Reflection for Sunday, August 19, 2018
Written by Rev. Jacqueline Samson, St. Stephen’s United Church, Hudson Bay SK
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5: 15-20 Living Wisely
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer…
In today’s scripture passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are given some incredibly important wisdom on God’s call to each of us to live wisely. In Biblical times, wisdom was a significant part of one’s faith journey as it offered life giving and sustaining instruction for being human. A life lived according to wisdom was seen as a life of health, wholeness, and peace … the life that God created for all.
It would seem that in our day and age wisdom has lost its significant place in the world with less and less mentorship and respect for our elders. There is little sharing of the ancient wisdom that is so readily available in our sacred texts. The truth is that we want to be wise, not foolish, and yet we know that wisdom itself is not innate, so we can choose to seek it or not. There is also a difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. The first concerns itself with the betterment of the individual … a very self-centred wisdom. Whereas godly wisdom concerns itself with others … the work of transforming the world.
In our reading from Ephesians, godly wisdom is given. It begins by cautioning us to be careful how we live and then to being wise and making the most of the time we have. This wisdom instruction also includes being filled with the Holy Spirit through music and concludes with the practice of gratitude. As Christians we are advised to use our time wisely, and use it to change the world. The phrase “because the days are evil” shifts the purpose of seizing the day for personal gain to Christ’s purpose for the church. We are to concern ourselves with making justice … confronting systems of oppression with Christ’s love. We are being instructed to do our part in saving our world from evil … kind of like a superhero with God’s power to support and ignite us!
The challenge is huge as the world is full of both real and imagined evil, and as humans, we often get overwhelmed by its immensity. I have felt paralyzed at times by the seemingly endless unfolding of evil … wars … hunger … disease … weapons of mass destruction … climate change … greed … unconscious people … violence … lack of compassion … corruption. Is it any wonder that we want to run from it? A vision of world transformation is a formidable one to say the least. The writer of Ephesians was aware of our human need to self-medicate as a means of escaping the unpleasant realities of life. “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.”
As we well know alcohol is just one of the many addictions that we can invest in to help us escape from facing the responsibility of godly wisdom. We cannot do the work that God calls us to if we are not fully present, awake and aware. We need to be clear channels for the Spirit to move through us rather than being anesthetized.
So how do we fill ourselves with the Spirit of God, if we choose not to self-medicate ourselves? This passage states that we can seek the Spirit through singing, chanting, and prayer. These three practices actually unclog us as they open our hearts and minds. We have found through the scientific study of the human body that our neural activity and experience actually change when we are involved in song. We also know that a special state is available to us in certain kinds of meditative chant or prayer. Song is a gateway to unanticipated blessing as this sage wisdom instructs …
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.
The last piece of advice is linked directly to the singing heart as it also becomes a thankful heart … a heart full of gratitude. Gratitude is a profound spiritual practice where we learn to find blessings amidst the challenges in our lives. Gratitude is saying thank you and so much more. These words by spiritual writer Henri Nouwen say it well: To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.
Giving thanks is an intrinsic part of our healing and it is not easy. Sometimes gratitude alludes us completely and we are blocked. This is when we are invited to lean into the wisdom of Ephesians finding ways to fill ourselves with the Spirit through song and prayer. When we practice gratitude for the small things in our lives each day we build our core thankful muscles and in time we find God’s strength to be grateful for the big things too.
These following words by 13th century mystic, Meister Eckhart speak to the profound wisdom of being grateful, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.”
Each Sunday we come together to experience the godly wisdom that Ephesians speaks of as we sing hymns, say prayers and offer thanksgiving to God. May we also practice integrating this wisdom into our daily words and actions answering God’s call to live wisely amidst the chaos and evil of our times. May it be so.
 Henri Nouwen, “The Spiritual Work of Gratitude,” Henri Nouwen Society, January 12, 2017, http://henrinouwen.org/meditation/the-spiritual-work-of-gratitude/.