You may have seen a poster that has become pretty popular in some places – we had one in our lower church – it’s a circle and in the circle is the basic commandment of many of the world’s religions – Christian – Jewish – Muslim – Baha’i – Hindu – and it is striking how all these commandments are so much alike – each one in its own way echoes Christ new commandment – love one another as I have loved you. Each commandment calls us to respect and care for one another.
Watching the news these past weeks – night after night seeing the violent death of innocent men, women and children on both sides of the conflict – seeing the destruction of people’s homes and places or work – the destruction of whole communities you wonder – where did we go wrong – is no one listening to the teaching of God – no one following the basic tenant of their faith? Not one faith commandment calls for the death of another human being. Remember the protest song of the ’60′s – when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn. Why do peoples and nations continue to grief the Holy Spirit of God?
When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians he was probably responding to a situation of conflict and dissension. Reading the acts of the apostles we realize that from the very beginning of our Christian faith good people struggled with Christ’s command – love one another as I have loved you. From the very beginning good people saw Jesus in different ways – saw living as a follower of Christ in different ways. So Paul was always trying to resolve differences – always calling people back to the basic commandment – love one another as I have loved you. In so many of his letters we read that basic theme – ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God ‘ In this letter to the people of Ephesus we are taught basic Christian ethics – basics that challenged the people of Paul’s time – basics that challenge us today.
Paul is teaching the Ephesians and us that because God has reconciled all humanity to Himself through the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus Christ – a new way of living and loving is demanded of those who call themselves Christians. Such things as bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling and slander – to which we can add racism, sexism, bigotry – anything that diminishes the worth and dignity of another human being – anything that diminishes the worth and dignity of any facet of God’s good creation – is not worthy of one who would call himself/herself – Christian.
We are called to be kind, tender hearted and forgiving – as God has forgiven us in Christ. Paul reminds us in this letter that Christ loved us even to the point of dying for us – and we are to imitate such love.
We see the results of longstanding hatred and suspicion – of feuds that have been going on for years in the destruction of life that is going on in Israel and Lebanon and the Gaza Strip – and we wonder – when will they ever learn – but a more important question is – when will we ever learn – when will we ever learn that in all our relationships – within family, neighbourhood, work place and parish – that bitterness, wrath, anger, resentment, rejection are agents of death – when will we ever learn that it is only love, respect and forgiveness that are agents of life and love – and we are to be such agents to family, friend and stranger.
We continue our parish life in our new church. Thank God we are finally here. God give us the patience we need as we work out all the kinks. Thanks to all those involved in the planning and building of our church – thanks to all those who generously contributed to our new church – thanks has to be the word that springs from our lips today. And we begin our new life in our new church praying for ourselves and for each other that through our worship and pray in this place we will be imitators of God, as beloved sons and daughters and live in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.