at pastorjonsreverentbestguess, because in those sermons I laid the groundwork for today’s sermon.
In those sermons I said that everything that came after flowed from the foundation of God’s grace to us.

Today in our reading from Ephesians we are asked to be imitators of God.
We are to live as God in Christ forgave us, live in love, as Christ loved and gave himself up for us.
It is a lot to be imitators of God.
I have been thinking about it all week.
How hard that is.
The example that Jesus gives us on the cross is one that is about giving ourselves totally over to others.
The example is one that says that we give all we have not for our gain, but so that others may gain.

As an example of this, in our reading for this morning consider what it says about working.
It says that we are to work.
I think most of us would say that work is a good and honorable thing to do in life, and that it necessary for us to work to make money for food, housing, and to provide for our family.
But the letter of Ephesians does not mention those benefits.
Instead it says that we are to work so that we “have something to share with the needy.”
In our political discourse about the needy I don’t hear people saying this.
In fact, what I hear is the opposite.
I hear a lot of anger from people because they work hard, and they think that other people are lazy and need to get with the program.
I don’t want to make this about politics.
I want to point out that to be an imitator of God means to order the world, and lives in a different way.
(I also want to say that if you don’t like what I said than you have to take it up with the person who wrote Ephesians, not me.)
To be imitators of God is to give of ourselves for others, just as Jesus gave himself up for us.

This weekend at Soul Fest I went to hear the story from Brad Corrigan.
He is in a group called Dispatch.
And he told this story about a young girl he met in Niagara in a trash dump community named Ileana.
He went to this trash dump community in Niagara to take pictures of the people who lived on this trash dump.
He was in his taxi, and a young girl told him to get out of the taxi and play.
He did and it changed his life.
"There's my life up until 2006, and then I met Ileana," Corrigan said,
"That little girl became like a daughter to me and wrecked me so beautifully... and I’ll never forget the courage and strength in her smile.
 It’s now my honor to speak and sing to her life so that other kids like her can be protected and live."
This little girl with nothing, who lived in a trash dump, had a smile and heart that transformed Brad’s life.
He told us that before he met her he had everything that one might want.
He was a successful musician in a successful rock band.
But that he was always thinking about what he could get out of life.
Ileana showed him that life is about what we give away.
It is about what we share with someone without expecting to get anything in return.
He met this girl who showed him God.
And because of this he became an imitator of God.

I was thinking how imitation is not the same thing as saying that we become God.
Imitation just means that we resemble something that is more genuine and real.
We are meant to resemble the God we have met in Jesus Christ.
And that God is always waiting for us in little girls who have to live in trash dumps.
God is waiting for us in the things that the world throws out without really thinking about it or feeling guilty about it.
And when God continually comes to us in grace and beauty then we see it and understand it better.

Martin Luther said it this way, “This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.
We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way.
The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on.
This is not the goal but it is the right road.
At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.

The reason that we fall so easily into moralizing, hypocrisy is because we place the process in our hands.
We make it about what we “have to do”, or “should do”.
This process of becoming imitators of God, this process of learning to give ourselves away for the sake of others isn’t about us.
It is about what God is doing in us, and through us.

Here is what I can tell you that I have learned in my years on this earth.
That every time someone discovers this, every time God speaks to someone and shows them what it means to give yourself away for the sake of another person that person will tell you that life is better.
It is more whole.
It is more fulfilling.
It has more meaning.
It is richer.
What they will also tell you is that it is harder, more difficult.
It makes life more complex.
To think about someone other than ourselves is way harder, even if it is more fulfilling in the long run.
To love someone else is harder, even though it is better in the long run.

Brad was transformed by his relationship with Ileana in her he saw God’s grace reach for him.
I pray this day for all of us to have these moments when God will speak to us in unexpected places, and in those moments we will experience God’s grace, and we will become imitators of God so that we will live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.
Everything that makes life rich, fulfilling, and whole comes from that fragrant offering.
I pray we don’t forget that Jesus Christ is a model of the Godly life.

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