BCP Sermon -28/02/16

Third Sunday in Lent – Readings – Eph. 5:1-15; Lk 11:14-28

Having had the choice of between sharing a homily from the Gospel reading or from the Epistle, I decided that after the last time I shared with you – you might have had enough of me talking about demons! So we get today we get to explore together something quite opposite to demons which our reading from the epistle today talks about.

The passage we have read today offers food for thought. It offers things for consideration that are not limited to the time and context to which Ephesians was penned.

Chapter 5 starts with, what is for Christians, a simple truth. Christ loved us, and gave himself as a sacrificial offering for us. An action that was clearly out of love, it offers an example of the level to love to which we as Christians should be aspiring and seeking to imitate. We should be striving to live a life of love. As such, today we are only really going to focus on versus 1-2.

This does not have to mean seeking to be an offering for others, but it means in all that we are doing seeking to do it in love, having a sacrificial heart and actions for others demonstrating our love, and the love of Christ to other.

Mitton writes ‘walk in love: that is, conduct your lives in a spirit of love, the spirit which can subordinate self-interest to a genuine concern for the welfare of others’

John teaches us Christ’s will in regards to love in this area by saying:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

The way in which love is demonstrated by us as Christians should be what identifying us as His disciples. It should not be solely down to our proclamation of the Gospel. But the love should be evident in our actions.

‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like’ (Augustine)

Our love should not cause us to be conceited. It should be an outward expression seeking to place others first. It should drive us into action and expression of love. What benefit is having, feeling, and holding onto a love if we are not prepared to express this love to anyone?

Foulkes in their commentary writes: ‘There is a perfect example, even in human flesh, which has been given and can be copied. Love answering love, love motivated by love, love made possible by the initial love of Christ’

It is almost impossible to get past the level of love that is expressed so succinctly in the opening 2 verses of this chapter. A love that underpins our faith, a love from which we should learn and then love Christ. A love which should then result in us following and obeying the things that are listed in the rest of the reading from Ephesians today.

To contain the love of Christ for and within ourselves would be counter productive and counterintuitive to the message of the gospel. One of the core aspects of the gospel is the proclamation and sharing of the gospel with others. It is not for us to hold on and keep the message of the gospel to ourselves.

We need to get to the stage where we are not looking at a simplistic and reductionistic understanding of what love is. When we get to the place where we are doing this, we cannot share the true love of the Gospel. We cannot share the true message of the Gospel which is hinged on the fact that God loves us and therefore sought to reconcile us.

Again we turn to Mitton, who writes ‘The hall-mark of love is the willingness to give oneself for the sake of another. Love is not just a warmth of feeling for another; it is the readiness to renounce self and sacrifice self in costly action for the good of the other’

This offers a definition and understanding of love that is much fuller. Arguably, it offers a definition of love that is more inline with what scripture teaches. What scripture demonstrates when it comes to love.

Scripture demonstrates this sacrificial love. A love that goes beyond emotional response and attachment to a person. God’s love was displayed for all with the incarnation of the Son, the crucifixion, and then the resurrection. The atonement of sins, the thing to which Jesus is the sacrifice and offering.

The chapter opens calling for us to be imitators of God. Living in love. Demonstrating love.

As Christians we need to be following this example. To live a life demonstrating and expressing love in the contexts and situations to which we come across or are based in.

It is this fragrant offering and sacrifice to God that we are remembering today as we approach the table of the Lord.

We remember the love poured out for us upon the cross. The sacrifice that was made. The offering that atones for our sins and makes salvation possible.

It is in the shedding of his blood, and the brokenness of his body that we may come to know God. It is the greatest act of the love the world has known that we remember each time we approach the eucharist.

A sacrifice for which we were made worthy only by the sacrifice. A sacrifice we are called to remember every time we take communion until the Lord returns.

It seems fitting to conclude with reading the opening portion of this scripture again’

‘be imitators of God, as beloved Children, and live in love, as Christ has loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (1-2)

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