A Homily for Lent 3
March 4, 2018
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Ephesians 5:1-14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
Humanity was created to be image bearers of the heavenly Father. God created man in his own image, male and female he created them. This doesn’t mean that when a man or a woman, when you or I look in the mirror that we are seeing what God looks like, nor does it mean that we carry within ourselves a divine spark. It means that we were created to tend and care for God’s creation. We were created to be God’s representatives on Earth.
Yet, our first parents Adam and Eve chose sin, chose themselves, their own will, over the will of the Lord. Instead of bearing God’s image, they chose the one thing they were told not choose at the urging of Satan, and welcomed sin into paradise. In this choosing they failed as image bearers, and sin came rushing in. We see the after effects of this throughout the history of humanity. We see the after effects of this when we turn on the news, when we hear of a brother who hate his brother, or a sister who bears jealousy towards he sister. As we look over the history of humanity, we have seen the tragic effects of this choice. As we read scripture we can see some people come close to fulfilling the calling to be an image bearer, but all eventually failed.
Until one man.
Jesus Christ fulfilled this first calling of man, he was the very light of God, God of God, light of light, begotten not made. Where so many had failed, he succeeded. Not only did he succeed, but he bore the sins of the world on his shoulder and took these sins to his death on the cross, that all who believe in him might live. That all who believe in him might be given the chance to be sons and daughters of God and in that adoption, to become, yet again, the representatives, the image bearers of God on this planet.
The theology of the imago Dei, that is the image of God, is complicated, because when we gaze upon another person we must not see one who is to be used up by us, but one who was created with love by the creator. We must see one who bears this same image that we have been called to represent, yet because of our first father Adam has be tainted and tarnished by sin. So, we need to understand this and approach the other with love for part of being called to represent God, being called to be lights in the world is learning to bring that light to the fallen, and give them the same hope that we find in Christ.
So, most importantly, we need to understand what it means to work out our callings to bear the imago Dei, the image of God, what it means to bear the light of Christ in the darkness of the world.
We see this calling time and again coming from Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St. Matthew He calls his followers to be lights in the world, saying: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
St. Paul’s Epistle this morning gives us more direction as to what this is to look like, for we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Too often we are tempted to wall ourselves off from the world saying “ah-ha! If I fortify my city on the hill, then I will be safe.” Yet, through those walls no light will shine and we are not called to safety, but to boldness for the gospel’s sake.
Too often we think, “from this city on the hill, I can launch my righteous offensive for God, and take down this dark and evil culture,” yet when we pick up our sword of self-righteousness, we drop the light of Christ and we are called to bring life, not death .
Too often we think, “let us just throw open the gate, and let the world in, surely they will change,” and in doing so, the dancers of lecherousness, and sellers if wickedness extinguish the light, and we and they dwell together in darkness.
So let us look at St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so we too can cry out with the saint:
Awake thou that sleepest,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give thee light.
First and foremost we are called to be dear children who walk in love. To be a child means to follow the Lord’s calling with the trust a toddler has for her good father. Perhaps you can remember following your father around, wanting to mimic everything he did, wanting to be like him. This is our call that with a childlike joy and wonderment we follow after our heavenly Father, and mimic his love and compassion for the world.
Love we have learned is not merely an emotion, given to the winds of the world and twists and turns of life, but an action, something that we do with our entirety. We are called to Love the Lord with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We are called to Love him with all that we have. No, love is no mere emotion, but an action, exemplified for the Christian in Christ’s dying on the cross that we might have life. So too, we are to pick up our cross, and follow after Him. We too are to die to ourselves, to our selfish and self-righteous will, that Christ might live in us. So this is the beginning of Love, that in laying down our lives Christ might be alive in us.
But, this love is not given to the winds of the world. No, we are not called to be the city that opens her gates up that jugglers of immorality, dancers of lusciousness, and sellers of evil may come in and share the stage with the gospel of Christ. No, St. Paul warns us: fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
St. Paul knows that because we are still in the world, we will struggle with these things. He knows that there will be days when the being a child of disobedience seems tempting and that we will want to run after this, but he says flee! So, we are called to flee from the darkness, flee from the sins that so often haunt us, and flee to the foot of the cross, for the city on the hill is a city of light, a city built at the foot of the cross. So we are to dwell in that light, the light that is the life of men.
We too, are reminded of the great gift that God has given us for we were all sometimes in darkness, but now are in the light of the Lord. It is the light that is the light of man, the life which we enjoy, the life which restores our relationship with God, grafts us into His tree, and makes us once again to joyfully bear His image as little children.
We are called to be these children of the light. Not giving into the temptations that the saint lists, nor the temptations that Jesus listed in the sermon on the mount, nor the temptations that St. Paul has listed elsewhere. Instead called to desire truth, righteousness, and goodness, for this is where life dwells.
Too often when we talk about sin and righteousness we are tempted to say “don’t do this,” or “don’t do that!” And there is a goodness in knowing where the hedges lie, for beyond the hedges is death and darkness. Saint Paul’s writings are filled with many such warnings. But, if we only line up the hedges, and do not set our eyes on the life we find in Christ our works will be empty. If we only set our eyes on what we cannot do, we will soon die, we will soon become the city on the hill that blocks off the world and in doing so snuffs out the light. No, turn from the ways of the children of disobedience, but do not get stuck in the hedges, turn your eyes upon Christ, and in doing so life is found. It is there that the light of the Lord is poured out upon us that we no longer dwell in darkness.
The saint tells us that the fruits of the Spirit, that is the fruit of the light, are goodness, righteousness, and truth. The Holy Spirit in the next chapter of Ephesians will be called a sword. This is not a sword that we pick up to slay our enemies, but a sword that protects us from the accuser, the devil, who says “surely, God didn’t say that, go ahead, rebel against him, and eat the fruit, it’ll be fine.” It is also a sword to piece the heart of him who hates us, that he may see the goodness and rightness, and truth of the Gospel of Christ. That they may see their own unrighteousness, and flee from it, and flee to the way of the Lord and live truly. No, the spirit of the Lord which is poured out on us is given that we might live, and in being the image bearers of God, we might bring life to those, even those who have set themselves against us.
This is ultimately what it is to be the image bearers of the Father, that we would hold the light of Christ high, and let it burn brightly that others might be drawn to it. That others might follow our lead and lay down their lives and live truly in Him who has set us free.
So we have no part in the ways of the world, we have no part in sexual immorality, impurity, filthiness, foolish talk, nor crude joking. No we flee from such things, not giving into the world. Nor do we seek to hide ourselves from the world, nor do we seek to overcome the world with violence. No, we are called to be tender gardeners, who plant, prune, and water in the light of Christ, that we might leave the world transformed for His glory.
It is when we shine the light of Christ in the lives of others that their hearts might be illuminated and they might see their own sin, and pinged with the pain of knowing how far they have wondered from God, come running back to Him. We are called to bear this light not in cruelty but in Love, the love that lays down its life for another. The love that says, God has given me all, and the only thing I can do is give all to the glory of God.
For although, seeing our sin illuminated is painful, we know that Christ has died to free us from it, and so we lay it all down at the foot of the cross. We lay it down and pick up his light, to be lights in the world.
So finally, with glad hearts, we call out with all the saints throughout the ages:
Awake thou that sleepest,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give thee light.
And we take up the great calling to be image bearers of the Lord and creator of life.
We are being re-created in His image and while our bodies breakdown and fail us, while we experience heartache and loss along the way, while, altogether too often we face failure in that which has been set before us. We have a faithful Father who always welcomes us home, and so when sin and sorrow creeps in we turn back to Him, we pick up yet again the light which has been given us and we carry on. Tending with care for all the gifts that have been given us that all those who see the joy, the goodness, and the truth that resides in us, not because of ourselves, but because Christ resides in us, might see our good works and praise our Father in heaven.
This is the call of the Christian, bear the image of God, do true goodness, take up Christ’s righteousness, do not partake in the way of darkness, and let the truth and light of Christ flow from all you do, that all may know that the Lord is good, and might be blessed in knowing and sharing in the grace we’ve found in Christ.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.