Third in series: “Postcards from Ephesus”
Carpe diem…Seize the day…Make the most of the time you’ve got. There is a sense of urgency in these statements. The urgency comes from the reality that time is a fleeting commodity; once past, it is gone forever. We can’t stop time or bank time; we can only try to make time count for something. Paul suggests that wise people make “the most of the time, because the days are evil.”
Let us pray…Lord, as we approach your Word this morning, I pray that you will open our ears and open our hearts to hear and understand what you are trying to tell us today. We come in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Amen.
The text this morning is unclear about the particular time to which the writer refers. It could be the End Times; it might be a specific moment in the history of Ephesus; or it might refer to the current time in the life of the Ephesian church. Likewise, we might hear this text from the perspective of ancient history, or the future End of Days. We might hear it as meaning a particular time in the history of our nation; our contemporary culture; or even a moment in the life of our church. No matter which lens you use to view this text, there are common characteristics for us to find.
The most obvious is what we have already mentioned – TIME DOESN’T LAST. All persons are created equal in time. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months all pass at the same rate for everyone. Nobody gets a longer day; we all have the same resource to use. So, Paul tells us to use it while we have it ‘cause we can’t get it back.
It also seems we can see that “the days are evil” no matter how we come to this text. The Ephesians were trying to build a church in the midst of a pagan and materialistic culture. There were wars and rumors of wars; there were politics, injustice, and crime. There was division within the faith community. If a person wanted to, he could look at all this and think, “Oh my gosh, the world is a mess!” We are finite creatures, with limited time, living on the downhill slope toward death. The world around us is in deep chaos, it is hostile to our existence, and the devil is having a party. It wouldn’t be hard to wallow in despair and hopelessness, IF that is how you choose to read this Scripture and look at the world. But, that is not the point at all!
Paul wants to direct his readers away from whatever darkness may surround them in the world. He wants to point them toward the Light of Christ. This text leads us into an attitude of hope, thanksgiving, and praise. At this point in the letter, we emerge from the justified criticism of Paul’s call for transformation, and begin to realize WHY we should listen to him. Living as followers of Christ does not come naturally. Paul tells the church that this life requires discernment and wisdom, because Christians live in a world ruled by “powers and principalities;” by evil things that constantly seek to trip us up.
The earlier admonitions we have read in this letter are intended to caution us, to warn us. Paul wants us to learn to be self-aware so that we can recognize when we falter and seek the Holy Spirit to bring us back. Knowing that time is a limited resource should not be cause for despair. Rather, it should motivate us to make every moment count.
- Fill every moment with loving, caring relationships.
- Use every moment to show people how much God loves.
- Spend time making life better for someone who hasn’t figured all of this out just yet.
“Making moments count” is about filling every moment with the beauty and wonder of all that God has created. It means doing all you can to bring light into dark and lonely places. Making moments count leaves no room for the negative and destructive behaviors Paul has been warning us about.
When the writer tells us to be careful; to “not get drunk with wine”, he is not lecturing on temperance. This is not a lesson about alcohol consumption at all. “Drunkenness” in this text is the condition of being unfocused, off-balance, and a little fuzzy about what God wants for you. Paul wants us to be wise by focusing the way we use our time on those things that help us become the people God wants us to become. He wants us to be filled with the Holy 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.”
We also need to understand that Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus; the entire congregation. In this context, his cautions and his challenges are less about individual Christians and more about how “The Church” relates to the world. From this perspective, the message may be harder for us to hear, yet even more urgent.
- How might The Church be wiser?
- How does The Church spend its time?
- What does the metaphor of “drunkenness” look like when applied to The Church?
The times in which we live are indeed urgent for The Church, as much as or more so than for the followers of Christ. The Church struggles to be wise in the use of its time, as competing constituents and political realities vie for attention. It can be difficult to “understand what the will of the Lord is” when so many voices scream for attention and evil times mask true agendas and ultimate consequences. This message speaks loudly to The Church at Ephesus and to The Church in our contemporary culture. The possibilities for redemption and transformation in the world must drive The Church to: act wisely; to make the most of the time; to discern God’s will; and to stay focused.
The statement on our masthead, our T-shirts, and our website is very simple: LOVE GOD…LOVE PEOPLE…CHANGE THE WORLD. We’ve adopted this because it points us to the two Greatest Commandments from Jesus; AND, it empowers us to do what Jesus did – change the world. This mission is for us, as individuals, and it is for us – The Church. It is simple to keep us focused. When The Church is out of focus, it moves through evil times as one who is intoxicated – sluggish, blurry-eyed, and engaging in questionable behavior. Paul says the remedy for this is to set aside the “wine” of the world and fill up on the Holy Spirit. When our churches are filled with the Holy Spirit, there is no room for the kinds of behavior that divides us and drives people away. The image we see at the end of this passage is of a church that is “singing and making melody to the Lord” and “giving thanks” at all time.
- Imagine churches around the world, so full of the Holy Spirit that they are heard above all the noise – “singing and giving thanks”.
- Imagine people hearing this joy and coming to know Jesus because they want to be part of this joyful noise.
- Imagine The Church – transforming the world simply by paying attention to the Holy Spirit and rejecting the intoxication of our culture.
It seems to me that this is the way to make every moment count. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.