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HGTV’s Mike Holmes
Time for a makeover

Ephesians 4: 25 - 5:2

August 9, 2015

Year B - eleventh after Pentecost

You don’t often hear the letters read that Paul wrote. That’s my fault as I never know what to say about his work. I’ve noticed that if I do preach on the epistles, or the letters, I do so after I have been away. I must feel more tolerant of Paul’s theology, or perhaps, I am just feeling more generous towards exploring his work. I have been in his territory, in Ephesus, Greece and Turkey exploring places where he wrote, the places where he lived.

Modern liberal scholars, almost without exception, believe that Paul did not write the letter to the Ephesians and Evangelicals have generally thought he did. It was written about 40 years after the death of Jesus and if Paul did write the letter, he wrote it from prison in Rome.

The argument about who wrote Ephesians reminds me of children, or perhaps adults, arguing about who did what when. I was just at a family event where there was some of that arguing. A couple of teenagers argued, “She did it, I did not, she did it. I put it over there, no she didn’t otherwise it would be there,” and on and on it went.

Whoever wrote the letter to the Ephesians, did it the way it was always done. They followed the epistle letter writing form already in place and the message is very much the same as in the other letters. Like all of the letters, this one too is focused on the life of the church and how, if you belong to the church, you should live. Remember, this is a new organisation; the leaders are busy making rules as to how the members should behave. They were attempting to find an easy way for people to join their group.

The reading reminds me of the makeover world we live in. Most of you watch television and every hour you could watch another make over show.
Holmes on Homes is one such show. He comes in when a house is in big trouble, tears the house apart and then he puts it back together again. Or, a clunker automobile that can barely run is by the end of a show transformed into an eye catching magnet car. The same magic wand phenomenon happens for dismal apartments, embarrassing wardrobes, awkward social graces and even the human body, which suffers various nips and tucks that promise to bring back fitness and will also provide the appeal and youth of earlier years.

These transformations usually occur within thirty minutes. Out with the old and in with the new. Our scripture does not fall into the category of extreme make over, but it does lean towards the idea of changing your principles if you want to be become a Christian. Paul was making radical change; he was creating a new movement and he would have been pushing the boundaries of how religion worked.

A few years back I went to Vancouver to UBC (University of British Columbia) to be part of a national church conference called, “Worship Matters.” At that conference I led a workshop called, “Cross Cultural Worship,” and at both sessions people were most interested in how on the pastoral charge we used the consensus decision making model at our meetings. Bill Girvin, a facilitator from Toronto said that he believes the church would move kicking and screaming into a consensus decision making model.
Sallie McFague, a leading theologian spoke at one of the plenary sessions, and she said that the church needs Holmes on Homes - we need Holmes to take the church apart and put it back together again.

I like the idea of taking apart and putting back together. And, we have already done some of that work. We have made some of our decisions by consensus. Instead of using the win, lose voting method.

It is a radical idea to take something totally apart and put it back together. It is a liberal notion to enter into the process where it’s presently at and make change there. It is a conservative idea to leave things as they are and not make change at all. It appears to me that we, in this church, live in-between radical and liberal.

In the letter to the Ephesians the writer wanted to address four areas, a sort of spiritual checklist for the new Christian.
  • First, one must always speak the truth.
  • Second, we must always address our emotions, specifically anger.
  • The third topic is that of labour, or a spirituality of work.
  • The fourth is speech and how do we speak about the spirit.

In Paul’s day, speaking the truth was about holding up Jesus as the way, the truth, and the light. Today, speaking the truth probably looks quite different. We might still proclaim we are Christians, but most of us don’t go out proclaiming Jesus as the truth. But we might live as though we believe Jesus was the way, the truth, and the light. I think today’s lesson points in that direction. We might be silent, but our actions speak for us.

We live in a way that empowers others to be empowered. We find ways to create goodness; I like the idea of spiritual labour or spiritual work.
Parker Palmer, a Quaker theologian from Pennsylvania, writes in his many books that our choice of vocation is the most important decision we make. If we are not happy with our work we probably are not happy people. He says that what we work at must be born out of freedom. If it’s not then it is not creative and it will suppress what it is we are really meant to be doing. In creative action, our desire is not to solve, succeed or survive, but to give birth to something new. Parker says that this thinking will help us find our way to the vocation that will make us happy.

I believe that our vocation, or our knowledge of life, should allow us to be transformed and enable us to be celebrants, advocates and defenders of life, wherever we find it. Many people never get to choose what it is they work at to make a living and that is a very sad thing. Whatever we do both spiritually and actively is a move to create a better world. So it’s important that we are doing the right job. Having the right vocation means we are not only able to be happy individuals, but we will also be able to assist others in that process.

The other point that the letter brings up is our emotions, in particular anger. Addressing our emotions, particularly anger is probably really important. I was going through old files in my office and I came across a book review about a book called,
A Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz. And I thought to myself, I remember this incident and how it unfolded for me. It was a summer day and I was working in my kitchen in Unity Saskatchewan and I was listening to the radio. There was a news story about two young women, Yale university students biking across the USA. They were at the end of the seventh day on the road and they were camped at Cline Falls Oregon. They were in their tent asleep when a pickup truck ran over them and then the driver left them to die. The man who did this was never charged. Or, as far as Terri knew, there was never a suspect.

Terri Jentz one of the young women in the accident tells her story. It was about twenty-five years after the incident that she realised she was in a rage over what happened to her. She was angry at the justice system that failed her, she was angry at the police system which failed her, she was angry at her biking partner who also survived, but would no longer speak to her. She was angry because she needed to be doing more to create change in the world and up until ten years ago she had done nothing.

The book,
A Strange Piece of Paradise is her story about how she created change both for herself and for others. I won’t say any more about the story because I think our study group should read it. It is truly a putting back together of the soul, or mending a broken spirit. I think that is what anger is all about. Our anger requires us to take life apart, and then put it back together. When we address our issues around anger we take the time to put our souls back together. We can wait thirty years like Terri Jentz did, but I have some sense that the sooner we do it the fuller life will be.

That covers the four points on the check list. Interestingly, enough this passage was written at the beginning of the Christian movement. Today we read it and interpret it in the midst of a major shift in the Christian movement. There is no doubt that Christendom is over, meaning that the church has no power within the government, at least not in Canada. Or at least not like we once did. At one time no major decisions, at least in the area of social justice, were made in the Canadian government without input from the United Church of Canada. In different ways we still respond to AIDS in Africa, to war and to the possibility of peace. We respond to Iraq and Afghanistan. But we don’t have the same clout we once had. I think today’s passage is about living a holy spiritual fulfilling life and then finding ways to pass that on to others.

This letter to the Ephesians didn’t rise up out of a vacuum, but would have the voice of the past in it. So, we need to remember - that when we speak we want to be inclusive. We want everyone to feel included in our spiritual living. It doesn’t mean we can’t be Christian - we can be Christian - but we need to do that in ways that are meaningful to us and at the same time not offend or make others feel there spirituality isn’t just as important. We want to be one. For we are members of one another.

I invite you this week to think about how you use your voice to make change.
How do you deal with anger?
Or, how is it that you consider yourself a spiritual/Christian?

Sharon Ferguson-Hood