Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Sage Advice?

When hearing such wise and helpful words as these from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians it is difficult not to resort to advice giving or even begin down the path of legalism and make them rules for living by.

These are truly wise and sound words, teaching people how to get along well with each other.  They could be rules for marriage or a workplace or classroom without too much alteration and they apply directly to the church.  Because we are members of the one body – the church, we should speak truthfully to one another.  We shouldn’t allow anger to cause us to sin, and we shouldn’t end our day with anger because that will allow the devil to get a foothold.

At head to the heart on Friday night we played a quick game of dodge-ball.  As each person is hit by the ball they have to sit out until there is one person left.  The analogy was used to describe the way Satan tries to ‘hit’ us with the many temptations of sin and draw us away from Christ.  When that sin gets a foothold we are drawn away from the group, away from the body and we are perhaps even less able to resist the temptations that hit us.

Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness came immediately after his Baptism, and as we are tempted we need to remember our Baptism and that we are children of God, that he loves us and cares for us and forgives us and calls us to him for that forgiveness.  Whether our sin is anger or telling lies about others or any other form of sin, God forgives us.

Paul’s reminder not to let the day finish with anger reminds us that we should turn to God and remember our Baptism and forgiveness at the end of our day as well as at the beginning and during the day as well.

The list of sage advice goes on; it includes not stealing but switching our idle hands to do useful work for the benefit of those in need.  We shouldn’t let talk come out of our mouths that doesn’t build others up, both the person we are talking to and those who are listening.  We should be kind and compassionate with one another, forgiving each other just as Christ forgave you.

As we hear that we reflect on all the times we haven’t followed that sound advice, when we haven’t shown compassion or caring or forgiveness.  We recall those instances and the blood pressure rises, the face starts to feel a little flushed from the neck up and the guilt kicks in.

I’m sure you have probably experienced it, maybe a foot in mouth moment when someone you were talking about is standing in earshot, or when you’ve chucked a wobbly at someone and then realised there are others listening.  Maybe there is even someone here who has been creative with their tax return and have been enjoying the benefits as they’ve spent their tax refund on some new luxury to make them happy and then a twinge of remorse has kicked in, (now don’t start looking at each other accusingly, I made it up as an example!)

This isn’t a list meant to make us feel guilty, it’s really there to help the people of God live in harmony and follow the example of God in their lives, so that they don’t unwittingly cause others to stumble as they look on.  The focus in the end, as it should, brings us back to Jesus and his fragrant offering and sacrifice. 

You might remember that Ephesians 5:2 was the theme verse for our Easter festival this year.  Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  We had fragrant elements throughout the weekend to draw us back to the fragrant offering of Christ.  The aroma of freshly baked bread on Maundy Thursday, and some roast lamb added into the mix.  Then we had the smell of freshly cut pine to draw us to the harsh reality of the timber of the cross and then perhaps less potent but equally as pertinent, the smell of fresh flowers as we celebrated the new life through the resurrection on Sunday morning.  The love that Jesus showed for us in that sacrifice is at the centre of all that we are being encouraged to do by Paul.  More than sage advice, it is living in the love that Christ has given us.

The translation we’ve used today says “Follow God’s example”, but the word in the Greek is “mimētēs” or be an imitator.  To mimic someone is to follow what they do.  We’ve all seen the What Would Jesus Do promotional items, some of you may even have something on you today that reflects that, and that is great; it is a helpful reminder as to who we are and who we follow.

Did Jesus ever tell lies about his neighbours, or allow anger to turn to sin, did he give in to temptation, or let unwholesome talk come out of his mouth?  The answer is no, he never did any of the things listed by Paul in his letter, but really to mimic him, to follow his example, to be imitators of him is not completely possible.  We can never follow his example by going to the cross and rising again from the dead.  That isn’t for us, and can’t happen.  What can and does happen though is that we live in his love and forgiveness.

When we look at the example and realise our failings and foibles we realise just how much love God has for us that he still loves us no matter what we get up to, no matter what temptation the devil lures us in to, he loves us unconditionally.  We are his dearly loved children, and we are encouraged to reflect the love he has for us to others in the way we treat them and interact with them.  What better place to practice that than here in his body the church, and then as we live out our lives in vocation and mission in the world we can let that same light shine in the lives of others.

Jesus hasn’t just shown us how to live our lives as his followers in response to his love, he has empowered us through the Holy Spirit to live out lives of love and faith and hope in the community that he has place us in.  We are his forgiven children, loved, cherished and even adored, love and care for each other as God loves you.

Amen.