Summary: The sermon explores answers to the questions of who God would have us to be and what God is calling us to do.
Advent is over, Christmas has come and gone, and this morning we gather here shaking off the “sleepies” from a late night of celebration as we rang in the New Year on Friday. With all the festivities over and the activities done, we are prone to look around listlessly wondering, “What now?” Beginning today and in the coming weeks, we are going to explore just that question, but from the spiritual angle. With a fresh reminder of Christ’s presence among us, what are we God-followers to do in these post-Christmas days and throughout our lives? What does God ask of us? How has God equipped us as servants in the Kingdom that was inaugurated at Christ’s birth? In a great sense, our everyday lives should be like those of the Magi who journeyed to the very home of the baby Jesus to kneel in praise and offer their gifts to the King. We too should kneel in praise to God, and we have gifts to offer as well. As we think about New Years’ resolutions, perhaps we could also take some time to think about God’s blessings in our lives and the question of God’s will for our lives. Perhaps we could also take time to consider how we might more fully offer our gifts to God and serve God in the coming year.
As some of you may know, when EMTs and other “first-responders” are trained, they are taught to gather vital readings such as blood pressure, pulse, respirations, skin color, and condition as soon as they possibly can upon responding to an emergency. These first readings are the most vital indicators concerning the patient’s health and are so important because without them, the EMT cannot tell if the patient is getting better or worse as time progresses and decisions are made about the next steps. In our reading this morning from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we have been given some baseline vitals concerning our relationship with the Lord. For us to know what God asks of us and how we have been equipped to live lives worthy of God and God’s requirements of us, we must have these vital signs concerning our relationship with God in Christ Jesus.
Here in the beginning of the New Year, I want to put before us a couple of questions. These are the type of questions that I think will help us check our spiritual vital signs. These questions, I believe, will also be helpful in thinking about coming to a greater understanding of our relationship with God and our role in God’s kingdom. Who does God want us to be, and what is God calling us to do? In the opening of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul touches on answers to both of these questions. So from the passage we heard this morning, what might we discern about who God wants us to be? First, Paul tells us that we “are chosen to be holy and blameless before [God] in love.” For some, Paul’s words mean that God only expects such traits in certain people, but I believe it is broader than that. God desires that all people would be “holy and blameless.” You see, we are all created by God in God’s image. God desires nothing more than that each of us would strive to live lives that are reflective of God in Christ Jesus himself; to bring out the image of God in us. If we really strive after this, we will find that we stand separate from the things of this world. The world tells us that we should conform to its standards, but God has set before us a different set of standards; to be “holy and blameless.” When we seek to meet these standards we will find not only that we stand apart from so much in this world, but I believe that we will also see with our very own eyes God’s Kingdom gaining a greater foothold on this earth.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. God does not desire that in striving towards holiness and blamelessness, we would somehow disconnect ourselves from this world and all of God’s created order. Rather, God wants us to be “holy and blameless” within the world. It should be possible to identify the Christian in the school, in the grocery, on the assembly lines, in the office, at the hospital; everywhere! To be holy and blameless as Paul suggests is to take every part of our life; work, pleasure, sport, home life, personal relationships, and shape them all such that they can be offered to God. Have you ever thought of your life in this way? Have you ever gone through a whole day making an intentional effort in every activity to offer that to God? Certainly, this is not easy to do. And yet, this is what God has asked of us. The world asks a lot of us, but one of the great things about God is that God’s expectations of us never change. God desires nothing more than that we would love God with all our hearts and lives and love our neighbors as ourselves; that we would in this way be holy and blameless, just as Jesus taught us. Indeed, it is a high task, but this is who God wants us to be!